But now there is a second truth, and the second truth is a great one. The second truth that God asks you to believe is that if you are to become a Christian, you must believe that He loves you in spite of your sin and that He has acted in Jesus Christ to remove that sin and to begin to make you perfect once more by conforming you to Christ’s image. This is the heart of such great Scripture passages as John 3:16 and Romans 5:8. Romans 5:8 says, “But God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Or John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
There are two parts to this transaction. On the one hand, we are sinners and must be punished. God says that Christ died to bear that punishment. The second part is that, on the basis of Christ’s death, God now comes to us and offers us His own righteousness, divine righteousness, entirely as a free gift. Before, we were clothed in sin; now we are clothed in righteousness. Before, we were no people; now we are God’s people. Before, we were separated from God; now we have fellowship with God, and our life here and now is transformed by His presence.
Many years ago there was a Pharisee who found that these first two points were indeed true, and who experienced a transformation of his life as a result. He is probably the best-known rabbi that ever lived. His name is Paul. In his youth, Paul had gloried in his achievement as a Pharisee. He felt he had achieved everything. Yet, near the end of his life, when he looked back to add it all up, he recognized that all he had achieved came to nothing and the only thing that counted was Christ.
Before this happened, Paul thought he had attained to righteousness by keeping his concept of God’s law. But afterwards, because he knew it was only his concept, he knew that all his own righteousness was only, as he said, “filthy rags” in God’s sight. He had once said, “As touching the righteousness that is in the law, I am blameless.” But he came to say “I am the chief of sinners.” When Paul met Christ, he came to know what righteousness was. As he looked at his own supposed goodness in the white light of God’s righteousness, his goodness seemed filthy. He had no other word for it but “dung.” He crossed it all out. All the things he had considered assets he moved over into the column of liabilities because, he said, “These things have actually kept me from God’s righteousness.” And under the column of assets he wrote, “Jesus Christ alone.”
Now let me ask the question of you: Are you trusting in the kind of goodness that will never be accepted by God? If you are, you must learn that your goodness will keep you from God. However, if you lay your goodness aside, counting it loss, God will credit to your account Jesus Christ, “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30), as the Scriptures say.
This brings us to the third point. The third demand is that there must be an act by which you commit yourself to Christ. In other words, it’s not enough merely to give intellectual assent to these truths. It’s not enough to say merely, “Yes, I admit that I am a sinner and I admit that Jesus loves me.” You must also do something. That is, you must open the gate of your heart and admit Jesus Christ. This does not mean that you are responsible for your own salvation. If you do open the door, it is only because Christ is there beforehand moving you to do it. And yet, from your own point of view, the act itself is absolutely indispensable. You must commit yourself to Him.