Some gifts are a short time coming. We go looking for a gift we have yet to decide upon and are spontaneous at the last minute. Some gifts are a long time coming. We have thought it through and know precisely what it is we are looking for. But none of our gifts are an eternal time coming.
“You could have saved us in a second, but instead you sent a child” (Seasons, Hillsong Worship). Jesus was neither a spontaneous gift, hurriedly announced by angels to shepherds in Bethlehem, nor a plan designed long, long ago when Adam and Eve exited Eden. God’s eternal plans were realized “in the fulness of time” in Christ (Galatians 4:4).
But how can that which has always been come into being? In a world God creates. And, still, God went further. He wrote himself into his story, your story, in Christ. Jesus appeared (1 John 3:5), not out of nowhere, but from eternity; he took on flesh, a body like ours. If God knows all things, creates all things, and sustains all things from beginning to end, then why “must” he give his Son, sending him as he did, to be born, to live, to die, to be buried, to be raised, and to ascend to the right hand of God?
Because humanity isn’t God’s mistake. We are his creation, plan, delight. Yet, as such, we are fallen, broken, lost, condemned because of our sin. But, as such, God is recreating us, a sinful humanity and world, by restoring all things in and through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:10).
Towards this end/beginning, Jesus came to know, to share in, and to experience each and all of our suffering and brokenness (Heb 2:17-18; 4:14-15; 5:8) To save us, he didn’t come to sin like us. Rather, although he was unlike us and righteous before God, he came to willingly suffer and to endure, and to freely accept, the entirety and eternality of the consequences and punishment of our sins, dying on a cross, to be forsaken in our place.
As Christians, when we speak of our salvation, of being justified in and united to Christ by faith, we say something like, “It is as if I’d never sinned”. But that is only one side of the coin. The other, and as equally precious, side of the coin is to say, “It is as if I’d always obeyed”.
When your sins are forgiven and removed in Christ, it doesn’t leave a stain or a vacuum or an abandoned space where something used to be. Rather, it cleanses and fills and transforms. Your sin is covered. With what? Christ’s righteousness. Jesus came for every sin and for every righteousness.
If, for example, you lie this afternoon and ask God for forgiveness tonight, he will forgive you in Christ your sin of lying. But that’s not all that happens. It also means that in place of your lying you have been given the righteousness of Jesus— his truthfulness, his truth telling, his faithfulness to the truth. The all-important and essential thing to remember, to rejoice in, about the gospel of Jesus Christ, is that we are righteous before God, not only forgiven.
On the cross, Jesus gave himself for us in our sin and to us in his righteousness. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)