Part 3 may have left us feeling hopeless and devastated. And it should. We cannot fully understand this next part if we don’t sit in the weight of that helplessness.
So, if we truly do deserve the punishment of death, rather than God patting us on the back and saying “hey, you didn’t know better” and giving us a second chance, (and probably a million other chances), he still gave out his judgment.
Another truth about God is that he is a God of perfect grace and justice. For the fullness of grace to exist, it has to be coupled with justice. God wants to destroy evil once and for all and bring justice to all who deserve it, but this means he must bring final judgment with a powerful sentence.
So, God gave out his full and complete judgment on sin—but he gave out his judgment on himself.
Remember that Jesus is God in the flesh. He left his throne in the Kingdom of Heaven and entered earth as a human. He did not become the greatest, pampered, and loved ruler on earth (as he would have deserved.) Instead, he came as a helpless baby who would spend his life growing up and getting the full human experience. “He grew up before him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at him, no appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; he was despised, and we didn’t value him.” (Isaiah 53:2-3, CSB).
There was nothing extravagant about his birth and nothing magical about his growing up. He was a normal human who experienced the same rejection and suffering that many of us experience. He came to his creation—the very people who turned away from him—and lived among them. He lived out of complete humility. He remained perfectly connected to the Father, just as we were supposed to.
But Jesus didn’t just come to Earth to be a “good example” for how we are supposed to live. He didn’t just come to show us how to love people or live in perfect relationship with God. What Jesus came to do is so much bigger than being a good example for us.
This is actually incredible news. What if Jesus did come just to be a good example? What if he came just to show us how to live our lives? We would have to strive for his level of perfection every day. Remember how there’s nothing we can do to make ourselves good enough? Not even if we tried to live like Jesus would we be good enough. Why? Because we are chained to our sin.
No. Jesus is greater than a good example. He didn’t just come to live, he came to die.
“Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:7-11 CSB)
Jesus made himself nothing and died on the cross, receiving the final and complete punishment for our sin. He never once turned away from the Father to deserve this death, yet, he died. He died so that we wouldn’t have to. He was completely cut off from the Father so that we wouldn’t have to be. Jesus took the punishment for our sins upon himself.
You see, God did this out of love for you and me and every person who has ever and will ever be created. God’s ultimate goal is to destroy evil once and for all, but he cannot and could not complete that task without making a way for us to escape that final destruction. So, he took the punishment we deserved upon himself so that we could have the gift of eternal life with God forever. Because Jesus died in our place, God can now finish the work of destroying evil forever.
Also, as most of us may know, Jesus rose to life three days later. Why is this important? Why didn’t he just die and stay dead? Because he didn’t just take the punishment for our own missing the mark, he defeated the punishment and the power sin had over us. Before, we were so caught in a web of sin that even the good stuff we tried to do was out of a selfish heart. Now, with Jesus defeating death and the impossible web of sin, we are free.
We can freely walk out of the grave, fully alive for the first time in our lives.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 CSB).
Now that Jesus has set us free, we are free to try, try again, try again, fail, succeed, suck at things, try again, love, have joy, grieve, say no, say yes!, give, receive, cry, worship, be generous, make decisions, step into our true identity, be loved, live, try again, pray, be at peace, be kind, love, follow Christ, and spend eternity with our Creator who loves us forever!
Not only that, but we are free from guilt, shame, judgment, insecurities, sin, punishment, impressing others, death, lies, selfishness, anxiety, fear, worry, needing acceptance, our past, our future, darkness, perfectionism, depression, getting it right, faking it, hopelessness.
We are set free now and forever!
Remember in part 2 when I said that God speaking “You are my beloved son, in you I am well pleased” over Jesus means he is speaking that over us too? When Jesus died and was raised to life again, he took our sin and brokenness on himself and took the punishment we deserved. This is called propitiation.
That big and fancy theological word means that Jesus took on our sin and brokenness onto himself. He traded his perfect life for our extremely messy and “not enough” life. For free! Jesus’s propitiation brought us life.
Have you ever read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? Don’t say “No, but I’ve seen the movie,” because what I’m about to reference is only a detail that can be found in the books. A very evil man named Barty Crouch, Jr. joined the most evil man—Lord Voldemort—at a young age. He was convicted of the crime of joining this dark wizard and convicted of torturing and murdering innocent people. He was sent to Azkaban, a wizard prison, where he would eventually get a punishment worse than death: getting his soul sucked out of him. His mother was so distraught over this that she snuck into the prison, drank a potion that made her look like him, and took the “death” that he deserved.
She was completely innocent, but her love for her guilty son drove her to sacrifice her life to keep her son alive. She knew he was guilty and knew he deserved this horrible fate, yet, she took his punishment as her own as if she had committed his crimes. Propitiation. She literally became Barty Crouch and took the punishment he deserved. She put on his identity.
This is what Jesus has done for us on an eternal and massive scale.
So, if Jesus has taken our old identity of guilty and dead and sinful and not enough, then he has given us his own life. And that means that God looks at us and sees Jesus’s perfect life. If God says he loves Jesus and is pleased with Jesus, he’s saying it over us too because we’ve been given Jesus’s life.
No, you are not enough. You needed God to put on flesh, become a human, suffer a horrific death, and then defeat death in order for you to be good enough.
But now, in Jesus, you are enough.
And you are free.
Click here to read part 5 of “Live Free.”