Saturday, February 4, 2012

Jesus Saves!
"She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

A junior high student on my school bus once proclaimed that she was moving to another school! The reason, she said, is "I'm just so sick of people in my school!" Her sentiments were echoed by a close friend. 'Never let a teachable moment pass' is my motto, so I said, "Well you know, whether we like to admit it or not, we usually take our troubles with us..." Blank stares. So much for the teachable moment!

Except for all the things that make life miserable it’s really not that bad! I’m serious. Never mind the fact that we exert tremendous time and resources trying to escape the things that trouble us. The sad truth (if we’re honest enough to admit it) is we carry the trouble with us: through the years of schooling, up the social ladder, into our careers, hobbies, relationships and often pass them onto our posterity, till the day we leave this place!

The problem: are we honest enough to recognize the real cause of our trouble? Will we admit that the real issue is the evil in us? Moral evil, our own individual sin, the thing that makes me wrong, un-right and out of harmony with true self. (The evil in the ones we love is another story altogether.)

The only way to get rid of the trouble, pain and suffering is for each person to get rid of his or her own sin!

Rightness alone is the cure. 

No one is right until there is no wrong in them. The wrong, the evil in us, we must be free of it—not just from the things we have done, that will follow—but free from the sins we are doing or are capable of doing! The sins that spoil our nature, the evil we consent to, which makes us commit worthless acts we will at some point deeply regret: evil judgments, wrong desires, hate, pride, envy, greed and self-satisfaction; these are the "souls" of our sins and are worse than the "bodies" of our sins (e.g., grumblings, fear, bitterness, judgmental attitudes, sneering, arrogance, exploitation, pretentiousness, ingratitude, deceit, and on and on and on...) because they not only produce the ugly things but make us as ugly as they are!

To save a man from his sins is, in a perfect & eternal sense, to say to him: Be Free! Be free as the Son of God is free! Rise up. Walk in the true freedom of the children of God. To do this Jesus was born. 

Born to be our deliverer: 
“He shall save His people 
from their sins”. 

But would we be free of the suffering only and not the root of the suffering? That would be far worse than any suffering it could produce; if we won’t be free of the true cause—the evil in us—then we must keep the suffering!

The pain that is a consequence of sin exists because there is a Creator God who ordered the universe and our place in it. We know that if we violate a physical law, such as gravity, we suffer the consequences of a hard knock on the ground. It holds true in the spiritual realm: if we violate the law of truth, for example, we will suffer consequences that aren’t as easily identifiable as a knock on the ground but are just as damaging to our character, integrity, peace of mind and relationships.

There is a sense in which Jesus came to deliver us from the pain & suffering of sin. His invitation to “Come unto me, all who are tired, oppressed, and sick of life, and I will give you wonderful rest! Receive my words, and let me teach you, for I am gentle and kind. You will find rest for your souls. That which I ask of you, is for your benefit, and that which I demand of you, is light.” But even a doctor who treated only symptoms would not be considered worthy of our confidence, don't you agree? As difficult as it was to hear, I needed to know that my enlarged prostrate might be cancerous (thank God it wasn't!) If it had been I would certainly have done everything I could to have the cancer removed, no matter how painful the process of the cure might have been.

The pain of consequences is part of God's work of eradicating sin in each of us individually. First to bring us from loving the darkness that is inside of ourselves, to seeing it's awfulness to rejecting it (repentance) permanently and casting it away altogether. Jesus comes alongside the consequences of our sin to help lead us toward His righteousness; to a true man or woman.
"He came to work along with our punishment. He came to side with it, and set us free from our sins. No man is safe from hell until he is free from his sins; but a man to whom his sins, that is the evil things in him, are a burden, while he may indeed sometimes feel as if he were in hell, will soon have forgotten that ever he had any other hell to think of than that of his sinful condition. For to him his sins are hell; he would go to the other hell to be free of them; free of them, hell itself would be endurable to him. For hell is God's and not the devil's. Hell is on the side of God and man, to free the child of God from the corruption of death. Not one soul will ever be redeemed from hell but by being saved from his sins, from the evil in him. If hell be needful to save him, hell will blaze, and the worm will writhe and bite, until he takes refuge in the will of the Father. 'Salvation from hell, is salvation as conceived by such to whom hell and not evil is the terror."
 George MacDonald, Salvation From Sin

A popular Christian song says, "Jesus Paid It All" inferring that there is nothing we are obligated to do for salvation; that we cannot "earn" our salvation. Typically that view holds that Jesus came to save us from one destination (hell) to another destination (heaven). But how can we understand the eternal if we cannot see it in the shadows of the temporary? The cancer patient must strive against the disease in his body if he wants the skilled surgeon to eradicate it. My doctor told me that the cure for the (possible) cancer would be costly: financially, emotionally, physically.

For most of us, some sin has been woven into the fabric of our nature and we can't hardly imagine it not being a part of the way we conduct life. Several years ago, a manager of a neighboring McDonald's restaurant came to our print shop seeking advice. She was visibly upset and quickly burst into tears as she explained her dilemma. She had recently become a follower of Jesus and soon realized that her outbursts of anger were not pleasing to Him nor lovely in her. Yet she also realized that she used those outbursts to motivate her subordinates at the restaurant and didn't know how to do anything differently!

For myself, years of resentment have festered inside. It has only been recently that I've been able to see clearly how utterly awful it is. It is an amazing thing to experience His gentleness in making me realize how insidious that sin has been and His power in helping me get rid of the thing (I still have a ways to go!)

That is His claim on humanity: He alone has the grace and the power to help each human being deal with the sin in their life, to eradicate it completely. And there is one master-sin at the root of all the rest: indifference or antagonism to the Will of God. The highest in man is neither intellect, reason or imagination; it is will. God created us with a Will independent of His Perfect Will. We can, to our own hurt, want things that He doesn't; we can thwart His will (at least for a time). Harmony, rightness, freedom from wrongness & evil in ourselves comes only as we submit our will to His; willingly give ourselves to Him for the working out of our perfecting, completion, maturing; a true sonship based on the model of His Son, Jesus, who leads us up to the throne of His Father. Step by (sometimes agonizingly painful) step!

"Herein lies the way to eternal life: know the only true God and Jesus Christ, the one sent to you by God"--Jesus. We are asked to believe in a Living Savior--the very One who rose again from death. The One who lives to Save Us From Our Sins. Daily. Eternally.  
Believe in Him today!
(adapted from Salvation From Sin in The Hope of the Gospel, by George MacDonald.)