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There was some gossiping in a Bible study group about the pastor. An elderly  man was very unhappy about this and said: “You must not talk thus about our pastor. He battles just as we do to get into heaven.”  Often people find it a battle to know the do’s and don’ts that would allow them into heaven, and wonder whether they comply with the requirements. This can become an unbearable burden. Someone else said, “I can believe there is a god, but to believe that Jesus came as the Son of God to die on the cross for our sins; there I draw the line.”

Isaiah prophesised 700 years before Christ about something that would happen which was so extraordinary that people could not believe it. The promise was fulfilled 2000 years ago, but people still struggle to believe it. When Isaiah writes about the promise of the appearance of Christ, he asks: Who would have believed what we now report? Who could have seen the LORD’s hand in this? Then he tells what would happen to Jesus, the Son of God, who would appear in our world: We ignored him as if he were nothing. But he endured the suffering that should have been ours, the pain that we should have borne … But he was wounded for our transgressions, and he was crushed for our iniquities, and the punishment that made us whole was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed But the LORD made the punishment fall on him, the punishment all of us deserved My devoted servant, with whom I am pleased, will bear the punishment of many and for his sake I will forgive them (Is. 53: 1 – 11). Jesus entered our world to release us from our own futile efforts to obtain eternal life with God. Nobody would have been able to believe that God Himself would appear in Jesus to rescue us. But God, who provided our redemption in Jesus, also in his love and grace provided us with faith to believe it. He grants faith as a gift to us as a way to become God’s children: For by such grace you have been saved through faith. This does not come from you; it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8). Jesus invites us today to come to Him. He says to the heavy-hearted ones who rely on their own merit: “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). On the cross He died for all our sins, fully settled our debt with God. In that way  He reconciled us with God. It is so extraordinary that we can only stand in awe.

            In the Christian hymn “Rock of Ages” we sing: “Not the labour of my hands can fulfil Thy law’s demands; … Could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone. Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” If we battle to try and rely on our own merit, Jesus died in vain for us, his suffering for us is then to no avail, we are outside God’s grace.  But if a person is put right with God through the Law, it means that Christ died for nothing! (Gal. 2:21)Those of you who try to be put right with God by obeying the Law have cut yourselves off from Christ. You are outside God’s grace (Gal. 5:4).

      Thank you God for your master plan by which You had enabled our redemption. You had bought us dearly. Amen

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