Unemployed, you have missed the last several mortgage payments on a house worth less than you paid. You are about to be foreclosed. A registered letter comes to the door. You sign for it and tear it open: “This is to inform you that someone, who would like to remain anonymous, has offered to pay off your mortgage obligations. If you choose to accept this gift, the bank has agreed to suspend all foreclosure proceedings.” Nice letter, eh? Nice gift.
God’s gift to us wipes out the obligations we owe for sin – completely – if we accept it. His Son, Jesus, Who never sinned and therefore had no personal punishment due, willingly died a brutal and tortuous death to cover what I owed. And you. If you accept His gift, God suspends His foreclosure on your life. God told Isaiah He would do this and told him to write it down:
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)
If someone offers to pay off your mortgage, your first response might be something like, “What? Does he think I’m in poverty? Does he think I can’t do this on my own? Give me a bit more time and I will get this fixed…” But if you hang on to that attitude, you won’t accept the offer. In a sense, accepting his offer involves a willingness to acknowledge that you really do need his help. In the same way, accepting the gift of Someone Who went to His death on your behalf requires a change in attitude, acknowledging that such a gift is absolutely necessary. Most of us would rather hold to the notion that, “I got this; I’m doing pretty well on my own; I’m a good person.” But if you do continue to believe those things, you cannot accept the gift. Do you remember how Isaiah responded when he caught a glimpse of God’s glory?
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5
Isaiah knew a humbling truth: compared to God’s perfection, he was just as sinful as his neighbors. We humans are all in the same boat of sinful imperfection. We all deserve the same punishment. We tend to compare ourselves with others and think, “At least I am not as messed up as that guy…” Somebody illustrated the fallacy of such comparisons like this: “If the requirement to get to Heaven was jumping up and touching the moon, there would be no significant difference between the contestants for ‘Biggest Loser’ and a member of the Celtics.” The requirement for going to Heaven isn’t touching the moon, it’s having spiritual life. And everyone who has ever sinned – that’s you and me – is spiritually dead.
God is willing to correct that condition, to give us His life, His Holy Spirit to live in our souls. But first, because He is perfectly just, He must require that your punishment for sin be paid. Because you cannot pay, because, even if you could pay you would sin again the next day, He paid. He allowed His Son, Jesus, to pay your sin mortgage in full – forever – if you accept.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the (punishment for the) iniquity (sin) of us all. (Isaiah 53:6 – my explanations in parentheses)
Accepting this gift begins with understanding the words, we all. It requires acknowledging your own personal sinfulness and complete helplessness to fix your own spiritual deadness. That’s what being “lowly and contrite” means in Isaiah 57:15 (See “In a Nutshell”). God said He will revive (bring back to life) the soul of the lowly and contrite. He will forgive and restore a person who is lowly and contrite. That is, He will do so once the bill is paid. And He offers to pay the bill. Accepting this gift is like what you would do with the mortgage letter example we began with: – you say, “Yes.” If you understand that there is no way you can fix yourself to become perfect, no way you can pay what you owe for being imperfect; if you understand that you really need God’s forgiveness, then say “yes” to Jesus. Probably want to say, “Thank You,” also…