by Linda Bond, Commissioner –
Tom Cruise has revived the old “Mission Impossible” series and has turned it into a fast action thriller that movie watchers can’t seem to get enough of. You know the story line: What would be impossible for any mere man is a routine challenge for the hero, who confronts every aspect of the mission with daring and grit. He specializes in the impossible and accomplishes his mission.
However, the glitz, glitter and mind-boggling stunts pale in comparison to the defining moment on Golgotha’s hill. There, the power of sin and death were broken for all time in what appeared to be the helpless, emaciated body of a Nazarene itinerant preacher, teacher, healer.
But those sermons and lessons and healings were only part of the whole mission. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1 Timothy 1:15) said the apostle Paul. The danger for us is to think of this too glibly. The old, old story almost becomes synonymous with Hollywood fairy tale and wizardry—or worse, a tale of yesteryear that somehow has lost its punch in the 21st century.
But freedom from sin and death up until this point was “mission impossible.” We’re talking bondage here and whether it be to sin, guilt or the law, human effort was powerless to effect a change and provide a freedom worth talking about. To complicate the matter, sinners by birth and by choice are called “enemies of God” (Romans 5:10) by the apostle. From the early chapters of the Bible, we know that sin needed to be atoned for and the human heart cleansed if ever humanity would be free to be the loving, pure individuals who could thrive in community. The apparent inadequacy of the solutions offered through the sacrificial system, the law and the prophets is a powerful commentary on the condition of the human heart and the requirements of a just God.
But one day, what was impossible for man was possible with God. The mission impossible turned into mission accomplished. Jesus stated at the commencement of his ministry that he came to finish his Father’s work and finish it he did. The cry from the cross, “It is finished” was not the whimper of a tortured victim but the shout of the lamb who was indeed the lion who triumphed. “He became sin for us.” We were redeemed, not with silver or gold, but by the precious blood of the Lamb. To those in bondage to sin and guilt, his shout means Redeemed!
One of the most significant moments of the International Congress in Atlanta was the singing of the ARC’s men’s chorus, “Redeemed how I love to proclaim it.” And these men are living testimonies that the chains of bondage could be broken only by One who defeated the power of sin on the cross. But for many, the guilt of sin still holds them captive. Wasted lives, hurt loved ones, years of rebellion and pain. The songwriter got it right when this prayer was registered: “Be of sin the double cure, save me from its guilt and power. And that cry from the cross still shouts the truth, “He breaks the power of cancelled sin, he sets the prisoner free. His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood avails for me.” Hallelujah!
The shout, “Finished!” to those who are law-breakers in the sight of God, means “Justified!” This is not a synonym for forgiveness. It doesn’t simply mean pardon. The law may grant pardon, but one is still a pardoned criminal. But here the atoning death of Jesus makes it possible for us to have a change of status. Now there’s an impossible task. How can a just God justify unjustifiable sinners? How can the unrighteous be declared righteous? The Scripture explains “But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness comes from God through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3: 21-24) Hallelujah!
And to the enemies of God who come to him through Christ, the Lord gives the victory cry “Reconciled!” The estrangement caused by sin is now over. We come before God as friends, with boldness and without fear because of the shed blood of Jesus. It is more than a “no condemnation now I dread” experience. Here, we have access on a daily basis, even moment by moment, to talk to our living, holy God as friend to friend. But we go deeper still into this mystery when we realize that this reconciliation has made it possible for us to be adopted into his family and communicate and share in his life as children of God. Hallelujah!
The spiritual asks a probing question, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Yes, I was there, with an impossible burden, an impossible status, with an impossible relationship but he was there! And he truly did snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The mission impossible was the mission accomplished.