11. God Came To The Rescue
We all know what a red traffic light means. It means stop. And most of us know better than to run through that stop light or sign.
Why? Because we know we might kill somebody or get killed ourselves if we do.
At least, that is the ultimate reason. But there is another reason, too. That traffic signal has a penalty behind it. And it is the penalty that makes it a law. Without the penalty that stop light would not be a law. It would be only very good advice.
But when the penalty is added and enforced, it is a different matter. People start taking it seriously, because people pay more attention to penalties than they do to good advice. And the more serious the penalty, the more seriously they regard the law.
"The design of legal penalties is to secure obedience to the precept. The exercise of mercy in setting aside the execution of penalties is a matter of extreme delicacy and danger. The influence of law...is found very much to depend upon the certainty felt by the subjects that it will be duly executed." 75
Mother tells little Suzie, "Don't dig up mother's flowers. If you do, I'll spank you."
So little Suzie goes out to play. Fifteen minutes later mother looks out the window and sees her little darling uprooting her tulips.
"Suzie!" mother yells, "come in here right now!"
"Oh, mother, I'll never, never do it again. Please don't spank me!" the little tyke pleads.
"All right," mother responds, "I won't spank you this time. But don't do it again."
Suzie goes back to playing and mother returns to her housework. Ten minutes later mother glances out the window, and there is little misbehave right in the middle of the flowerbed, pulling up more tulips.
"Suzie! What did I tell you?" Mother's voice sounds stern this time.
"Mama, I'm sorry. Please don't spank me. I'll never do it again!!" Suzie sounds do sincere.
"All right," mother repeats, "I won't spank you this time. But don't you ever do it again."
Well, five minutes later mother looks out the window, and what does she see?
You guessed it. Suzie is back in the tulips.
Why? Because she did not really believe that mother meant what she said. She violated her mother's word and escaped the penalty merely by acting sorry. As a result, mercy was interpreted as leniency. Law had become only advice.
Now, God is not dealing with minor acts of mischief. He is the moral Governor of the universe and planet Earth is in open mutiny. He is dealing with total rebellion in the human heart. Moral order on Earth is threatened with total collapse.
What shall God do about it? Inflict the penalty appropriate to such sin? This He must do if all else fails.
But God wants to win sinners away from their rebellion and forgive their sin. He wants to have mercy upon them, but He will not pardon any of them in any way that will make mercy look like leniency. God loves the universe too much to allow that.
Something must be done so that the offer of mercy will not lead people to think, "That was easy. All we had to do was say we are sorry. God must not be very serious about sin after all."
"The exercise of mercy...where no atonement is made weakens government by begetting and fostering a hope of impunity." 76
God has the moral responsibility to promote the happiness and well-being of the universe in general, and the world in particular, and to protect it from everything that would harm or destroy it.
Now, the most harmful and destructive influence of all is sin or selfishness.
So then, because God loves the world and is committed to our highest well-being, as well as to the highest well-being of the whole universe, He must and will do everything possible to protect it from the destructive influence of sin.
One necessary way He does this is by upholding moral law, including enforcing the penalty when moral law is violated.
But God wants to forgive, not punish. But forgiveness means dropping the penalty for the person who is forgiven, and dropping the penalty for even one person who has broken the law is a very dangerous thing. In fact, it would be wrong because it would endanger everything. If even one person can get by with doing wrong, the safety of all is threatened because the basic intergrity of moral law is violated.
Therefore, if God is going to drop the penalty in any case, something must be put in the place of the penalty that will do what the penalty was intended to do. Whatever it is, it must have the same influence as the penalty in preventing sin, in demonstrating the seriousness and destructiveness of sin, and in letting people know that God means business.
Well, what can that be?
Repentance? Repentance is a necessary condition of forgiveness. Unless we repent, we cannot be forgiven. But repentance alone is not enough. It is too easy in the sense that it promotes the "I-can-do-it-myself-whenever-I-get-ready" idea. No, our repentance in itself will not forgive us. It cannot save us. We have sinned before the holy Lord God of the universe, and only He can forgive us.
Well, then, why does God not just go ahead and forgive everybody?
We would not respect Him if He did, any more than we would respect a judge who opened up all the prisons and turned all the inmates loose.
Well, then, what about a substitute? Let an animal be sacrificed as a substitute for the punishment of the guilty person.
No, because the sufferings and death of an animal would not be enough to get the real message across to us. It just would not have enough influence to stop people from sinning. It will take something more than that.
But a substitute is the right idea. Who shall it be?
Another mere human being cannot do it. For one thing all have sinned (Rom. 3:23). All of us would have to suffer the penalty for our own sins, and so we could not do it for someone else. Besides, just one human being's suffering and death still would not stop a world from sinning.
Then how about an angel coming down Heaven and dying for us?
No, again for the same reason.
Then, who can do it?
1) It would have to be someone who is innocent himself.
2) It would have to be someone who really loves us, because he certainly would not owe it to us.
3) It would have to be someone very, very important, because his sufferings and death would really have to have a tremendous influence. When people really understood what he had done for them, it would have to have enough of an effect on them to cause them to love God and stop sinning. But who?
There is only One--God Himself!
And that is exactly what God did! In his Son, Jesus Christ, God came to earth, became a man, took our place, and suffered and died on the cross as our Substitute!
And so now, if the guilty soul will turn to God (repent) and trust his great Substitute, he will receive forgiveness as a free gift.
Because God in Jesus Christ did for us the one and only thing that can wake us up to the seriousness of sin, make us hate sin and turn to God, with a moral effect on us at least equal to the threat of the penalty.
In fact, the cross of Christ should have a far greater influence on us than the threat of punishment. If the sight of our innocent Sovereign and our great and gentle God dying on the cross in agony and blood for our sins and out of love for us does not break our stubborn hearts and turn us to Him now and forever, nothing will.
He did it all for me, and He did it all for you.
Oh, turn to Him, receive Him, believe Him, trust Him, love Him, obey Him, serve Him--forever and ever!
Allow the mercy and grace of God offered at such an awesome and staggering cost to melt your heart, to win your heart! Accept it by faith.
Let the blood of Jesus Christ wash your sins away. It is the only way to be forgiven. If you refuse, you will have to face the penalty.
Why die when you can live?
Let Jesus Christ take His rightful place on the throne of your heart as your Savior and Lord, bringing with Him joy, peace, happiness and eternal life.