Mar 1, 2011, 12:30 PM
What we can do matters little; what God has done through his Son on our behalf matters a great deal. All we need do is to receive his finished work on the cross. God gave up his Son to die in our stead as a Substitute. At the cross, as Jesus breathed his last, he proclaimed: “It is finished!” (John 19:30) What could this mean? His assignment to make heaven accessible to all humankind without distinction of nationality, race, ethnic group or language was what he had accomplished.
For long, we have misunderstood grace and even downplayed it. We have done all we could to merit it, but grace is defined as unmerited and unearned favour. We have absolutely nothing to do or add to what God has already provided. “For God so loved the world (his creation) that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) This gift contains many other components that we have always overlooked.
Under grace, we are no longer condemned; indeed, we have been set free. Liberated! Christ fulfilled his mission which said: “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners...” (Luke 4:18b) As slaves and prisoners of sin (John 8:34) we have been set free from the burden of sin that we carry because Jesus has paid for it all. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1)
You see, the law was introduced to show us our weaknesses; that with our own strength it is impossible for us to please God.“All have sinned and fallen short of his glory.” (Romans 3:23)No one can claim to have fully met God’s standards except Jesus. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) We have become righteous in God’s eyes because of what Jesus has done.
When we offend somebody and ask for pardon and we are forgiven, do we still behave as someone guilty or do we accept that we have been forgiven? That is how it operates with God. He says in his Word, the Bible, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12) This pronouncement was made by the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament. Mark you, Satan will keep reminding us of our sins, because it is his nature to accuse the brethren. (Revelation 12:10b) Whenever he points fingers at us, we need to remind him of the cross where our sin debt has been paid in full, ‘once and for all.’ Case dismissed!
Jesus loves us unconditionally and that is the reason he died for humanity on the cross. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)It was after his death that his followers were called Christians; so it is clear that his death was for everyone – irrespective of race, language, nationality or ethnic group. The Messiah died for all, including you and me. Now “We love him because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
Who is justified? To justify means to be made just. It implies that we were not just but have been made so. As a result, no one can boast. “A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 2:15)
All attempts by humankind to satisfy God’s criteria for holiness as set out in the laws of Moses have failed. Was God going to leave his creation mire in the mess it had created for itself? No! “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) God did not wait for our conversion as sinners; he first loved us in spite of our sinfulness. He manifested his love for us first before we could love him also. Isn’t that what we understand by a merciful God?
Grace is not for sale and good deeds do not entitle us to it either. What then should stop us from basking in his love? However hard we try, we cannot merit God’s grace, for it is a gift. It is even more than a gift; it is a person, Jesus. We do not come to God with our own righteousness because “... all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) We come to God under the cover of Jesus’ righteousness to become the righteousness of God. Hallelujah!