Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court heard two cases related to the issue of same-sex unions, but I’m actually referring to something that is far more controversial and life-altering. What many of us were exposed to this Easter was the proclamation of Christ’s death and resurrection.
And yet, in hearts across America, the good news of the gospel is increasingly met with apathetic agreement or numb indifference. If we took a vote, I’d wager that our emotions were more caught up in last week’s U.S. Supreme Court cases than they were in the events celebrated during Easter. Why is this the case?
Part of the answer is that we are not seeking our all in the gospel.
I experienced this myself the last time I sang an old hymn: “Nothing But the Blood of Jesus.” To my surprise, I found my heart arguing with the truth contained in the lyrics. I became freshly aware of how easily I pursue thoughts of love, justice, hope, and virtue apart from God. Pretty soon, without even meaning to, I think we can construct a Fountain of Life of our own making and ignore the only true life-giving fountain known to humankind: the blood of Jesus.
Look with me at just four short lines from the hymn and see how we all might be tempted to place our hope in substitute fountains.
What can wash away my sin?
Possibly self-atonement, which can seem an attractive, or even a necessary, option. It is good when we sense the need for our sins to be atoned, but we err when we attempt to provide that atonement ourselves through penance. We also err when we interpret present trials as God’s punishment for past sins, as if our suffering could somehow pay Him back.
The truth is that no amount of self-punishment can make up for our failings. No self-inflicted wound can heal our damaged relationship with a holy God. No, it was Christ who was “wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities,” and it is “by His stripes [that] we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). We are sufficiently washed only by the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Maybe time or distance can bring restoration. If we give God enough space and let enough time pass, our sin might possibly disappear from view. After all, there is a statute of limitations on certain crimes. Once a long enough period has elapsed, victims lose the ability to sue the perpetrator.
Sins against a timeless God, however, cannot be erased by the mere passage of time. Every sin not dealt with is a sin stored up for the day of wrath (Eccles. 12:14; Rom. 2:5). Furthermore, our restoration is accomplished by running to God, not from God. Indeed, because of Christ we are urged to approach God’s throne boldly so we might “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). We are made whole only by the blood of Jesus.
This is all my hope and peace.
Right now, I think a lot of us are placing our hope in the potential for change to take place in our society. The upcoming decisions of the Supreme Court will result in our jubilation or devastation. The United States stands at a crossroads, and the path it chooses seems tied to the salvation or ruination of us all.
Not to discount the importance of this moment in history, but the waves of public opinion are not where we find our hope or peace. Societies and nations come and go, as do their value systems. Christ Jesus, on the other hand, is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). It is His finished work that gives us a timeless hope—a hope that will never fade or pass away. Our hope and peace are found only in the blood of Jesus.
This is all my righteousness.
We might seek an advancement of our own righteousness. If we can increase our good works, we might possibly end up on top. Striving harder in our devotional life or dedicating more time to prayer and fasting may be enough to tip the scales and put us in God’s good graces.
The problem with this line of thinking is that it actually treats the gospel as unnecessary. If our efforts are what ultimately makes things right, then Christ died in vain (Gal. 2:21). In truth, even our best efforts amount to nothing more than “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). But thanks be to God, who, through Christ, has become our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). The believer is united to Christ in such a binding way that Christ is his righteousness (Philip. 3:9)! And we inherit this righteousness by—you guessed it—nothing but the blood of Jesus.
The Most Precious Fountain
We were not redeemed by something cheap and corruptible. No broken cistern, no dripping well can compare to this perpetual fountain. Rich stores of blessing are contained in the glorious flow of God’s redeeming love: Cleansing from sin. Complete restoration. Full hope and peace. Perfect righteousness. All ours, full and free, by the precious blood of Christ.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.