Jesus took a thirty-three year journey to Calvary. He came as a baby. He grew and increased in favor with God and man. He developed friendships along the way. Then He began His ministry. He was misunderstood by most people and even His friends thought He was beside Himself when multitudes started to flock to Him. That did not deter Him. Jesus continued. He continued until He was immensely popular. He continued until His popularity turned to scorn when He was humiliated, abused, and abandoned. It was a low point when He was alone, His own disciples having run away and only a few women and a young disciple remained who stood at a distance from the Roman cross on which He was hung. He continued until He pleased the Father in heaven by giving up His life. Then He was buried. But on the third day He arose! He showed Himself to His disciples. After that He ascended into heaven. Mission accomplished.
This thirty-three year period did not happen at a random time, but exactly when God planned it to occur. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son” (Gal. 4:4a). Nor did it come without preparation. For a millennia and a half the scriptures had been pointing to this. The significance of this should not go unnoticed. God took a lot of time preparing prophets who would write the scriptures. These were painstakingly recopied and handed down from generation to generation. The message of a Promised One gave hope to the people. At the birth of Christ, those who were paying attention and were spiritually tuned in recognized what was happening from the beginning; like the shepherds and Simeon and Anna.
Why did the Son of God take a thirty-three year mission trip? Let the prophet of old give us the reason. “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand” (Isa. 53:10). He did it at the pleasure of the Father, who loved the world too much to allow people to die without a savior. God sent His Son to be the savior of the world.
From what did Jesus save the world? “He shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21b). The Apostle John gives more detail. “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Jesus came to rescue people from being in the clutches of the devil where they do his works by sinning. If people are sinning, they are of the devil.
What does this say about a casual view of sin? If the whole purpose for God’s giving His word over a period of 1600 years through forty different writers was to reveal His plan of saving people from sin, how are there any who name the name of Christ yet defend sinning in their lives?
A young man was in my office whose job takes him to various local churches. He was bemoaning the fact that he observed people moving from church to church and being used in ministry while continuing to live in obvious sin. They change churches but nothing changes in their lives. How can this be? If Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, how are people of the devil approved in churches?
There is a major problem in our church world. The gospel has often been reduced to people praying a prayer with some prescribed words and then thinking they have a guaranteed, non-retractable ticket to heaven. They act as though sin is not very sinful. In truth, they have never repented of their sins. They have had no godly sorrow. Sin does not seem horribly sinful in their eyes.
Somehow there has been a disconnect between what the Bible says about sin and what many today think. The Bible clearly states that taking the Lord’s name in vain is a sin, yet the phrase “Oh, my G-d” is perhaps the most used three-word string in our language. There is no question that the Bible says unrepentant fornicators will not go to heaven, yet people involved in immorality and perversion are in leadership of churches and denominations. Others use their positions of influence to gain personal power or finances, fleecing the sheep they are ordained to protect. All the while they smugly speak about being part of the body of Christ and some even moralize about the “sins” of non-acceptance and division when it is pointed out that they are living in sins that will clearly lead them to eternal perdition.
But sin is exceeding sinful in God’s eyes. The Bible tells us that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” and “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Jesus said that many will come to Him in that great day saying “Lord, Lord” whom He will deny that He ever knew. Man does not have the standing to decide whether or not he is acceptable to God. Only the Lord determines that. “The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim. 2:19b).
When Jesus began His gospel ministry, He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mk. 1:15). Jesus spoke of repentance. Repentance means to turn around. It means to quit doing the works of the devil. It means to quit sinning.
God is not impressed with excuses for sin or those who try to define sins out of existence. “But I was born this way.” “I can’t help who I love.” “God wants me to be happy, and this relationship makes me happy.” “I’m sorry, this is who I am and I don’t feel bad about it.” No, you are not different from everyone else and thus exempt from God’s truth. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13a).
Excuses do not erase sin. Only the sacrifice of Jesus has the power to cleanse from sin and only the grace available through justification by faith can get any of us in a right standing with God.
That is why Jesus took his thirty-three year mission trip, coming down from His glory in heaven to the gloomy humility of a cattle cave. He came to bring salvation to all who would repent of their sins and believe the gospel.
But make no mistake about it. He did not come to give people a little religion and leave them in the clutches of the devil, continuing in sin and doing his works. He came to save them from all that.
“He shall save his people from their sins.”