No Greater Love

“Earn it! Earn it!” were the dying words of Captain John H. Miller, to Private Ryan, in the 1998 film, “Saving Private Ryan.”

That war movie was based on the true story of a heroic rescue by a platoon of Army Rangers, sent behind German lines, during World War II. Four sons of Michael and Augusta Niland, of Tonawanda, New York, had all enlisted to fight for their country. One had just been shot down over Burma, and two others had died, with 4,000 other allies, in the invasion of D Day. Frederick “Fritz,” the lone surviving brother, was deep in enemy territory, somewhere behind the lines in Germany.

When the U. S. War Department learned of the death of three of the Niland’s four sons, they decided that losing all four sons was far too high a price for one family to payso they decided to extract him, no matter what the cost. A platoon of Rangers was dispatched with this singular mission.

As the platoon of hardened soldiers traversed battlefields in search of Fritz, one by one, they were taken out by enemy fire. In the movie, when they finally found him, he was involved in holding a bridge from German control. Before they could leave with him, several casualties were taken; one being Captain Miller.

As the Captain lay dying, he challenged the Private to, “Earn it! Earn it!” He meant—Considering the price people paid to save you—Make your life count!  

Think about this: For one person to give his life for another is the greatest sacrifice that could ever be made, and is the ultimate act of courage and selflessness. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

By the same token, the one who is saved by such a great sacrifice should “earn it,” or make his life count. Both facts are involved in God’s sacrifice, Christ’s love, the believer’s salvation, and his subsequent life. Believers should receive it—and make it count.

This theme of unlimited love and selfless sacrifice—the theme of so many love stories, novels and movies—becomes reality and visible on the pages of God’s Word. One passage of such passion and beauty is Romans 5:6-11.

FIRST—We see our Hopeless Condition: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (v. 6). Sin in our nature and by our practice, renders people helpless to live rightly before God. What makes it worse is that we cannot help but sin. It is in our very nature. This fact does not make us blameless—it renders us helpless.

SECOND—We see God’s Loving Demonstration: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (verse 8). God did not see all of humanity in its lost, sinful, condition, and ignore it. Because “God is love” (1 John 4:8), He moved to provide a Savior who could at one time satisfy His perfect demands—and also make a way for God to forgive mankind’s sin. God’s love became visible, demonstrable, when He provided His Son to be the Sacrifice. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  

THIRD—We see Four Effects of Christ’s Sacrifice:

            1) Sinners can be Justified by His Blood—“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood” (verse 9). Because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, sinful people can be forgiven of their sins and can be made just in God’s sight. The only way God can forgive sin, pardon sinners and justify them—is if someone—some perfectly sinless one—pays the penalty. When Jesus lived a perfect life and willingly died on the cross, it was so we could be “justified by His blood.” His blood paid the cost of our sin.

            2) Sinners can be Saved from God’s Wrath—“We shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (verse 9). Because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, sinful people can be forever delivered from facing God’s wrath for their sin. God’s wrath on sin will be poured out. It has not disappeared. It has not dissolved. But it has been taken and born for every believer, in the person of Jesus. The grave truth about God’s wrath is: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). By trusting Christ’s sacrifice—God’s wrath was poured on Jesus—instead of on believers.

            3) Sinners can be Reconciled to God—“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (verse 10). Because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, sinful people can be brought into fellowship with their heavenly Father. Imagine what it will be like in Heaven, reconciled to God! Peter wrote, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Sinner—through Jesus—you will be brought to God!

            4) Sinners can Rejoice through Christ—“And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (verse 11). All of this work of Christ’s sacrifice bringing justification, salvation, and reconciliation results in rejoicing in God’s salvation! We “exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

SO…Make your life count! Don’t waste it. As Captain Miller told Private Ryan with his dying breath, “Earn it” – make your life count because of the price Jesus paid to save it.

Author: Larry E. Clements

Follower of Christ, fortunate to be husband to Pat, father of 5, grandfather of 12, writer, associate pastor of Pauline Baptist Church

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