That may seem like a rough title. No, I am not saying Jesus is useless. The way some people view Him and salvation is useless.
Let's take a flashback to a small part of my life.
Some time back I was driving in my car and listening to songs in my Google Play account. Included in my playlist is Guardians of the Galaxy (Awesome Mix Vol. 1), which was legally free.
In that album is the song "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum. I was enjoying it. It's catchy. And I was so excited to find a mainstream song that supports Jesus and Heaven. (Come to find out later that might not be entirely true.) Yeah, preach it!
Then I got to the part where Greenbaum sings, "Never been a sinner, I never sinned./I got a friend in Jesus./So you know that when I die,/He's gonna set me up with the spirit in the sky." Well, that ruined it.
Let's look at two things: perfection and salvation.
"Never been a sinner." Yeah, right. Remember, "There is none righteous, no, not one;" and "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (New King James Version, Romans 3:10b, 23). Romans 3 has a fairly long section making this point abundantly clear.
If we think hard enough, we can all recall things we have done wrong at some point. We have all hurt somebody else or ourselves somehow. Even if it seems simple or you were "just a kid," it still happened and it was still sin.
Additionally, Jesus, while he was on earth, preferred to hang out with the tax collectors and sinners than with the Pharisees and other such men anyway.
Whether or not you think it is possible to be perfect, "Spirit in the Sky" suggests that you have to be a good person to have Jesus as your friend and entryway into Heaven. It is because the narrator "never sinned" that he has "got a friend in Jesus."
If you are perfect or your salvation is based on your deeds, then why does it matter whether or not you have a friend in Jesus? You do not need Him.
The works-based belief is pretty common. Many people think that you lose your salvation when you sin and have to ask for forgiveness again to get it back. Other people think that you just have to be a good person to get into Heaven and that's it. If any of that is true, then what was the point of Jesus even coming to die?
That way of thinking is the Old Testament way of thinking. There had been no perfect human sacrifice for the redemption of sins, so the ancient Jews had to make animal sacrifices. It was all based on deeds.
When Jesus came, he got rid of that way of doing things. He brought in a new way to get saved "through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe" (Rom. 3:22b). A reading of Romans 3 reveals more about the law and righteousness.
For example, the chapter says we are "justified freely by His [God's] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed" (Rom. 3:24-25). There is a lot there about Jesus's sacrifice and about faith, and this is only a portion of what is in Romans 3.
It is perhaps said most plainly in verse 28: "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." Of course, that is not the end of the chapter, but I think you get the idea.
Although the law is still important (for we still do not "make void the law through faith," but "we establish it) it is no longer our salvation (Rom. 3:31).
Anyone who believes otherwise is saying that Jesus's sacrifice was useless and that He does not matter; we do not need Him because we have to do it for ourselves. Things are just as they were before He came: based on works. So we should actually all get circumcised and make animal sacrifices instead of simply saying a prayer and trying to be good for the holy version of Santa.
(Passages retrieved from BibleGateway.com)
- James D. McIntosh Jr.
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