by Marty Breeze
One of the greatest differences between most world religions and Christianity is that religions, in general, have a system in place by which its followers do things in order to earn either salvation, enlightenment, acceptance or whatever the desired outcome might be. Whether it is through sacrifice or striving or some other means, they ultimately depend on their own performance to reach the desired goal. This is where Christianity takes a completely different turn. Our acceptance before God is not based on what we can do, but rather on what Jesus did for us.
Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life. He then freely offered his sinless blood as a sacrifice for the sins of guilty humanity. Isaiah 53:5 says:
"But he was pierced for our transgressions,
the was crushed for our iniquities,
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed."
He was actually punished for the things that we would do wrong. He was struck with the blows that we deserved. He was mocked, scorned and ridiculed for the foolish deeds that we performed. He bled innocent blood so that the debt of our guilt would be fully and completely paid.
I can best illustrate this through a dream I was given. In this dream I was a young student sitting at my desk in a classroom. We were taking a written exam that covered the life of King David from ancient Israel. King David was a very special person in biblical history. He is remembered as a man who had an intimate walk with God and was also one of the greatest kings who ever lived. His story is beautifully detailed from the days of his youth until the day of his death. To sum his life up in a single phrase, he is most commonly referred to as "a man after God's own heart".
As I sat at my desk working on the exam I was comforted by the distinct impression that the teacher loved me very much. When I had completed the test I took the paper up to the teacher's desk and handed it to him.Without looking at a single answer he immediately wrote a big A+ at the top of the page. I was thrilled to get the score but surprised to see what he did next.
While I stood there with him, he meticulously went through each question. Every time my answer was either lacking or altogether wrong, he would erase my incorrect response and actually change it to the correct one. This process continued until the dream ended.
This dream is a wonderful representation of the gospel of grace. To begin to comprehend the scope of what was done for us requires that we look even beyond the amazing free gift of forgiveness. The fact that the innocent Son of God chose to take upon himself the punishment that we rightfully deserved is truly is only part of the story. Just as the teacher in my dream first gave me the A+ and then began to change my answers, God commits to do the same with us.
The perfect score on the exam represents our justification by faith through the sacrifice of Jesus. In accordance with God's plan of redemption, the innocent One was punished with the punishment that I deserved. He scored an A+ on the test by living a perfect and sinless life. He then willingly exchanged places with me and took the blame for my failing grade. Because of what Jesus did I now have a perfect score on God's grade card. I did not earn it. It was a gift.
Then just as the teacher began changing my answers, the grace of God begins changing our character. He gives us new answers to the old problems that we stumbled over for years and prepares for the adventure that lies ahead of us. This amazing plan is stated clearly in Hebrews 10:14(NIV) where it says:
"For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy."
What did he do? He made us "perfect forever". Who did he do this for? For, "those who are being made holy."
Consider that. By the sacrifice of Jesus the born again believer has been "made perfect forever". Not for a day. Not for a year. Not just until we make a mistake. Forever. This is a plan that gives us an immediate perfect score on the exam through faith in what Jesus did. The born again believer can approach God with confidence based solely on the blood of Christ and completely rest in the assurance of his acceptance.
The second part of the verse refers both to whom the promise has been given and to the nature of those receiving it. This promise is made to, "those who are being made holy". He does not just stamp our passport to heaven and leave it at that. As He looks at us He sees the sinless perfection of Jesus. Even as we walk in this acceptance, his Holy Spirit continues to work faithfully and patiently from within us as we are "being made holy".
"This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord. I will put my
laws in their hearts, and I will write them
on their minds."
To paraphrase an old saying, he will meet us where we are but he does not leave us where he found us. Titus 2:11-12 describes the work of grace in a believer's life when it states:
"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age..."
We are saved by grace and we are changed by grace as God commits to "teach us" by grace. We are not saved because we live differently, salvation is a gift. We do, however, live differently because we are saved. He patiently works at the heart level with sincere believers as he teaches us to walk in his ways.
Make no mistake, the grace that truly saves a person is also grace that truly changes a person. Yet even as these changes are being worked out in our lives we rest at peace with God because of forgiveness through the work of Jesus on the cross.
Do you desire peace with God? Would you find comfort in knowing that the Creator and Judge of the entire universe not only freely forgives and accepts you, but also that he passionately loves and enjoys you? If you are drawn to this notion then you can trust that God himself is drawing you. If this is the case with you then don't wait another minute! Today can be the day that your life changes for all eternity.
Romans 10:9 says that, "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Just repeating a few words does not save us but the truths behind these words have the power of eternal life in them.
Believe that He is just who He said He was and has done just what He said He did. Be willing to repent. That is to change your mind and leave your sinful and broken life behind. Then come and follow Him for the rest of your days on the earth. In exchange He offers complete forgiveness, acceptance and a relationship of love and purpose that extends beyond this life and throughout eternity.
Above all, remember that it is not a religion or a set of rules that you must come to. It is a person. His name is Jesus. He really is alive and he really does love you. He loves you so much that he willingly died for you. Are you willing to now live for him? If so, then come!