Salvation through Jesus, the Son of God
John 3:16-18 The Message (MSG)
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.
The Problem of Evil and Injustice
We battle evil and darkness on earth every day. Wars rage and leaders of nations drop bombs and shoot guns in a struggle for land and power. Poor foot soldiers and innocent civilians lose limbs and lives in the middle of the endless battles.
The rich live in fancy houses and drive fancy cars in the streets of the world, while babies starve in the streets of the world, and little children suffer homelessness in the streets of the world.
Pastors preach prosperity and enjoy wealthy lifestyles. Meanwhile, people right outside their church doors experience daily poverty and injustice in a cruel American system of haves and have nots, and an unmerciful (and often wrongly accusing) American system of justice.
The list of evil and human suffering seems almost endless.
Where is God in the midst of all this suffering? Does He care?
Does God Care About Evil and Injustice?
Yes, God does care. He longs to see the oppressed lifted up, the poor cared for, and righteousness restored in holy justice. Social justice, caring for the most helpless of society, is the foremost issue on his heart and in his written word.
God sent his son, Jesus, as a poor homeless baby into an oppressed people group in a brutal military occupation in a nation of injustice. God knows the pain of the poor and oppressed. He personally experienced the brunt of human evil through Jesus. His answer is Jesus’ holy justice.
Jesus experienced homelessness and hunger, the pain of poverty, the sting of rejection by friends and family, and finally an excruciating death on a cross. Those who are the most destroyed by this earth are the people closest to Jesus’ heart.
Jesus spoke often of social justice in his society, asking the rich man to give all that he had to the poor, uplifting the widow for giving her last mite in the offering to help others, chastising the Pharisees and religious leaders for putting undue burdens on the poor.
We are all sinners, and we have all committed evil as well as experienced evil. Jesus is our hope, and our salvation. The path of Jesus’ holy justice is the path of the cross.
Jesus’ Holy Justice: The Way of the Cross
Morgan Guyton wrote “A pillar of popular penal substitution theology is that God cannot tolerate the presence of sin. I think it’s more accurate to say that sin cannot tolerate the presence of God.” (I highly recommend his article about penal substitution here on Huffington Post.)
God sees how sin wrecks our world, wrecks our lives, wrecks our very being. Sin does not hurt God; He is holy and far beyond sin. Sin hurts us. God longs for us to stand in His presence, healed and released from our sin. God is a compassionate Father who loves his children. He loves the whole world. He has made a way for us to stand in His presence through the cross and Jesus’ holy justice. this is the doctrine of grace.
Look again at John 3:16 (MSG)
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
Jesus experienced all the evil, all the oppression, all the injustice, all of the sins of humanity, and he took them to the cross. The cross brings holy justice to earth, the hope of redemption for all those made poor and oppressed by this world.
God was not an angry, psycho Father who needed to pour all His anger on His son, like some people teach through the popular theory of penal substitution.
God did not send Jesus just to tell us how bad we are, he sent Jesus to put the world right again, the show us how to make our own lives right again by unclothing the pain and destruction of sin in our lives.
This unclothing is a painful process and a sacrifice. To undo the curse of sin in your own life, you must battle against the sin of the world, the evil and injustice that creates poverty and oppression in your own neighborhood, in your own sphere of influence. Do good, help others, and gain the spotless clothes of holiness. This is a process, not a one-time prayer.
The way of the cross and Jesus’ holy justice is not an easy way, or a popular way. Jesus taught that his way is a narrow road:
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Zacchaeus understood the narrow road of Jesus’ holy justice. When Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, a man of great power and wealth, met Jesus, he gave up everything to follow Jesus. He gave up all his sin, all his worldly ties, to pursue the narrow road of holy social justice and gain salvation.
Luke 19:8-9 (NIV)
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus called out to Zacchaeus, and Jesus is calling out to you. Will you give everything up for the cross, Jesus’ holy justice? Will you be like Zacchaeus and change your life, give away your wealth and prestige that stand in the way of healing from your sin and a relationship with God? Or will you continue on your own selfish way and reject Jesus in religious self-righteousness, like the Pharisees?
The choice is yours today.