I was flying some time ago from L.A. to El Paso, Texas. I was going down there to do a men’s conference and sitting on the airplane in the dreaded middle seat everybody hates, and I’m squeezed into the middle seat, and sitting next to a guy who’s obviously Arabic, and got my Bible, I’m writing some notes, and eventually, this guy’s curiosity gets the best of him. And he leans over and says, “Excuse me, sir. Is that a Bible?” I said, “Yeah, it’s a Bible.”
He said, “Oh. May I ask you a question?” I said, “Absolutely.” He said, “I’m new in America. I just immigrated from Iran,” he said, “I’m Muslim. I don’t understand American religion. In my country, everybody is a Muslim, but here, it’s very confusing. Here’s my question.” This is exactly what he said. “Sir, can you tell me the difference between a Catholic, a Protestant, and a Baptist?” Now, I don’t know how he put that all together in that way, but that’s exactly what he asked me. And you know what? I knew the answer. I knew the difference.
So I explained the difference. This is perfect - perfect. I explained the difference, and I think I got the Baptist in the Protestant category where they belong, and I just kind of talked through a little bit, and I said, “Sir, would you mind if I asked you a question?” “No, no.” I said - and I knew the answer but I wanted to hear it from him. “Do Muslims sin?” He said, “Huh! Yes, yes. In fact, we have so many sins, I don’t even know all the sins.” I said, “What happens when you sin?” “It’s very bad. It’s very bad. I could go to the hell.”
I said, “You could go to hell?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Why don’t you stop doing them?” “I can’t stop.” And then he said this, “I’m flying to El Paso to do some sins.” I said, “What? You’re flying to El Paso to do some sins? What are you talking about?” He said, “When I was immigrating, there’s an El Paso immigration point, I met a girl who worked for the immigration. We made a friendship and we’re going to meet to do some sins.” My gosh. This is an honest guy, right? I said, “You’re going to make things worse.” “I know, I know.” And then he said this: “I hope the God, al-ilah, will forgive me.”
And I said, “Why would he do that?” “I don’t know.” “Are you somebody special?” I said. “Why would he forgive you?” “I don’t know. I hope the God will forgive me.” And I said, “You know something? God won’t forgive you. I know Him personally, and I can tell you, He won’t forgive you.” He looked at me like I was out of my mind. “You know God personally and you’re sitting in the middle seat in coach? Who are you kidding? If you knew God personally, you’d have your own jet.” He couldn’t process that.
Our conversation continued. For him, there was no pathway, no hope, no means to receive forgiveness. No redemption, no salvation, and absolutely no hope. The best hope he had was to strap a bomb on himself and blow up a bunch of people. He said, “I just hope the God will forgive me.” And then I described the true and living God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And I explained to him that God wouldn’t forgive him unless he accepted the one way to be forgiven, and the I told him fully the story of Jesus. And he listened to every word I said.
I got his address, said goodbye when we landed, I mailed him a bunch of things to read, listen to, I never heard back. Now, I don’t know what the final outcome was, but I think I messed up his weekend a little bit. But I went away from that really broken in my heart, that you have people plunging into a religion that offers them no forgiveness, no salvation, no redemption, no reconciliation with God, and no hope.
You know, sometimes when I’m flying, people say to me, “What do you do?” and I say - I tell people they can have all their sins forgiven, “Are you interested?” That’s pretty straight, isn’t it? But that’s the issue. I was flying from New York to L.A., a guy sat down next to me. He had metal coming out of everything. And he asked me, “What do you do?” and I said, “I tell people God can forgive all their sins. Are you interested?” We had just taken off from New York - I never saw him the rest of the flight. I think he was in the men’s room for five hours.
There are some people who don’t want to talk about that, but that’s what we do. We tell people that there is forgiveness and reconciliation with God. And we talked about that today, didn’t we? A little bit. I’m just going to talk informally to you tonight, just kind of follow that up. We talked about a father who ran to embrace a wretched sinner, right? Threw his arms around him, kissed him all over the head, put a robe on him, a ring on him, sandals on him, took him to his house, full rights as a son, and had a massive celebration. Invited the whole village to come and celebrate the son that had been forgiven.
A great story of grace. And a question arises out of that: How can God do that? How can He do that? How could He just forgive the sinner? We understand that the Bible tells us God is just. I think you’re pretty well acquainted with what justice looks like. If I was a judge and I was sitting at the bench and a criminal came in the court and said, “Look, I’m really sorry that I did that, I’m really sorry. I know I killed a lot of people and created mayhem everywhere, but, Judge, I am really sorry. I feel so badly about it. I just wish you’d forgive me.”
What kind of judge would say, “Sure, I’m a compassionate guy. You’re forgiven.” What kind of a judge would do that? Well, if a judge ever did that, he wouldn’t be a judge anymore because his responsibility is to uphold justice. And if upholding justice is standard operating procedure for a judge and God is the judge of all the earth, He has to uphold justice. So the question arises as to how God can forgive sin. On what basis can He do that? And the answer to that question comes in a passage that I want you to look at with me for a little bit and do a little Bible study here.
Second Corinthians chapter 5. And you’re going to see that this is a sweeping reality in Scripture that you may well be familiar with. I want to read to you verses 17 and right down to verse 21. Second Corinthians 5:17 to 21. This is the single great doctrinal passage in this entire epistle, 13 chapters. This is the diamond that sits in that setting. Let me read it.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now, all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Did you hear the word “reconcile” five times? Five times there’s a form of the word “reconcile.” This is a passage about the ministry of reconciliation. We have been given, the end of verse 18, the ministry of reconciliation. End of verse 19, we have been given the word, the message, of reconciliation. We tell sinners they can be reconciled to God. That’s our ministry, that’s our life, that’s why we’re here. As Mark said earlier, that’s the only thing that you don’t do in heaven, and that’s the only reason you’re left here, to fulfill the ministry of reconciliation, the message of reconciliation, to tell sinners they can be reconciled to God.
Consequently, verse 20 says we’re ambassadors for Christ. We’re representatives, we’re His agents, we are placed in an alien environment and we have one objective, and that’s social change. Our one objective is to tell people they can be reconciled to God, that God is eager for reconciliation. That’s what we do. Now, as this passage kind of breaks up into component parts, I want to tell you four things that you need to understand about reconciliation. Okay?
Number one. Reconciliation is by the will of God. It’s by the will of God. That is really important because if you study ethnology or the science of religion, you study world religions, you will never find a religion in the world with a god who is by nature a reconciling god. You won’t find one. That is distinctively the God of Scripture. For example, if you were living in Israel in the Old Testament era, there were gods all around, but they ran on a spectrum from, on the one extreme, indifferent, to the other extreme, vicious.
On the one hand, Baal. Baal was indifferent. The prophets of Baal were up on Mount Carmel and they were trying to get his attention. Remember that? What did they do? They started yelling, they started slicing themselves up, and what did the prophet of God say? “Yell louder, he might be sleeping.” You know, “Maybe he’s on vacation.” They were dealing with indifference, like modern Islam. Can’t get his attention. He’s way beyond you and doesn’t care.
On the other hand, you had the opposite extreme, Molech. Molech said, “You want to satisfy me? Put your baby on the altar and torch it. That’s what I want. That’s what I expect.” The gods of the nations run that spectrum from indifference to vicious hostility. There’s not a savior anywhere in the panoply of false deities.
But God is by nature a Savior. Look at this. If anyone’s in Christ, he’s a new creature, old things passed away, new things have come. Verse 18, “All these things are from” - whom? - “God.” If there is a possibility of reconciliation, it has to come from the one who’s been offended, right? David says, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done this iniquity.” It is the offended party that sets the terms of reconciliation, and it is God against whom all sin is committed, and yet reconciliation comes from God. I love this. “All these things are from God.”
Look at verse 19. “It is God in Christ reconciling the world.” Look at verse 20. “It is God making an appeal through us, begging people to be reconciled.” God is by nature a Savior. He is by nature a Savior. That’s what sets Him apart from all false deities, all other false deities are the product of Satan, right? Doctrines of demons. Satan hates salvation, doesn’t offer any salvation in any of his false systems. But God by nature is a Savior.
I’m going to illustrate this to you a couple of ways. First Timothy 4:10 says, “God is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” That’s a kind of strange statement. God is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. Well, I understand the especially part, I understand in what sense God is the Savior of those who believe. But in what sense is He the Savior of all men? I’ll answer that. God reveals His patience, Hid compassion, His reluctance to judge, His saving nature by not giving the sinner the punishment the sinner deserves when he deserves it.
And you see that at the beginning in the book of Genesis. God says to Adam, “And the day you eat, you die.” Guess what? He lived over nine hundred years. What’s that? Romans 2 calls that the patience and forbearance of God meant to lead you to repentance. God doesn’t give the sinner the punishment the sinner deserves when the sinner deserves it or none of us would survive because we’re born sinners. This to me is the greatest element of common grace. Theologians call that common grace because it is grace common to all.
People read the Old Testament, for example, and they say, “What kind of a God is that?” What kind of a God is the God of the Old Testament when a couple of young men yell, “Bald head, bald head, bald head” at the prophet? And God sends bears out of the wood and destroys 42 of those young men? What kind of a God does - what kind of a God tears up young men for mocking a prophet? What kind of a God opens up the ground and swallows up people for invading the priesthood? What kind of a God destroys the Canaanites? What kind of a God does that? What kind of a God drowns the world? Leaves only eight souls?
That’s not the question. A just and holy God does that. The question is what kind of a God lets the sinner live? That’s the question. What kind of a God lets the sinner live, take another breath, fall in love, smell the roses, eat a good meal, see a sunset, have a baby, hug his children, sit under beautiful music, make a friend? What kind of a God does that? A God who by nature is a Savior, a rescuer, patient, forbearing. That’s the real question to ask.
Before God drowned the world, he preached righteousness for 120 years. That’s a long time, and He had an illustration of what was coming, right before everybody. God is by nature a saving God, but Genesis 6 says, “My spirit will not always strive with man.” His justice will come. But when it says God’s the Savior of all men, listen, that means He is the Savior of all men in the physical, temporal sense. Sinners survive. They live physically and they live for time.
None of us should be here, should we? None of us. We should’ve been catapulted into divine judgment right from our birth because we were guilty, we sinned in Adam. But God by nature is a saving God, and you know what’s so wonderful about that? He puts that saving longing on display across the planet generation after generation in the fact that sinners live and sinners flourish, and they can shake their fists in his face. The psalmists wondered, why do the unrighteous prosper, right? Because God is a patient God.
God said, “I have no pleasure in” - what? - “the death of the wicked.” That’s His sad work. What does this have to do with us? This is so important. I don’t have to convince God to save the sinner; I just have to convince the sinner to accept the salvation. This would be a lot tougher if I had to talk God into taking the sinner. That’s a done deal because He will not refuse anyone who comes to Him.
Our responsibility is to go to the sinner and to say God is by nature a Savior. There are some wonderful portions of Scripture that indicate this just briefly, a little letter of Titus, Titus 1:4, “Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus, our Savior.” But verse 3, “At the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior.” Christ is our Savior but behind him, of course, is God, who is also a Savior.
Chapter 2, verse 13, “Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Chapter 3, verse 4, “When the kindness of God, our Savior, and His love for mankind appeared.” And then verse 6, “He poured it out richly through Jesus Christ, our Savior.” Listen, my friend, God is a Savior in the same way that Christ is the Savior, they are one. And I’m going to tell you something, this is important, and I’m going to be really honest with you, okay?
How many of you were raised in a Catholic background, Roman Catholic? Okay, here’s what you were taught. You were taught that God is a tough guy, you don’t want to go directly to Him. He’s distant, He’s judgmental, He’s harsh. Jesus, a little softer, but He’s got a lot of other things on His mind, and you don’t really want to go to Him. If you want to get saved, go to Mary. She’s tender, she’s compassionate, and Jesus can’t resist Mary. And that’s the system of Roman Catholic theology, and it’s all based on the fact that God is a reluctant Savior and Jesus is a kind of a quasi-reluctant Savior, and if you want to move them toward your salvation, go to Mary because Jesus can’t resist His mother.
I got news for you. Mary never heard a prayer from any human being since the day she died. And you don’t need her. There is one mediator between God and man, and that’s the Man Christ Jesus. And He is no reluctant Savior and neither is the Father. Reconciliation is by the will of God, He’s the reconciler. Jesus says Son of man has come to seek, save the lost. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. God is the reconciler. How liberating is that? To know you don’t have a reluctant God. If you want to know how eager He is to save, see His saving desire through the tears of Jesus as He weeps over Jerusalem. Says, “I wanted to gather you, but you wouldn’t come.” So reconciliation is by the will of God.
Secondly, it’s by the act of forgiveness. Verse 19. How is God going to be reconciled to us? By not counting their trespasses against them. You got that? That’s the only way. Because they are a massive offense to him, a scandal, a blasphemy, a barrier, and if we’re going to have any relationship to God, that sin’s got to be removed. You know, you understand that humanly, don’t you? I mean you’re trying to reconcile with a wife, you’re trying to reconcile with a child, trying to reconcile with a person somewhere. If there is some standing sin between you, that just doesn’t happen.
That reconciliation can’t happen until forgiveness takes that sin and moves it out. The only way you’ll ever be reconciled to God is if He does not impute your sins to you. What does that mean? He doesn’t charge you for them. He doesn’t hold them against you. That’s what forgiveness is. And when He forgives you, the Old Testament says, He is a pardoning God. The prophet said He’s a pardoning God, who is a pardoning God like you? It’s incomprehensible how God pardons. He removes your sins as far as the east is from the west. He buries your sin in the depths of the sea and He remembers them no more. Wow.
Someday I’m going to write a book about the people that God forgot. The people that God forgot. That’s the only way you can be reconciled, and that’s made available to you. Because through Jesus Christ comes the forgiveness of sins. All sin - all sin. You say, “Well, what about the sins I don’t remember?” Ha! They better be covered. Because if you have to remember them all, you’ll never be forgiven. You say, “Well, what about my future sins?” They’re all covered as well. He’s forgiven all your sins. All your sins, past, present, and future.
That’s the only way reconciliation could happen, and that - we’re back to the message. The ambassador who preaches the message, the word of reconciliation, in the ministry of reconciliation, tells sinners forgiveness is available. So reconciliation is by the will of God and by the means of forgiveness. Think about it. An infinitely Holy God obliterates the entire record of your sin from the moment you come to Christ to the end of your life from the heavenly record. It’s wiped out, erased. Colossians 2, right? He blotted out the list of sins held against us. This is such magnificent, magnanimous grace that it’s incomprehensible.
That’s not all. I told you there were four, so I got to think up two more. Reconciliation is by the will of God, by the act of forgiveness - thirdly, by the obedience of faith. By the obedience of faith. Verse 20, we make an appeal, it’s really God making an appeal through us. We beg you, be reconciled to God. What’s implied there is the sinner must come. The sinner must believe. The sinner must repent. This is essential so that salvation is by the obedience of faith. That’s what we go to sinners and tell them. We beg you.
I love the apostle Paul. He had his theology right. He had the theology of divine sovereignty right. He understood the doctrine of election. But he spent his whole life pleading with people to put their trust in Jesus Christ. He begged them. He begged them. It cost him. It cost him, he was beaten with rods multiple times. He was whipped multiple times. In danger all the time. Shipwrecked. Left in the deep, deprived. All he knew was that he had to spend his life ferreting out every unbelieving sinner he could find and begging that sinner to come to faith in Christ.
That’s what we do. That is what we do. We plead with sinners to come to Christ. It’s a tough message because they have to deny themselves, take up the cross, follow. Tough for a sinner to deny himself, right? Because he loves himself and because he loves his sin. Men love darkness, John 3. They love their sin. They love themselves. What do they need to do? Hate their sin, hate themselves, and hate the mother and the father and the sister and the brother and everything else that holds them in their sin. Count the costs. Total self-denial. That’s hard.
One of my favorite stories about Jesus, it’s a tragedy. He goes to a synagogue in Nazareth, Luke 4. That’s his hometown, it’s where he grew up, went to the synagogue every Sabbath of his life. Didn’t leave until he was 30. Everybody knew Him. Nazareth was a small, little town. Everybody knew everybody. That was His synagogue. His family went there, His extended family went there, His neighbors went there, His friends went there - everybody went there. He shows up about a year into His ministry, almost a year into His ministry. His reputation precedes him about the miracles He’d done at Capernaum, which is a few miles away.
He goes to the synagogue. He’s the visiting rabbi now, hometown boy. They hand Him the Scripture, he gets Isaiah 61, and He reads the passage, and He reads the best news that those people had ever heard, the news they’d been waiting for all their lives. It was this: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He’s anointed me to preach the gospel, the good news, and the good news is this, to proclaim the gospel to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those that are oppressed, and to declare the favorable year of the Lord.
What’s He talking about? He’s not talking about people who are poor with money, He’s not talking about people who are in jail, He’s not talking about people who are physically blind, He’s not talking about people who are struggling in their life and can’t kind of crawl up out of the hole. He’s talking about this, He’s saying the gospel comes to people who know that spiritually they are poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed. He’s calling for a beatitude attitude of brokenness, spiritual bankruptcy, mourning over one’s sin, hungering and thirst for righteousness.
He came in to those sophisticated, self-confident, self-righteous Jews in His own town who knew Him since He was a boy and must have known that He was not like any other person they’d ever met. And He tells them, “Here’s the good news. The good news is freedom, spiritual sight, spiritual deliverance, salvation. You know how the service ended? They picked up stones and tried to kill Him. Tried to kill Him. What does a hometown boy do when He preaches His first sermon back in His hometown and gets them so mad they try to kill Him? What did He say?
What He said was, “There’s no salvation for you until you see yourself as a poor prisoner, blind and oppressed spiritually,” and that offended them so greatly that they tried to take His life. That’s tough for the sinner to admit. And the more self-righteous you are, the tougher it is. That’s why it was always the publicans and the outcasts and the lowlifes and the riffraff and the prostitutes that came to Jesus. They knew what they were.
It’s faith. Sometimes faith is hard. You know, the disciples came to Jesus one day, and one of them said this. “Are there just a few being saved?” Remember that? Luke? Are there just a few? They were trying to figure it out. They’d seen Jesus - do you understand that there was never a disease ever actually cured until 1885? Because nobody knew what caused them. Do you understand that there had never been an actual cure of a disease because there had never been a diagnosis of a disease? And do you understand that Jesus comes into that world where nobody had ever been cured of anything? And banishes illness from Israel for the duration of His ministry?
Heals blind people, deaf people, dumb people, people with brain problems, He gives them a new brain, He gives them new internal organs. And do you understand there was no rehab? Do you understand that if you’d been lying down for 38 years and He said, “Get up,” you got up and ran? Do you understand the disciples were with Him every single day, watching this? And finally, about two years into the ministry, they say, “You are the Christ.” Finally. I mean what does it take? And they only said that after He walked on water.
They were there when He made lunch. You now how He makes lunch. Lunch. Feeds 5,000 men, up to 25,000 people, goes to Decapolis, does it again with 4,000 people. They were there. They were there when he sent all those demons out of that maniac and they went into those pigs and did a swine dive. You know, you’d think they would’ve rolled over a long time sooner, but the heart is so hard, and the Pharisees come to Jesus and they say, “Show us a sign.” He says, “No more. No more signs except one, and the next one will be the resurrection.” And you know what? They didn’t believe that. Even though they knew it happened, they bribed the soldiers to tell a lie.
That’s how hard the human heart is, and that’s why we end up begging sinners to be reconciled. It’s not easy to shatter those things that hold them. Just a thought about that. Do you ever think about spiritual warfare? Talk about it? A lot of people confused about that, they think it means you’re chasing demons. Don’t be doing that. You’re going to wind up like the sons of Sceva. The demon’s going to say, “Paul we know and Jesus we know, but who are you? You don’t have apostolic authority.”
Here’s what spiritual warfare is, 2 Corinthians 10:3 to 5. Spiritual warfare, the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly but they’re spiritual - this is key - they are mighty unto God, divinely powerful for the pulling down of strongholds. Now, the word “strongholds” is the word for fortress. It’s the word for fortress, it’s the word for prison, it’s the word for tomb because they’re all made out of stone. People are captive in prisons, fortifications that become their tombs. We do war against that.
What are they? Well, He says, “We need weapons mighty unto God for the pulling down of strongholds,” and in the next line, He says this, “even their logismos.” What are those? Ideologies, ideas, theories, viewpoints, philosophies, religions. That’s what we’re going after. We’re not chasing demons, we’re going after the minds of people that are literally imprisoned and entombed in wrong thinking, wrong theology, lies and deception, and there’s only one way to smash those fortresses. The only way you smash lies is with what? Truth.
You say, “Look, do all you guys need to go to seminary? Need to go to Bible college?” I’m telling you, if you want to smash the fortifications, you’ve got to know the truth that crushes the lies. This is not easy. We go against this. We go against it with the truth. Our only weapon is the truth. We don’t have apostolic authority to chase demons around town. That wouldn’t do it anyway. But we can bring the truth to bear to crush the strongholds of lies and deception, and that’s what we do if we’re going to call sinners to faith in the truth.
One final point. So reconciliation is by the will of God, it is by the means of forgiveness, it is appropriated by the obedience of faith, and lastly, and this is the heart of everything, this is really the heart of everything, reconciliation - look at verse 21 - is by the work of substitution. It’s by the work of substitution.
Now let’s get back to our original question. What kind of judge would you be if you said, “I’m sad for you, I’m compassionate on you, you’re forgiven, go your way. Next case.” You wouldn’t be a good judge. So Paul asked this question in Romans: How can God be just and the justifier of sinners? Right? At the same time, how can He do that? How can He be just and the justifier of sinners? And here’s the answer: Verse 21. He (God) made him who knew no sin - who’s that? Right, short list. Short list. One name. He who knew no sin. The writer of Hebrews says about Jesus He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.
And God said about Him, “This is my beloved Son in whom I’m well pleased.” He made - God made Jesus - listen - the Greek says God made Him who knew no sin sin. What does that mean? You got to be careful about that. I’ve heard prosperity preachers say it means that on the cross, Jesus became a sinner. _____ He was a Lamb without blemish and without spot, and He was as holy hanging on the cross as He was before and ever will be. I’ve heard preachers say on the cross, He became a sinner and had to go to hell for three days, pay for His sins, and then God released Him to be resurrected. That’s a blasphemous idea.
And if that’s true, then why did Jesus say, “My God, my God, why?” If He was a sinner, there’d be no why. No, He’s not a sinner on the cross. Listen. In what sense was He made sin? One sense. Get this and you get the picture. God treated Jesus as if He was a sinner though He was not. I’ll take it further. God treated Jesus as if He had personally committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe, though in truth He committed none of them.
I’ll go further. On the cross, God treated Jesus as if He lived your life. He punished Jesus for your sins. Jesus literally took the full punishment from God for every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe in Him. He committed none of them. That’s why He could say from the depths of His soul, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Now, look, think about it. There are sinners who are going to be in hell forever, and all the time they’re there, forever they’ll be paying for their sins, and they’ll never complete the payment. Now think about it. If people will live forever in hell and never complete the payment for their sin, how can Jesus pay in full the payment for all the sins of all the people who will ever believe and do it in one day? I’ll go even further. I think He did it in three hours. I think it was the three hours of darkness.
You say, “How can He bear the punishment that could last forever for all the people who belonged to God through all human history and to do it in three hours?” And the answer is this: He is an infinite Person and, therefore, had an infinite capacity to absorb an infinite judgment.
Look, the pathos of the cross, the agony of the cross isn’t the nails and it isn’t the crown and it isn’t the beating, it’s the sin-bearing. That’s what made Him sweat drops of blood in the garden, just anticipating that. Now, God treated Jesus as if He lived your life and my life. That’s not all. Look at the rest of the verse. He who knew no sin was made sin on our behalf, for us - listen to this one - so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Now, let me help you see what that means. That’s the flipside of substitution. On the cross, God treats Jesus as sinful so that He can treat you as righteous.
I’ll say it another way. On the cross, God treats Jesus as if He lived your life and now He treats you as if you lived His. On the cross, God looked and saw you when He saw His Son, and now He looks and sees His Son when He looks at you. I mean is that rich? Is that - that’s what it is. Now, somebody would say, “Why did Jesus have to live for 33 years?” I used to think, you know, if I was God, I’d say, “Jesus, I need you to go down and die. I need you to go down on a Friday and be back on Monday. There’s no sense stringing this deal out, just go down there, die, pay the penalty.” No.
No. Came down, born, lives, lives as a child, lives as a teenager, lives as a young adult, lives as a full-grown man. Why? Why? Because He answered John the Baptist with this: “I must fulfill all righteousness.” He had to live a full life of perfection so that that full life could be credited to your account. All your sin placed on Him. His perfect life credited to your account. So when the record is seen by God concerning you, there are no sins there. All that’s there is the life of Christ as if you lived that life. That’s the glory of grace. That’s the glory of grace.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see. ’twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace, my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.
But the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.
Lord Jesus, we thank you, we praise you for what you have done for us unworthy sinners. We’re utterly unworthy. We will remain unworthy. We can do nothing to earn our salvation. It is a gift beyond comprehension. Thank you, O Father, for looking down on us in our need and removing our sin and placing it on your Son and placing His righteousness on us so that there is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ.
Thank you, Lord, for granting us your Holy Spirit, that He would take up residence in us, to live in us and live through us, and empower us for this ministry of reconciliation. May we tell sinners that you are a reconciling God, and may we plead with them and beg them to put their faith in you, that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ might be applied to them, they might exchange their sin for His righteousness.
Be honored, O Lord, in our lives. Be honored in this place. Be exalted here, we pray. And all for your glory. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.
This sermon series includes the following messages:
Please contact the publisher to obtain copies of this resource.Publisher Information