Have you ever listened to someone relate a conversation you just had with them to someone else and totally mis-state everything you said? Or maybe they put such a lopsided spin on your words that even if the sentiment is buried in there somewhere, you don’t even recognize the link between what you meant and what they’re saying? I think sometimes that Jesus must feel like that too.
Last week, I heard our senior pastor tell folks at the Christmas Wonderland drama that Jesus came down to earth to die for their sins…period…“sins.” His comments, for me, had the Calvinist sting of the Jonathan Edwards sermon, Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God, based on Deuteronomy 32. I could see “fire and damnation” jumping out from his comments and flashing across the minds of the audience as our pastor exhorted them to turn their lives over to Jesus.
You can’t drive people to heaven with fear. It’s like taking your kids to the doctors for vaccination shots and having the nurse and technician describe in detail the pain, discomfort, sting, and burning sensation that the injection is going to cause. You end up with a kid who hates the doctor forever, or one who refuses treatment because he can’t understand why these grownups are torturing him!
OK, discomfort is one small piece of the truth, but if you want those kids to understand the reason for the vaccinations, and maybe cut down on their natural resistance, try telling them the *whole* story! Tell kids about the power of that vaccine to fight germs, and to save them from being really sick or even from long term illnesses. Turn the vaccination into the challenging but life-saving choice it is.
Yes, Jesus came to earth to save humanity from its sin, but also from the terrible consequences of sin–illness, sorrow, hopelessness, emptiness, alienation, meaninglessness, and endless darkness. Everybody in that audience had burdens they were carrying with them. They needed to hear that Jesus has come to redeem *and* heal us! He is our Savior–who paid the price in full for our redemption–and that redemption includes freedom from sin and all its consequences! They needed to know that Jesus wants us to lay *all* our burdens, addictions, sins, sorrows, and struggles down at His feet–and leave them there for Him to carry. Step one–choose Life in Him; Step two–put your faith in His power to heal, restore, deliver, and fix what’s wrong with your life choices; Step three–give Him all your burdens-changing and fixing them is His job; Step three–now take His hand and go hang out with Him! (He’ll brief you on the rest of the journey as you go…)
His Word states His assignment clearly, in the Old Testament:
- But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on Him the sins of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)
And again, in the New Testament:
- He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24-25)
That’s exactly what He meant. His Word says he paid the price for us, in full–lock, stock, and barrel. If we choose Him, we become His new creation! Sin will *not* reign in our lives, and its consequences will *not* tear our lives to shreds. And when darkness threatens to come back and reclaim its foothold in our lives, He wants us to run to Him, and to take refuge in His saving blood.
He has shown us the way to healing, wholeness, redemption, salvation, and abundant life–but we have to choose to go there. We have to choose to surrender our lives and hearts to Him. He asks us depend on Him for everything we need! In fact he says that if we try doing battle with our own resources, we will fail. He’s the only one who can do the “heavy lifting” in our lives, but we do have to choose–over and over and over again–until we finally understand that only His redeeming, restoring, healing power can save us from everything we fear.
We’re all invited to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb–but we can only get there with Him. So why don’t we all just get with the program already. The party’s waiting!