There can be no Easter without Good Friday. Death must precede resurrection.
With that in mind, have you come to appreciate the significance of what Christ accomplished on the cross 2,000 years ago? What if you actually came to believe that Christ's payment for sin was "applied to your account" through faith, rather than through your earnest attempts to be religious?
It's worth thinking about. And it's worth believing.
You see, our sin will get paid for one way or another. I can either rely upon Christ's sacrifice on the cross as the necessary payment for my sin, or I can strive to pay my "sin debt" with my best efforts. It is of course impossible for man to redeem his own soul and earn his way into heaven. (Romans 3:20; Gal. 3:10) This is why Christ came to save us and do what we were incapable of doing for ourselves.
God is the divine Lawgiver, and we are expected to obey all of His commands. James put it this way: "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy." (James 4:12)
Now God could have left us hanging without any means of saving ourselves. Instead, Jesus hung on the cross to pay for our sins. And as the rescue mission came to completion the Savior said, "It is finished." (John 19:30)
This means that no other payment is required for your acceptance into God's family. The price has been fully paid. And while it is true that "the wages of sin is death," it is also true that "the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
And so if someone ever asks you why your sins are forgiven and why you expect to enter paradise one day, you could simply say:
"Jesus paid the wages of my sin."
That is, if you truly believe it. Otherwise, it makes no sense to say it. Words alone don't save anyone. Believers are only saved "by grace through faith." This is why the apostle Paul assured Christians in Ephesus that "you have been saved." (Eph. 2:8) Notice in this passage how being "saved" is in the past tense for the believer. It's a done deal.
But how is that even possible?
Well, "Jesus paid the wages of my sin." I was saved "objectively" when Jesus died on the cross, and I was saved "subjectively and personally" when I trusted Christ as my Savior. This is what it means to be saved by grace through faith.
Someone may ask you one day, "When were you saved?"
You could say, "2,000 years ago is when the work was finished on the cross. And the moment I believed in Christ I immediately came under God's grace and became an inheritor of eternal life in heaven."
As followers of Christ, we have been granted "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven" for us who believe. (1 Peter 1:4) Have we done anything to earn this inheritance? No, we have simply believed in the Lord and accepted His payment for our sin.
And once you believe in Jesus as your Savior, you are immediately motivated to live for Christ. Christians do not view Christ's payment on the cross as a "license to sin." Instead, we seek to please the Lord by our thoughts, our words, and our behavior. Believers live this way not "in order to be saved," but because we have "already been saved."
Jesus did not die on the cross so that we could in turn go out and deliberately pursue sin. Such an approach would be a denial of the Lord and a denial of Christian faith. Genuine faith always produces a love for Christ and a desire to do God's will. The good news of the Gospel fills our soul with pure thoughts and holy desires. This doesn't mean we no longer experience the sinful desires of our old nature, but it does mean that Christ is now the Lord of our life. Therefore, sin must take a back seat.
Paul expressed it beautifully: "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1,2)
Just imagine this conversation between a skeptic and a Christian:
Skeptic: "What makes you think God accepts Christians and not everyone else?"
Christian: "I have been accepted by God because Jesus paid the wages of my sin. And God will accept anyone who comes to Him through the cross."
Skeptic: "Through the cross?" What kind of magic is that?"
Christian: "It's not magic at all. It is where God's love for sinners was demonstrated and where God's only plan of salvation for man was carried out. You can receive the eternal benefits yourself if you place your trust in Christ."
Skeptic: "Why would I want to do that?"
Christian: "I don't know whether you want to do that or not. I am just saying that God will accept you the moment you accept Christ's death as the payment for your sin."
Skeptic: "What if I don't feel like much of a sinner the way you Christians seem to view yourselves and others?"
Christian: "Sin is not merely about feelings. It has to do with each one of us violating God's perfect Law. You know, God's commandments."
Skeptic: "I don't believe in God's commandments, so why would I believe in Jesus?"
Christian: "Each one of us gets to make that personal assessment. But in the end, it's not what we say about ourselves that really matters. It's what God says about us. Does that make sense?"
Skeptic: "No, it's all still pretty fuzzy to me. But like I've told you in the past, I try to keep an open mind."
Christian: "I know you do. And I sure appreciate being able to share these thoughts with you. Just remember that God loves you even if you don't feel like it. Faith and feelings are on two completely different trajectories."
Conversations such as this one can prove helpful. At the end of the day, it all comes back to the price Jesus paid for our sin on the cross.
In the words of the familiar hymn,
"Jesus paid it all; All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow."
Would you like to be cleansed of your sin today and given the free gift of eternal life in heaven? If so, simply bring your sin to the cross and receive the benefits Christ earned for you there by His sacrificial death.
And then when someone asks you to give the reason for the joy and peace you have found in Christ, you too can honestly and confidently say:
"Jesus paid the wages of my sin. He has promised to be my Savior and my friend forever."
If you are ready to die to your old way of thinking about the Lord and your old way of living, you can rise up in faith as you place complete confidence in the price Jesus paid for your sins on the cross.
No wonder there can be no Easter without Good Friday. After all, death must precede resurrection.