The answer to the question in the title seems obvious doesn't it?
I have heard growing up, over and over again, that Jesus died for me. That's what's taught and preached in churches throughout the world. I've even shared this when talking to people about surrenduring their lives to Christ.
The discussion came up among our pastors yesterday during our weekly staff meeting.
So, here's the question - "Did Jesus really die for us?" Sounds almost heretical, doesn't it? For those of you, like me, who have grown up in church and have heard sermon afer sermon and maybe even special guest evangelists who have shared the wonderful redemption available in Christ, the message is clear - "Yes, Jesus died for us!" Really? Is that the reason He died? Primarily?
The answer to this question is vital for the Christian. We have to understand this. I've heard the answer to this question goes back to an obstacle that we all face. It's about mindset. The mindset is either defined by nature or the Bible. Some, like John Piper, call it the battle between the secular mindset and the biblical mindset.
The problem is that often people don't realize they have a certain mindset until they are confronted with the other. Even church attenders and Christians often drift naturally to the secular, and that's the problem. Your mindset determines how you see the world, how you interact with others, and as Christians, how you share the truth of the Gospel.
The secular mindset is man-centered. Mankind is placed at the center of reality. Everything revolves around man. This is akin to the ancient scientific belief that the universe revolved around the earth. Galileo found out how centric this though was to the church when he proposed that the earth as not the center of the universe. It's natural, our inclination is the center everything around ourselves.
In this mindset everything starts with man. The world and the culture affirms this. Marketing agencies feed on this. The mindset drifts into our faith as well.
This leads to an evangelism strategy that states "Jesus died on the cross for you."
Scripture seems to affirm this. . .
For God so loved the world [mankind], that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (ESV)
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)
These verses are absolutely, unequivocally true and inerrant.
I'm sure I've ruffled some feathers here.
Make sure you don't hear what's not being said. Jesus' death and sacrifice on the cross was essential for the salvation of mankind. He did die as a blood sacrifice, as payment for our sins. The shedding of His blood was essential so that we could receive forgiveness of our sin through the grace of God. So, in this sense Jesus did die for us.
The issue is the primacy of the sacrifice.
Some Christians who live with a secular (i.e. natural) mindset accept Christ's death and pray to receive Christ, but because they are still self-centric in their mindset, they do not see the purpose, or the next steps of fulfilling God's plan for their lives. They have punched their "Get out of hell" cards and are stagnant in their faith. This may be the church's fault due to lack of discipleship. It may be a poor understanding of the sanctification process. Nevertheless, churches are full of people who feel this way. A spiritual rut is the result. Churches may be just "doing ministry" and going through the motions and members who are nominal Christians, at best (even if there is such a thing as nominal Christians) find they do not understand what God desires. God is therefore relegated to just another "thing" in life and the secular mindset continues.
Do we perpetuate this in the church? Absolutely. When we design ministries and programs for us, we fuel this. When we are more focused on our own comfort or desires, we grow this. When church becomes a club, the pews are filled with secular members.
The answer to the question regarding the cross reveals what mindset we have.
So, what's the answer to the question about Jesus' death?
If Jesus didn't die for us, primarily, for whom did He die?
Check out this passage in Romans. Remember, it does not in any way contradict the previous passages posted or any other Scripture. It just clarifies this topic for us.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he as passed over former sins.
It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:23-26 (ESV)
This passage shows that the death of Jesus on the cross was needed for the reconciliation with the Father. Yet, you can see a different focus here. The primacy of the cross is evident. Christ died, just as with everything else he did in his life here on earth, to primarily bring glory to the Father.
God is the center of the story, not man. This great rescue that we're celebrating this week as we study the crucifixion and the resurrection were necessary to bring us to the Father, but what ultimately occurs in this is that God is glorified.
The biblical mindset recognizes God as the center of reality. All things flow from Him. He is the center. He is the key, not us.
Christ died to bring God glory. God is glorified through the death of Jesus on the cross. Christ is glorified when we are brought into relationship with Him as children of grace.
Do words matter? Yes, they do. I know this because I often use the wrong ones.
Can people understand this? Does this change how we share Christ? Not necessarily, but it should affect our starting point.
Here's the reality - everyone comes to Christ for selfish reasons. We all come to him for what he offers - rescue from hell. The problem is when we never move beyond the selfishness.
We (pastors, teachers, parents, friends, etc.) have to consistently state that God is the center. He deserves our worship. All that we do is to bring him glory. Otherwise, we're teaching one gospel to children and new believers and another for adults and those who have been in church for a while.
Jesus Christ died for the glory of God.