Wednesday, March 19, 2008

There's A Cost To Sin

I have found, through years of experience, that a person is usually not brought towards faith in Jesus Christ through intellectual arguments. When someone is focused on "winning the debate" rather than realizing that their sin separates them from Holy and Righteous God - thus, they are in desperate need of the Savior, Jesus Christ, - then the only thing that generally happens during such "debates" is a stalemate.

I agree with what Bill Keller wrote (also quoted at my website):

The anger of the lost keeps many people from sharing their faith. Never forget, they are angry at God, NOT you. Your job is simply to tell them the truth, and share with them the hope and love of Christ. What they choose to do with that truth is then between them and God.

It helps to remember this: someone that is lost and simply trying to justify their rejection of Christ will always have more questions than you will ever have answers.

Keep in mind that you will rarely, if ever, win a debate with someone that is lost - especially when they exhibit no desire to accept what you are saying. Your time is best spent praying for these people rather than debating them.

However, you will meet many people who are searching for reconciliation with God; and therefore, will be honestly open to looking into having a relationship with Jesus Christ.

It is for those people that I continue to answer the questions of skeptics. It may help another person who happens to come here to read them. As far as the person who poses such questions is concerned, he/she may or may not ever become a believer. But that's O.K. ! My job, our job as followers of Christ is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and, as the Bible (NKJV)instructs, to be evangelists:

1Pe 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God[fn4] in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

1Pe 3:16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

1Pe 3:17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

1Pe 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us[fn5] to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

3:15 NU-Text reads Christ as Lord.
3:18 NU-Text and M-Text read you.
3:20 NU-Text and M-Text read when the longsuffering of God waited patiently.

Several posts ago, I mentioned that I would share more from Chapter 6 of Lee Strobel's book, "The Case for the Real Jesus." I have found that oftentimes, the non-believer has objections against Christ's crucifixion on the cross to pay for our sins. Even some liberal theologians try to claim that this concept of substitutionary atonement is somehow "outmoded."


"Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong said, 'A human father who would nail his son to a cross for any purpose would be arrested for child abuse.'"

Over the years of actively "giving an answer to those (who are perishing) for the hope that is in you (me);" I have found that many detractors like to use the "cosmic child abuse" argument against Christians. With Good Friday only days away, I thought that I would share Paul Copan's great explanation for the necessity of substitutionary atonement through Jesus Christ's crucifixion on the cross at Calvary in order for sinners (which includes all of us) to be reconciled back unto God.

Paul Copan answers the Spong comment:

"We have to be careful about this notion being outmoded," came Copan's reply. "C.S. Lewis rightly warns us against chronological snobbery -- saying, 'Oh, they used to do things that way, but we know better now because we're more enlightened.' Sometimes there is a mind-set that if no one believes something anymore, surely it has got to be false. G.K. Chesterton said if you take that view, you may as well say that on certain days of the week something is true and on others it's not. The question should be: Is there anything to this notion of substitutionary atonement?"

"Well, is there?" I asked. "Why can't God just say he forgives the sins of the world?"

Copan's answer came swiftly. "Why can't judges just forgive criminals? Why can't they let rapists and thieves back on the street and just say, 'It's okay, I forgive you'? For God to do something like this would be an insult to his holiness. It would look like he was simply endorsing rebellion against himself and his character. He is a righteous judge, and therefore he must find us guilty of sin because the truth of the matter is that we are guilty. We have fallen short of how God wants us to live. We violate even our own moral standards, so certainly we violate God's higher standard. To pretend otherwise would be a lie -- and God is not a liar.

"Also, if God simply forgives, then he hasn't taken human responsibility with much seriousness at all. To simply let people go does not hold them accountable to the standards that people know they've transgressed. And he would be denying the gravity of sin, which we take far too lightly but which God takes very, very seriously."

That last remark made me thing of a comment in a book I had been reading on the plane to Florida for the interview. As James R. Edwards, a professor of biblical languages and literature as well as a Presbyterian minister, said in Is Jesus the Only Savior?:

The doctrine of atonement obviously hangs on the doctrine of sin. A physician who removes a leg because of a splinter is a monster. A physician who removes a leg because of cancer or gangrene, on the other hand, is a hero who saves his or her patients life. It all depends on the nature and seriousness of the problem. Spong and others see sin as a splinter; the New Testament sees it as a cancer that is fatal if left untreated. And that accounts for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on a cross of cruelty and shame. The cross is indeed an outrage -- an outrage of grace. If this is the kind of world in which we live--and I believe it is--then the death of God's Son for the sins of the world is the only way the world can be reunited with its Maker and Redeemer.

Nevertheless, I continued to press the issue about why God simply couldn't magnanimously forgive people without having to sacrifice his Son. "What about the story in Matthew 18 about the king who forgave an enormous debt that was owed to him by his servant?" I asked Copan. "He seemed capable of forgiveness without sacrificing anyone on a cross."

Copan's eyebrows went up. "Ah, but notice what happens in that parable: the king doesn't just forgive; he also absorbs the debt," He said. "The king basically says he's going to bear the burden of the loss even though the servant owes the money. Similarly, Jesus pays the cost of our sin on the cross. It's sort of like a child who breaks a neighbor's window. He may be too young to pay the price himself, so his parents pay it for him. Or when a small corporation is bought out by a larger one, the new corporation has to assume its debts.

"There's a cost to sin: Romans 6:23 says it's death, or eternal separation from God. That's the penalty we owe. That's the cost we incur when our sins separate us from God. But Jesus willingly paid the price in our place, as our substitute--and offers forgiveness as a free gift. There's nothing illegitimate about that kind of representation. If we aren't able to handle our situation, what's wrong with someone who's willing to assume our indebtedness?

"From one perspective, Jesus' death was the very low point of God's career--he is crucified as if he were a criminal, exposed naked to the world, cursed on this tree, and tortured though he was innocent. But despite this ultimate degradation, John talks about the Son of God being 'lifted up,' which is a double entendre. Yes, Jesus was physically lifted up on the cross, but this is also the point of God's exaltation. The crucifixion turns out to be a high point of God's career. The point is, Jesus was willing to go this low for our salvation--to be humiliated, to be degraded, to be insulted, that through this selfless act he was able to rescue us, bring an end to the powers of darkness, and bring about the restoration of a fallen world into a new creation.

"God isn't guilty of cosmic child abuse. It's not as though the Father consigns the Son to this humiliating death on the cross; it's something Jesus does voluntarily. Jesus says in John 10 that he lays down his life of his own accord. It's important to see the Trinity being involved in this whole process. As 2 Corinthians 5 says, God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. God the Father and God the Spirit suffer along with the Son as he hangs on the cross. The Father isn't pitted against his Son; this is something the Son willingly takes upon himself in order to pay the debt that humankind could not pay on its own."

"Some people say this seems utterly drastic," I observed.

"Well, yeah, if this were to happen to you or me, we would be terribly embittered and completely overwhelmed. But Christ bears the punishment perfectly. As British theologian John Stott said, 'For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.'"

"The atonement, then, is not illogical or unfair," I suggested.

"That's right," Copan agreed. "Remember, the Scriptures have a number of different pictures or metaphors for what was accomplished on the cross. But the substitutionary aspect of the atonement is deeply significant in that Christ our representative accomplishes for us what we can't do for ourselves."

"So what should our response be? Gratitude--the Christian faith is a religion of gratitude. Why would we be reluctant to humble ourselves and receive the free gift of forgiveness that Christ purchased through his death--and also receive the gift-giver himself as the leader of our life?"

Source: "The Case for the Real Jesus," by Lee Strobel, published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2007 pp. 254-256.

Jhn 10:15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Jhn 10:17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.

Jhn 10:18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.


Mark said...

Very timely Christine, thank you for being a rock surrounded by washing sand tossing about with the tides of human pride attempting to build a sand castle towards the heavens.

'For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.'"

Indeed, this has been going on since creation, recorded in His word and written on the hearts of men.

Stacy L Harp said...

EXCELLENT, I just posted the first paragraph on my blog and linked back to you . You go girl!

GMpilot said...

"There's a cost to sin: Romans 6:23 says it's death, or eternal separation from God. That's the penalty we owe. That's the cost we incur when our sins separate us from God. But Jesus willingly paid the price in our place, as our substitute--and offers forgiveness as a free gift. There's nothing illegitimate about that kind of representation. If we aren't able to handle our situation, what's wrong with someone who's willing to assume our indebtedness?"

Only this:

If someone were to commit a crime for which the penalty is death, it would be the very antithesis of justice to let someone else die in the condemned's place, even if that someone were willing to do so. "We know you killed that man; twenty of us saw it. We know you're guilty. Well, the law says that somebody's gotta die, and although this fella here's done nothin', he's willin' ta take your place. You all right with that?"

Sorry, but if I were to allow an innocent man to die for my crimes, I'd be every bit as depraved as Christians think all men are! Can't do that.

I would have respected this post more if the opening paragraphs hadn't been ripped off (uncredited) from Bill Keller, on your own website. Way to go, Christine.

Christinewjc said...


What a poetic picture you paint with your words in that first paragraph! Jesus is our Rock of salvation and it is He who keeps me going in this effort to reach the lost with the true gospel.

I thought that Copan's quote was excellent...and so true! I want to always keep it in mind when people accuse me of being a "robot" Bible quoter. They often say, "can't you think for yourself?" Well, in all matters spiritual, I'd rather share the wisdom of God than the wisdom of men.

Have a blessed Resurrection Day!


Christinewjc said...

Hi Stacy,

Thanks for the compliment and the link! Strobel's book is very timely. It seems that the true gospel of Jesus Christ is being attacked from all different angles. Trouble is, the attackers don't realize that the truth matter how they attempt to twist, malign, or reject it!

Happy Resurrection Day!


Christinewjc said...


What is your definition of a savior? What does it mean to be the propitiation for sin on someone else's behalf?

I would think that you, of all people, would be better able to understand this because you were once in the military.

There is a Bible verse that informs us that there is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his friends.

The self-sacrificial death of a marine (that was in the news recently) who placed his body on an IED and saved 3 other marines from death was an heroic They all would have been killed if he didn't cover the weapon with his own body. He saved them from instant death. As you well know, there are dozens of similar stories.

Jesus saves us from eternal death and separation from God the Father. He saved us from the effects of sin on our souls. We have no power to forgive ourselves for our sin. We have no power to be the propitiation for that sin. We have no power to place mercy and grace upon our selves. It must be afforded by Someone else.

You wrote: "Sorry, but if I were to allow an innocent man to die for my crimes, I'd be every bit as depraved as Christians think all men are! Can't do that."

Are those marines who were saved by their fellow comrade "every bit as depraved Christians think all men are?"

I think that, perhaps, your non-believe in the afterlife causes you to have such despair, lack of hope, and anger towards God. Therefore, you cannot see the magnitude of Jesus' sacrificial death for you on that cross over 2,000 years ago as THE act of eternal heroism that it is.

Remember that saying, "An Army of one?" Well - that is an apt description of who Jesus IS! He is the only one worthy enough to be "lifted up", not only from the grave, but exalted to the highest height in heaven. He is seated at the right hand of God the Father. Because of what he has done on our behalf, we get to join Him for all eternity when we die. He is waiting for you to come to him, GM.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. I challenge you to go to church and not just listen to the invitation to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, but to go forward and do it!

P.S. You are correct about the quote. Thank you for pointing out that mistake. I went back into the post to give credit to the original author. Please forgive my error.

Matt W. said...

The problem with the annalogy of comitting a crime is that, if I am guilty of a crime against society, then only I can pay that debt to society, either though going to prison, or by being put to death, depending on the crime, but if my crime [sin] is against Almighty God, then my debt is one that I am totally unable to repay. Either someone who is able to pay the debt [Jesus Christ] takes up that debt in my place, thereby absolving me of responsibility to repay that debt, or I spend eternity paying on a debt that will never be paid-in-full. Only by accepting the fact that I am not sufficient to settle my account, but that Jesus already has done so, and that my debt is, in fact, paid-in-full, if only I will accept Christ and make Him Lord of my life, can I ever be free from the penalty of sin.

Paul.Media said...

Glad to have crossed your blog. Great Entry and I love the fact that there are so many references both biblical and to other books. Looking forward to future entries.