It is a well known fact that Jesus died a horrible death. After being beaten so severely that He couldn't even be recognized as a human anymore, He went to the cross to have nails pounded into His hands (wrists) and into His feet. He spent that time on the cross in agony, feeling the kind of pain that we can only imagine, though our imaginations would fall far short in believing that we could ever know that kind of pain. When He pushed up on His feet to get a very short breath, the pain in His feet, mixed with the extreme pain in His back from the scourging, would bring Him to the point of losing consciousness. After getting that un-refreshing breath, He would have to flop back down to alleviate the pain in His hands from holding Himself up for those few brief seconds. This would pull at His hands causing Him another round of excruciating pain.
Many people don't want to think about what I have described above. They want a Jesus who will take away their suffering without question. What they don't realize that, if God did not take Jesus down from the cross, then why should He take away all of our suffering? Our suffering is for us to share in Jesus' suffering, and to grow us as His children.
Some people don't want to know about the beatings Jesus went through. But how can you be a follower of Jesus and not want to follow Him in every way that He wants us to? If you don't know the depth of what He put Himself through for you then how will you ever come to know the extreme love that He has for you? Jesus took upon Himself the Wrath of God so that we wouldn't have to. My Savior is the only one who knows my sufferings and does what He needs to do to help me through them. My Savior is the only one who understands my pain. Is your Savior the kind who tells you that everything will be all right if you just trust Him to do what needs to be done in your life? Mine is, and I love Him very much for it.
But for those who want the less painful story of why Jesus had to suffer and die an innocent man, here it is. Jesus came to earth to suffer and die for us, so that God could re-establish our connection with Him, which was lost when Adam and Eve sinned against Him, thereby bringing the Wrath of God upon all of humanity, since sin is abhorrent to God and cannot be in His very presence. Knowing that we cannot save ourselves from our sinful ways, Jesus came here to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins, for only one who was sinless could do that. Once Jesus took all our sins upon Himself on the cross, His death and resurrection re-established our connection with our Creator. Through God’s grace and forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ, we can once again be in God’s presence. Jesus suffered God’s wrath on the cross so we won’t have to. For the squeamish I say: please watch the scene in the Passion of The Christ movie where Jesus is being beaten. It is the closest we will ever come to witnessing even a tenth of how badly He was really beaten, but not the closest we will ever come to witnessing His great love for us.
In this article I want us to look at the suffering of Jesus in terms of the holiness imparted to us through His work on the cross.
Jesus suffered for me so I could be made holy
What does it mean to be holy? To be holy means to be “set apart” by God. When we became Christians we were set apart (separated) from the rest of the world. On the day that we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God set us apart to continue the work of spreading the Gospel that Jesus had started two thousand years ago. We were also set apart from those who don't believe and have not been saved, for those who don't know Jesus and don't know the truth He spoke to the world. Only we who have been saved can do that because God's Holy Spirit lives within us and tells us what to say to those who are seeking the truth. Each day of our walk with Jesus, we are to become more holy, more like Him, as His truth is further revealed in our lives. Being set apart people we must not do as the world does but as God does. Though we are still in the world, we, as Christians, are no longer of the world, and must keep ourselves, with Jesus' help, from falling back into the way of the world we once followed before we gave our lives to the only One who could save us.
But we are sinners saved by grace. Why would God want to make us holy like Him? Because of that same grace he bestowed upon us when we believed in His Son. When we gave our lives to Jesus, God now sees only Jesus when He looks at us. God sees the holiness of Christ each and every time He takes a look our way. God got what He wanted for the human race when He let His only Son die on the cross for our sins. He also got exactly what He wanted because of Jesus sacrificing Himself on the cross, so that we could get to know the Father He knows. As Hebrews 10:10 explains, "And what God wants is for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time" (NLT). God wants that for the whole human race. God wants to see every one holy as He is holy. Unfortunately, some do not want God's holiness upon them, so they continue to ignore God, His Son, and a life of truth and freedom.
I must become holy because God is holy
In 1 Peter 1:15-16, through the Spirit of God, Paul tells us: "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy". After reading this verse, your first question would probably be, "If I am a sinner, how can I be as holy as God?" The simple answer is you cannot. Not on your own, anyway. Only by accepting God's free gift of salvation can you even begin to start down the path towards holiness.
We will not achieve a complete state of holiness while we are still living on the earth. But God is telling us that we need to live our new lives in Christ in such a way that each and every thing we do, say, and think is in line with His holiness. As we follow the teachings of Jesus, and of all the others the Spirit has used to spread the Gospel, we can achieve one step of holiness at a time. For example, if you have a bad temper, something you know stands in the way of holiness for your life, you must find all the scriptures that deal with temperament, learn them, and pray about them and for God to change your mind and your heart and to show you just why you have this explosive temper. When God has helped you put an end to your bad temper, and you now are at peace with yourself and everyone around you, you will have reached another point of holiness in your life. Now do this for every issue you have and see them fall away until you have become as holy as God.
I must be perfect because God is perfect
This leads us into the next scripture from the book of Matthew. Chapter five, verse 48 says to us, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." The only way for we humans to achieve a complete state of holiness before our God is by becoming absolutely perfect. Perfect in everything we ever do, think, and say at all times -- every second of every minute of every day of our entire lives. The second question you may be asking is, "How in the world can I do everything perfectly right? That's just too much pressure. I'd have to spend every waking moment being careful of everything I do, think, and say? That's impossible!?" I will give you the answer below, but first let's look at what it would take to be perfect in God's eyes.
How do I become perfect?
In Character: Let your “yes” mean yes, and your “no” mean no. Matthew 5:37 – "Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." Simply tell the truth. If you tell someone that you will pray for them, then actually pray for them. If someone asks you to help them move next weekend and you say yes, don't call and lie with an excuse of why you can't make it when you know you can. Show up and help, just like you said you would. How would we all feel if Jesus told us yes to a prayer He is answering and then changed His mind? Especially when the prayer was for something huge that could change our lives for the better. And if you say no to something, don't do it. Don't tell your spouse no to going to the grocery store and then go there only to find out that she had already gone because you said you wouldn't. How do you think she would feel? What this all comes down to is trust. If you keep flip-flopping your yes's and no's how can anyone trust you in the future? Again, imagine if Jesus did that to us; think of the anxiety and stress we would feel everyday instead of His peace if He kept telling us that we, as His children, are going to heaven one day, and then tell us that we are destined for hell the next day. Would we trust Him? Thank the Father that He and His Son are truthful and trustworthy. Be holy as the Father is holy. Acting any other way is to give in to the Satan's ways.
In Holiness: Don’t do as the world does. 2 Kings 17:15 -- They imitated the nations around them although the LORD had ordered them, “Do not do as they do,” and they did the things the LORD had forbidden them to do." There came a time in the life of the nation of Israel when they began to forget their divine heritage and began to trade it in for the heritage of the nations around them. Once a holy people, they became absorbed into the cultures of those whose lands they had decided to live in, to where there was not a vestige of God to be seen anywhere in their lives, manners, or actions. After a time, the Israelites could not be distinguished from those around them. They followed the false idols and customs of the lands and left their God behind, bringing upon themselves the wrath of God; killing every prophet that God had sent to them to warn them of their idolatry. We as Christians are capable of doing the same thing. If we allow the secular world around us to influence us to follow their ways, then we are no different then the Israelites were. How many false gods does the world follow today that could easily ensnare us if we pushed Jesus away from our lives? Being holy is to follow the truth and commandments set forth by God to such a degree that the world cannot sway us to follow any of its ways. Being holy is to have the faith that we don't need the things of the world to lead a happy and healthy life. All we need is Jesus, and that should be plenty enough for all of us.
In Maturity: I must grow into perfection and wholeness. 2 Corinthians 7:1 -- Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete purity because we fear God (NLT). Just as we had to grow in our own skin into adulthood, so must we grow into holiness. Each day from birth we made great strides in being able to walk, to feed ourselves, to talk, to communicate with the world around us. It is the same with holiness. As adults in Christ, we have to learn to walk the walk, to talk the talk, and to communicate the truth of Jesus to those who need to hear His message. But remember, it is not only our words that people will be looking for; it is also our actions combined with our words. Are we walking the walk and not just talking the talk? Each issue and temptation we conquer with the help of the Spirit is one more part of our lives that will be completely Jesus'. The more we allow the Holy Spirit to change us, the more of Jesus the world gets to see. Living a life of holiness means making sure that Jesus has all of me to the point where people see Him and not me when they are looking in my direction. I want the light of Jesus to shine through my face to where my face disappears and only Jesus remains for the world around me to see. Being holy is to remember that it is not all about me – it is all about Jesus.
In Love: I must seek to love others as Jesus did. Mark 12:30-31 – "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” This is what holiness all boils down to -- if I am holy as God is holy then I will love those around me with a love that will show them the Savior. That's what Jesus wants us to do – show people that He truly loves them, does indeed exist, is truly alive, and wants a relationship with them, to make them holy as He is.
Remember when I said that I would answer the question as to how we can be perfect in this life as God wants us to be. The simple answer is Jesus Christ. Only by His work in our lives can we even come close to being perfect. Through His perfection can we be made perfect. But, again, we have to grow into it. Our behavior in this life must match our daily maturity. We will not achieve complete perfection in this life, but as Christians we must strive to be perfect as Christ is perfect. Only when Jesus Christ returns and takes us with Him into heaven will we finally be perfect and know God as He knows us. Until then, follow the Savior wherever He may lead you. Go voluntarily. Carry His holiness out into the world and make a difference to those around you. Let them know that the love of the Savior can make them holy, too.