This is Part 2 of a series of posts. Please go back here and read the first part before continuing on here.
What is the significance of the cross?
All humans are born into the world imperfect. From Adam’s very first sin, we were sinners because a sinful nature was passed on from his generation to our generation, from Adam until me. There is not a single human on earth, nor has there ever been, who does not have a sin nature or who does not sin.
Unfortunately, once Adam had introduced sin into our heritage, we no longer could be at peace with God. God’s holiness and His justice demanded punishment for sin. Our sin made us enemies of God! We were irreconcilable! In fact, that original sin set about a chain of events and consequences made it absolutely impossible to EVER please Him. You, see, someone had to pay for it. A sacrifice had to be made to punish his sin and ours to satisfy the justice of God.
So, God sat down at the beginning of time, and came up with a plan to satisfy His own holiness, His own justice, and appease His own wrath. A perfect sacrifice had to be offered; anything but perfect wouldn’t have been acceptable. So, God sent His own perfect Son Jesus to live a perfect life and to die a sinless death, so that the penalty could be paid for all who would believe in the ages to come. And THAT death was acceptable to God. In fact, because God placed the entire weight of all of mankind’s sin on a His shoulders, and as He died, He took on Himself the penalty of all of mankind who wanted in on the deal (those who would call on Him to save Him).
His one atoning sacrifice would once for all cover ALL the sins of mankind in eternity past, in the present and throughout eternity future, on ONE condition! A transaction had to occur. The transaction begins with acknowledging our sinful condition and our great need to be rescued from our sin, to escape eternal judgment. A person needs to recognize that Jesus Christ was and is indeed God incarnate. A person needs to believe that when Jesus died on the cross, it was for the sole purpose of paying the penalty for the sins of mankind. Then, one needs to unquestionably believe that He could save them forever from their sins. And finally, a person needs to ASK God to save them. With the confession of our need, our declaration of our belief in Jesus as the son of God and our belief that God would save us because HE promised He would in His Word, the transaction is complete. Upon our acceptance of that legal deal, our names are written into the Book of Life and can never be removed.
So, does everyone on earth have this gift of salvation? Unfortunately, no. Salvation only belongs to those who in simple faith, believe God and trust Him to save them. The transaction is so simple, a little child can understand it, but a transaction still needs to occur to reap all the benefits of being justified by faith.
So, what is the beauty of the gospel (which means the good news of Jesus)?
After I am saved, the beauty is that Jesus gave the Father what He wanted from me, which I could never give Him. Perfectness. Jesus offered HIS perfectness for ME and God the Father accepted that sacrifice for ME! I trusted Christ as my personal Savior completing this transaction for me at the tender age of five. But, I admit, it took years to fully understand the ramifications of that transaction on my life in Christ! But the fact is that once you accept Jesus’ sacrifice and become a child of God, God says “your life is finally enough to please me” because God gave HIMSELF all that He demanded from me through Jesus. God the Father is pleased with Jesus’ sacrifice and has forever made peace with us.
Once we are saved, will we finally be perfect?
Do any of you know any perfect people? No! None of us are perfect. Why? God didn’t take our sin natures away! He simply forever pardoned us for all our sins. He used His own righteousness to cover our sinfulness. But we are still plagued with these dumb sin natures that make mistakes every single day! But, unfortunately, it doesn’t stop us from trying to chase down and achieve a state of righteousness in and of ourselves.
Doesn’t God want us to do what is right?
Yes! Absolutely YES! Does He think we can ever reach His righteous standard? NO, Absolutely NO!
But the irony is: Before salvation, we needed Christ to save us BECAUSE we were sinners. He didn’t make us righteous first so that He could save us. He saved us to redeem us back and apply Jesus righteousness to us. He saved us so that HE (not us) could make us righteous in the Father’s eyes!
So, why do Christians have this misconception that AFTER salvation, we can make now ourselves righteous with our own attempts when we could not BEFORE?
The Bible reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10a)
It does NOT say, if you try hard enough, you can make your heart ‘better.’ To believe that you can actually make your unrighteous heart righteous is actually refuting what the Bible says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23)
In fact, while we are trying to become better and better, we may actually be sinning in order to attempt to arrive there. And here is how: It is actually a sin to attempt to justify ourselves, trying to self-fulfill our own self-righteous perfection. Another word for self-righteousness, self-fulfillment, self-achievement, is PRIDE! And pride is sin. In fact, pride is one of the very things that God specifically says He opposes.
James 4: 6 “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
So, while we are trying so hard to become perfectly righteous, we are actually doing it the opposite way of how God says will please Him. (stay with me-I’m getting there)
So, what is the “will of God” then if it isn’t becoming more and more perfect / more and more righteous?
Contrary to what we’ve learned, His word says that God draws near to those with a broken and contrite heart (NOT a heart who is becoming more and more perfect, more and more confident, more and more strong, more and more put together, more and more self-controlled or more and more sinless). This is really important: Listen!
Ps. 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.”
Ps. 34:17-18 “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.”
Doesn’t God want us to obey His commands and attempt to do better?
Just because there are commands in Scripture that tell us how God wants us to live doesn’t mean that DOING those things make us any MORE righteous, or that God is MORE pleased with US when we do them. The truth is: there is NOTHING we can do that will make us MORE loved or cherished by God.
The truth is: there is NOTHING we can add to the righteousness of Jesus that God has not already attributed to us by His son’s death on the cross that can make us MORE righteous.
There is nothing WE can do that makes God take notice of us and have a special affection for us because we are good, “Wow, THEY are pretty special (THEY are such ‘GOOD girls’) because THEY are living life so well.” But we also don’t have to worry that God thinks poorly of us when and if we don’t live sinlessly, because Jesus has already accomplished all the perfect that was required to be accomplished on our behalf.
Why do we want to achieve idealistic righteousness of any other idealistic dream anyway (besides possibly just being proud of ourselves or making others proud of us)? Because we want to be accepted by others. Because we want to please the ones we love. Because we don’t want others to point their fingers at us and condemn us for being bad. We want to be easy to love. We want to be treated with compassion, kindness and tenderness, and not accusations and condemnation.
So, if we are achieving these things so that we will be loved, accepted, and treated with kindness, then aren’t we simply desperately trying to ultimately achieve what God has already given us? And if the method we are using to achieve them with (self-fulfillment, self-reliance, self-righteousness) is going to push God away, aren’t we just shooting ourselves in the foot, meaning we’re doing everything that God Himself says He will oppose?
Rather than aiming for the ideal end result, maybe we should be more concerned with the method that brings God running to us, our hearts in love with Him.
“1 Samuel 16:7 (NAS): for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Sometimes, I don’t think we trust God to really know our desires to please Him. We believe we have to SHOW Him with our perfection. However, if we are honest, we discover we just can’t ever be perfect. But through humility, with honest authenticity, when we acknowledge to Him that we are weak and often broken, and contritely acknowledge the truth that we are indeed imperfect, that is when God comes running to us to show us mercy and compassion.
Matthew 9:13 (NAS): But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
You see, LEANING INTO our weakness and imperfection throws the door wide open for God’s mercy (compassion) and grace. PLUS, His GREATEST joy isn’t experienced in OUR triumphs, but He is glorified more when HIS own attributes glorify HIMSELF, not when we try to replace His perfection with our own. (Carefully examine what God says here! …When I (God) have been made happy by MY actions.
Ezekiel 20:43-44 “You will look back on all the ways you defiled yourselves and will hate yourselves because of the evil you have done. But you will know that I am the Lord, O people of Israel, when I have honored MY name by treating you mercifully in spite of your wickedness.”
Are we embracing the world’s definition of success — or God’s definition of success?
I John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of your flesh and the desires of your eyes and the pride in your life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
Is it possible that all of our aspirations that we women have spent our whole life trying to achieve have been driven by self-reliance which we learned would prove us to be “good girls” and that would make others happy and proud of us? Isn’t another word for self-reliance and self-fulfillment of something you want more than anything else in life, just another word for the “pride of life” which says “I can do it myself?”
So, I guess what we all have to ask ourselves is, “Do all of our high expectations for ourselves even please God? Or is it possible that most of our high ideals are really about making us feel good about ourselves? Looking good to other people? Earning people’s favor? Worrying about other people’s expectations? Etc.”
Another lie we believe is that our high ideals and expectations are actually realistic goals. They are NOT! God never promised you can achieve everything you want to achieve! The world might have told you that, but God never did. You can climb that cliff and climb that cliff and climb that cliff but if the cliff is not climbable, you are only setting yourself up for failure.
My dear sisters, do we realize that there has never been a perfect mom? There has never been a perfect marriage. There has never been a perfect home. There has never been a perfect bank roll. There has never been a perfect body. There has never been a perfect friend. And there has never even been a perfect Christian. (Gasp!)
If you set an impossible ideal in front of you as your goal (perfect mom, perfect wife, perfect Christian, whatever it is), you will ALWAYS end up feeling defeated. You will ALWAYS fail. You will NEVER attain that wonderful elevation of yourself having arrived at the life of your dreams. The only possible outcome for all those unrealistic idealized expectations is failure. And failure is the one thing we don’t want! Am I right?
My husband, a firefighter, told me recently about a call his crew had gone to. A woman had fallen down a flight of stairs. While the firefighters urged her to go to the hospital to make sure she hadn’t broken her back, she was impertinently stubborn. She was determined to get up by herself, and walk by herself, and climb those stairs by herself because she felt it showed her strength and fortitude. But in reality, it showed her stupidity. She chose self-reliance over acknowledging she was weak, broken, and injured. It is more likely that her valiantly portrayed fortitude, pushing through the pain, probably cost her a lifetime of back problems—all so that she could prove to observers that she wasn’t hurt and that she could do it herself.
We women often do the same thing, pushing through impossible situations, to prove that we can do it ourselves. We’re more like a bunch of two-year olds than mature realistic adults. We don’t want to admit that we’re just plain ol’ everyday humans who can’t achieve all our idealistic goals. We aren’t super-woman! We are afraid to admit our weaknesses and our brokenness! We’re afraid deep down inside that it will prove that we are failures. Ladies, we’re not failures unless we try to pretend to the world that we are winners! That’s unfortunately, when we simply prove our naive stupidity! On the other hand, we prove that we are mature when we can freely admit that we are not everything we wished we were, and that we’re only human, and that we might not ever arrive at any level of perfection, and learn to be okay with that.
Is it even good for us to hold so tightly to all these expectations of success and achievement? What about self-control and righteousness? (To be continued)