Thursday, June 28, 2012

What Did Jesus Do?

Part one of three.

Today I want to look at the question, what did Jesus do on the cross? The simple Sunday School answer is, "He died for our sins". But what does that mean, exactly? I want to examine what Jesus actually accomplished on the cross. Not what he made potentially available to us, but what he fully brought about for us. What did he set out to do, and what effect does the cross (and resurrection) have for us?

First, what was his intent in going to the cross? He came to save sinners, pay our ransom, purify us, deliver us from the world, make us holy, redeem us from lawlessness, prepare us for good works, bring us into grace, and bring us to God.

Luke 19:10: For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

1 Tim 1:15: The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Mat 20:28: even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many

Gal 1:4: who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father

Eph 5:25-27: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Titus 2:14: who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Rom 5:2: Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

1 Peter 3:18: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit

So that's what Jesus intended to do. Did he do it? Let's look at what Jesus actually accomplished. Not just what he made possible, but what his death and resurrection guarantees by itself.

By his death, Jesus reconciled us to God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life (Rom 5:10). All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:18-19). For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility (Eph. 2:14-16).

By his death, Jesus justified us, redeemed us, provided full payment for our sins. He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption (Heb 9:12). Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree" (Gal 3:13). He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Pet 2:24). [F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Rom 3:23-25). [I]n whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col 1:14).

By his death, Jesus obtained for us every blessing, including sanctification/purification/ cleansing of sin, and faith. How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb 9:14). But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7). He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Heb 1:3). So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. (Heb 13:12). For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake (Phil 1:29). Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. (Eph 1:3). He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:32). See also Eph 5:25-27.

By his death, Jesus brought about our adoption as sons by God. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Gal 4:4-5)

By his death, Jesus eternally guarantees all these blessings for us. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Heb 9:15). [W]ho is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Eph. 1:14).

By his death, Jesus has made us perfect forever. Hebrews 10:14 - For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

By his death, Jesus guarantees his intercession on our behalf. See John 14:2-3; Heb. 9:11-12, 24-25; 1 John 2:1-2; John 11:42; John 17:9, 24; and especially Romans 8:33-34 - Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

By his death, Jesus bought us. Acts 20:28 - Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. Rev 5:9-10 - And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

By his death Jesus sanctifies, purges sin, redeems from wrath and curse and guilt, brings peace and reconciliation with God, gives life and immortality, bears iniquities and heals diseases. See Heb 9:12-14, Heb 1:3, Heb 9:26, 1 Pet 2:24 (and Isa 53:5-12), Gal 3:13, Col 1:21-22, Eph 2:13-16, Rom 5:6-11, Rom 8:32-34, Rev 5:9-10, Daniel 9:24, John 6:33, John 10:28, 2 Tim 1:10.

Jesus died as an exchange for us. He took our sin and bore our wrath (Eph 2:3, Jn 3:36), and we receive his righteousness. See 2 Cor 5:21.

His death cleanses and sanctifies. Hebrews 9:13-14, Romans 6:5-6, 1 Cor 1:30.

His death brought redemption. 1 Peter 1:18-19, Eph 1:7, 1 Tim 2:6.

His death destroyed the powers of our enemies. Heb. 2:14, Col. 2:15, 1 Jn. 3:8.

His death and resurrection is the ultimate guarantee of all God's promises. 2 Cor 1:20 - For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

So that's a brief summary of all that Jesus accomplished through his death and resurrection. Ponder that and worship.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jesus Don't Care About Your Feelings

If you've been a Christian for long, you've probably heard something like this before. Someone points out that X is a sin, and an objection is raised that saying so makes people who engage in X feel really bad. A Christian responds with any of a number of correct analogies - a doctor hurting your feelings by saying you have cancer or are on the verge of a heart attack, drill sergeants breaking down recruits to make them good soldiers, a personal trainer insulting you to get you to lose weight, warning people to get off the trains to concentration camps, etc. All of these share a common theme - the goal is so important, obstacles must be smashed, even if that involves hurting your feelings in the process. It would hardly be 'loving' for a doctor to spare your feelings and never tell you that you're a fatty fat fatty and need to lose a bunch of weight, so you die of a massive heart attack at 27. Similarly, it's not loving to let someone coast to hell - even with self-esteem intact - because you didn't want to hurt their feelings by confronting their sins and idols that separate them from Christ.

Like I said, you've probably heard something like that before. But something I've heard a lot more recently is the idea that Jesus would never hurt someone's feelings. So if you're willing to call X a sin even though it makes X-lovers feel bad, you're being un-Christlike. This is supposed to trump the argument without needing to address it - since, you know, the argument is fairly obvious and universally acknowledged in any other sphere of life, and to try to counter it would be plainly silly. So instead we get the ultimate trump card - Jesus wouldn't do that, so why do you?

The big problem with this objection is that it's demonstrably untrue. When someone is in danger of hell, Jesus is all too willing to hurt their feelings, to expose the sins they're the most ashamed of, and to crush the idols that keep them from faith and repentance.

Consider the twin evangelistic encounters of John 3 and John 4. In the first, Jesus confronts Nicodemus, a teacher/scholar and one of the most educated and powerful men in Israel, and essentially calls him a worldly-minded ignoramus. In the second, he cuts through the Samaritan woman's political/social/theological banter by going straight to confronting her promiscuity. Nicodemus was no doubt crushed to have his ignorance exposed, and the Samaritan woman was obviously ashamed that he knew the truth about her. In both cases, it was necessary to destroy their idols and walls, because they were keeping them from seeing Jesus and being saved. So he did what was necessary to get their attention, despite how it would make them feel, because the stakes were way too high to do otherwise.

Even more directly, consider the astonishing encounter in Luke 11. First, Jesus unleashes a series of condemnations against the Pharisees. A lawyer heard what Jesus said, and thought it maybe hit a little too close to him and his kind. He pointed this out to Jesus: "Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” Now surely, if our objector is correct, Jesus would stop to explain that he didn't want to offend anyone, maybe even apologize for any offense taken. But what did Jesus actually say? “Woe to you lawyers also!" And then he launched into a series of condemnations of them as well. Far from backing off to make sure nobody's feelings were hurt, he went out of his way to make sure they didn't miss the insult!

Were there times that Jesus cared about how people felt? Sure. When someone was hurting, such as Mary when her brother Lazarus died, he wept with her and comforted her. And that's when we should care about feelings as well. People who are hurting are to be comforted and helped. But defiant rebellion against God is not to be pampered - it is to be confronted and repented of, lest it last until it is ultimately crushed. That is what Jesus did, and so must we, if we want to love as Jesus loved.