He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
2 Corinthians 5:21
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
There are those who think that if they just do enough good things in this life, then they will be fine in the next life. They perceive righteousness before God as a kind of karma: if they build up enough good karma, then it will outweigh or overshadow the bad karma, and so they will not be condemned. Of course, this belief has no basis in the Bible (our final authority on doctrine), but its sure sounds nice. Believing in good works makes it sound like we are all going to be alright if we just do a lot of good deeds and seek to make this world a better place.
My question to people who believe in this “Christian karma” would be this: How many and what type of good works does it take to outweigh your many sins? To be more specific, what does it take to get rid of the stain of that lie you told to your mother about breaking her favorite vase? Does feeding a homeless man outweigh stealing from the corner store? And what does it take for God to ignore the many times throughout the week that we covet what others have? Worse yet, for those who commit crimes like murder and theft and who serve their time behind bars in a mortal jail, what would it take for them to be safe before God? Is there some formula by which I can work out what I need to do to wipe away the guilt of all my sins, past, present, and future?
I think you see my point here. There really is no way for us to completely free ourselves of the mark of our sins. Left to our own devices, we can never repent enough, because we are lost in an ocean of sinfulness that is our own lives, awash in a sea of known and unknown sins. We often do things to offend God with no thought to the consequences, and with no awareness of our need to repent those things specifically. We may not remember our many sins, but God sure does! How then can we make up for those things we do not even realize we have done? We are SO busted!
“But God…” I really love those words. They occur at the beginning of these verses:
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
“But God…” You see, God knew we could not break the “bad karma” of our sins, that the stains of our iniquities were too much for us to bear into His presence. And so, in His abundant mercy and “the exceeding riches of His grace,” God sent His Son Jesus to take the burden of our sins for us. And that brings us to today’s verses.
As is clear from both the verse from Isaiah and that from Second Corinthians, Jesus died for our sins. We say that a lot in Christian circles, and it is something that is in the Statement of Faith of many churches. When we are about to be baptized we usually are asked to affirm our belief in Christ’s death for us. It’s what we might call a core belief in Christianity: Christ died for our sins so that we don’t have to.
But is that enough? Is it enough that we no longer have to face the wrath of God for our sins? Jesus has taken upon Himself all the “bad karma” of our past and present sins. Who else could bear such a burden but the holy and spotless Lamb of God? He became sin in our place, nailed to a cross so that we don’t have to die with all that sin still on us. But that’s not all that Christ did. Read those verses again.
The other thing that Christ did was to make us appear just and righteous before God. Jesus imputed to us His own righteousness, so that, if you’ll pardon the metaphor, we look and smell just as sweet as He does. Without that, our sins would still be gone, but we would come before God with our sinful nature intact. What Jesus has done is not only remove our guilt but also given us His own righteousness as part of our own nature and being.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
You see, with just our sins washed away, we would still be ourselves, still prone to sin, still bearing the nature of the first Adam. But through Christ, we are made into something new, something that bears the stamp of the second Adam, Jesus Himself. Not only do we no longer bear the guilt of our sins, we now partake of Jesus’ righteousness. We are given His Spirit with which to live our daily lives, and from the day that we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, we are finally capable of living lives pleasing to God.
That is not to say we are incapable of sin, nor that we will never sin again. On the contrary, so long as we are in this flesh, we will be fighting against it. Our spirit cleaves unto Christ and we desperately try to do the right thing, and yet our bodies rebel and fight to do those things which are not holy.
22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
25 I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
No condemnation! We have not only been freed from the death we deserve for our sins, we are, when we live according to the Spirit, also freed from sin itself! Christ has created in us a new nature, a spirit that seeks God where before we worshiped ourselves. Jesus became sin for us not only so we would be free of the stain of our sins but also so we would be free of our desire to sin.
Praise God for His abundant mercy! We who love Christ and accept His atoning death for us on the Cross, we now stand before God not only free from the outward stains but also the inward desire of our sins. We now seek something better and holy, something righteous and just, something pleasing to God rather than to ourselves. Christ has given us His own nature, His Spirit to dwell within us, to come alongside us and steer us away from sin.
How glorious, how amazing is God’s grace! That we should be no longer have to pay the cost of our sins, and that we would be now found together with Christ in His righteousness before God. Therefore, brothers and sisters, how then ought we to live? Nothing we could ever do on our own would ever make up for the weight of sin which drags us toward hell, and yet now our sins are washed clean and the righteousness of Christ has been given us. Our deeds, therefore, ought not to come not from any need to expiate our guilt but from a true inward desire to live in faith a life of grace and mercy, just as our Lord Jesus did. The Holy Spirit should now reign in us as Christ Himself reigns in heaven, and we who lay claim to the name “Christian” ought now to submit to the will of God rather than our flesh.
I am no theologian, and I am no great saint, but this I hold true: Christ died for my sins and has made me just in the eyes of God. I will then live as Christ lived, love as He loved, forgive as He forgave, and be angry at the enemies of God as He was angry. I will not stand aside and let holiness be trampled in the dust. I will not allow my own sinful nature nor the sinfulness of other men weigh anyone down. I will instead take this new liberty in the Spirit to live and to speak, to do my utmost to live according to the will of God in Christ. I will not squander this gift, not cast away this acquittal and this justification, not turn down this opportunity for a new life.
He became sin for us. That thought brings me to tears because I have done nothing to deserve it! As the old hymn says:
“My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”
Oh, what a glorious thought, that God so loved me that He would send His Son to take on my sin and to give me righteousness in its place. There is nothing I could ever do that could ever repay Christ for what He did for me, but I CAN and WILL live this new life for Him.
Lord God, praise You indeed for the righteousness You have given us through Your Son. My heart was once stained with sin and now it bears the stain of Jesus. My sins were too heavy for me, and now the burden I bear is Your love and grace. Help me, Father, to live a life pleasing to you, to live out this justification paid for so dearly by Your Son. Help me to be graceful and merciful and loving and forgiving, just as You are. Take me, Holy Father, and make me holy as You are holy. Amen.