Christians should, by all means, rejoice in Christ’s blood shed for the remission of sin. What a glorious wonder that He, though He is God from all eternity, would become a Man Who would willingly die on a cross to accept punishment for sins committed by His own creation. Flabbergasting!
Many contemporary evangelicals interpret Christ’s sacrifice as something He did for them. That point of view obviously is true.The apostle Paul writes:
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~~Romans 5:8 (ESV)
And once a sinner glimpses the power of Paul’s statement, understanding that Christ died as his or her substitute, the gratitude gushes forth! Such freedom can’t be met with nonchalance…not if the sinner truly comprehends the magnitude of sin that Christ bore in his or her place. One who sees how deeply sin offends God, Who is perfectly holy, and then sees that this perfectly holy God actually bore that sin on His own body as He suffered an agonizing and humiliating crucifixion will respond in joy and amazement.
Any lesser response betrays a lack of understanding either regarding the reality of personal sin or the hatred God has toward sin. Both deficits result in pride, making Christ’s sacrifice woefully ineffectual for the person. Unbelief blocks any application of Christ’s atonement by rejecting the need for it. But to the person who recognizes his or her spiritual helplessness to please God apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ, His atonement shines as the most astounding miracle ever!
Yet, this miracle is only secondarily for the sinner’s benefit.The Lord’s ultimate purpose in paying the terrible price for human sin was that He might be glorified! As much as Christians benefit from His abundant mercy, He subjected Himself to the cross because His sacrifice held out a promise for Him. The writer of Hebrews embeds this idea in an exhortation towards obedience:
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ~~Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)
“For the joy set before Him!” Whatever joy that may be, it strengthened Jesus enough to willingly put Himself through the torture of an excruciating execution as well as separation from His Father. Ultimately, He died for His sake, knowing that the redemption of humankind, as stinky and corrupt as we are apart from Him, would bring greater honor to Him.
Following Jesus does bring both temporal and eternal blessings to believers, and the Bible bursts with wonderful promises to those who surrender their lives to Him. That being said, a narrow focus on what He has for those who love Him distorts the entirety of the picture, shifting the attention from the glorious Lord of all creation to the creatures who exist to glorify Him. The true perspective must be restored, so that the joy Christians express centers completely and exclusively on the Lord Jesus Christ!