The good news of the Gospel is that though I’m an impure person, I’m declared to be holy in Jesus Christ. Let me summarize this good news using the best illustration of the Gospel that I know of.
Joseph Serna served four tours in Afghanistan in the Special Forces, receiving three purple hearts. In the course of this, he developed a very serious case of PTSD and a chemical addiction. He moved back to his home in Cumberland County, North Carolina. The illness has been very difficult for him and for his family.
He has appeared before a judge on a number of occasions. The judge’s name is Lou Olivera. Olivera has ordered him to take regular drug testing. On one occasion in 2016, Serna faked the results of a drug test. The next day, he felt so guilty about it because he had developed a friendship with this judge that he went in and confessed to the judge that he faked the results.
Now what is the judge to do? You do not want a world where there is no justice. And this judge is entrusted by the people of the United States of America with justice. So he cannot simply dismiss Serna and say, “Hey, I know you’re having a tough time; just go on. It’s okay.” He can’t do that; that’s not justice.
So here’s what he did: He sentenced him to one night in the county jail. Serna bowed his head, realizing he deserved it. And then Olivera got up, walked down from the bench, and said, “I’m going with you.” And he spent the night in jail with Serna.
When asked why, Olivera explained that he did it for two reasons. First, he was afraid that Serna might hurt himself because of the PTSD. Second, Olivera too was a veteran, and he knew what Serna had gone through. Yes, Serna needed justice, but more greatly than that, he needed grace.
That’s the Gospel in a nutshell. Each of us deserves the justice of God. But God in His mercy entered into our jail and took our sins upon Himself. In this way, God is both just and gracious.
Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (NASB).
(Excerpted from David Young, “Salvation by Christ Alone – Part 5,” 7/1/2018, preached at North Boulevard Church of Christ. Used with permission.)
This story can be found at “In a Jail Sentence, A Veteran’s Redemption—With Helpful from a Fellow Vet,” October 14, 2016, https://www.npr.org/2016/10/14/497804739/in-a-jail-sentence-a-veterans-redemption-with-help-from-a-fellow-vet.