Timothy Keller, in his book Encounters with Jesus notes Jesus “did not come primarily to be a good example. And I am glad He didn’t. Do you know why? He’s too good! He’s so perfect that as an example He just crushes you into the ground. Anyone who really, seriously, seeks to make Him a life model, who pays attention to the details of his character and practice, will despair. He is infinitely beyond us, and comparing yourself to him will only grind your genuine aspirations to moral excellence into hopelessness.” (p 75)
Keller goes on to say, “But we see here that He didn’t come to tell us how to save ourselves but to save us Himself.” (p. 75) This is the good news we call the Gospel. Look, if you and I were honest with ourselves we would know that we are more sinful and deprived than we ever want to admit. It is the height of arrogance on the part of a Christian to believe that he/she could ever perfectly reproduce the character of God in themself.
Wait a minute, I can hear some of you saying, “It’s not us who does that good work, but the Holy Spirit working in us.” Really! You believe you are so surrendered to the work of the Holy Spirit in you, that you are presently living without sin or even thinking sinful thoughts.
Do you really want to hold yourself up before Jesus’ character and say I have reproduced that in my life? When will we as Christians start to get it in our heads that it is precisely because we are sinners and this side of heaven we will never be what God demands of us—that is why He came as our substitute.
The first time John the Baptist ever saw Jesus, he cries out, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John isn’t saying that lambs take away our sin, but that Jesus the unblemished one, is the true sacrificial lamb that takes away all our sins. John doesn’t cry out, “behold the Lamb of God and you can become just like Him if you try hard enough and work at it.” No, John recognizes in Jesus the Savior of the World who would go to the cross as our substitute for sin.
Jesus looks at us destroying our world, our society and ourselves and He can’t just give us a pass. He can’t turn His back and forget about what we are doing to His creation and to each other. He comes to earth with an invitation of forgiveness for all who want it. He offers us a pardon and an opportunity to be whole with God again. And that invitation is not based on my efforts, my good deeds nor my actions, but upon His goodness, His grace, His efforts and His sacrifice at Calvary.
Romans 6:23 tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” Death in the Bible has the sense of separation so the wages of sin is separation from God, but the gift of God is a deep personal relationship with God based upon His unconditional love for us.
Let me tell you a story that Keller relates in his book. In 1960 Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust, was captured and brought to trial in Israel. One of the witnesses against him was Yehiel De-Nur and when he was brought into the courtroom he broke down, falling to the ground sobbing.
Sometime later Mike Wallace interviewed De-Nur on 60 Minutes. Wallace wanted to know what happened in that courtroom, were the memories too much for him? Was it hatred that caused him to collapse? He wasn’t ready for De-Nur’s answer. He said that he was overcome by the realization that Eichmann was not some demon but was an ordinary human being. He said, “I was afraid about myself…….I saw that I am capable to do this exactly like he.” Encounters with Jesus p. 75
De-Nur understood his own soul. He understood what evil lurks in the heart of man. He faced the reality that each of us is capable of great evil. But, the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus is capable of greater love and good than we could ever imagine. His love hung from a Roman cross, bleeding, suffering and agonizing so that I could never have the wages of sins held against me.
Do you honestly want to say that with a little help from the Holy Spirit that someday you are going to duplicate the character of Jesus that died on Calvary’s cross? When people talk of reproducing the character of Jesus in themselves, they best never forget that includes going to the cross for sin. That is who Jesus is.
I am a sinner and I will always be a sinner. The difference between what I was and who I am now is grace. I am covered by His abiding love that holds me, comforts me and lifts me up. He knows my failures, my weaknesses, my pain and He loves me all the same. I am safe within His arms by the mercy of the cross, why is that not good enough for us? Why do we cheapen the cross by believing we can be perfect like Christ?
Come to think about it, wasn’t that Satan’s first great lie? He said to Eve, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5 Yes, Satan said you can make yourself equal with God. You can do it, and man has been striving to be perfect like God ever since. We doubt God’s love and instead work to please Him by reproducing His character in our lives thus fulfilling Satan’s words.
“But 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.” Isaiah 53:5 Amen.
* Folks, the persecution of Christians has not stopped. If anything it’s increased. The main stream media doesn’t talk about it much anymore but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Pray and stay informed and inform others. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…