Virtually every religion in the world focuses on good works that are required for people to gain salvation (however, salvation is defined in that religion.) I have been to Buddhist temples in Myanmar and Thailand and seen crowds of people giving money and performing certain duties in the hope of redressing the wrong in their lives. We hear of people making great pilgrimages, sometimes crawling hundreds of kilometres on bleeding knees. Or people make great sacrifices trying to earn their salvation.
We have offended the gods. How we can make amends? What must we do to please them? Christianity is unique in saying that we don’t have to do anything. Jesus has already done it for us. That makes a world of difference.
Last week we started looking at the gospel and I said that I wanted to look at the impact of the gospel for our everyday lives – not just in terms of becoming a Christian and going to heaven when we die. The gospel is literally “good news”. So, how is it good news for us on a daily basis?
1 Corinthians 15:3-5 define the gospel as “Jesus Christ died for my sins and rose again”. What are the implications of that? Today, I want to focus on the fact that it is past tense. Jesus has already died for our sins. It has been done. Completed. Finished. Past tense. We don’t have to do anything. Jesus has done it.
That is truly good news. How can we make amends for our sins? We do not have to. Jesus has already done it. Jesus’ death is sufficient. That is it. Nothing more required. The sinless Son of God took on Himself the sins of the world – your sins and my sins – and paid the price for them. Nothing else is needed. Everything that is required for our salvation has been done.
Imagine saying to Jesus, “Thank you very much but we don’t believe you did enough and so we must now do more.”
And yet, in practice, many Christians believe that they still have to do things to win God’s favour. Many people attend church thinking it will influence God. Or we think that if we read the Bible and pray, God will be pleased with us. Or we need to care for others or serve in the community. In fact, possibly in all of us there is still some of this thinking that we must do certain things to please God. We think we must do, but the gospel says that Jesus has already done.
We will look at Hebrews 10:19-25 in a moment but consider these verse from earlier in the same chapter.
Hebrews 10:10 …we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
“We have been made holy”; past tense; already accomplished. “Through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ”. “Once for all”. This one sacrifice is sufficient for all. Nothing needs to be added.
Hebrews 10:14 For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
Again, it is past tense: already accomplished: he has made perfect. Again, it is by His sacrifice on the Cross. And note that it is effective forever. What Jesus has accomplished is effective for eternity.
Hebrews 10:18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.
Forgiveness is a present reality, already accomplished: “have been forgiven”. We don’t have to wait to find out if we have been forgiven. People who have put their faith in Jesus have been forgiven. And, no further sacrifice for sin is necessary. Everything that needs to be done has been done. Good news.
We could add heaps of other passages but we won’t… except to look briefly at…
Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Note all of the things that have already been accomplished and so are realities now.
- We have been justified through faith (that means we have been forgiven and reconciled to God.)
- We have peace with God (through our Lord Jesus Christ)
- We have gained access by faith into this grace (thought Jesus Christ)
- We now stand in that grace.
- We boast in the hope of the glory of God. That is, we are confidently excited about heaven.
- We also now have a different attitude to suffering. We glory in suffering because it is producing spiritual maturity in us.
- God’s love has been poured into our hearts
- We have been given the Holy Spirit.
That is an amazing list of things that are already true for us because of the gospel. This is good news that makes a difference every day. Is there any better news than this: we have been justified, we have peace, we receive God’s grace, we have confidence about eternity, the love of God is in our hearts, we have received the Holy Spirit and even suffering has new meaning? That is incredible good news. We don’t have to wait for heaven for this. This is real right now.
Let’s turn back to Hebrews 10 and read vv.9-15.
“Since we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus.” This is a reference to entering the Holy of Holies in the Temple. The Holy of Holies of the central part of the Temple. It was where God dwelt and no one went there except for the high priest. Even he could enter only once a year. No one else dared enter the presence of God.
But, when Jesus died, the curtain in the temple that guarded the Holy of Holies, was torn from top to bottom. Jesus’ death opened up access into the presence of God for all people. This passage in Hebrews refers to that curtain but there being a way through it now by the blood of Jesus.
Note the word “confidence”. It is a key word. We have confidence to enter the most holy place, Really? We can enter the presence of God with confidence? Nobody in his/her right mind enters the presence of God self-confidently. People in the Bible, who realise that they are in the presence of God, fall on their faces in fear. No sinful human can stand in the presence of a holy God. Later in this same chapter, it says, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (v.31). Confidence?
Here’s how that works. No one with sin in his/her life can stand before God. God hates sin. So, if I am relying on doing enough to please God how can I ever know if I have done enough? In fact, the Bible says I can never do enough. How can I have confidence? If I think I am not good enough, then I have no confidence and I get depressed. If I think I am good enough, then I am proud and so am still not good enough. Any system based on what I must do can never give confidence.
But the gospel is about what Jesus has done. And if it is true that I am forgiven then my sin has been washed away. I have no sin. It is gone. I am sinless. Isn’t that amazing? And, being sinless, I have nothing to be afraid of. I can come into God’s presence with confidence. Obviously, it is not self-confidence. It is confidence in the good news of what Jesus has done for me.
It is not just about entering God’s presence when we die. The gospel gives us confidence to enter God’s presence every day. We don’t have to be afraid of God. God does not need to be distant. One of the implications of the gospel is that we can live in close relationship with God.
Indeed, this passage invites us to do that. “Let us draw near to God” (v.22). The way to do that is with a heart full of the assurance that faith brings. Trust in Jesus enables us to have the confidence – have the assurance – to approach God.
The reason we can approach God? Having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Having been cleansed, let us draw near to God.
That is the first of three daily “lettuces”. Because of the gospel, let us draw near to God.
The second “lettuce” is in v.23: let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. Never doubt the hope we have; never doubt the promise of heaven. Persevere faithfully. God is faithful. We will receive what we have been promised.
Because Jesus died for my sins and rose again, I will run the race with perseverance.
The third “lettuce” in is v.24: Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, continuing to meet together and to encourage one another.
Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again. A consequence of that is that we will want to see every Christian living a life worthy of the gospel – a life that honours God. Again, this is a consequence that applies today and every day. We are concerned that Jesus’ church looks like a community of forgiven people who have given their lives to Him – people who love Him and who are committed to Him. And so we meet with one another and we encourage one another and we spur one another on to do the very best we can to bear witness to Him through love and good works.
Good works? Didn’t I say at the beginning that it is about what Jesus has done, not what we must do – it is not about good works? And yet here it does talk about good works?
Jesus has done all that is required for our salvation. We cannot add to it. In fact, if we try, it shows that we do not trust that He has done enough. But because of our salvation, we will do good works. The good news of the forgiveness we have in Jesus leads us to serve Him.
That good news should impact our lives every day. Romans 5:1-5 talked about being reconciled to God, having peace, knowing God’s grace, having confidence about sharing God’s glory, knowing the love of God, receiving the Holy Spirit, even suffering being a good thing by the grace of God. Amazing things. If we truly believe those, it will change our lives.
Hebrews focused on three things for every day: Because of the gospel, draw near to God, never give up hope (God’s Kingdom will come) and meet together and spur one another on.
I am reading a book at the moment that I am not finding terribly useful, but one very useful thing is that the author says that we should preach the gospel to ourselves every day. We should remind ourselves that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again because, when we truly believe that, the good news of it will change how we live every day. If it is too hard to remember the details of this sermon, just tell yourself every day, “Jesus Christ died for my sins and rose again.”
If it was about what I must do, that leads to insecurity. Have I done enough? Can I ever do enough? It leads to endless striving. One the other hand, if it has been done, that leads to peace and confidence and freedom. Not freedom to sin but freedom from worry and freedom from sin. Rather than a demanding God, we have a generous God. We could list dozens of ways the fact that Jesus has done it for us completely changes our daily lives.
Let’s reflect on this: I do not have to do it; Jesus has done it for me.