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Devotional by Ray Stedman for February 26 -The Heart of the Gospel

Topic:The Heart of the Gospel

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:6

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This, of course, is the very heart of the gospel, the good news. Jesus took our place. As Peter puts it, He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, (1 Peter 2:24). He took our sins and paid the price for them. He had no sins of his own and Scripture is very careful to record the sinlessness of Jesus himself. He was not suffering for his own transgressions, but for the sins of others. One writer has put it rather well,

It was for me that Jesus died, For me and a world of men. Just as sinful and just as slow to give back His love again. And He did not wait until I came to Him. He loved me at my worst. He needn’t ever have died for me If I could have loved Him first.

That is the problem, isn’t it? Why do not we love him first? Why is it that we can only learn to love our Lord once we have beheld his suffering — his excruciating agony on our behalf? It is because of our transgressions, as this passage declares. They have cut us off from recognizing the divine gift of love that ought to be in every human heart.

Sin is a disease that has afflicted our entire race. We cannot understand the depth of human depravity until we see the awful agony through which our Lord passed, behold the hours of darkness and hear the terrible orphaned cry, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46). All this spells out for us what we really are like. Most think of ourselves as decent people, good people. We have not done, perhaps, some of the terrible things that others have done. But when we see in the cross of Jesus, we realize the depth of evil in our hearts and understand that sin is a disease that has infiltrated our whole lives. Man, who was created in the image of God and once wore the glory of his manhood, has become bruised and marred, sick and broken, his conscience ruined, his understanding faulty, his will enfeebled. Genuine integrity and the resolve to do right has been completely undermined in all of us. We know this to be true. No wonder, then, this verse comes as the best of news: He was wounded for our transgressions. The bruising that he felt was the chastisement that we deserved, but it was laid upon him.

There is no way to read this and fail to see that our Lord is the great divine Substitute for the evil of the human heart. We can lay hold of this personally by the honest admission stated in Verse 6: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. How true that is of each of us! Who can claim anything else? I grew up in Montana, and I know something about sheep. Sheep are very foolish and willful creatures. They can find a hole in the fence and get out, but they cannot find it to get back in. Someone must go and get them every time. How true are the words, We have turned every one to his own way.

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Frank Sinatra made a song popular a few years ago, I Did It My Way. When you hear that it sounds like something admirable, something everybody ought to emulate. How proud we feel that we did it our way. But when you turn to the record of the Scripture, you find that that is the problem, not the solution. Everyone is doing things their way, so we have a race that is in constant conflict, forever striving with one another, unable to work anything out, because we all did it our way.

The way to lay hold of the redemption of Jesus is to admit that All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way; and then to believe the next line, But the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He bore our punishment and took our place.

Thank you, Lord, for taking my own punishment upon yourself. Forgive me for those times that I still seek to do things my way rather than yours.

Life Application
The problem of sin puts us all in equal need of redemption. Jesus died for us all, so that we could be free to live no longer for ourselves but out of worship and gratitude for His atoning death. Do our lives disparage this amazing grace?

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