“Christianity is a crutch,” they say.
“It’s a religion for people who can’t get over their guilt. A coping mechanism.”
“And hey, if it really helps you feel less guilty, then by all means – be a Christian.”
I’m sure you’ve heard it. Or maybe you’ve said it. There’s definitely truth to it. Jesus’s death on the cross does completely absolve our guilt. It does free us from the burden the conviction of guilt brings.
But a therapist can do that. So can drugs, new friends, and even just time. Consider the petty criminal – a few years behind bars absolves him of guilt, at least in the public eye.
Something is different about Jesus. Something makes Him more powerful than a therapist, more influential than a drug, and transcendent of time itself. Something earned Him the title “Savior” and started a religion that has outlasted persecution for 2000 years.
I am sitting in a coffee shop blocks from my house, in near tears as I look around at all the faces here. I know most of the faces behind the bar. The burdens they carry, the anxieties, the existential crises, the frantic searching for identity and peace. And, I imagine, the guilt for not finding it. However, others feel no guilt or shame. They have no burden of discontentment with the state of their soul.
So why would they need Jesus?
The Problem of Humanity
Let’s set the stage.
God is a good judge. He punishes the guilty. Only a poor judge lets the criminal go scott-free. And being God, He knows everything. All that is right, all that is wrong. How we are to live. What will give us a fully thriving, healthy life.
We are living in His kingdom. He is the ruler, with a perfect law. And we’ve broken it. Breaking God’s law is called sin. So, we not only feel guilt for sins we’ve done – our identity has shifted. We are declared guilty, by our own actions. We not only feel the weight of our crimes – we are criminals. Criminals that have earned punishment.
Maybe you don’t feel guilty, but isn’t the criminal guilty whether they feel guilty or not? Ted Bundy, whose name recently came back into the limelight with the Netflix special covering him, felt no remorse for his actions. Since he didn’t feel guilty, should he still have been punished? The answer is, of course. Obviously. Guilt does not make a criminal, crime does. Criminals necessitate punishment.
Sinning against God? That punishment is death.
Extreme, you say? Consider this: if God is the source of life, and a traitor to the Kingdom deserves exile, it logically follows that a traitor in exile is going to a land of death. Consider this as well – God is sinless. Perfect. He created us to be as well. Sin cannot dwell in His presence. He warned us what the consequence of sin is, right from day one. We chose it anyway. And consequently, we chose the consequence.
(If that is still too extreme to you, you need to picture God much bigger, more powerful, more infinite, than you are now – and you need to know that you are so small in comparison. Death is not extreme when you are going against the eternal, holy Creator. Job 38; Romans 9:20.)
This is the problem of humanity – every one of us has sinned, falling short of the glory – the life, the favor, the grandeur, the kingship – of God (Romans 3:23), and so every one of us stands condemned to death. We have to appeal to the Judge, the only One who can declare us innocent, who is good and fair and punishes crime – so we will be punished. It’s only fair. We are in deep, deep trouble, and there’s nothing we can do to get rid of this new criminal identity.
The Hope of Jesus
If Jesus simply came to make us feel not guilty, then those faces I’m looking at who do not feel guilt do not need Him. They can just forget whatever regret they have and move on – or maybe, they just get rid of any sense of right or wrong they feel in the first place, and never feel guilt again.
But, oh, we all need Jesus. Jesus did not merely die to remove the burden of guilt. He died to remove the reason we feel guilty – or don’t feel guilty – in the first place. He died to make a way for criminals to be declared innocent by the Holy Judge – a way for sinners to be made righteous.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”II Cornithans 5:21
No one can approach God if they have sin, and since Jesus had no sin while living on earth, He alone can come before God. He is the only one who can approach the Holy Judge for anything, especially to make an appeal on our behalf – and He did.
He, on this good, good Friday, according to this verse, became sin.
Your addiction to porn/alcohol/drugs/sex.
Your judgmental heart.
Your sin-ridden past, present, and future –
All of this sin was taken off of you and placed on the sinless Jesus. He embodied it. In addition, He also took the fullness of the punishment for your sin: death, and the total wrath and separation from God.
And when He, bearing every last sin you have committed, was put to death, your sins were put to death with Him.
This means that Jesus is not merely a crutch to comfort our guilty feelings.
He is the hope of the guilty.
[bctt tweet=”Jesus is not merely a crutch to comfort our guilty feelings. He is the hope of the guilty.”]
The Way Of Salvation
You are fully absolved from your guilt when you confess before God that you are fully guilty, that there is nothing you can do to make yourself innocent, that you cannot even pretend you are innocent – and when you believe that only Jesus can stand in your place. Only Jesus’s death could pay for your crimes and give you a way to be declared, “Innocent!”
It goes further – not only are you declared innocent, but you are brought into the family of God Himself – moved from traitor to heir – because Jesus didn’t stay dead. He was resurrected three days later, defeating death and bringing new life – eternal life, living forever in the grace of God in heaven – to all who rest in Him for salvation.
New life. Not just a sinner made saint, but a saint that is a royal heir, an ambassador, and an eternal child of the kingdom of God.
Come to the cross. Repent of your sin that necessitated Jesus’s sacrifice on this Good Friday to bring you the gift of salvation. Receive the grace and the new life of God.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.II Corinthians 5:17-21