Monday, May 30, 2011

Repentance and the Forgiveness of Sins.

"It is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations." (Luke 24:46-47 ESV)

The historian Luke records this as some of Jesus last words to his disciples before his ascension into heaven. It contains one of the most succinct and complete statements in regard to the nature of the Gospel in all of Holy Scripture. And it's indictment upon much that is preached in the name of Christ and the Gospel today in "Christianity" is telling. Indeed, throughout history we can see that all departures into false doctrine, heresy, and schism, are the result of a fundamental denial of the truth contained in these two verses.

The Gospel presented here is clear and hard to screw up. Upon the basis of the vicarious and substitutionary death of Christ in our place and his resurrection on the third day, God offers forgiveness of sins to those who repent and trust in Christ. That is the message that should be proclaimed everywhere.

It isn't subjective, about my own emotions, feelings and experiences, but it's objective. It's extra nos, outside of us. It's about what happened on a dark weekend two thousand years ago outside of Jerusalem. Jesus doesn't live "because he lives in my heart". He lives because it's a historical fact. And it contains Earth shattering implications for all of humanity.

We are not to be proclaiming doomsday, the end of the World, or various end times scenarios. We are to be proclaiming Jesus Christ and him crucified, risen, and reigning for the forgiveness of sins, the justification of the sinner, for the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. The Christian Gospel is not God is coming back to destroy everything. It's God already came and destroyed everything on the Cross. Satan, sin, death, the curse of the Law, all have been defeated. There is now a New Creation and it has invaded and overthrown this present wicked age.

It is telling that this message is not about me, and it's not about you. It isn't about practical tips for everyday living. It isn't about how to have a better marriage, or better finances, or any other recipe for a victorious Christian life. It's about Jesus and his suffering, his death, and his resurrection. It's about repentance and forgiveness of sins being preached in His name. It's not about my best life now. It isn't about what I have to do, it's about what He has done for me.

Christianity is not about moral improvement or transformation. That's law, not Gospel. The law gives us the standard and tell us what to do. If you have to do it, it's law. What's our part in Gospel? Ours is the sin that needed forgiveness. Sin is violation of the law, failing to meet God's moral standard. John says in his letter, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."(1 John 1:8-10 ESV) Christians are simul iustus et peccator, simultaneously justified and sinners. Look at your self and your "victorious Christian life" long enough in the light of God's holiness and law and you'll be thrown into despair! You need just as much grace, mercy, and forgiveness from God right now as you did before you became a Chrsitian. "Forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us." Christ offers forgiveness to everyone: to the unbeliever, and to the Christian as well. Repentance and forgiveness of sins proclaimed in his name to all nations.

It's not about the individual. It's not about social justice. It's not about community. It's not about moral improvement, or the end of the world. Some of these things are good, and are results and implications of the Gospel. The Gospel should lead to moral improvement, community, and social justice. But those are results of the Gospel's work in the hearts and lives of believers. It isn't the Gospel itself. The fruit of a tree is not the tree itself. Jesus said, "Good trees produce good fruit. Bad trees produce bad fruit". Worry about the tree. Focus on the getting good trees and good fruit will come. Cats meow, dog's bark, cows moo, and Christians bear fruit. But in order to get a Christian, you have to have the GOSPEL and the Gospel is about the forgiveness of sins because of Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection in your place.

The message is we are all rebels, in violation of God's holy Law. We are all failures in the law keeping department. Jesus through his suffering, death, and resurrection in our place offers us forgiveness and absolution from all our sins. Embrace Christ! Trust in Him. There is plenteous forgiveness in Christ, because God the Father punished him in your place! If you are in a Church where this is not placarded every single week: FLEE! Run for the hills. If repentance and the forgiveness of sins is not preached in Jesus name every week, then all you're getting is Law and it's going to kill you.