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Sunday, March 13, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "What If Jesus Had Not Paid It All?"

“What If Jesus Had Not Paid It All?”
Jesus Paid It All
March 13, 2016 :: John 19:30 

Last week, we started a short sermon series that focuses our attention this month on the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Every Sunday this month, we are singing “Jesus Paid It All. All to Him I Owe. Sin Had Left a Crimson Stain. He washed it white as snow.”

Last week, the words up here were red. Now, they’re white as snow.

Last Sunday, we started this series in the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah. We read Isaiah chapter 53 and heard the prediction of the Submissive Suffering Servant who sacrificed Himself for our sins. A prophecy made over 700 years before Jesus fulfilled it.

“...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.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (vv.5-6).

Jesus Paid It All.

Now, this week, I want us to begin by reading a New Testament account of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. John chapter 19 tells us the story of the crucifixion of Jesus.

The older I get, the harder it is for me to read the story of the crucifixion.

It’s just more real. More terrible. More awful.

But also more precious.

This chapter begins with a flogging. V.1

“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.”

Just that sentence should make us wince and weep.

I’ve never seen a real flogging, I think that I’d throw up if I did.

“...by his wounds [by his stripes] we are healed.” But it was much more than that. V.2

“The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. [A mocking crown that hurt. That made his scalp bleed.] They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they struck him in the face.”

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” v.4

“Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.’ When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ But Pilate answered, ‘You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.’ The Jews insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.”

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” v.10

“‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’ [Judas. But it’s all part of God’s plan. “It was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer...”]

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.’ When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge's seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. ‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews.”

“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?’ Not these people. V.15

“But they shouted, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!’ ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.”

And then the unthinkable occurs. V.17

“Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others–one on each side and Jesus in the middle.”

We can’t really understand what that means. Nailed to a Cross. How many times have we sung our song, hymns, and spiritual songs about the Cross? About this cruel instrument of torture and asphyxiated death. V.19

“Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.

The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, ‘Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. ‘Let's not tear it,’ they said to one another. ‘Let's decide by lot who will get it.’ This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, ‘They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.’ So this is what the soldiers did.

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”

Now he’s coming to the end. V.28

“Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ [I’m not sure how many passages of Scripture were being fulfilled here but Isaiah 53 is in the mix. Jesus knew that He was fulfilling Scripture.]

A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. [Now listen.] When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

“It is finished.”

Those are three words in English, but in Greek, it’s just one word. “Tetelestai” “It is finished.” Or “It is accomplished.”

That’s not a cry of desperation. Jesus does not say, “I am finished. I am done for.”

No, he says, “It is finished.”  It’s a cry of triumph and victory and accomplishment.

He has done it. He has done what He set out to do.

He had fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53.

He had born “the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

“It is finished!”

Jesus paid it all.

John used the same word in verse 28 to say that “all was now completed.” It’s “tetelestai.” Jesus knew that it was finished so he took one last drink and one last breath and yelled it out for all to hear.

“It is finished!”

Jesus paid it all.

History tells us that this word “tetelestai” was often written on a business document or a receipt to indicate that a bill had been paid in full.

There was no more payment required.

Like that red stamp we put on a bill today.

“Paid in Full.”

Tetelestai!”

Jesus said, “It is finished. With that he, bowed his head and gave ups his spirit.”

He died.

These words on his lips.

“It is finished.”

But what if it wasn’t?

Today, I want us do a little thought-experiment together.

And think some truly terrible thoughts so that we can truly appreciate what is true.

I want us to ask the question, “What if Jesus had not paid it all?”

Now, I don’t mean what if Jesus had never come or if Jesus had never died.

I mean what if Jesus’ death was not enough? Not sufficient?

What if Jesus’ death was a partial payment for our sin and not a full one?

Last week, we emphasized the word “paid” in “Jesus paid it all.”

This week, I want us to really meditate on that last word “all.”

Jesus paid it ALL.

What if he only paid it some?

Why would we think that way? Why would we do that thought-experiment?

I believe it helps to know and appreciate what you have when you realize what you would lose if you didn’t have it.

For example, I never knew what a gift good digestion was until I lost it last Summer.

When you lose something or something is threatened to be lost, that’s when you know how precious is.

So let’s think about how precious it is that Jesus cried, “It is finished.” By thinking what if he said, “Now it begins.”

“Here you go. That’s the first part. Now it’s up to you!”

And He dies.

What would that mean for us?

What if Jesus had not paid it all?

So many ways we could go with that dystopian idea.

Here are two major ones to consider:

#1. UNENDING WORK.

If Jesus’ payment for our sins was only partial, then you and I would still have a lot of work left to do.

Somebody has to earn our salvation, and if Jesus’ death only got us so far, then we’d have to get to work earning our way to God.

And you know what, that’s how lots of people think it works.

People think that Christianity is about doing good works to please God.

“Yeah, Jesus died for our sins. But that can’t be enough. I’ve got to do something to contribute to all of this.”

Do you know what we call that doctrine?

We call it “legalism.” Legalism is the doctrine that we must work to earn our salvation.

It’s a performance mentality. If I perform well, then God will reward me. Really, He’ll owe me.

Maybe Jesus gets me in the door, but I have to keep myself in the room by my good works.

Is that how it works? Well, if Jesus’ death was not enough, then we’d be on the hook for it.

But that’s not how it works.

I got the idea for this message from a parody of “Jesus Paid It All” called “Jesus Paid It Some” by Stephen Altrogge.

Jesus Paid It Some

I hear the Savior say,
You’re not doing enough;
Work your fingers to the bone,
I will save those who are tough.

Jesus paid it some
I will do the rest
Sin had left a crimson stain
Now I will give my best

For now indeed I’ll try
To earn your love and grace
I’ll add the works I have
To complete the price you paid.

REFRAIN

And when before the throne
I’ll give my deeds to you,
I’ll hope I’ve done enough
To make you let me through.

REFRAIN (3x just to be sure)

Isn’t that terrible?

It almost sounds right, and yet it sounds so awful!

How would that affect you if Jesus paid some and you had to pay the rest?

Well, in one way, I think it would foster pride. Wouldn’t it? Pride.

If I was contributing to my salvation, then I would have something to boast about.

I think about the parable Jesus told about the Pharisee and the tax collector.

Look at Luke chapter 18, verse 9.

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness [dikaousunai] and [therefore?] looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:

‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

[Which one of those is supposed to be the good guys? Two guys went up to pray. One was a preacher named Pastor Matt Mitchell and the other was dirty low down extortionist who worked for the oppressive government.”]

“The Pharisee [Matt] stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. [I contribute to my salvation.] I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

[I do. I do. I do. I work hard for the Lord. I do good deeds. I am confident in my own righteousness.]

‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified [dedikaiumenoi] before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’”

That’s what happens when you contribute to your salvation.

When you become confident in your own righteousness, you get proud.

Remember what Dave Learish said about pride two weeks ago?  God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Raise your hand if you want God to oppose you?

But, I can see how someone might want Jesus’ death to not be enough for them so that they can get some credit for being good and doing good.

But Paul said in Ephesians 2. “It is by grace [sheer grace!] you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”

No one but God.

Jesus said, “It is finished.” Jesus paid it all. So He gets all the glory.

Now, it is true that we have work to do. But we are to do our good works, not to pay our part, but out of gratitude for His grace. Paul goes on to say after saying that salvation is not by works, Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

So, humble yourself and do good works but don’t try to pay your way. Or you’ll only get proud.

AND you’ll get desperate.

I think that legalist who is being honest with themselves will eventually move away for pride and into despair.

Because we’ll see that our good works are never enough.

When we realize that the standard is perfection and that we will never match up to it, then if we come up also against a Savior whose death only gets us into the door but doesn’t get us home, then we’ll despair. We’ll lose hope. We’ll get depressed. We’ll fall apart.

I know I will.

There are a lot of religions out there that tell their followers to be good people and add to what Jesus has done to make it home.

Some of those religions call themselves Christian.

But if they are teaching that we add to our salvation by our works that we make up for what Jesus left undone, then they are preaching a false gospel that does not honor Christ and does not save.

And I worry about folks trapped in those religious systems because it’s got to be depressing. It’s got to wear them down.

Unending work. When will we be good enough? When will I have racked up enough points to be saved, to be secure, to be safe?

Or do I have to get some good works from others, from other people, even dead saints, to go on my account?

Don’t despair.

Jesus did pay it all.

Jesus did say, “It is finished.” Our redemption is paid in full.

Now, some people hear that and they think, well, if it’s already paid then why should I be good? Jesus paid the debt, so why not sin so that grace may abound?

What do we say to that?

“May genoita!” Right?  We learned that from Paul in Romans?  May it never be. I don’t think so. No way, no how!

That’s not how it works. If Jesus paid it all, then I’m going to hate sin and fight against it. My life is fundamentally changed by that full payment.

Why would I want to add to what put Jesus on the Cross?

No.

But don’t despair. Hope in Jesus.

Number two. What would it mean for us if Jesus had only paid it some?

#2. UNENDING PUNISHMENT.

Not only would it mean that we had a lot of work left to do, but it also would mean that we had a lot more punishment to absorb.

Just feel that. Just feel John 19 and Isaiah 53 and say, “If that wasn’t enough, then I deserve to get the rest.”

What Jesus went through is what I deserved.

Do you believe that?

That’s what Christians believe.

There are people out there that don’t think that way. They think that people are pretty good and just need a little push in the direction of being good.

But if we are good, why did Jesus have to be pierced and crushed and cut off?

When we see the wounds of Jesus and the suffering of Jesus on the Cross, we realize how ugly, how blameworthy, how culpable, how shameful is our sin.

As the hymn says:

Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

But what if it isn’t finished?

Then we have some more punishment to absorb!

If it wasn’t for Jesus’ sacrifice, then we would get the punishment that we deserve.

And it would be eternal. It would be unending punishment.

Jesus’ death satisfies the righteous requirement of God’s justice because Jesus was innocent and infinite.

He was able to take our place and basically experience and absorb the infinite wrath of God for the sins of His people.

And because He was innocent and infinite, that payment was sufficient and Jesus was resurrected and vindicated.

But don’t believe that your rebellious sins against an infinitely perfect God would be so “easily” paid for by your finite death. It will take an eternity in conscious eternal torment to pay for any sins which were not covered by the blood of Jesus.

Yes, God’s holiness is that valuable.

No amount of penance. No amount of “purgatory” will pay our remaining debt.

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Two implications of that.

First, we’ve got to trust in the blood of Jesus and Jesus alone.

Remember Romans 3?

“[A]ll have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.”

Jesus paid it all.

So trust in Jesus alone.

And tell other people to do that, too.

We’ve got to share this message with others.

Because there is unending punishment for those who do not trust in the blood of Jesus.

His blood is so powerful!  “It is finished!”  “Paid in full!”

But people have to put their faith in that finished work of Christ.

But here’s another implication. I hope it’s encouraging to you today.

Your sufferings today are not punishment for your sins.

Your sufferings today, if you are in Christ, are not punishment for your sins.

Jesus paid it all. He took all the punishment.

Romans 8:1, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

No condemnation. No punishment.

Yes, you’re suffering. Your suffering is real. It is real painful! It hurts.

And Jesus understands that. Jesus is the man of sorrows. He gets it. He walks with you through your pain. Whatever it is.

But He took your punishment, so whatever reasons God has for allowing that suffering in your life, none of them are punitive.

Does that help you?

It helps me. “What did I do to deserve this?”

Well, everything! And nothing.

My suffering is for my good. My suffering is for God’s glory. My suffering is evil and wrong and painful and not good or enjoyable. It’s a result of the Fall and the curse. It may even be on some level a consequence of my own sin.

But it is not punitory.

It is not washing away my sin. It is not paying for my sins.

Jesus paid it all.

I’m guessing that some of you. I know that some of you are going through horrendous things.

Let this lighten your load if just a little bit. God is not punishing you.

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Why?

Because Jesus paid it all.

Because Jesus said with his last dying breath, “Tetelestai.” It is finished.

We could go on. We could take a part every blessing that the Cross brings us and say that they are also taken away from us.

10,000 reasons for our hearts to sing?

We’d have 10,000 reasons for our hearts to cry.

Because this is everything, friends.

Jesus Paid It ALL.

And if He didn’t then we are in miserable trouble. Unending work and unending punishment.

But He pay it all. He did fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah. He did go to the Cross for you and for me.

Let it humble you. Let it give you hope. Let it give you joy.

Rejoice that Jesus paid it all.

Hallelujah, What a Savior!

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