Scripture tells us that in addition to being under the wrath of God, we are also slaves to the power of sin. Ephesians 2:1 describes us as being “dead in . . . trespasses and sins,” and Titus 3:3 says of us, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” We don’t live in a way that glorifies God, nor do we desire to do so. Those who are slaves of sin can’t glorify God. They don’t even want to glorify God.

Broken Cisterns

It gets worse. Scripture tells us that not only have we committed cosmic treason, but we have also forsaken the fountain of living water. In Jeremiah 2:12–13 we read, “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Sin is forsaking God, the beautiful fountain of living waters, for putrid, muddy, briny water.

It’s like choosing to eat maggot-infested bread instead of filet mignon. It’s as if someone offered us the crown jewels of England and instead we chose a twenty-five-cent trinket from a vending machine. It’s irrational. It’s foolish. It shocks and appalls the heavens.

Sin is utterly wicked. By choosing sin over God we are saying that it’s better and more satisfying than God. This is the ultimate lie. God is the sum of all excellent things. He alone can truly satisfy our hungry souls. To say that he’s anything less is a grievous insult and the height of wickedness. He must punish such ungodliness. This is a massive problem.

The Solution

But there is a solution to our problem, and his name is Jesus Christ. God the Father sent his Son Jesus to do what we could never do. He sent Jesus to live a life of perfect obedience to the law of God. Every thought he ever had, every word he ever spoke, every deed he ever performed brought honor and glory to God. He was perfect in every sense of the word. If anyone had the right to stand before God’s throne and say, “I deserve to be rewarded for my obedience,” it was Jesus. Then he did the unimaginable. Jesus didn’t claim the reward that his perfect obedience deserved. Instead he chose to die a bloody and shameful death on a splintery piece of wood. As he was hanging on the cross, something absolutely astonishing took place: Jesus was punished for our sins. Second Corinthians 5:21 tells us, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

God the Father looked on God the Son as if he had committed our sins. Then the Father poured out his furious wrath on Jesus, crushing him for our sins. Every perverted thought we ever had, every prideful boast we ever made, every venomous word we ever spoke was laid upon Jesus. He took it all, receiving the full hatred of God toward those sins. He completely drained the cup of God’s wrath.

Now if we come to God in repentance we can be forgiven of every sin we ever committed or will commit. The unbearable weight of our sins will be removed, and God will credit Jesus’ perfect life to us. God will look upon us as if we had never sinned and always perfectly obeyed him. It’s an exchange of our sins for Christ’s righteousness. God strips us of our filthy rags of sin and wraps us in white robes of righteousness. What a blessed exchange this is!

We who receive Christ’s righteousness also receive new spiritual life. Like flowers blooming in a barren wasteland, new desires spring up in our once spiritually dead hearts, desires to please God and obey him. This change is described in Ephesians 2:4–5, which says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (NIV). Our relationship to God also changes. Before salvation we are enemies of God and under his wrath. After salvation, God adopts us as his children and gives us all the privileges of being sons and daughters of God. What incredible mercy he pours out on us!