How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
How Can We Be Saved?
Can you think of a more basic question? Can you think of a more important question?
How then can we be saved?
Every human being, no matter where they live, or their religion, struggles with this question. The answer most people have in their hearts and on their lips, is simple. “I’ll do my best.” They hope this is good enough, but their hopes are false.
God’s prophet, Isaiah, doesn’t speak of the actions that we’re ashamed of and feel guilty about. Instead he talks about the good things we do. He judges our very best moments of being unselfish, considerate of others, reverent to God, kind, compassionate, and willing to serve others. In view of God’s commands for absolute perfection, Isaiah renders a gut-wrenching verdict. Our righteous acts are like filthy rags. They aren’t even clean rags. Our best actions are disgusting, corrupt, and soiled. Our best will not save us. We beg God to give us a second chance. We plead that he relaxes his standards down to our level. But in response to our sin, God hides his face from us. He closes his ears and will not hear our pleas.
How then can we be saved?
The only hope we have, the only hope we need, is that God is our Father. In undeserved compassion for us soiled human beings, God the Father sacrificed his Son. In a few weeks we will celebrate the birth of innocent Jesus. Through hard work and great sacrifice, Jesus preserved his innocence throughout his life. Finally, he collected our filthy righteous acts and our even more deeply fouled sinful acts. He carried our guilt to the cross where his Father, our Father, measured out every ounce of punishment our vile sins deserved. The Father then exacted from his Son the just punishment we deserved.
The Son of God suffered the punishment of hell in our place, without asking anything in return. He placed into our hands eternal life with our Father as a gift freely given.
By his gift, by his death—this is how we are saved.
Father, we have nothing to offer you because our very best is filthy in your sight. Thank you for giving us your very best. Your perfect, innocent Son died so we would be saved. How can we thank you enough?