In this post, I’m going to tell you what I didn’t know about Jesus until last week. I feel like the majority of people probably haven’t heard this even, and it surprised me in a good way, so I hope you’ll stick with me to the end.
Let me start with my history:
I grew up in a Christian home. As a child, I was taught that Jesus died for our sins, and if we believe that Jesus died for our sins, then we’ll be forgiven, and we’ll go to Heaven.
But when my marriage fell apart and I found myself divorced, that answer wasn’t good enough for me, and actually, I started dating Josh, who was Jewish, and he asked me, “Why do you believe in Jesus?” “What is Jesus to you?” And I didn’t really have an answer for him. I basically repeated what I had been taught, “Jesus died for our sins, and if you believe that Jesus died for your sins, then you’ll go to Heaven.” Which ended up being kind of an offensive thing to say, because my then-boyfriend inferred that I told him he was going to Hell.
***Sidenote: I don’t personally believe in a burning pit of doom as “Hell.” My long-standing understanding of Hell has been that Hell is simply the absence of God, just as darkness is the absence of light and cold is the absence of heat. And since I believe that God is everything that is good, an eternity without him sounds like…well, hell.
Anyway, when my Jewish boyfriend Josh asked me about Jesus, I couldn’t explain the big idea, and this really really bothered me. I actually didn’t know myself. I believed it because I grew up with it, and also because I HAD felt the Holy Spirit. It’s not like I questioned God’s existence, but I couldn’t explain the Gospel or WHY Jesus dying on the cross was so pivotal, so important. I couldn’t explain it because I didn’t truly understand all the nuances myself.
So I went on a search, and I prayed, with weak conviction, that God would help me to find Him again.
You need to understand where I was emotionally during that time.
My (ex)husband and I had just separated, and I suffered a loss of identity (we’d been together since I was 16), as well as a loss of my family’s support, and I also lost a handful of friends and plenty of blog readers who felt I had misrepresented my marriage. For the record, I did not misrepresent the love I felt for my ex-husband, Frank. We had something very special, but God was not at the center of our marriage, and we found ourselves at a loss for how to overcome our struggles. In the end, I feel that Frank let me go because he didn’t want to hurt me anymore. In the end, I felt that we divorced out of love for one another more than anything else. But I digress…
Basically, I felt alone. I felt like God had betrayed me, abandoned me, failed me.
Even though I knew that wasn’t true, that’s how I felt. I will admit to you that on a really bad day post-divorce, I experienced the darkest moment of my entire life. For a split second, just a mere fraction of a second, I questioned God’s existence and I felt my entire life unravel. Everything I knew to be true: shattered. It was just a split second, but it was terrifying, and it left me with an unquenchable desire to taste God again.
So I kept searching.
And because God is infinitely good, He put one of my best friends in the right place at the right time to bring me a message of hope. And my best friend Kristen flew all the way out to California to visit me, and sat in my living room with me, and she shared with the story of the gospel in a different way than I had heard it before.
I cannot remember exactly what she said to me as eloquently as she said it, but I can at least tell you what I took away from the conversation:
- I learned that Jesus did not just come to die for our sins, but that the physical manifestation of God was meant to make God accessible to us, and what better way than through a baby?
- I learned that God sent His Son so that we might know God and see Gods face. He taught us and had a dialogue with us and communicated with us. He came here to be relatable, so that He might be known to us.
Learning that God sent His Son not only to die for our sins, but so that we might KNOW him brought me back to faith and gave me hope. But I still didn’t truly understand why Jesus’ death on the cross—why his sacrifice and resurrection—are so unbelievably profound. I did not understand why Jesus’ sacrifice was so profoundly demonstrative of God’s purpose and His plan for us.
Last week, I heard a sermon from Dr. John Piper, that changed my life.
I would like to pull a quote from that sermon for context:
Until you know and hate the ultimate essence of evil, you will diminish what Christ achieved when he died and rose again. What did Christ achieve?
- The forgiveness of sins
- The removal of the wrath of God
- The defeat of death and the Devil
- The deliverance from hell & everlasting misery
- The resurrection of our bodies
- The healing of every physical and mental disease and disability
- The entrance into the new Heaven and new Earth
He bought it! It is finished! Everyone who is in Him has THAT.
But that is NOT the ultimate thing for which he died.
Dr. Piper goes on to explain that all of these things that Christ achieved were A MEANS TO AN END; they were obstacles that had to be moved out of the way, to make it POSSIBLE to stand in God’s presence. Jesus wants to GET US TO GOD, “whose presence is fullness of joy, at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
The forgiveness of our sins, and all those other things, are the RESULT of God’s desire to be one with us.
It’s a subtle tweak on a truth I knew before—that God wants to be known by us. But this revelation that the forgiveness of our sins was something that HAD TO HAPPEN for us to be one with God has changed my view of the Cross.
It’s not about the forgiveness of our sins. Not ultimately. That’s the message I was taught first. That it’s about forgiveness, or that it’s about grace. But that’s only part of the story. It’s not even the climax!
The climax is being REUNITED with our Creator, to be ONE with Him.
I’m just overwhelmed with how incredible that is. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever quite seen marriage in this context either. Marriage is meant to be symbolic of Christ’s relationship with the church. The two shall become ONE FLESH. He wants to draw us to Himself. He wants us to want Him. The idea of marriage is such a beautiful, incredible reflection of how God wants his relationship to be with you and me.
If God wants to be ONE with US, then sin can’t EXIST in the same space, so forgiveness HAS TO HAPPEN. We cannot stand in the PERECT, AWESOME presence of God with all of our sin and shame and guilt and all the yucky things clinging to us. So instead…He forgives us and offers us grace. And HOW INCREDIBLE is that, that He overlooks all the evil we’ve ever done ever and says, “I love you unconditionally, and because you asked to also be with Me, I will completely wash your sins away because I want to BE WITH YOU. And if you’re going to be here with Me, then all that yuckiness cannot be here also. Sin, begone!” It’s got to go.
The forgiveness of our sins is just a natural thing that had to happen in order for us to be together with God.
It is just the COOLEST thing. I can’t get over it. The forgiveness of our sins is SECONDARY to God’s desire for us.
Never have I heard the Gospel in this way.
Our sin is a mere obstacle, and God just OBLITERATES the obstacles standing in our way to Him through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
I’ve never understood my relationship with Christ and the Father with such clarity. I’ve never understood the beauty of the design of marriage with such clarity. And I cannot imagine going back to my state of blindness.
How true are the words “I once was blind, but now I see.” What amazing GRACE He has offered me! And the words “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!” have so much power to me now. What blessed assurance we have that when we are NOT ENOUGH, JESUS IS ENOUGH!
When I am struggling, all I have to do is reach out and ask. All I have to do is seek and knock and ask, and He is there for me. I have only been on this earth for the blink of an eye. What do I know about the world or this life or the struggles therein? Why shouldn’t I ask the the God of the Universe who created me and who has seen every moment of my life from my first to my last—that knows every detail and every facet of everyone else’s life on the whole earth that has been or will ever be….why shouldn’t I ask Him for help?
How incredible that Jesus tore the veil in two and gifted us with direct ACCESS to GOD.
I am filled with thankfulness and gratitude that God is such a tireless romantic that He would write out this love story for me, and that He would continue to pursue me even in my sin and even when I’ve turned away from Him and straight up ignored Him.
Oh, how thankful I am for what happened at Calvary. How thankful I am for the Cross!