Jesus Saves

Something has gone terribly wrong. Something must be done about it.

(IN PREPARATION FOR EASTER)

The ‘Spiritual’ asks the rhetorical question: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Our first reaction is usually “Of course not!”, or  “I would never do something like that!”, or “NO WAY”!   But there is that little “niggle” in our hearts that says, “I’m not so sure”.  And we struggle with the idea, and usually do a poor job of justifying ourselves. There is something in “them” that we recognize in ourselves.

The story is told of a Jewish witness at the Nuremberg trials who, when faced with the man responsible for implementing the “Jewish Solution”, broke down and wept.  When he was asked why he was so overcome, he said “I see me in his eyes”.  We sometimes have said, “But for the grace of God — there go I”.

Are we guilty of having crucified Jesus? For Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the temptation was to choose independence — an independence from God, attempting to be on a parallel with Him.  “That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses”  [Romans 5:13 MSG].  Paul called himself the “Chief of sinners”.  Richard Neuhaus writes:

About the chief of sinners I don’t know, but what I know about sinners I know chiefly about me.  We did not mean to do the deed, of course.  What we have done wrong– they seemed, or mostly seemed, small things at the time.  The word of encouragement withheld, the touch of kindness not given, the visit not made, the trust betrayed, the cutting remark so clever and so cruel, the illicit sexual desire so generously entertained, the angry answer, the surge of resentment at being slighted, the time we thought a lie would do no harm. It is such a long and tedious list of little things.  Surely not too much should be made of it, we thought to ourselves.  But now it has come to this.  It had come to the cross.  All the trespasses of all the people of all time have gravitated here, to the killing grounds of Calvary. [Neuhaus, p. 33]

Paul wrote “All have sinned” [Romans 3:23]. And Solzenitsyn declared, “the line between good and evil runs through every human heart” [Gulag Archipelago].

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way“.  But notice the wonderful next statement: “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6].  So “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all…. ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven there is no longer any sacrifice for sin” [Hebrews 10:10,17,18].  Because “Jesus Christ the righteous One… is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” [I John 1:1,2].

The word ‘Atonement’ could be explained as At-one-ment.  That is, bringing back into fellowship/relationship, or reconciliation.

I’d like to share with you what Richard John Neuhaus says are 4 truths at the heart of ‘Atonement’. [Neuhaus, p.33, 34]

  1. Something is terribly wrong.  When we seriously looked at ourselves (before we gave our lives to God), we found we were like the prodigal son — in a distant land far from home.  God was not near.
  2. Whatever the measure of our guilt, we are responsible for the death of Christ.  Rabbi Hershel used to say, “Some are guilty — all are responsible.”  In order for Christ’s death to be adequate for us, we have to admit that our sins nailed Christ to the cross.
  3. Something needs to be done about it.  We react intuitively — Justice must be done!  The modern world has us approach the issue of guilt from two angles.
    1. One is the “Gospel” of Positive Thinking. You can blame your parents, your genetic make-up, society, the other guy: just not yourself! After all, guilt can put you in the ‘rubber room’! “If you think positively, all of those negatives will leave and you’ll be fine.”
    2. The other tactic is to do the “stiff upper lip”. “I’ll get through it”. “Real men never cry!” “Take your lumps!” “Time heals!” “You’ll get over it!”
      However “both of these options are worse than useless. They are obscene.” It is an attempt to “make peace with the evil they know” [Neuhaus,p.34].

4. Something must be done about what has gone wrong.  Only we cannot do it! Neither “individually or as the human race together can we make up for one innocent child tortured and killed.  How can we make up for Auschwitz, or ‘the killing fields’ of Cambodia”,  or the atrocities of our modern era? [Neuhaus, p.34].

Only someone, who was in no way responsible for the wrongs, acting out of pure love and grace, could  right the wrong and adequately serve justice.  Jesus said “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… The reason the Father loves me is that I lay down my life… I lay it down of my own accord” [John 10:11, 17,18].

And He can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.”  [And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins.] [I John 1:9 LB]  “Work hard for sin your whole life — and your pension is death.  But God’s gift is, real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.” [Romans 6:23 MSG]

Bibliography

  1. MSG- Peterson, Eugene. The Message, NavPress Publishing Group, 1995.
  2. LB- Taylor,Kenneth. Living Bible, Tyndale House, 1971.  (Out of Print.  New Living Translation available from Amazon.com)
  3. Neuhaus, Richard John. “Father Forgive Them”. First Things, March 2000, Number 101.
  4. Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Isayevich.  Gulag Archipelago. Trans. Thomas P. Whitney, Harper and Row, 1974.

© 2000 D. H. Friesen

Coming into Liberty

Freedom FROM and Freedom TO

[see Matt1:21Galatians 1:1,13]

O.T. Lesson  Isaiah 35
N.T. Lesson  Luke 1:67-80

A large congregation presented a dramatic reenactment of the Nativity.  The church building was filled to capacity with an audience filled with anticipation.  Down the center aisle came the the entire cast of those to be at the Nativity, including all the animals.  Every one was transfixed with awe.  A little boy, five years of age, was so overwhelmed by it all, he stepped into the aisle and followed the processional to the manger.  The parents did not notice what had happened until they heard some snickering in the congregation.  The parents saw their little boy standing in awe right beside Joseph, Jesus and Mary.  The embarrassed father walked slowly but deliberately to the front to retrieve his child.

Now you can imagine what the small boy must have thought when he felt the hands of his father on his shoulder.  As the father picked him up to take him back to the seat, the little boy screamed, “I have been to Bethlehem, I have seen Jesus, it does not matter what you do to me.”  He said this several times before his father could quiet him and convince him that severe punishment was not on the way.

[from Christ’s Birthday observance Meditation Booklet, Hudson Printing]

Jesus came to bring freedom; to set us free.  That sentiment is in Zachariah’s song quoted from Isaiah at the birth of John the Baptist:

“(to) those with fearful hearts
Be strong do not fear
Your God will come…
He will come to save you.” [Isaiah 35:4]

He came and set his people free
He set the power of Salvation in
the centre of our lives…
Deliverance from our enemies…
So we can worship him without a
care in the world… [Luke 1:68,69,74,75]

Notice what we are free from:

  • We are freed from slavery to sin.  Romans 6:6,7,14 says, “we know that our old self was crucified with him… that we should no longer be slaves to sin… for sin shall not be your master… (you) are under grace”  There is then no longer any need to allow sin free reign in our lives; we’ve been set free by Christ.
  • We are freed from preoccupation with ourselves and self interest.  Note Galatians 5:13: “Use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows” [MSG]  Paul then goes on in this passage to say, “If you bite and ravage each other, watch out – in no time at all you will be annihilating each other and where will your precious freedom be then? [Gal 5:15 MSG]

On the other hand we are free to:

  • Free to be whole. Our lives are controlled by what happens in our minds.  As we let Christ bring wholeness to our minds, we will have a new perspective on our circumstances, our relationships and to God.  No longer will he be the forbidding judge but rather our ‘Daddy’ — Abba, Father — an intimate relationship based on family.
  • Free to love, because we are loved.  When we really get ahold of what it means to be forgiven, we are free to forgive — and out of that comes loving those who we consider to be ‘beyond the pale’ [whatever that may mean to you]. Take a look at Matt. 18:21-35.
  • We are free to serve in love. John 13:34,35 reads, “…In the same way I loved you, you love one another.  This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples — when they see the love you have for each other. “[MSG]  Take a look at James 1:27: “Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight and guard against corruption from the godless world” [MSG]
  • Free to live life to the full, with abandon. An interior peace that transcends the mental capacities.  Phil. 3:13 says, “forgetting what is behind… I press on… to win the prize“.   You see, Jesus had said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10.  A complete life — a life lived to the maximum of our potential.

We invite you to experience the liberty of the Gospel.  Salvation, Being Born Again, being reborn.  The only thing that prevents us from knowing God personally is sin.  When we, in faith, receive God’s forgiveness on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence in our lives. (Romans 8:8,9/ John 3:16-18.)

The only thing that stops us from experiencing all that God has for us is doubting he can do it. But if you put Christ on the throne of your life and open every ‘nook and cranny’ to his ownership, he will release the power of the Holy Spirit to give you that Abundant full life that he has promised.

You can pray this prayer or one like it:

Lord Jesus, I want to know You personally. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Saviour and Lord. Thank You for forgiving me of my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.”

[see ‘Would you like to Know God Personally?‘  Campus Crusade — New Life Publications]

Jesus promised that if you open the door to him when He knocks , he will come in and make his home there.  [Rev. 3:20]

©1999 D H Friesen

If you have prayed this prayer today, please contact Pastor Don and let him know that you have.  Also, look for a church in your community that believes 1) that Jesus is God, and 2) that the Bible is the Source of our beliefs.  If you prayed sincerely and really want to be a disciple of Jesus,  click here for more information on being a Christian.