Sunday, December 27, 2020 Brad Barrett
In about 700 B.C., God gave a remarkable prophecy to the prophet Isaiah who penned it for us.
Isaiah 53:5 NIV But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
This remarkable prophecy describes so well what Jesus Christ did for us. He took the weight of sin upon his back so that we could go free. He was punished so that we could have peace with God. He was wounded so that our souls could be healed.
Some have called this, “The Great Exchange.” He took our sin….. and he gave us his righteousness.
Jesus came to rescue anyone…anyone…who looks to him in faith. That may be why we love stories of rescue. Someone is in great danger, and a hero comes along and saves him. “Rescue” has been the theme of our Advent and Christmas sermons.
Ten years ago, miners were working in a copper and gold mine in Chile (South America). The mine collapsed one day, and 33 men were trapped. Buried alive. They were trapped 2000 feet below the surface. As far as they knew, they were going to DIE in this MINE. Think of the sadness. Never see wife or children again. Never see parents. Friends. You are essentially DEAD with 2000 feet of rock hanging over your head. You have ZERO chance to get out on your own.
But imagine their relief when, 17 days later, a SMALL 6-inch HOLE was cut through this 2000 foot layer of rock, and a message was sent to them, “We are going to rescue you.” They were DEAD MEN. Now they were going to live!
But even then, it took 52 more days to get them out. A total of 69 days! More than two months to be rescued. (If you were buried today, you wouldn’t be delivered until March 6th!)
The mining company bored a larger hole– 24” diameter– through 2000 feet of rock. Then they fabricated a tube the men could stand in, and they pulled them out one at a time.
Oh my, can you imagine the relief and joy of being saved? Books were written about this story. Movies were made.
Were those 33 men rescued because they were good men? Righteous?? Moral?? NO. For example, one of the 33 men was an adulterer. He had both his WIFE waiting for him and his secret girlfriend, his mistress. (I wonder if his wife wanted him left down in the mine where he could rot away???)
I heard one man on the news say that no one sat around and decided if the miners were “worth it,” if they had led good enough lives, or what their value to society was. The government and mining company discovered the miners were still alive, and they were simply decided to spare no expense to rescue them. $20 million was spent.
Jesus is Savior
The Gospel story is similar. Christmas is a big deal because we celebrate someone who rescued us….not from a mine but from the judgment of God. From slavery to sin. We were buried so deep we could never ever get out on our own.
But someone came to rescue us. And to do that, he had to die in our place. That is the Christmas story. The story of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. God spared no expense to save mankind through his Son.
But how did this rescue…this salvation… from Jesus actually happen? The miners in Chile were rescued by boring a hole and pulling them out with a cage and a cable. But how does Jesus pull us out?
Let’s read a story that helps explain it. Turn to Luke 24.
After that, we’ll read some further explanation from the Apostle Paul.
The story we will read occurred just hours after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on that Easter Sunday. The disciples are reeling from his death. Confused. Grieved. Terrified. But they have heard tales that morning of the resurrection, but they still simply don’t believe it.
Read Luke 24:13-53
What a remarkable story. The disciples, though they walked with him and were taught by him during his 3-year ministry, they simply didn’t understand what was going to happen. Jesus had told them 3 times that he was going to be killed and then raised from the dead, but they simply didn’t understand.
Now, here is Luke 24 just hours after his resurrection, they finally understand. They finally get what it was about. Jesus, their long-awaited Messiah, prophesied about it in God’s Scriptures, had finally come. And he rose from the dead to give a new beginning.
The world has never been the same. The world has never had such hope before. The hope of forgiveness of sins from God. The hope of eternal glory in heaven in the presence of God. A new beginning is now offered to the whole world.
Some of this may be familiar to us. We might even know the lingo. But what did Jesus actually do for us? When we believe in him, what actually happens to us? What transpired between Jesus Christ and us in order to rescue us and create this new beginning?
Well, that is largely the purpose and message of the rest of the NT, to explain all this.
Let’s look at one brief passage. Turn to Titus 3. The Apostle Paul wrote to his disciple, Titus, to explain what occurred in us and for us in more detail.
Titus 3:1–8 (ESV)
1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,
2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
Paul is giving Titus and other followers of Jesus some instructions on how they should live. But there is some crucial background. Some foundational truths that Titus and we must have. Paul explains why we should live this way.
3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
This is the plight of every man and woman on the planet. We are sinners. We are dead to God. We are alienated from him. Cut off. And his wrath is upon us. We are spiritually lost and blind. Spiritually impoverished.
But now comes the very, very good news.
4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Paul writes this to Titus and anyone else who has believed in Jesus Christ.
This message of mercy, though glorious, is actually very hard for us to receive. In our pride and deception, we desperately want to save ourselves. To boast in ourselves. To show God how we think we deserve heaven and glory. But our sin runs too deep. Our coming judgment is too severe.
In spite of this, God in all his goodness and lovingkindness sent his Son according to his great mercy.
And through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are washed clean. The Spirit regenerates us. He makes us brand new. We are born again. Born of the Spirit of God.
And also, the Spirit renews us. (This is basically a synonym for regeneration.) “Renew” means that we are remodeled on the inside…and now have the presence of God through his Spirit. If you remodel a kitchen, you gut it. Tear everything out, and rebuild it. It is now brand new.
And God sends the Holy Spirit inside us to be near to us, to help us, and to ensure that we will be carried into eternity with the Lord when we die.
Many times I have wondered, even while I am praying, is God really there? It seems, at times, he’s a million miles away. But then I remember, the Holy Spirit resides in my heart through faith in Jesus Christ to make me brand new. God is in me! He couldn’t be any nearer!
There is more. Also, we are now justified before God by his grace (vs. 7). To be justified means to be declared righteous in God’s sight.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says it so succinctly.
2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This has been called, “The Great Exchange.” God placed our sin on the back of Jesus Christ, our sacrificial Lamb. And because Jesus took our punishment, God could place Jesus’ righteousness on our backs. It’s hardly an even trade! J But we’ll take it as the greatest act of mercy ever shown in heaven or on earth.
Matt gave an excellent sermon on March 8th (which happens to be our last normal Sunday service before COVID. If you listen to that again or at least read his manuscript, you will benefit greatly.)
There are many facets to our salvation. Here are a few.
- He is light— and we are no longer in darkness.
We’re not blind any longer to the truth about our need for God.
- He cleanses us, even our conscience… through his forgiveness—no more guilt and shame.
We need not carry around any longer the weight of guilt.
- He sets us free—no more slavery to sin.
- He adopts us—we’re no longer alone. He is our heavenly Father who will never abandon us.
- Some of us have been left alone by our earthly fathers—through death or divorce.
- Our heavenly Father will never do that.
- He gives us an inheritance—we receive his kingdom. No more spiritual poverty.
- He gives hope—no more hopelessness and despair.
If we study such things from the Scriptures, talk about them with one another, and pray over them, we will be transformed from the inside out by the renewing of our minds.
Back to Titus 3:
8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
Though we are not saved BY works, we are saved FOR good works. We belong to God now. We are his. So now he calls us to live for him. We work for him. Paul says that to live this way is “excellent and profitable” for us. This is the very best life. The only life that matters.
I want to take these two passages—Luke 24 and Titus 3— and make some applications to our lives today.
Smile! Jump for joy! Give thanks! Worship our God.
Breathe a sigh of relief.
We were destined for death, buried in a deep, deep mine because of our sin.
We had no hope of ever escaping.
But Jesus Christ died in order to bring us out of our tomb.
Here are photos just after some of the 33 miners were pulled up that 2000 foot shaft to the surface. What joy! What worship of God!
Isn’t our rescue by Jesus Christ so much better? We are raised from the dead into a promise of eternal glory! If you are in Christ you are now alive! You are alive forevermore!
From our story in Luke 24:
Luke 24:50–53 ESV And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.
And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.
What was there response to this brand new life? Great joy! Worship. Praising God for his glorious plan of New Beginnings. Jesus had given them a fresh start…a story that would carry them on into eternity and never end.
Tomorrow morning when you get up:
- Spend time reading truths of the gospel story.
- Give thanks with all your heart.
- Sing to him songs that express your deliverance.
- Talk about it with one another.
- And the day after tomorrow….do this again.
I pray that these truths grow richer in our hearts each passing year. Rejoice! Our God is the God of New Beginnings.
- Be zealous to do good
We are saved, not BY good works, but FOR good works.
A few verses earlier, Paul emphasizes doing good for Christ.
Titus 2:14 ESV Jesus Christ…gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Those 33 miners in Chile were dead men. But then they were given life again.
Like them, if you know Jesus, you have a whole new lease on life. Now he calls us to walk with him. And to obey him. And not halfheartedly, but zealously. To be zealots for Jesus Christ.
To do this, we have to remember our salvation.
Often when I get up in the morning, I don’t feel very zealous for God.
But for the past few months, every morning as I’m praying I’ve spent much time thanking God for his great love for me. For sending his Son. For adopting me into his eternal family.
And then I pray, “Help me to walk with you today by faith. Give me the power of your Holy Spirit who dwells within me.”
I also pray, “Lord, is there anything in my heart and actions that isn’t pleasing to you today? Show me, and then help me humble myself in repentance. May your will be done in me and through me as it is done in heaven.”
The more we refresh our hearts in this brand new life we’ve been given, the more we will be zealous to do good for our Rescuer.
- Long for his return
This point is a trailer for next Sunday’s sermon. Come back to hear Matt on this topic.
The best is yet to come. Though we are new creations, we are not whole yet. We are still in these frail, broken, sinful bodies. We still face Pride. Selfishness. Hatred. Lostness. Guilt and shame. Aloneness. Every day we are quite aware that paradise is not yet here.
So what is the problem?
The full gospel message of the NT is that we have all this newness in Christ, but not yet. We have salvation, but not yet. We have the presence of God, but not yet.
What I mean is that we have this new beginning in Christ, but God is not finished yet.
Many have described this conundrum as,
“Already but not yet.”
We have life, but we don’t have it fully yet. The best is yet to come.
We persevere…we don’t lose heart and give up…through all the pain and toil of this world because we hope in the Second Coming of Christ. For when he does come back, he will raise our bodies from the dead, giving us resurrected, glorified bodies. And we will finally be made whole. Revelation 21 tells us that on that day, God will make all things new.
Jesus Christ came to deliver us from death.
The day we believe him, a whole new life opens up to us. Glory and joy and hope is ours.
Paul describes much of that in Romans 8. Here is one beautiful part of it.
Romans 8:15–17 ESV For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
The kingdom of God—your Father in heaven—is yours. New life is ours from this moment on into eternity.