Monday, December 10, 2012

Jesus: Example to Follow OR Righteous Life Graciously Shared?

Christmas is a time for celebrating the truly remarkable reality that God took on flesh and lived among us. Stop and think about that for a moment…God, who created the entire universe, is so gracious and loving that he left the perfection of heaven and entered into the reality of human messiness in a new way altogether. God was, of course, involved with his Creation from the beginning, but the Incarnation was unprecedented and remains the unique claim of historical Christianity…fully God and fully human.

Unfortunately many are quick to fast-forward the story from Christmas to Easter - Jesus was born and then he died on the cross to pay the penalty for sins. But this is not the complete story; this fact alone is not truly good news. If this were the complete account of the gospel, we would be left with a clean slate but still incapable of keeping the righteous standards of God’s law.

In between the birth and death of Jesus a lot happened. How we approach this in-between period is just as important as how we understand the significance of his death. Therefore, the essential question we must wrestle with is: Was Jesus’ life primarily our example to follow – OR – was it the fulfillment of a life we could never live?

Here is what it looks like to place the primary emphasis on his life as one to follow: We place our faith in his death to wipe the slate clean (reset button) but then we are left with the challenge of following Jesus’ example in fulfilling the law. Jesus gets us started – but we must run the race. Jesus cleaned the slate for you, now you just have to refill the ledger as best you can by following the “W.W.J.D.” principle. I would suggest that at a functional level this is the paradigm for many Christians. However, this is simply not good news at all!

The truly good news of the gospel is that Jesus not only died on the cross to pay the penalty for sins, but he also lived the perfect life – fulfilling all the righteous requirements of the law (something none of us could do). His perfect life of righteousness is credited to the account of all who place their faith in him. In other words, Jesus not only hit the rest button but he also filled in the ledger for us. Almost everyone believes that Jesus was a great moral example to follow – this is not scandalous and life-altering news at all. What makes the gospel so beautiful to those who believe, and so offensive to the pride of those who reject it, is that Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves – completely from beginning to end.

Does this mean there is no need for the law? Absolutely not. The law is still God’s blueprint for human flourishing. The law contains that which brings God the most glory- and therefore is for our good. But the law cannot save us – it only judges and condemns us. We cannot follow the law good enough to enter into, walk in, our complete our salvation. That entire process was fulfilled in the birth, life, death and resurrection of our Savior who came and is coming again! My prayer for you this Christmas is that the complete work of Christ will satisfy all your deepest hopes and longings, bring peace to all your worries and insecurities, and bring depth, love, and life to all your relationships.