No Greater Love

During World War 2, captured Scottish soldiers were forced to build a jungle railroad by the Japanese. After living in such harsh conditions, the soldiers often turned on each other. But one afternoon it was discovered that a shovel was missing. The Japanese officer in charge demanded to know who had taken it. When no one responded, the officer threatened to shoot all of the men. One man finally stepped forward. The Japanese officer put away his gun and beat the man to death with a shovel. The next time the tools were checked, it was discovered that all the tools were there. The shovel had not been missing in the first place; the tools had merely been miscounted. The man who was killed had not taken the shovel; he was innocent. Yet he stepped forward, accepting death, in order to save the fellow soldiers around him, soldiers who had been at each other’s throats not long before.
Christ spoke of this type of love in John 15:13, when He said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” There is no greater love than giving one’s life for another. But those are not simply words that Christ said. They were words that Christ lived, because Christ laid down His life for us. We didn’t earn Christ’s love. We did nothing to deserve it. In fact, we faced death in the first place because we turned from God and followed sin (Romans 6:23a “For the wages of sin is death . . .”). But Christ still laid down His life for us. 1 Peter 3:18 sums this up perfectly when it says, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” Christ suffered for sins once; that is all that was required to make the full payment for our sin. The just suffered for the unjust. “The just” is singular; it refers to one just Person. Christ is that one. Christ is just. He never sinned; He never deserved punishment for sins. Yet He suffered for “the unjust.” The unjust is plural, referring to all the unjust ones in the world (cf. 1 John 2:2). We are unjust; we’re sinners. We’re the ones that deserve the punishment for sin; we’re the ones who “earned” the wages of sin. Yet Christ paid for our sin. The just One suffered for all the unjust ones in the world. Christ paid for our sin when He died on the cross and rose from the dead. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” We deserve death for our sin, but Christ died in our place. Now the gift that God offers us is eternal life. We have the opportunity for eternal spiritual life. We have the opportunity for a relationship with God that will last forever. We have the opportunity to spend eternity with God forever. We deserve eternal punishment for our sin, but we have the opportunity to avoid that punishment and spend eternity with God instead.
But a gift is a unique thing. You cannot pay for a gift. If you try to pay for it, then it is no longer a gift; it is something that is earned or bought. But we can never earn eternal salvation through our own effort (Ephesians 2:8-9). The only opportunity available for eternal life is as a gift. But a gift also needs to be accepted. A gift that sits unwrapped under a Christmas tree does not benefit the one who receives it. It’s available to him, but if he never accepts and receives it, then it does him no good. The same is true of the gift of eternal life. The gift is available to us; Christ died to pay for the sins of the world. But that does not mean that all who live in the world automatically receive this great gift of eternal life. The gift needs to be received. We need to accept the gift. If we never accept the gift, then we do not have eternal life. Romans 10:9-10 lays out very clearly how we receive this gift when it says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” We need to believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead. We need to confess our faith; we need to pray to God and accept and receive the gift that God has given to us. We need to trust that Christ and Christ alone can save us, and that we cannot do anything to add to Christ’s gift or to earn our own salvation. The gift is simple, and it only needs to be received. But we need to receive it. If you never have received this gift, will you receive it today? Will you accept the gift that God freely offers and secure where you will spend eternity? Will you accept Christ as Savior?
–Pastor Tim



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