The “It Is Finished” Gospel
I remember many church days working hard to get right with God so that I could be pleasing in His sight. My religious peers would remind me daily of how wicked we are, and how unworthy we are, and as such I spent every waking moment focusing on my behavior, instead of casting my eyes entirely on Christ. No matter how much I exhausted myself I questioned if it was really enough. To me, Christians did not rest. God needed us and we had a lot of hard work to do to get His word out there, and along the way, we hoped to impress Him. And it didn’t matter how much work I did or how well I did at “dying to self” because the reality was I was still a wicked man with an evil heart. At least so I thought.
Hang tight because in a moment I plan to share some amazing verses that will help you to realize that Jesus has already made us completely right with God, and it’s okay to rest and stop examining yourself like some kind of fruit inspector. In fact, look at what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:3 – “But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself.”
Today, as a mature Christian I have come to realize that what Jesus did on the cross worked, and it is finished, and I need to enter His rest from works-based religion. Hebrews 4:11 says “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience”.
In the first ten chapters of Hebrews, the only kind of disobedience ever discussed was the sin of unbelief. The Jews were being called to a new kind of “work”. They were being called to “work” to enter “rest”. They would enter rest by getting free from the law (works-based efforts) and placing their faith in Jesus alone. Jesus said, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30), and it’s this rest that makes this verse so true.
I struggled with this for some time. After all, if righteousness and closeness with God were on faith alone then my efforts and works have no part in it, but my religious peers were not going to let me off the hook so easily. You know how it sounds….”that’s a license to sin”….” you’re just making excuses to justify your sin”…” you’re just trying to get your fire insurance”….”that’s hyper grace”. Now I have to be honest, those one-liners got me for a long time. They sounded so spiritual and ominous that I figured they had to be true. But there was only one problem. The problem was no matter how spiritual what they said sounded my being made totally right with God apart from my works (good or bad) never actually made me want to sin more or serve less. In fact, the more I rested in the finished work of Christ the greater my desire was to live a godly life. That’s right, contrary to what the legalist teaches, the more I believed in total forgiveness and never-ending grace the more I was able to live a godly life. I finally stopped trying to measure my position with God based on me and my perfection, and instead based on Jesus. There’s something powerful about knowing you are close to God apart from works, apart from the law. It just changes us.
I know my peers meant well, but sadly many of them just can’t seem to get past the old testament and pre-cross scriptures. Is the old testament important? Yes, it is. The whole bible is important, but it all points to Jesus, and if we’re not careful we miss the most amazing message on planet earth. Sometimes a part of me wishes that they were only able to read post-cross scriptures. It’s kind of hard to be a legalist if that’s all you have to read. Of course, I don’t really want them to miss out on any of the bible. I just wish they could see more clearly.
So are we okay with God even when we mess up or have a period of time where our works are limited? What if there’s an extended period with limited works? What about this idea of only being positionally forgiven? What about progressive sanctification? What about judicially justified? The truth is none of these teachings are in the bible. They are just man-made religion teachings, and sadly it’s very popular in the Christian circle.
Here is the good news, and it’s news I wish more believers would understand. When scripture talks about things like forgiveness, sanctification, and justification it talks about them in the past tense form. In other words, your daily works and struggles with sins are not in play when it comes to your being clean and close to God. Your faith in Christ alone is enough. Why? Because your works or lack of sins are not what made/makes you right with God. Jesus is. Let’s peek at how God describes who we are in Christ, and I hope you’ll take notice of words like “have been” and others that clearly describe a finished job.
[1 Corinthians 6:11] but you WERE washed, but you WERE sanctified, but you WERE justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
[Romans 5:1] Therefore, having BEEN justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
[Ephesians 2:13] But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off HAVE BEEN brought near by the blood of Christ.
And then there’s this idea of needing to kill ourselves off and die daily. But scripture tells us we have already died and we are no longer dead in Adam, but rather we have been made alive in Christ because He lives in us. Why would you kill off what God has made new?
[Galatians 2:20] I have BEEN crucified with Christ; and it is NO LONGER I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
The takeaway is this. We avoid sin and serve because it’s part of the natural Christian life. But our righteousness and closeness to God are not based on how much we do or how awesome we are at avoiding sin. It’s 100% based on our faith in Jesus. I am discovering all too often the popular theologians write seemingly wise articles that have a whole lot to say about what we need to do, yet you might only find the name “Jesus” once or twice. I ask you this, while living godly lives is important, why do so many people spend more time talking about what we need to do than they do about what Jesus already did?
Have you entered His rest through faith alone? The truth is “it is finished” and you have been invited to rest in Him. There are countless reasons to avoid sin, but getting more forgiveness is not one of them.
God loves you. If you’re going to work, then work to enter rest. Everything else will flow naturally from there.
God Bless You All.
Author: Mike Cynar
Mike Cynar was raised in a church setting where he frequently noticed that many attendees would eventually drift away. The church labeled these individuals as ‘back sliders’ or ‘fake Christians’ just looking for ‘fire insurance’. However, Mike realized the issue was rarely with these individuals but instead with the church’s message itself. The teachings heavily emphasized behavior improvement and one’s flaws, with only a fleeting mention of one’s identity in Christ. It felt as though every sermon was tailored to the church of Corinth, who as we know or committing sins that even unbelievers don’t partake in. This trend was noticeable not just in one denomination, but across Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, and many other churches. Upon understanding the true essence of the gospel – that our righteousness comes from Jesus’ actions, not our own – Mike was inspired to liberate believers from lifeless sermons and reconnect them with the genuine teachings of Jesus. He believes that one can nurture a vibrant and growing bond with Jesus, unhindered by rigid religious practices. And thus, “Jesus Without Religion” was born.
It turns out that it is grace that leads to repentance. And if our heart is to get others to walk in the Spirit and live a godly life, then the best approach is not a beat down sermon, but rather to remind other that it is only when we understand our true identity in Christ that we will live it out. Yes, it’s true, if you’re convinced that God thinks you’re a dirty sinner, you will ultimately continue a lifestyle that mirrors that view, but if you truly believe that even on your worst day, you are called holy, sanctified, justified, and will be presented blameless in the end, well, it turns out this is the secret to living out on the outside what has been worked in to the inside.