THE GREATEST SALVATION IMAGINABLE - John Piper
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…” —Jeremiah 31:31
God is just and holy and separated from sinners like us. This is our main problem at Christmas and every other season. How shall we get right with a just and holy God? Nevertheless, God is merciful and has promised in Jeremiah 31 (five hundred years before Christ) that someday he would do something new. He would replace shadows with the Reality of the Messiah. And he would powerfully move into our lives and write his will on our hearts so that we are not constrained from outside but are willing from inside to love him and trust him and follow him. That would be the greatest salvation imaginable—if God should offer us the greatest Reality in the universe to enjoy and then move in us to see to it that we could enjoy it with the greatest freedom and joy possible. That would be a Christmas gift worth singing about. That is, in fact, what he promised. But there was a huge obstacle. Our sin. Our separation from God because of our unrighteousness. How shall a holy and just God treat us sinners with so much kindness as to give us the greatest Reality in the universe (his Son) to enjoy with the greatest joy possible? The answer is that God put our sins on his Son, and judged them there, so that he could put them out of his mind, and deal with us mercifully and remain just and holy at the same time. Hebrews 9:28 says, “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.” Christ bore our sins in his own body when he died. He took our judgment. He canceled our guilt. And that means the sins are gone. They do not remain in God’s mind as a basis for condemnation. In that sense, he “forgets” them. They are consumed in the death of Christ. Which means that God is now free, in his justice, to lavish us with the new covenant. He gives us Christ, the greatest Reality in the universe, for our enjoyment. And he writes his own will—his own heart—on our hearts so that we can love Christ and trust Christ and follow Christ from the inside out, with freedom and joy.
We hear a lot about this ‘new covenant’ – and it is interesting to think this new covenant with us, starts at Christmas – it starts with Jesus. God recognizing we would never be able to live a sinless life gave us an out and provided us with a way to have a relationship with Him. He talked about this new covenant for many years (as it states, Jeremiah talked about it 500 years before it happened) and we celebrate the reality of it – Jesus coming to take our place.
When we think about giving gifts at Christmas, we often think about our family, friends, people we know and care for. When God decided to give us the greatest gift possible, he chose to give it to every one of us even though we are sinners and don’t deserve anything from Him. He is able to treat us with such kindness, to have a relationship with us despite all of our flaws, because of the Gift we celebrate in a few weeks. Jesus is the reason God can lavish us with the new covenant – he bore our sins and took away our flaws in the sight of God.
To quote a Christmas movie I may have seen once, “This is the gift that keeps giving the whole year through.” It is not something we receive once, enjoy for a short time and put on a shelf. This gift redeems us over, and over, and over again. It provides us a chance to have a relationship with God, to be saved and have a future worth being excited about.