Example vs Substitute
What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘substitute?’ I’m not sure it’s always such a good thing. If you see a substitute for chocolate, is it what you reach for first? I know I don’t. I want the real thing. If you’re picking out burgers to put on the grill, do you get excited about those tofu patties? Not me. The word substitute doesn’t always have a good connotation.
We yearn for the real thing. That’s true in spiritual matters as well. So then why are so many willing to settle for a cheap imitation when it comes to the righteousness required to live with God in heaven?
What do I mean? Well, Mormons look to the Bible primarily as a rule book and so when they look to Jesus, they see a great example to follow. Messages like the following are often heard at their conferences, “The Lord leads us along the way towards becoming like Him, our perfect example.” Just think of that. If you think of Jesus first and most as your example it will bring pressure, obligation, and guilt. The focus is then on what you do, trying harder, becoming better. The burden is on you. And deep down, we all know that our imperfect efforts are a cheap imitation that can’t hold a candle up to the genuine article.
To be sure, the Bible does speak of Jesus as an example (John 13:15, 1 Corinthians 11:1), however, it’s in the context of speaking to believers who already know the main message of the Bible – Jesus is our substitute.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”
(2 Corinthians 5:21).
Many have heard that Jesus took our punishment on the cross. Yet that’s only part of the equation. While Jesus was most certainly our substitute for those six hours on the cross, he was also the substitute we needed for the 33 years he lived perfectly in our place. Jesus not only removed my sins of pride; he also lived perfectly humble. He took away my jealous thoughts and replaced them with his perfect record of contentment. As your complete substitute, he won for you the righteousness God requires.
Jesus as your substitute is a message that demonstrates he’s done it all for you. It brings sweet relief and a heart overflowing with joy. It puts the focus all on Jesus.
Example or Substitute? Do or Done? You or Jesus? When you interact with your Mormon friends, remember with compassion that their focus is on Jesus as their example. As you witness, contrast the cheap imitation of our efforts with his perfect record credited to us through faith. He’s so much more than our example; he’s our substitute. Praise God for it! Help them discover the beauty of this ‘substitute’ unlike any other.