Pete, “How’s it going?” Max, “Not very well.” Pete, “What’s the problem?” Max, “Oh, I know I’m not a Mormon or a Muslim or an old Pharisee. I know doing good works does not save me. But I’m always coming up short, thinking that I’m not doing enough, that I’m not living better, that I do not please God the way I should. It’s really getting me down.” Pete, “But….” Max, “But the Bible seems to push me in this direction; sermons seem to push me in this direction; your Calvinistic bent, with its heavy emphasis on the Law, seems to push me in this direction. I just can’t live up to all the expectations.”
Yes, God has a standard by which we ought to live. When someone asks me how I’m doing, I too hang my head, acknowledging I fall far short of the mark. I sin daily in thought, word, and deed. My sins are many and very great (Amos 5:2). However, the gospel is simple, beautiful, powerful, and comforting. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). This gospel motivates and propels us.
Christ died once. The Old Testament priests offered sacrifices day after day, month after month, and year after year. Christ died once for all time; He never needs to repeat His sacrifice. His sacrifice was also for sins; that is, He died on account of our sins. Our sins put Him on the cross. As the only just or righteous person, the only person on the face of the earth living without sin, He died in place of sinners, unjust and unrighteous people, like you and me. He took the punishment due to you and me. But why did He purpose to live a perfect life? Why did He purpose to surrender His life on a cruel cross and die the most horrible and inhumane death by crucifixion?
He did this to take us by the hand and lead us into the very presence of His Father. Based on His perfect life and atoning death, He leads us into the presence of God. We do not approach God on our own merit. We have not; we will not. Our failure is great, and our weakness is evident. But Christ’s work is final and complete; only His merit saves. Our response is simple trust; we bring nothing to the table. Our faith is an acknowledgment of our emptiness, that we have nothing to offer God. Christ is complete. As we trust Christ, all His righteousness becomes ours. His death pays for all our sins, errors, and perversity. Christ presents us to the Father based on His work. He came into the world for this purpose. “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 146:1-2).
Therefore, Christ establishes the ground upon which we live. What we do and how we live, we do and live as an expression of thanksgiving and love for God and salvation in Jesus Christ. Always maintain this biblical perspective. Paul puts it this way, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20, italics mine). When you maintain this perspective on the life you owe to God, it is a joy and not a burden to live for Him.