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 not pleasing 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 expectation.”
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 need never repeat His sacrifice. And His sacrifice was for sins. 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 the 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 of crucifixion?
He did this for the purpose of taking us by the hand and leading us into the very presence of His Father. On the basis of 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. Our weakness is evident. Christ’s work is final and complete. Only His merit saves. Our response is simple trust. We bring nothing to the table. In fact, our faith is an acknowledgment of our emptiness. 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 on the basis of His work. This is why He came into the world. “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).
Christ therefore 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 for salvation in Jesus Christ. Always maintain this biblical perspective. Paul puts it this way, “The lifewhich 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.