by Stan Smith
I remember once sitting with a fellow who was an agnostic but wanted to know the Gospel. So I gladly shared it with him as carefully and clearly as I could. "We're all sinners, guilty of Cosmic Treason against God, and we all deserve eternal punishment. But Christ died on our behalf so we could be saved from that punishment. If you put your faith in Him for that salvation, you can live with Him for eternity." Something like that. "Well," he said, "I'm working on it." Working on it? What does that mean?
In a recently overheard conversation, I listened in as two self-professed Christians discussed an older gentleman and his girlfriend. They were living together, you see, without the benefit of marriage, and she felt guilty about it. "So she told me," one of the two conversants said, "that she felt bad because they were living in sin." "Living in sin?" the other said. "Don't they know that's for young people to keep them from sleeping around?"
Despite the Billy Graham's and his lesser compatriots like me of this world, it is abundantly clear that we are just not getting it. I say "we" because it appears that nearly as many Christians as non-Christians don't seem to understand. What's it all about? What is Christianity? How is it any different than any other religion? How, for instance, does one "work on" placing their faith in Christ? And why are there "rules"? The absolutely most common perspective in and out of Christendom is that Christianity is here simply to make bad people into good people. Morality. You know, that sort of thing. That is what my friendly neighborhood agnostic was working on. That was the point of God's commands against sex outside of marriage. Clearly, that's what it's all about. And that is so far off base!
It's really about the Cross and the subsequent Resurrection. Have you ever wondered why the Resurrection at all? I mean, that's a sticking point with a lot of people, right? (I can name at least one actual pastor in good standing with his denomination who doesn't believe the Resurrection ever happened.) Well, the whole sequence that played out at the end of Jesus's life was to solve a singular problem, aptly summed up in Paul's Epistle to the Church at Ephesus: "You were dead in your trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). You might think it's more complicated than that, but there it is. Dead in your sins.
Christ came, then, to die for your sins. God "made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). And that is truly Good News. On the Cross He sealed my pardon, paid the debt, and made me free. But notice, if you will, that the problem is only partly solved at this point. "You were dead in your trespasses and sins." So the "trespasses and sins" part is taken care of at the Cross, but not the "dead" part. Paul says that the Resurrection is the basis upon which we can anticipate our own resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). On the Cross He defeated sin, but at the Resurrection He defeated death itself. "We have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4). Christ on the Cross conquered sin and in His Resurrection conquered our problem with death.
What's it all about? It's not about making bad people into good people. It's not about rules and regulations. Oh, those are the natural outcome, the obvious by-product, the certain result. Seeking to please the One who accomplishes the defeat of sin and death on my behalf is only natural. But that's the by-product, not the aim. The aim is what we celebrate today: Making dead people live. Therein lies the Gospel. That's our Good News. Anything less is just another religion.
"God's Words For US" from
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I'm married with four grown children and (currently) four grandchildren. My wife and I live in sunny Phoenix by choice. I hope to encourage people with my words and to share with others what God has shared with me.
For more writings you can see my blog at birdsoftheair.blogspot.com.
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