Suppose you had a sweet grandmother who, while shopping for a birthday gift for her favorite grandchild, was approached by a man. Say he places a gun next to her head and pulls the trigger leaving her dead with hundreds of eyewitnesses. Let’s say the man actually confesses to the crime at his trial…
Consider one of three scenarios:
1) If the judge lets the murderer go free, would he be a just judge?
2) The murderer is genuinely sorry for what he’s done and vows never to kill again. Would the judge be a just judge if he let the murderer go free because he was genuinely sorry, and repentant?
3) Suppose the murderer had previously risked his life in order to save ten people from a burning building. Would the judge be a just judge if he let the murderer go free?
If you answered NO to all the questions, you have passed The Justice Test. We've established, then, that a good judge must punish criminals and that being sorry doesn’t excuse a criminal. Our good deeds cannot make up for our bad deeds.
1Where do we stand in God’s sight?
Let’s examine the Ten Commandments. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen anything regardless of the value of the item? Have you ever lusted? (The Bible says if you look upon a woman with lust you have committed adultery in your heart. [Matthew 5:28]) Have you ever been angry without a just cause? (The Bible says that is like committing murder in your heart. [Matthew 5:21-22]) Have you always honored your parents? (What about when you were lying and stealing?) Have you ever made a God to suit yourself? Or decided to worship your own definition of God? Have you ever coveted? (Coveting is wishing you had something that belongs to someone else.) We have all broken God’s law, and we did so against the pleading of our conscience. (The word conscience means “with knowledge.”) We must admit we willfully and knowingly have rebelled against God and His laws. If God is a just judge, and we have broken His commandments, then His sense of justice demands that our crimes must be punished. Since He is a just judge, He cannot let us off the hook because we say we are sorry, or if we sincerely promise to change and never commit our crimes again. Just as the past good deeds of the murderer in the justice test did not allow him to escape the penalty of his crime, so our so-called good works can’t save us from God’s justice. Besides, the Bible says that our so-called “good deeds” are like filthy rags in the sight of God. (Isaiah 64:6)
2What punishment have we earned?
The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). The Bible describes the fate of those who have rebelled against God; they shall be cast into hell to experience continual torment (Isaiah 66:24). Jesus spoke of this place as a place of continual weeping, burning and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:40-42). As rebels who have broken God’s law, the Bible declares that we justly deserve the unending and relentless torments of Hell.
3How could a just God forgive?
I knew the crimes I committed against God deserved His punishment. I longed for forgiveness, but I did not understand how a just God could forgive people. Then someone explained to me everything that happened to Jesus on the cross. Oh, like everyone else I heard about the nails, the whips, the crown of thorns, etc. However, there was something far worse than physical torment that happened to Jesus on the cross. It is the very thing that made Jesus sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. How does Christ’s death demonstrate God’s love? The Bible teaches that God exists as three persons all sharing the same essence. We call them the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. Jesus existed from eternity past as God. The Bible says that Jesus humbled Himself and took on a human nature and body in addition to His divine nature (Philippians 2:5-8). He lived a perfect and sinless life but suffered for the sins of men (Hebrews 7:26). The Bible says that Jesus bore the sins of men in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). Because men’s sins were placed on Jesus, He became a curse in the sight of God the Father (Gal. 3:13), and God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus (Isaiah 53). Imagine what it must have been like for Jesus, who was holy and pure, to have the sins of men credited to His account. This was torture beyond any physical punishment possible. The shame and guilt of our sin is horrible in the sight of God. Have you ever felt guilty for something you have done? Some people feel so ashamed of their sins that they commit suicide. If we, as wicked as we are, can feel ashamed of our sin and guilt, how much worse would it have been for Jesus, who is holy, to bear the guilt and shame of the whole world on the cross. Imagine what it was like for Jesus… He took the sins of mankind and became a detestable thing in the sight of God the Father, to the point where God was pleased to crush Him (Isaiah 53:10). Jesus, who was closer to God the Father than we can ever imagine, being God the Son, endured becoming a despicable thing in the sight of the Father, and endured His righteous wrath being poured out on Him. He was condemned in the place of all those whose sins He bore. He was declared unjust and punished so we could be declared just in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). In this way God could both be a just judge and be the merciful justifier of ungodly sinners. The fact that Jesus and the Father were willing to do this shows the great love of God toward sinful man (Ephesians 2:4-5)!
4The price Jesus paid is sufficient!
The Bible tells us that when Jesus died he cried out with a loud voice “It is finished” (John 19:30). The sin debt was “paid in full” and His offering satisfied God’s sense of justice against sin, and allowed God to be merciful to us (Romans 3:23-26). It was the only way it could be done. We could never earn forgiveness from God. Jesus is our only hope. As the apostle Paul put it “If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:21). Nobody ever deserves forgiveness. If we receive forgiveness, we receive it as a gift. This is exactly what the Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” It is important to realize that we can’t earn favor from God; that we are wicked rebels who need to be forgiven and transformed by God into new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). Man’s pride can cause him to deny that he is a sinner. Man’s love for sin can cause him to reject being transformed (John 3:19). These are two things that keep people from receiving salvation through Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6). If you are sorry for having broken God’s law and you want your sins forgiven and your heart changed, you must repent, (turning in godly sorrow from your lost condition before God) and placing your trust in the Lord Jesus alone to forgive your sins and change your heart. Confess that you are guilty in the sight of God and cannot save yourself. Ask God to forgive your sins, and receive the gift of eternal life today (Romans 6:23). If you reject Jesus, He will reject you, and upon your death you will experience the wrath of God for all eternity in Hell. The Lord Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-3), and as the scripture says in John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”