"This is what the LORD says:
'Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
Or the strong man boast of his strength
Or the rich man boast of his riches,
But let him who boasts boast about this:
That he understands and KNOWS ME,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
For in these I delight,' declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 9:23-25)
This foundational declaration by the kind and just Creator-Owner of the universe, written by the prophet Jeremiah, teaches us why we are on planet earth: to know the LORD God, to love Him, and to delight in His ways. But we have a problem. The prophet Isaiah described it concisely:
"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
These words, written some 2700 years ago, express two things God wants everyone to understand:
1. MAN HAS A PROBLEM “… each of us [humans] has turned to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6a)
2. GOD HAS A SOLUTION “…and the LORD has laid on him [Messiah] the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6b)
Let’s consider these two truths more deeply.
1. MAN’S PROBLEM: “… each of us has turned to his own way…”
To appreciate the problem, we need to understand what happened in the beginning.
A. GOD & MAN: TOGETHER
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:1,26-27)
There was a time when everything was perfect. God created the first man and woman with certain characteristics that set them apart from the animal world. God gave man a mind, emotions, a free will, and an eternal spirit. These characteristics made it possible for God and man to enjoy communication and fellowship with each other. In the beginning, God and man were close friends.
God gave to man the responsibility and privilege to choose whether or not he would honor, love and obey his Creator-Owner. God (who didn’t create man to be a robot) commanded, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die (i.e. be immediately separated from God, the Source of Life)." (Genesis 2:16-17)
B. GOD & MAN: SEPARATED
Adam and Eve chose to listen to Satan and disobey God. They followed their own way instead of God’s way. The Bible calls this sin. After man disobeyed God, the Bible says: “The man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid…’” (Gen. 3:8-10)
The close relationship between God and man was broken. God is holy and cannot ignore sin. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they died spiritually. Their sin separated them from God. They had become sinners and were now ashamed to be in the presence of their pure and perfect Creator.
“Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)
Sin created a great divide between God and man. Many people try to fix their sin problem by doing - or by not doing - certain things. But what does God’s Book say? How can God and man be reconciled? How can man's sin and shame be removed?
2. GOD’S SOLUTION “…the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
To discover God’s solution for man’s sin problem, we need to understand certain foundational truths about God and man.
A. GOD IS HOLY
The majestic Creator-Owner of the Universe is a loving, merciful God, but He is also the holy Lawgiver and a righteous Judge. His justice demands that all His laws be kept perfectly. God’s mercy can never contradict God’s justice. All sin must be punished. Only perfect, holy people can live with a perfect, holy God. Only God can give defiled sinners the perfect righteousness they need to stand shamelessly before their perfect and pure Creator.
“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” (1 John 1:5-6)
B. MAN IS A HELPLESS SINNER
Before they sinned, Adam and Eve had been surrounded by God’s glory and perfection. They were totally comfortable in the presence of their Creator. However, the moment they broke God’s law, they viewed themselves differently. Now they were uncomfortable—not just because of their physical nakedness, but also because of their spiritual nakedness. Before they transgressed, Adam and Eve were God-conscious and “felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:25) Now they had become self-conscious and felt unclean before their holy God. Adam and Eve had become the opposite of their Creator. They were now unholy. They no longer wanted to be in the purity and brightness of God’s presence. Like cockroaches scurrying for cover when a light is flicked on, they now “loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)
As descendants of Adam, we share his problem of sin and shame. We are separated from our holy Creator. By ourselves, we have no way to reconcile ourselves to God. From the beginning, God’s uncompromising “law of sin and death” (Genesis 2:16,17; Romans 8:2) made it clear that even one act of disobedience would produce death, that is, separation. Man is spiritually dead—separated from God, the Source of Life.
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12)
God is pure and holy. A single sin is as awful to God as a single drop of cyanide would be to us in a glass of water. Adding some clean water to the poisoned water will not fix the problem! Likewise, no amount of good deeds, prayer and fasting can fix our sin and death problem. God cannot tolerate sin. Man must die and face God’s righteous judgment. We are helpless sinners.
“The soul who sins is the one who will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4)
Sin is such an offensive thing to God that the penalty not only requires the separated sinner to die physically, but also eternally. God’s Word calls this “the second death” because it is a state of eternal separation from God.
“Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27) "The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:14-15)
Because man was created to live forever, and because we are sinners, “the law of sin and death” demands that we “pay” sin’s penalty for all eternity. We are helpless to save ourselves from the awful consequences of sin. This is very bad news.
How can our sin debt can be removed? How can our shameful state as sinners be reversed? Some 4000 years ago, the prophet Job asked this summary question: "How can a man be righteous before God?" (Job 9:2)
C. GOD HAS PROVIDED A SOLUTION
God Himself has made a way so we can be brought into a righteous relationship with Himself and escape “the second death.” God’s solution for man’s sin problem not only displays His mercy and love, but also demonstrates His holiness and justice.
The third chapter of God's Book reveals that when Adam and Eve disobeyed their Creator, they brought on themselves the double dilemma of sin and shame. Their sin drove them into hiding. Their shame incited them to cover their nakedness. They tried to fix their problem by covering themselves with fig leaves. God (in His justice and righteousness) rejected their self-made coverings of fig leaves, but God (in His mercy and kindness) clothed them in the skins of sacrificed animals. "The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them." (Genesis 3:21) The animal blood symbolized what was necessary to cleanse their sin, and the animal skins symbolized what was necessary to cover their shame.
We share our ancestor’s sin and shame. Before God, we are defiled sinners and spiritually naked. We are shamefully unfit to dwell in His presence. We need His pardon and His perfection. Our double trouble can be summarized in two questions:
1. How can we be cleansed from the sin that separates us from our Creator?
2. How can we be clothed in perfection so we can live with Him forever?
Only God has the remedy for man’s sinfulness and lack of righteousness.
On the same day that Adam and Eve first sinned, God promised to send into the world a deliverer (the Messiah). He would be born of the “seed of a woman” (see Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4-6). He would not have a human father. He would come from Heaven. He would not be tainted with the sin nature common to Adam’s descendants. God’s plan was to visit the world in human form by causing His Eternal Word to become flesh. Many reject God’s plan. Nonetheless, this is the central message of the Scriptures of the prophets. The one true God is not limited by time and space. He can be in more than one place at a time. The Scriptures are filled with pictures and prophecies about God’s plan to send to earth a perfect, all-powerful Savior.
Isaiah prophesied: “The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (meaning ‘God with us’)… The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. …For to us a child is born, to us a son is given… and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 7:14; 9:2,6 [written 700 B.C.])
Later, an eyewitness to the life of the Messiah wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. …The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. … No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known… He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God...” (John 1:1-5,14,18,10-12)
Also on the same day man first sinned, God introduced a new, stronger law that would trump “the law of sin and death." As we already saw, God put to death some innocent animals and used the skins of those animals to cover Adam and Eve's shame. By the sacrifice of these animals, God was introducing“the law of the sin offering” (Leviticus 6:25). This law taught that God would accept the blood of an innocent, symbolically flawless animal as a temporary payment for sin.
“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood [death payment] there is no forgiveness [of man’s sin debt].” (Hebrews 9:22)
This was God’s way of punishing sin without punishing the sinner. This was also God’s way of teaching man the seriousness of sin. Sin can only be paid with DEATH (not with good deeds). Thus, for thousands of years, true believers offered up innocent lambs on altars as sacrifices for sin. But, since the value of a lamb is not equal to that of man, such animal blood could only atone for (cover) sin; it could not remove sin. A better sacrifice would be required.
About 1000 years before the Messiah came, the prophet David prophesied that the Messiah would suffer and die; that His “hands and feet” would be “pierced” (see Psalm 22; see also Psalm 2, 16 and 110). The promised Messiah would become the "better sacrifice" that was needed (see Hebrews 8:1-11:4).
Approximately 700 years before the Messiah was born, God inspired His prophet Isaiah to write about Him: “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? …he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth… He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53)
At just the right time, God sent the Messiah. “The Word became flesh.” His name was Jesus, meaning “God saves.” He was unequaled in every way—in His conception and character, in His authoritative words and miraculous works, and in His death, resurrection and ascension. As the only man who never sinned, Jesus the Messiah came to pay the eternal death penalty for Adam’s race. This was God’s plan—a plan foretold by hundreds of prophecies and foreshadowed by innumerable sacrificed lambs.
In the Gospel record, Jesus is called “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Jesus did not come merely to cover sin, but to take it away. Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)
Jesus is the Savior of whom all the prophets wrote. Because He had no sin of His own for which to die, He could die for another’s sin. And because He was the infinite eternal Word of God in a human body, He could pay an infinite price in a finite amount of time—for the whole world. In His great love, He came to die as our substitute—to endure sin’s penalty and consequences in His own body. On a Roman cross, Jesus the Messiah shed His perfect blood and paid sin’s penalty.
Just as God provided a ram to die in the place of Abraham’s son, so God provided a perfect and final sacrifice for you and me. Two thousand years later, as Abraham had prophesied, Jesus was crucified on the same mountain range where Abraham had offered up the ram. And just before Jesus died, He declared, "It is finished!" (John 19:30) This statement, in its original language, can also be translated, “Paid in full!” Jesus Christ satisfied the symbolism of Abraham’s sacrifice and the millions of other animal sacrifices. He fulfilled the prophecies about the suffering Messiah. He paid your sin-debt in full. He has provided a way by which you can be reconciled to God.
“…Christ suffered for you… He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats… Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 2:21-22; 3:18)
Yes, the Lord Jesus died in your place, as your Substitute. But He did not remain dead. His resurrection on the third day gave proof that His death payment for sin was accepted by God. He had conquered sin’s penalty—death itself! After Jesus rose from the dead, He declared: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." (Revelation 1:17-18)
As the One who has paid sin’s penalty and conquered death, the Lord Jesus offers helpless sinners the gift of eternal life. Once again, humans can enjoy a close relationship with their Creator. In the time before the Messiah came, a person’s relationship was restored with God by believing what God would do for them in sending a Savior (looking forward). They showed their faith in God by offering up the blood of innocent lambs as a covering for sin. Today we can be brought into a relationship with God by believing what He has done for us (looking backward). To those who believe, God says this of your sin debt: “PAID IN FULL!” This is God’s Good News.
So what does God require from sinners?
D. MAN MUST BELIEVE IN GOD'S SOLUTION
God wants you to admit that you cannot save yourself, and He invites you to trust in HIM and HIS SOLUTION. Just as people who lived in the time before Christ were declared righteous when they believed God and His plan (showing their faith by sacrificing animals as sin offerings), so God will declare you righteous, the moment you truly believe that the Lord Jesus died in your place on the cross, paying the death penalty for your sin. Jesus declared from the cross, “IT IS FINISHED!” If you believe God’s message, He will give you the right to live forever with Him.
“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
“All the prophets testify about him (Jesus the Messiah) that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43)
Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. …I tell you the truth; he who believes has everlasting life. …Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me... I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 5:24; 6:47; 14:1,6)
Jesus fulfilled God’s age-old plan by paying our sin penalty in full. God’s good news for YOU is that the moment you believe (trust, rest in, place your confidence in) HIS solution, He will forgive you, cleanse you and clothe you in HIS perfect righteousness.
“No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:20-26)
When Jesus, the holy One, shed His blood on the cross, He took our punishment, and, as the One who conquered death, He offers us His righteousness.
“God will credit righteousness [to all] who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:24-25) “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.…God…has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ… For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us [a sin offering], that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18,21)
The moment you abandon your trust in yourself and your religion, and place your hope in Christ and the perfect blood He shed for you:
1) He will cleanse you from sin’s defilement, and
2) He will cover you with His perfect righteousness.
God has no other cure for your sin and shame.
“We are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way
And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.”
(Isaiah 64:6; 53:6; 61:10)
Are you still "an unclean thing" before God? Or have you been cleansed by the blood of Christ?
Are you clothed in the filthy rags of self-righteousness? Or are you clothed in the pure robe of Christ’s righteousness?
It all comes down to one question: "Who has believed our report?” (Isaiah 53:1)
Have you believed God’s report? To believe God's report means to abandon all other options for His truth which declares:
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; And the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
Do you believe God's message? Do you understand that God demands that all sin be punished, and that only perfectly righteous people can live with a perfect God? Do you agree that you are a helpless sinner, and that you cannot make yourself good enough to escape the lake of fire? Do you believe that the Lord Jesus—the Eternal Word of God who became man—died on the cross in your place, paid your sin-debt in full, and then rose from the dead? If you have truly and honestly said “Yes,” to these questions, then this word is for you: "I write these things to you who believe … so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE
If you have received by faith God’s free gift of salvation, you may want to take time right now to thank Him. You might want to tell Him something like this:
Lord God, You are holy; I am sinful. How wrong I have been in my thinking! I thought I could make myself acceptable to You by my own efforts—but now I understand that all my efforts are like filthy rags compared to Your glorious perfection! You are the Only One who can deliver me from sin’s penalty and declare me righteous. Thank you for taking away my sin and my shame! I believe that Jesus is your Eternal Word who became man. He is the One about whom all the prophets wrote. Lord Jesus, I thank you for willingly dying on the cross for me, in my place. Thank you for paying my sin penalty in full. Thank You for conquering death for me. I believe in You and what You have accomplished for me through Your death and resurrection. Lord, I thank You for giving me the assurance that I will not go to hell, but that I will spend eternity with You in Heaven. Thank you for giving me Your Holy Spirit. Thank you for the great privilege that is now mine to get to know you in a personal way, and to worship you in spirit and in truth—forever! I love you Lord. Thank you for first loving me!
As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will find that, from now on, your life will be radically different. The Word of God teaches that—the instant you believe God’s way of salvation—He will renew your heart by coming to live inside of you, by His Holy Spirit. He will give you an inborn desire to please God in all you think, say and do. As a believer in Christ, you are among the privileged ones who "now...know God, or rather are known by God..." (Galatians 4:9) However, being a possessor of these amazing blessings does not mean that your life will be easy. Joyful, yes; easy, no. Most people will not appreciate your choice to believe God's age-old message. Some may even try to harm you. But the LORD God Himself will be with you and will help you to live your new life for His glory and the blessing of others. Enjoy your relationship with Him! Your life will no longer be characterized by religious rituals, but by the joy of knowing your Creator-Redeemer. "The joy of the LORD is your strength!" (Nehemiah 8:10) Talk to Him at any time and in any place (that's what prayer is all about). Read and meditate on His Word day and night (this will help you know Him better and apply His promises and precepts to your life). Spend time in fellowship with others who truly know God (See Acts 2:41-42 in the Bible). And don't forget to look for opportunities to tell other people about the one true God's provision of forgiveness, righteousness, and eternal life--so that they too can know Him in a personal way and live with Him forever!
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
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