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20. Best Substitution Ever!

Thoughts from my journey with JESUS.


One Replacing Another to restore their Great Relationship


Bible reading Romans 5:1-21.


When you read this I will hopefully have had the first (or more) of three planned operations, each under a general anaesthetic in my local hospital. It has been discovered that I have tumours, polyps and swellings in my bladder and prostate. Incredibly I saw them myself during a recent cystoscope. Amazing to see bits of me I have had all my life – for the first time in 70 years! Because I have had two previous vigorous cancers in my throat, in 2006 and 2009, the doctors are moving very quickly for me this time around.

I definitely thank God.


All this has made me think about my death, which may not be very far away. Of course only God knows when for any of us. Thinking about my death immediately makes me think of my salvation. One follows the other. Although I am today[1] already saved thanks to my Lord Jesus, and 24th June 1962 I was saved by being ‘born again’ in a London church meeting,[2] one future day I will be saved when my Saviour Jesus welcomes me to live with Him, and multi-millions more people, in Heaven’s glorious home. But notice, only those born again will enter Heaven, John 3:3-7.


Our Moslem friends believe they are saved by praying five times a day, along with many other actions they must do. The call to prayer issued from the mosques five times a day reminds us of the obligation on Moslems to pray (salat).


Prayers must be said towards the western corner of the Ka’ba in Mecca. Outside of the mosque a prayer mat is used to keep separate from the world. The Moslem must be ceremonially clean, hence all of the ritual washings.[3]


Saved Christians must remember there are big differences between:


1. the Islamic understanding of "being saved" compared to our Christian concept of "being saved", and

2. the means which followers of Mohammed or Jesus trust in to enter Heaven.


In Christianity, salvation is about the purification of the heart/soul/life by atonement. This atonement is made for sin by ‘an external Saviour’, that is Someone other than the human being himself or herself. Christianity has solid and living hope in this atonement because a person must be pure to go to Heaven. Many Christians and Moslems know that their own hearts and lives merit God’s judgement with a just punishment, not salvation. But while Moslems keep trying to save themselves, Christians have known God Himself show them His much better Way.


All people “think and do things which are against what God wants for us”. This is called Sin. Sin makes everyone Stand In Need before the Holy God. Atonement means “bringing God and believers back into a good relationship”. To the Christian, salvation is “God rescuing humans from sin and bringing them into good relationship with Himself. Christ’s death is the (only) basis for salvation”.[4]


About 20 years ago a Moslem Imam from Oxford, England, was invited to Truro Anglican Cathedral, ten miles from where I live, to take part in a discussion. I don’t remember the exact title, but it was something like ‘How all religions are heading in the same direction towards ultimate heaven’. I was in the audience of about 200 people. The Imam spoke interestingly and well. Afterwards there was a time for questions. I was invited to be the first and politely asked him, “Do Moslems believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross?” He answered cleverly by not giving an answer! He knew where I was heading with my question. As the meeting closed 45 minutes later I was invited to ask one last question. I asked the same question as I had at the beginning, saying gently, I felt he had not answered me. This time could he just say, “Yes” or “No”? He looked down and quietly said, “No, we Moslems do not believe that Jesus died on the cross”. I had time to reply, “Then Moslems and Christians cannot be going to heaven the same way. Because it is only through the death of a Mediator, a Substitute, a Saviour, that Christians trust they are going to Heaven”.


And I recited: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God … You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly… But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us … Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!” Romans 5:1-2, 6, 8-9, (italics mine).


For every Christian, it is only through a trusting belief in Jesus Christ the Saviour that any individual is guaranteed a place in Heaven. In Islam, no person has such a guarantee. For a Moslem salvation may be achieved through a person’s own good works, including proper behaviour and regular worship. The Bible continues:


“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation”, 5:11-12.


Read again the title of this short article on a very big subject: “One replacing another to restore their great relationship”. The theological term for this is “Substitutionary Atonement” - Jesus’ death in our place. God came to Jesus’ cross in the ‘100% divine 100% humanity’ of the Person of Jesus. There He substituted Himself for us.


This is why Moslem’s do not wear crosses or have crosses in mosques like many Christians wear themselves or have in their churches. Moslems do not believe Jesus died on the cross.


Take to your heart a message from one of my favourite Bible teachers, whom I heard on many occasions, in his London All Souls Anglican church and at major Christian conferences in Australia, England and Canada, Rev. John Stott: “The biblical gospel of atonement is of God satisfying Himself[5] for us. The concept of substitution lies at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting Himself for humankind. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices Himself for humankind and puts Himself where only humankind deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to humankind alone”,[6] (italics mine).

Can you see the warning? Do not put yourself or your efforts forward for your salvation. God has provided a Saviour, Himself, for you. Your efforts are no substitute for what God has done! They never ever can be.


Genesis chapters 1-3 describe how we people got into the mess we find ourselves in. Death became the normal end of life for everyone since first man Adam. Spiritual life leading to eternal life in Heaven is for everyone who trusts their past, present and future to Jesus Christ. Adam did this, without understanding it fully, when God covered his and Eve’s nakedness using the skin of an innocent but sacrificed animal, see Genesis 3:21.


Every time you see a parent clearing up the mess made by their young child think of this. God has resolved our mess! He came Himself and cleaned it up for us. This is why the Christian gospel is such good news!


Some people say accusingly, ‘Where was God when Jesus Christ was crucified?’ Their implications are, ‘Why didn’t God protect His man? Why did God desert His prophet Isa? How could God lose Himself in a battle with Satan whom the Qur’an calls Iblis?’ The Christian answer is deep in its simplicity:


“All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God,”

2 Corinthians 5:18-21, (italics mine).


God’s initiative, not man’s. God’s doing, not man’s. God fully forgives. God completely reconciles. He (Jesus, God as man) became what we all are, (a sinner), so that any one of us can become a son or daughter of God, (Christian), ready for Heaven’s family gathering.


“For if, by the trespass of the one man (Adam), death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the One Man, Jesus Christ!


Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the One Man the many will be made righteous … where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 5:17-19, (italics mine).


One Islamic Hadith that addresses this issue is Sahih Bukhari 8:76:470. It shows how Moslems, including Mohammed himself, have to trust in their own good works to be saved:


“Allah's Apostle (Mohammed) said, "The deeds of anyone of you will not save you (from the fire [of hell])." The Muslims asked, "Even you (will not be saved by your deeds), O Allah's Apostle?" He (Mohammed) said, "No, even I (will not be saved) unless and until Allah bestows His mercy on me. Therefore, do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and worship Allah in the forenoon and in the afternoon and during a part of the night, and always adopt a middle, moderate, regular course, whereby you will reach your target (of Paradise)”.


I have read of Moslems who say with some scorn, ‘There is no religion easier than Christianity’. They explain ‘In Christianity you don’t have to do anything. You just have to say, ‘I believe in Jesus and that he died as a sacrifice for my sins, and that he is god in the flesh and one in three, trinity, etc. etc.’, and you will be saved.


Such men and women are so wrong! They forget that our Lord Jesus said to people who wanted to follow Him in this life and go with Him into the next:


Then (Jesus) said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will save it’”, Luke 9:23-24, (italics mine).


As a teenager I was only once sent off in an inter-school soccer match. The referee heard swearing and whistled for a foul, pointing in my direction. He sent me off. It was not me who swore. Behind me stood by far the best player in our team. Knowing how good he was I walked from the pitch, taking the sending off he deserved. And I still feel hurt by it now, 55 years on!!! My team mates knew what I was doing. Our school went on to win the match.


My perfect Lord Jesus was much more honourable when He substituted Himself in my sinful death on Calvary’s cross. Never has such great Love been expressed. God loves every human being and offers this sure and certain Way of salvation to everyone. Costly to Him but freely to us, though it will demand 100% of our lives once we are born again.



Adapted from BiMonthly Encouragement 60, 10th June 2019.



Discussion guide


1. With John 3:1-18 open before you explain your understanding of my “I am-I was-I will be” saved.


2. Discuss the practical differences between trusting in one’s own actions for salvation compared with trusting in ‘an external Saviour’ (for the Christian, our Lord Jesus Christ). Think about:

a). Differences in motives for living

b). Differences in responses toward God

c). Differences in demands and responsibilities accepted on one’s life.


3. Who takes the initiative in personal salvation? What makes some people trust in God and other people trust in themselves? Illustrate your answer from personal life or from the Bible.


4. The selected quote describing our Lord Jesus as Mediator, Substitute and Saviour, has seven or eight words that show real blessings for the trusting Christian. Can you list and share them?


“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God … You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly… But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us … Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! … For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation”, Romans 5:1-2, 6, 8-9, 11-12.


5. Illustrate ‘substitutionary atonement’ from Genesis 3:21 and the surrounding Bible passage.

“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them”.

Consider

- personal sin

- death

- blood

- covering

- starting again.

Perhaps you can write one paragraph, or one page (maximum), and read it to the group. You may, of course, use other Scriptures as references.

[1] Written 22nd May 2019. [2] See our Lord Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:1-18. [3] Islam – Section 6 the Pillars (Carey College: Whitefield House, London) 1987, pages 5-11. [4] Debbie Dodd Dictionary of Theological Terms in Simplified English (EMIS: Wheaton College, Il.) 2003, pages 23, 130-1 and 125-6. [5] God’s wrath (His righteous judicial anger) satisfied His judgement on our sin, which was all placed on to His Son Jesus. Jesus fully died, before He rose to life again by a miraculous act of God His Father. This is my note of explanation. [6] John Stott The Cross of Christ (Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester) 1986, pages 159-160.

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