“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” ~ Isaiah 53:5

Every other religion will tell you in some fashion: Live a good life and God will (or may) accept you. There are variations on this theme but it always comes down to the same key ideas: If there’s a God, then he is looking for good people, so be good, and you’ll probably get in. It’s how most people think.

What’s more, a majority of people believe that they’ll make the cut. Should God ask them on judgment day why they should be granted admittance to heaven, they’ll at once begin to recite the good things they’ve done, and if God hems and haws at that, they’ll then launch into the, “…and I’m not certainly not as bad as Frank who was three cubicles down from me” speech, and if that doesn’t seem to be working, then there’s always the “I’m certainly no Hitler” card to fall back on.

Christianity alone stands before the world and says that the ‘live a good life and God will accept you’ idea is a foolish and failed approach. Why? Because not one person on earth is good enough.

The Bible uses all sorts of metaphors to describe the trouble a sinful human is in.

  • We are guilty and need to find forgiveness.
  • We are prisoners and need to be ransomed.
  • We are enslaved and need to be redeemed.
  • We are condemned and need to find atonement.
  • We are sinful and need to find righteousness.
  • We are estranged and need to be adopted.
  • We are separated from God and need to find reconciliation.

“Why’s the Bible so down on us?” you ask. Actually, it’s not. Nothing presents a higher view of humanity than Christianity. (You be the judge: Naturalism – humans are at best glorified animals that arose randomly in an accidental universe who need to suck it up. Christianity – humans are fallen royalty created in the image of God who need to come to their senses, repent and come home. Which view would most make you feel like getting out of bed in the morning?)

Here’s the deal. Track with me as I get philosophical for a moment. All wrongdoing comes with a price attached to it. Most understand this at a visceral level. “I’ll pay you back!” we say to someone who hurts us.

If I slap you hard across the face for no reason at all, I owe you an apology. That’s the price I need to pay to put the moral universe back in balance. One tiny offense has set a world of hurt in motion inside your heart. And until I apologize, you’ll be churning with fear or anger or bitterness.

If I steal from you, now not only do I owe you an apology, but I also owe you restitution. And the debt grows deeper with the increasing severity of my wrongdoing. Let a rapist out of prison after two months, and people go rightfully berserk. The punishment should fit the crime, we say.

Now I have a question for you: Have you ever thought of the debt you owe for the collective weight of all your wrong-doing? Let’s say yesterday you committed only four sins (not a bad day’s work): you fought with your spouse, then as you stomped out of the house you yelled at your child, then as you drove off in a huff you cut off another driver in an act of road rage, and then when you pulled into the parking lot at Home Depot you smacked the fender of another car, saw no one was looking and drove off.

Now you owe a specific sort of debt to each of the parties you’ve hurt. There are four slices of ‘debt pie’ that you have to dish out to put the moral universe back in order. But think of it: when it comes to God, you owe him the whole pie. You’ve thumbed your nose at him not once, but four times. Now add up the wrong-doing you’ve done each and every day, then each and every week, then each and every month, then each and every year. How much do we owe God in the end for a lifetime’s worth of selfishness? Can you begin to grasp why the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)?

God – the Judge of the universe – cannot just sweep away human sin with a wave of his hand and pronounce us forgiven any more than a human judge can acquit a murderer or rapist just because he feels like it. It’s not though as if God is beholden to a law outside of himself. He’s beholden to himself. Every law he gives reflects his own good and holy nature. To be true to himself, justice must be served. To be true to himself, the moral order must be upheld. Or good and evil would have no meaning.

I hope you can see that to think that God would accept me on the basis of my own moral goodness is preposterous. How then can he possibly accept me? Someone must come along – someone not guilty of what I have done – who can pay the debt of judgment I owe for all my wrongdoing. Only in this way is both God’s justice satisfied, and his mercy released.

Read these words now, that were penned by a prophet named Isaiah:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” ~ Isaiah 53:5

You know who he is writing about, don’t you? It’s Jesus. (Incidentally, Isaiah wrote these words 700 years before Jesus was born. Explain that for me.)

I hope you are beginning to see what the death of Jesus on the cross is all about, and why it is this that returns to us the power to live rightly. Including the power to overcome porn and every other sin that attempts to drag you into hell with it.

Jesus – the only morally perfect, good and holy human to walk the earth – traded in his sinless life for mine. With his death, he paid the full tab which I owed God. With that exchange, he purchased for me forgiveness, ransom, redemption, atonement, righteousness, adoption and reconciliation. Jesus satisfied the righteous demands of God’s justice, and simultaneously threw open the floodgates of God’s mercy toward you and me. And by his wounds we are healed. 

What healing? The healing of all the devastation that occurred in Eden. When a man, woman or child accepts Christ’s sacrifice as a gift of love for them and then chooses to follow him…

  • The healing of their sin nature begins. The spiritual part of their being that had been dead now pulses to life.
  • They are no longer powerless before evil in the world, but are given authority to bind evil, resist it, push it back. If you will, to kick in the gates of hell.
  • God’s Spirit rushes back into their souls, like the ocean into a tidal pool. They experience a very real ‘adoption’ back into God’s family as his sons and daughters. The walkabout with God their Father resumes.

While the world says, Live a good life and God will accept you. Christianity is the only religion to stand before the world and declare: God accepts you (because of what Jesus did). Now live a good life.

To borrow from Frost: And that makes all the difference.

For Reflection

What ideas in this reading did you find helpful or challenging?

 

Describe the trouble a sinful human is in.

 

How is it that Jesus’ death changes all of this? How does his death give to us the ‘power to live rightly’?

 

Have you received Christ’s gift of forgiveness and new life? If not, what’s holding you back? Check any of these that might describe where your heart is at right now:

I need to learn more about Jesus first. ___

This is too important a decision to rush into. ___

There is a behavior I know I will have to change.___

I don’t believe I need what Jesus is offering. ___

If I become a Christian, I have family/friends who will be upset.___

Please discuss your answers with your study group or accountability partners. No one should pressure you into making a decision you are not ready for. But they should be able to offer encouragement and support, and point you in the right direction of additional resources you might need.

Sometimes people just struggle to find the right words. Your prayer to Jesus, accepting his offer, can be as simple as this:

“Dear God, I know I have sinned in your sight.  I have broken your laws

and broken your heart more times than I can count.  I repent and turn

from my sins. I believe Jesus died for my sins, rose from the grave, and is alive right now. 

I open the door of my heart and life, receiving Jesus Christ as my Savior.

I want to follow him as the Lord and Leader of my life. Fill me Holy Spirit of God. 

Wash away my sins and make me new. Thank you for saving me.  Amen.”

Once you become Christ’s follower, it is important that you tell a trusted friend who is further along on the Christian journey. They will be able to help guide your next steps. If you have made this decision today, congratulations! I believe the remaining readings in this 40 day journey are going to be especially powerful for you in helping you lay a strong foundation for your new faith in Christ.

 

Prayer and Worship

“Father, I thank you for…”

“Father, please help me with…”

“Father, please be with…”

“In the name of Jesus, who died for my sins, who rose from the dead and who is with me now through the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Today’s Worship Suggestion: “How Deep The Father’s Love” (Stuart Townend)

This Week’s Memory Verses

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” ~ Galatians 2:20

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body.” ~ 1 Cor.6:19-20

To Return To Day 11 Click Here
To Read Day 13 Click Here