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2008-06-29pm Lord’s Day 15 Atonement

          Tonight we’re looking at the atonement.  Atonement is necessary because of what it says in Romans 6.23.  The wages of sin is death. 

          This is true.  This is reality.  Sin equals death.  God designed the universe in that way.  The penalty of sin, the penalty for disobeying God, is death.

          But the most remarkable thing is this.

          In making that decree, in making that judgement, by having His justice demand that the consequence of sin is death, God was in fact signing his own Son’s death warrant.

          Think of it!  It blows your mind!

          Usually, when we think of the wages of sin equalling death, we think only in terms of the cost to humanity.  But the cost of humanity’s sin is much greater than human death.

          The cost of humanity’s sin is the death of God’s very own Son.

          And the most remarkable thing in the world is that God not only knew that that would happen, He designed the world to work that way.

          A huge debate in philosophy concerns this question: “Could God have created a world without sin?”  It remains a big debate because, since we’re not God, we can’t really answer that question.

          Besides, it reminds me of what Pastor John said to the graduates last night.  It is kind of question that gets people to buy lottery tickets.  Imagine what you could do if you had such and such.  I won’t try to sing the song, “If I Had a Million Dollars” but the question, “Could God have created a world without sin” is a fruitless question.  It doesn’t deal with reality.  The reality is that God created the world we live in.  The world we live in has been torn by sin.  God cursed it.

          But when God pronounced his curse on Adam and Eve and the earth, God knew that He was also placing a curse on his Son. 

          And that is the most amazing graciousness the world has ever seen.

          For in suffering unto death, Christ atoned for our sin that “he might set us free, body and soul, from eternal condemnation, and gain for us God's grace, righteousness, and eternal life.”

          The Christian rock band, Newsboys, have a song that hits this on the head.  The lyrics go like this, “When we get what we don’t deserve, it’s a real good thing.  When we don’t get what we deserve, it’s a real good thing.”

          Did you catch it?  When we get what we don’t deserve, that is, everlasting life, freedom from eternal condemnation, grace and righteousness, it is a very good thing.  When we don’t get what we deserve, that is eternal condemnation, that’s a very good thing.

          That’s what the atonement is all about.  It is Christ suffering in our place, taking our sin upon himself, dying, paying for our sin, and then, having justified all of us, He grants us grace, righteousness, freedom and everlasting life. 

          God did not spare His own Son, his wrath against sin.

          Look at our passage from Isaiah.  It’s familiar, we know it well.  But concentrate on the message: verse 4, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.”

          This is wild.  Christ placed upon himself, all the suffering we deserved.  Then, we have the gall to look at him, see him suffering under our sin, bearing the wrath of God that was due us, and we brush it off as, “God is smiting him.  God is afflicting him.  He’s getting what he deserves!” 

          No he isn’t!  He’s getting what we deserve!

          Verse 5.  God wounded him for our sins.  God crushed him because we sinned against God.  God’s discipline fell on him, and bought us peace.  His whippings brought us healing.  Every time the whip came down and tore a strip of flesh from his body, we gained healing.

          Oh, there is some truth within a so-called health and wealth gospel.  But if that gospel doesn’t mention the suffering of Christ, it is not really a gospel.  It is works righteousness, or it is a mockery of God’s true grace and God’s true blessing.  They say, “God desires to bless us.”  Yes, that is true, but God’s blessing comes at the cost of the pain and suffering and death of his Son.  This is why, when we celebrate communion with God, we do not remember John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Rather, we remember John 19:30, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

          We remember the Lord’s death until He comes again.  We don’t remember the Lord’s love, as a lovey, dovey, touchy, feely, indistinct, indescribable, emotional something, we remember the Lord’s love as when he gave up His life for His friends, you and me, and all whom the Father has given him.

          The Lord God, laid upon Christ, all our iniquity, all our sin, all our suffering, everything we deserved in punishment, God put everything upon Christ.

           Christ willingly suffered though he was innocent.  There were no threats, no plots of revenge, and no cries for the injustice of it all.  He simply allowed the sins to be heaped upon him.

     7     Verse seven.  It was God’s will to crush him.  To put him to grief, so that his soul makes an offering for guilt.

          That’s the cost of sin.  Not only that we die, that we suffer in this life, but that God himself suffered, bore the curse, paid the price and set us free.

          This gets further explanation in Romans, so let’s turn to chapter 3.

          Verse 21: the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.  The law is not the path of righteousness.  The law and the prophets point to the path of righteousness, so that when righteousness came, we would recognise it.  Righteousness is Christ.  Christ was manifested, that is revealed, identified, shown, made known.  By living, breathing, walking, eating, having fellowship with people, like you and me, in Israel.  He is real.  He lived on earth.  He is alive in Heaven.  He is who he said he is.  He is the image of the invisible God!

          The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

          In order to receive this righteousness, Christ’s righteousness, we have to believe in Christ.  Yes, it is that simple.  We believe that Jesus is who he said he is, God’s Son, our saviour.

          Verse 23: there is no distinction: everyone on earth is in the same boat.  All have sinned.  All have fallen short of God’s glory.  There is not one single person who is alive, who ever lived, or who will ever live who can live up to Christ’s standards, God’s standards.  Every single person, by his own merit, still sins, still falls short, still deserves eternal punishment.

          Verse 24: those who are justified, are justified by God’s grace, as a gift.  A gift cannot be earned.  A gift is given graciously and freely given, usually because the person giving the gift loves the receiver.  They want to bless the person receiving the gift with the gift.  No repayment is required or expected.  And if someone were to insist on giving something in return, it would be refused.

          We are justified by God’s grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.  Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines propitiation as: “That which propitiates; atonement or atoning sacrifice; specifically, the influence or effects of the death of Christ in appeasing the divine justice, and conciliating the divine favour.”

          And we receive this propitiation, this justification, this divine favour through faith, which also is a gift given to us by God.

          God’s righteousness was perfectly displayed in Christ.  Because God is all knowing, God knew that Christ’s atonement would pay for the sins of those who believed in him.  Enoch had faith in Christ.  Noah had faith in Christ, Adam and Eve had faith in Christ, Moses, Isaac, Jacob.  All those in the Old Testament who were declared righteous were declared righteous on account of their faith in Christ’s perfect atoning, propitious sacrifice.

          So, God passed over the former sins, and waited until Christ came so that he might be just, by accepting Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and so that he might be the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  That is, God the Father not only satisfied his justice through Christ’s atoning sacrifice, he also justifies the believer through that same sacrifice.

          Verse 27: who is able to boast then?  Not one person can boast, except for Christ.  Boasting is not allowed.  Because faith does not allow it.  Therefore, no one can ever say, I’m good enough.  No one can ever say, “My deeds, my practises, my lines in the sand are good enough.” 

          Sure, they might be helpful to keep you on the narrow path that leads to glory, but it isn’t the practises that keep you there it is your faith in Jesus Christ that keeps you there.  In fact, by faith, through faith, we believe that we are already fully completely saved through Christ.  Therefore the emphasis is never, never ever on what we do, it is always, always, always on what Christ has already done.

          We never, never ever point to ourselves.  The moment we do that, we’re sinning, we’re boasting!  We’re saying, “Look at my fruit!  Look at my righteousness!”  But we have no fruit!  We only have the fruit of Christ manifested in us! 

          Romans seven isn’t just about the law of sin, but it is also about the law of righteousness.  For if it is the law of sin that works within the members of my body causing me to commit sin, doesn’t it stand to reason that it must be, has to be the law of righteousness that causes me to do what is right?  Of course it is!  And that is why we cannot ever boast.

          So, faith grants us freedom.  The law of faith says we are justified by faith, not by works of the law.  We enter the covenant of God through faith, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, whether we have the outward sign of the covenant is irrelevant.  It is the inward sign of the covenant, the sign of faith, and the circumcision of the heart that matters.

          But there is room for sin to enter here.

          We have a tendency to think that righteousness comes through God’s grace.  We have a tendency to think that because Christ has bought us freedom, we can do whatever we want. Even though we’re familiar with, or we know Romans 5 and six well, we still live by the principle that when sin increases, grace increases, so well, I’ll get around to righteous living later, I’m having too much fun sinning right now.

          But grace isn’t like that.  Grace is received by faith.

          And faith isn’t passive.  Faith is active.  We have to exercise our faith, nurture it, feed it, and grow it.  Yes, all of that happens because God makes it happen.  But God graciously invites us to participate in the working out of our salvation. 

          So, faith, when exercised by the faithful, ought to manifest itself in lawful living.

          Faith orients us to God, places Christ’s righteousness upon us, and it motivates us into holy living.

          We make our decisions carefully.  We choose to do what is right.  We turn our backs on temptation.  We choose to avoid situations that will enable us, or entice us to sin.  We live our lives carefully, obediently, joyfully, for we find true joy and true happiness only in one place.  We find it in God!

          For we never stop focussing on the reality that God spared nothing for his creation.  God spared nothing, not even his own son, not even cursing his own son, in order that we might live, truly live!

          And in truly living, we find the truest satisfaction.  Therefore, we devote our lives to God.  Amen.

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