For the last several years, the social media platform “Twitter” has been gaining in popularity over “Facebook,” although the two are very different.
One of the interesting things to see on Twitter is the biography that each person uses to describe themselves on their home page. You have just a few words to tell about yourself, so it has to be very brief:
— Josh & Libby’s pastor in Indianapolis, Mark Vroegop’s, is: “Jesus lover, married up, Lead Pastor … wannabe triathlete and coffee roaster.”
— Michael’s college, North Greenville University’s Twitter bio is: “Dedicated to making Christ famous to the ends of the earth.”
— Bill Elliff: “A contented follower of a matchless God.”
— Ronnie Rogers: “I knew all the letters of the alphabet by the 4th grade; I could say them in order by the 7th grade. No brag, just fact.”
Well, of course there was no Twitter in the first century, and we might debate whether Jesus would have used it if they had, but IF He had, He could have taken a verse like the one we are looking at this morning for His “Twitter Bio.” It is a great summary, in one little verse, of what He came to do:
“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God …”. (I Peter 3:18)
This such concise summary of Jesus ministry. It would make a great “Twitter Bio.” It tells us very simply: WHAT He did; WHO He did it for; and WHY He did it. It’s just a very simple message today, but I hope you’ll listen to what God is showing you this morning about “What Jesus Came To Do For You.”
I. WHAT HE DID:
“Christ also died for sins once for all”
The word “died” here is literally “suffered” (this is one of those times when the old KJV has it best). And it’s important to understand it as “suffered” because the context of this verse is that Peter has just been talking to the Asian Christians about their suffering for Christ. He writes in :17 “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” He’s saying, keep doing the right thing — even if you have to suffer for it. Some of us here today may need that encouragement. And then Peter points us as Christians to the example of Jesus: He says, “Christ also has once ‘suffered’ (literally) for sins.” He’s saying, if you are suffering persecution or peer pressure, or whatever, for Christ, know that HE suffered for YOU first.
In fact, that Christ suffered for our sins is the very heart of the gospel. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:3 “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised from the dead according to the scriptures.” He says, here’s the most important thing I can tell you; this is “of first importance”: “that Christ died for our sins.” This is the “core” of the gospel; this is what we are striving to get at when we witness to people. In fact, when I am sharing with people, I don’t usually count it as a “witnessing” opportunity unless I have said something about how Jesus died on the cross for our sins.
This is our central message: that Jesus died for our sins on the cross.
Peter had just said in I Peter 2:24 “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.” This “substitutionary atonement” of Jesus — that He gave His life on the cross that we might be saved — is what Christianity is all about.
— The main theme of Christianity is not “let’s try to be good,” though we do want to try to obey God.
— The main theme of Christianity is not helping the poor, though we are commanded to do that.
— The main theme of Christianity is that Christ died on the cross for our sins. He gave His life for us, that we might be saved.
Monday night I was reading Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, and he told the true story about a Mississippi River steamboat pilot, whose boat caught on fire, and it looked like many people would die — which often happened on those riverboat accidents. When the boat caught fire, he was told to abandon ship; the fire was close by. But instead, he said, if I can run this boat aground on that sand bar over there, people could easily climb out of the boat onto the sand bar, and they would be saved. They said, “You can’t make it that far; the fire is too close. If you try to do that, you will die.” And he said: “If I go (from this boat) nobody will be saved; if I stay, no one will be lost but me. I will stay.” And he did stay. And he ran the boat aground on that sand bar, and 200 people climbed out and were saved. Only one person was lost: that pilot. They later built a monument to him there just off the Mississippi in Memphis, Tennessee: how this one man gave his life, to save the many.
Well that is just a picture of the gospel. That is the story of what Jesus has done for us. The One, perfect God/Man, Jesus Christ, died on the cross to pay for OUR sins, so that we could all be saved. Romans 5:19 says “through the obedience of the One, the many will be made righteous.” The One gave Himself to save the many.
And notice significantly that it says He did it “ONCE.” This is important. ONE sacrifice of Jesus was enough. John 19:30 says when Jesus died on the cross, He cried out, “It is finished!” That Bible word “tetelestai” was a Greek business term which means “it is paid in full.” The price for our sins was paid IN FULL by Jesus’ death on the cross ONCE AND FOR ALL!
— it is not that He paid some of it, and we have to pay the rest of it by our good works, or by spending some time in purgatory.
— it is not that He paid some of it then and there, and He has to keep on suffering in continued sacrifices.
— No, it says He suffered ONCE for sins. And right then and there, all of our sins were paid for IN FULL. “It is finished!” He said.
Hebrews 10 talks about how in the Old Testament they would offer so many animal sacrifices for sins (we’ve been reading about those sacrifices in our daily Bible readings) but then it says that now, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE for all.” Did you catch that? “ONCE” for “ALL”! ONE sacrifice of Jesus, the perfect Son of God, was enough to pay for ALL of our sins, for ALL time.
Listen, you don’t have to try to “do” anything to pay for your sins to make you right with God. The message of the Bible is NOT: “Ok, you’ve been doing wrong, now come back to Jesus, and start going to church, and help people, and give money, and if you do all that, maybe you’ll be forgiven and be right with God. NO! The message of the Bible is that the sacrifice has already been made. The message of all the world’s religions is “do … do … do …” — but God’s message in the Bible is “DONE!” “It is finished!” The price has already been paid: “once for all.” If you haven’t already, come to Jesus today and receive what He has already done for you.
That is what He did: “Christ also died for sins, once for all.”
II. WHO HE DID IT FOR:
“the just for the unjust”
That phrase, “the just” is speaking of Jesus. He is the only “just” one. “Just” is the same word as “righteous,” which means that you are “right;” that you have done everything you should have done, towards both God and man. Who can say they have done everything right towards God and Man? None of us!
— Psalms 14:1-3 says: “There is no one who does good. The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, there is not even one.”
— Romans 3 quotes those verses and goes on to say in :23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
We are “the unjust.” We have NOT been righteous and we have NOT done all that we should have done towards God and man. People disagree on a lot of things in religion, but I think one of the things that virtually everyone agrees on is that we have all sinned. NONE of us is perfect. None of us is righteous and just. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are all the “unjust.”
I LOVE what we have been doing this year in our Wednesday night services at 6:30, when we take some time for people to share what the Lord has been showing them in their daily Bible readings that week. If you have not been, it is worth being there just to hear what everyone is sharing. A couple of times the testimonies have taken the whole service, and they have been so good! A week ago Wednesday night, Lynda Rich shared how she was reading that the Old Testament priests could have no physical defects; they had to be perfect — that was God’s standard. When she said that, I started walking off the stage: “That rules ME out!” — because I am FAR from perfect! But then I said, “You know, I noticed that too, but here’s what struck me: in truth, there has only ever been ONE perfect man, who really qualified to be our priest: Jesus Christ!” This scripture was pointing us forward to Jesus. If you remember from the readings, the sacrifices had to be perfect too. But none of them were. Jesus is the only Perfect One — the only perfect priest, and the only perfect sacrifice. He was the only “just” One, and this “Just” one, died “for the unjust” — for US, who have all sinned and should have been lost.
That steamship pilot that Mark Twain told about, was like Jesus in that he gave his life to save an innocent crowd of passengers. But Jesus’ story differs in this: Jesus did not die for an innocent crowd. Jesus died to save a GUILTY crowd!
Romans 5:8 says “God demonstrated His own love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus didn’t die for us because we were “just.” He died for us because we were “unjust.”
Jesus died for adulterers and drunkards and partiers and homosexuals and liars and thieves and cheaters and blasphemers and the apathetic and the lazy and the unloving and the bitter and the unforgiving and the selfish and the greedy and the proud.
Have you committed any of those sins? Surely you have, and maybe you feel bad about it — and you should; these are sins against a holy God — but the good news is: if you admit that you have committed these things; if you know that you are “unjust”, then that means you are EXACTLY the kind of person that Jesus came to die for! THREE TIMES in the gospels, Jesus said “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mt. 9:13, Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32) Are you a sinner? Are you “unjust”? If so, then YOU are exactly who Jesus came to die for! “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust.”
III. WHY HE DID IT:
This verse also tells us why He did what He did. It says: “that He might bring us to God.” The word “THAT” here indicates the PURPOSE: Jesus did all that He did, “THAT” — for the purpose — of bringing us to God.
This phrase was expression current in Bible days, which indicates that you were securing for someone an audience with the King! So Jesus did what He did, in order to give to us the privilege of coming to the throne of God: “that He might bring us to God.”
See, that is what God made us for in the very beginning: to be with Him. Genesis 3 talks about how Adam & Eve walked with God in the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden. God made mankind to be with Him like that and know Him and love Him. But that chapter tells us that Adam & Eve disobeyed God, and sinned, and so they were cast out of the Garden and separated from God. And ever since all mankind has been separated from God, because we have all inherited that same sin nature they had, and then whenever we came to the age where we could make a choice, we have all actually chosen to sin:
— “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
— “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.” (Isaiah 59:2)
We should have been left that way; it would be what we deserved. But God wasn’t content to leave us like that. He loves us. He wants us to be with Him. That’s what He made us for. So He made a way that we could come back to Him, through Jesus dying on the cross to pay for our sins, so that we could be forgiven and come back to Him. But make it clear: the PURPOSE of what He did for us in Jesus was “to bring us back to God” just as this verse indicates:
— He didn’t save us for the purpose of making us rich in this world
— He didn’t save us for the purpose of healing all our bodies right now
— He didn’t save us for the purpose of making us prosperous and successful in all we do here in this life
— AND: He didn’t save us just so we wouldn’t “go to hell,” or just so that we could “go to heaven”, though that does happen.
But the real reason He saved us was to bring us TO HIMSELF. That is the whole purpose. He did all this so that we could BE WITH HIM.
It is very significant that Mark 3:14 tells us about Jesus calling His twelve apostles, and it says: “And He appointed 12, SO THAT THEY WOULD BE WITH HIM and that He could send them out to preach.” He didn’t just call them to go out and preach and minister; He called them first and foremost to BE WITH HIM.
And the same thing is true for us. Jesus saved us first and foremost so that we could come to BE WITH HIM, both now, in our daily walk with Him, and forever in heaven. We need to realize this is what it is all about: Christianity is not just about “going to church”, and it not not even just about “going to heaven;” it is about getting to BE WITH GOD HIMSELF. THAT is the great goal and privilege of our salvation.
Al Mohler, the President of our Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, was asked last year, if he could recommend just ONE book for every Christian to read, other than the Bible, what would it be? And the book he recommended was Augustine’s Confessions. Augustine lived about 300 A.D., and the book is basically his personal testimony. It describes how he spent his early years running from God, but how through his mother’s persistent prayers, he was finally saved, and he became a great pastor in North Africa. It is full of neat testimonies, theology, and insight. But at the end of the book he talks about his ultimate goal. He says Christ didn’t save him to make him rich, or to make him feel good, or to just to go to a place called “heaven,” but to be WITH HIM forever. He wrote:
“In the morning I shall stand in His presence and contemplate Him, and I will praise Him forever. In the morning I will stand and see my God, who sheds the light of salvation on my face.”
That is the goal of every Christian: to be with the Lord forever in heaven, and to be satisfied with pleasure and joy in His presence (Psalm 16:11). But this also very much applies to our spending time with the Lord daily like we have been emphasizing in our Daily Bible Reading program. Listen: spending time with God every day in His word & prayer is not some “extra” activity of the Christian life. THIS IS WHAT HE BOUGHT YOU FOR! This is what He saved you for: to be with Him; to spend time with Him. He wants you to spend eternity with Him in heaven, yes. But the great thing is, you don’t have to wait to get to heaven to meet with Him. When you get saved, His Holy Spirit comes into your life, and you can meet with Him NOW: you talk to Him in prayer, and He speaks to you through His word. And if you are not doing that, you aren’t just missing a “religious habit;” you are missing out on the very thing He bought you for: He bought you so that you could be with Him every day!
In that quote we read a moment ago, Augustine was speaking of heaven, in that great eternal “morning” we will spend there with God, in His presence contemplating Him forever. But if He’s really touched your life, you’re not going to wait until heaven to meet with Him. We can say of our mornings HERE: “In the morning — each morning this week — I shall stand in His presence and contemplate Him — in His word and prayer — and I will praise Him” — in hymns and worship songs NOW; in THESE mornings, this week.
See, THAT is why Christ did what He did: “to bring us to God” — both now, in our daily walk with Him, and then one day He will “bring us to God” forever in heaven.
I rarely set my alarm, unless there’s an early morning surgery, or somewhere I just have to be, and I generally let the Lord get me up when I need to. Wednesday night I was pretty tired and I went to bed early, and when I woke up I saw it was 4:30, and I just felt rested and I was looking forward to getting up and spending some time with the Lord. Before I got out of bed I spent just a minute and prayed for some of our church family members, that they would look forward to to spending time with the Lord that same way that day. Then I got up and made my caramel coffee and made my way to the office downstairs, and I was so excited, and I was just thanking the Lord for getting me up to spend time with Him. And I thought: You know, what if I had such a good time with the Lord this morning, that He just decided to call me home? What if He did this second? I thought, that would be so great! But then I thought, you know, if that happened, the only thing a lot of people would “see” or hear about would be that the pastor had a heart attack (or whatever) and died, and they would say, “oh how tragic!” But it wouldn’t be tragic. It would be the best thing ever!
See, THIS is what Jesus came for: “to bring us to God.” To break down the barriers between Him and us, so we could learn to walk with Him now here on earth; and then one day take us home to be “with Him” forever. That’s what it’s all about; that’s what He came for: “to bring us to God.”
Do you know you have that? Do you know that He is with you now, and that one day you will be “with Him” forever? If you don’t, you can have it. That’s what He came to do, for YOU. “Christ also died for sins, once for all, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God”!