For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (Colossians 1:19-23).
Jesus' death on the cross was essential for us all. Those in rebellion to God desperately need grace; so do the religious! None of us measures up to the righteousness of God, and none of us fully practices the compassion of God to those in need. We all fall short. We all miss the mark — which is what the word, "sin," actually means: an archer who misses the mark with his arrow!
Because we could not be "good enough" to ascend to God and be worthy of a place in his presence — something all other religions make our human responsibility — God chose to come to us in Jesus. While among us, Jesus demonstrated who God is, how he loves us, and how we should live. His sacrificial death on the cross became God's way of paying the price for our sin and bringing us to himself. God did for each of us what none of us could do for ourselves.
James explains this powerfully and beautifully in his video message of what Jesus' death means for us:
As long as we trust that our righteousness, our goodness, comes from Jesus and our faith in him, we are viewed by God as children who are "holy... without blemish, and free from accusation" (Colossians 1:21-23). When we begin to think of ourselves as earning God's favor, deserving to be considered holy, and worthy of being seen as good because of what we have done, we become like the Pharisees who opposed Jesus. God redeemed us, all of us, through Jesus. We accept that gift of grace by faith (Romans 3:21-26). We recognize that what Jesus did on the cross saves us, not our good deeds. As soon as we begin to think our good works make us deserving of more, we give up faith, trust in our works, and fall from grace. Listen to Paul's sobering words:
You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace (Galatians 5:4 NRSV).
While Paul's words seem to sound harsh, they are quite liberating! Our salvation is not dependent upon our perfection or our superior religious performance. God chose to make our salvation based on our trust in what Jesus did on the cross to save us — not based on our perfection. Our belief in Jesus opened the door to the flood of God's mercy and grace. And, when we seek to honor God, even our faith in Jesus is a gift given to all who ask to find the truth, seek to know God, and knock on the door of salvation (Matthew 7:7-8). God longs to give the gift of salvation to all who seek after him (Matthew 7:9-11).
As James Nored reminded us in the video, what Jesus did on the cross opened the door to forgiveness, grace, and salvation to everyone — male or female, part of God's people (the Jews) or an outsider and gentile, as well as the powerful or those in bondage (Galatians 3:26-29). We can all stand on equal ground in the grace of God at the foot of the cross. Jesus came to be Savior for all (Mark 10:45; John 3:16-17; 4:42). Like the soldiers at the foot of the cross, all people can see the love of God demonstrated in Jesus (Romans 5:6-11) and confess with the Centurion and those with him, "This man truly was the Son of God!" (Matthew 27:54 NLT).
Our gift of salvation came to us through God's grace that we received through faith in what Jesus did for us. That same gift is available to all people! When anyone believes and is baptized, God calls us his children and gives us his Holy Spirit to live inside us (Galatians 3:26-4:4; Titus 3:3-7). As God's holy people, we don't take pride in what we have done, but we long to share God's grace with others! As God's children, we recognize the incredible gift that God gave us through his amazing grace. We want to honor our Father and bless others so that they can know his amazing grace and be part of his family, too (1 Peter 2:9-10).
- How do you want to thank Jesus for all that he has done for you?
- What doubts in your worthiness do you need to confess and surrender to God as you trust in Jesus' gift of salvation?
- What dark secret in the past can you leave behind and embrace your life as God's holy child, free of every blemish of sin?
- Who is someone with whom you want to share Jesus' love and God's grace, today?
One of the most amazing things about God's grace is that it saves us FROM sin, death, and hell. On top of this gift, God's grace also saves us FOR making a difference in the world. Just as John Newton found "amazing grace" when he was at his worst, God used him to bring that "amazing grace" to others. He can do the same with you. Remember the promise of the apostle Paul, who was once the "worst of sinners" because of his opposition to Jesus and persecution of Christians (1 Timothy 1:15-16):
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10).
If God can do such amazing things with John Newton and the apostle Paul through their faith in Jesus, imagine what God can do with his grace as it transforms you!