For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18
Jesus died for me. A wretched sinner. I lived as an enemy of the cross. I loved the world. I loved my sin. Though I loved God with my lips, I hated Him with my lifestyle. My mind was set on earthly things. I pursued the riches of this world. I was proud. I wanted to control my life. I wanted to do things my way. I was a hypocrite. Compared to others, I was a good person. Compared to God, I was hopeless. “Moral values” were my god. As long as I didn’t hurt others, it was ok for me to hurt myself through a reckless lifestyle. I was a professing Christian. I trampled on the blood of Christ. I took pleasure in the sin that nailed Him to the cross. I was religious. I was lost. But Jesus died for me. For me!
What did I do to receive this greatest act of love where Jesus laid His life down for me? Nothing, absolutely nothing. What could I do? There was nothing good in me. There was nothing in me that God looked upon me favorably to say, “Ah yes, this one deserves My grace.” No, I did not deserve God’s grace. No one does. The only thing any of us deserve is His justice and wrath – the due punishment for our crimes against an infinitely holy and righteous God.
There was no amount of effort that could make me deserving of heaven. There was no amount of good works to outweigh by bad works. There was no amount of cleaning myself up that would warrant me worthy of salvation. After all, it was actually impossible for me to clean myself up, and trust me, I tried many times. The reality was that I was a slave to my sin. I was in bondage to the works of the flesh, and the reckless and proud lifestyle I lived was merely an outward manifestation of the condition of my heart. And because I was “saved and baptized” when I was 8 years old and was taught “once saved always saved”, it really didn’t matter what kind of lifestyle I lived because I was forgiven and eternally secure. Little did I know grace was not a license to sin, nor does a prayer or “decision for Christ” equal salvation. Even so, my pride caused me to believe God would overlook my sin, even though my lifestyle was an abomination to Him.
So why did God save me 2 years ago? I can tell you it had nothing to do with me, but everything to do with Him. A secret only known to God, He chose me before the foundation of the world to lay His life down for me. While I was dead in my sins and was an enemy of God, He chose to extend His mercy to me. To bring glory to Himself, and for this reason alone, He chose to give me a new heart so that I could see exactly who I was, and more importantly, I could see Who He is. I am nowhere in the equation, but solely for His glorious purposes, of which I know not, He chose to make me His son and a co-heir in the Kingdom of Christ.
That is grace, my friend. There is no other way.
I deserved the punishment, but Christ took my punishment instead. I deserved the wrath of God, but Christ bore this wrath for me. Every single sin – whether thought, word, or deed – I deserved to recompense, but Christ paid my debt for me because I could not. The perfect, spotless, Lamb of Almighty God took my hell, so that I could receive eternal life with Jesus in heaven.
That is love, my friend. There is none greater.
It is for this reason I am able to love God. If He had not loved me first, it would be impossible for me to love Him. If He had not made me a new creation, it would be impossible for me to desire God. If He had not given me a new heart, it would be impossible for me to serve and obey Him. And if He had not shone His light through me, it would have been impossible for me to understand the Gospel.
But none of these things make any sense to those with hardened hearts. As the Scripture at the top of this post indicates, the cross is utter foolishness to those who are perishing. They think it folly that anyone can pay for their sin except for themselves. They mock the blood of Christ and consider it disgusting to be covered by such a thing. The god of this world, Satan, has blinded them so they cannot see the truth that is in the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4), and in their natural state as children of wrath,
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. – 1 Corinthians 2:14
But when God saves sinners by His grace alone, He gives us eyes to see and a mind to discern the things of God. Because of this, we are able to respond to Christ with a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and God enables us to pursue Him with a passion to love Him with all of our mind, heart, soul, and strength. This causes us to depart from iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19), deny worldliness and ungodliness (Titus 2:12), to flee from idolatry and sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 10:14; 6:18), and to come out from under the influence of the world (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
Believers understand just how costly it was for Christ to lay His life down for His sheep. Jesus paid our fine so we would not receive our just and eternal punishment in hell, and for that we are eternally grateful. It is now our reasonable service to offer our bodies to Him as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to Him (Romans 12:1). Out of love for Him and love for His beautiful yet gut-wrenching sacrifice, we have no greater desire than to obey Him and flee from the things that crucified Him. We are compelled to lay our lives down for Christ because we have been the benefactors of the riches of His grace and mercy.
Christ is our Savior. Christ is our Lord. Christ is our King. And me, a wretched sinner, He laid His life down.
Christ died for me. Did He die for you?