What does it mean to trust Jesus?

When we share the gospel with people or when we go to church and hear the gospel shared with us, many times people say, just trust in the Lord and He will take away your sin. That sounds good and it is actually theologically sound. There’s nothing wrong or incomplete about that. But the human heart sometimes has a hard time understanding and experiencing what it means to trust in Christ and to know what is happening when we trust that Christ died for our sins on the cross. How does that work? How does the human mind, soul, spirit, and emotions experience what it means to trust? What are we trusting God to have accomplished for us on the cross when we place our trust in Jesus?

There are two primary things that we’re trusting that Jesus has accomplished for us on the cross. The first one is that we are trusting that Jesus has paid the penalty for all of our sins. For example, what about the small ones? Did God really pay for the small ones or did He really just pay for the big ones that we committed? There were other small ones and is God just saying that He is not going to worry about them? He’s not going to count those against you? He’ll just forgive you, and let those slide? Is that how God does it? No, God is paying the penalty for our sin on the cross through Jesus Christ for every single one of our sins, all of them, the big ones and the small ones.

I remember the first time I ever stole something from a store; I was probably eight or nine years old. It was a bit of a rite of passage for me. I remember being in the candy aisle and seeing that pack of gum, knowing that I had money in my pocket, but deciding on that day I was going to escape the store with that little bit of chewing gum and leave with my money still in my pocket.
Some would say: it’s kind of a small sin, Mark. It’s not that big of a deal for an eight or nine year old boy to steal a piece of 25 cent gum from a store. Does that really merit death? Does it merit the punishment to the extreme that Jesus would be punished the way He was on the cross and die for my sins, indicating that I should have died for that? Is it really all that bad?

Well, let’s think about this for just a little bit. I actually sinned against two people that day. The first person that I sinned against was the store owner. The store owner was a man who was probably struggling to pay the rent on this small store. I remember the strip mall where I stole this piece of gum. He was probably trying to earn an honest living to feed his family and put his kids through school. What did my stealing say to him? It said, my money is worth more to me than you, your dignity and your value as a human being. I want to leave with my money because I care about my money more than I care about you. It says to the store owner that his human value and dignity, his being made in the image of God is not valuable to me, not worth as much as the money that I kept in my pocket. God also told me to love my neighbor, and I failed to do that for this store owner. I said to this store owner: I love me and my money more than I love you and your human value and dignity. Is that overstating it? Some people might think so, but the truth is I can make a strong case that that’s actually understating what I did to that man from a legal justice standpoint when I stole from him.

Then I also sinned against God. I said to God: Your precepts, Your law, Your commands don’t mean very much to me. Actually my desires trump Your commands. I’m saying to God: I don’t trust You to know me and my needs, to provide for me all that I need, to look to You to be my provider. I don’t trust that what You have said to me is true. I don’t trust that Your commands and warnings not to transgress, Your law really mean all that much. Maybe You won’t, maybe You’ll just forgive me. It’s no big deal. I am actually demeaning and defacing the glory and the righteousness of a holy creator God who knows and loves me and gave me these laws, commands and precepts to guide me in the way of righteousness. Again, we are not overstating the case. If I were to make recompense to the man later on, having repented for having stolen from him, how would I do that? Maybe I would take that 25 cent piece of gum back to him and apologize. But because I ate that piece of gum, maybe I take back 25 cents. Is that enough? Probably not. I’ve done something horrible to him as we described. Maybe I pay him back four times; I bring him back a dollar as an apology. Maybe I bring him back 10 times the price of the pack of gum at $2.50 or $25 or $250 or $250,000. Whatever it is that I negotiated in my mind as the measure of my sorrow and what I owe him, I do my best to recompense him. And the reason is because of Hebrews chapter 2, verse 2, which says that: “every transgression, every disobedience is to receive a just retribution.” And my just retribution may be $2.50 and an apology for what I did. Maybe that would set this man’s mind at ease and he and I would be at peace.

But how do I make peace with the holy God that I have transgressed by telling Him that He was not as important to me as I was? That I could not trust God’s ways to provide for me and to be good for me? What do I owe God? How can I make recompense for my sin and my having gone against His will and demeaned His glory? The truth is, nothing short of my very life could ever repay a holy God for what I had done to Him. Maybe even the giving of my life wouldn’t repay that. But at the very least it would demand my very life, death as a punishment for what I did to God. We are trusting that when Jesus died on the cross, He died for all of our sins, the small ones and the big ones.

Most of the time people say it’s the big ones that I have the problem with. I don’t understand how God could possibly forgive me for the big things that I’ve done against Him. I cannot understand how God can forgive me for killing my own child through abortion. Again, going back to the book of 1 John, chapter 1, verse 7 says: “but if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, His son cleanses us from all sin.” That means even the ones that didn’t mean much to us, the small ones like stealing a pack of gum. That means even the ones that our guilty consciences tell us are most abominable to Him, like the slaying of our own children through abortion. No matter what it is, the extreme of small to big, it all demands that wrath be poured out on us or on Jesus in our place.

So we are trusting number one, that when Jesus died on the cross, He died for all of our sins. Number two, we are also trusting that when Jesus died on the cross, He paid and suffered in His body the full punishment for each and every one of our sins – both the small and the great, the ones that we don’t feel that bad about and the ones that we feel most terrible about, that Jesus suffered in His body the full wrath and punishment of God for each one. It’s as if He took a great calculator and added up all of my sins, the small ones and the big ones, and He added up all of your sins, the small ones and the big ones, and all of this person’s sins over here and all that person’s sins over there and all of the sins committed by all the people in the past before us and all of the sins that will be committed in the future should the Lord tarry coming after us? Every one of those sins were calculated up, a sum total for what it was all worth. And that is what He exacted on Jesus on the cross. That’s why His punishment was so severe. The most undignified, the most painful, the most humiliating death that Jesus could have possibly paid, He paid on the cross for our sins. We go back and we look at that great Messianic passage about Jesus from Isaiah in the Old Testament in chapter 53, verses 3-6: “He was despised and rejected. A man of sorrows, a man equated with grief. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. Yet we esteemed Him stricken… smitten by God and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities, upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace. And with His wounds, we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way. And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus experienced the wrath of God for our small sins and for our big sins. He experienced the wrath of God for what we had done wrong against people that we’ve wronged, against the holy, just, righteous God whom we have defaced, demoralized and demeaned.

That is what it means to trust Jesus. What He has done on the cross has accomplished two things: it’s paid for all of our sins and it has paid the punishment for even the sins that we feel most ashamed and guilty about. That is what we are trusting that Jesus did for us on the cross. When Jesus suffered the penalty for our sins, it’s the reason we call the Good News because it pays for all of our sins, and it pays for each and every one of them fully.