Friday, February 24, 2012

We Have Been Forgiven

Matt.26:27-28 - And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Eph.17 - In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
I Jn.2:12 - I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.
ll too often we have taken the glorious simplicity of the faith we call Christianity and we have accessorized it with man made commandments and man made traditions and a systematic theology whose complexity rivals the Unites States tax code. And in our religious enthusiasm to exegete every nanoparticle of Scripture and then act as if we have a complete and working knowledge of every single mystery, we obscure and sometimes obliterate the absolute core of our faith which is the forgiveness of sins.
And if being mature in the faith means taking for granted the forgiveness of our sins, well then we have moved into a degraded level of maturity. And at the core of our so called maturity and what is glaringly obvious and pervasive in the evangelical community, is the minimizing, and in many cases the absence altogether, of the cross of Jesus Christ. It seems as if we no longer need the forgiveness of our sins, and our original sin cleansing encounter with Christ where we were raised from death to life, is nothing more than an historical fact on our spiritual résumé.
To say the current emphasis inside evangelicalism is gospel wanting and weighted heavily toward man and things is to be generous. It highlights a profound lack of understanding concerning the depth of our sin and the labor needed to provide divine forgiveness. And since we consider ourselves spiritually erudite, the western church has taken Christianity, repacked it with attractive and alluring ribbons and frills, and presented it without the uncomfortable aspects of His passion. And when the faith is not burdened by such antiquities such as stripes and thorns and sweat and spears and spit and punches and all that repulsive blood, well we can now present a spiritual narrative which does not make us look foolish.
And voilà, you have a reasonable faith that is designed as a manual for mankind’s earthly success. And now we have molded the Christian faith into part of a well rounded western lifestyle that is wonderfully inconspicuous within the culture. Just as God intended. Fortunately we have learned a lesson from those ignorant and Neanderthals we call the “martyrs”. I mean how ridiculous is it to die for something you believe in? Today’s expression of the faith is so much more rational and defensible without resorting to extremism and a rather cultish behavior.

But satire aside, the church has turned her back on the cross and the forgiveness of sins and has morphed into a religious side show. How dastardly! How cowardly! There is no salvation without the forgiveness of sins and there is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood. If that seems like so much antiquated folklore then move on, the cross is not for you. And since the Osteen-esque church has jettisoned any resemblance to Biblical Christianity, then every believer will have to choose who they will serve.
And the choice that must be made is not like choosing what to eat at some local buffet. This choice may well impact your eternal destiny. Am I being a little melodramatic and sensational? Compared with what Jesus suffered on the cross my words are profoundly tepid. If your sins are not forgiven then you are headed for an eternal existence that is conscious and separated from God. I cannot describe such an existence however it is beyond unpleasant and it is forever. I know, what place does such verbiage have in this feel good religion they erroneously call “Christianity”.
But we must once again bathe ourselves in the glorious knowledge that we have been forgiven of our sins. We were not just some ambivalent sinners; we were consistent and studied practitioners of the art of sin. We could take sins already being practiced and make them a deeper and more devious projection of our darkened hearts. And when we became bored with the usual sin menu, we were adept in inventing new and more prolific expressions of sin. And in our fallen reason and fallen practice we became sin evangelists. We were some piece of work!
But one day by the grace of God’s Spirit we were brought face to face with a Holy God. And suddenly we became aware, albeit with a limited knowledge and appreciation, that we were sinners. And our spirits were awakened to our need of forgiveness. What could we do? Penance? Offerings? Good works? What could wipe the slate clean and wipe out the handwriting of ordinances that condemned us? Mantras? Incantations? Religious talismans?
Oh but then there was that glorious moment! For me it was on top of Garrett Mountain in Wayne New Jersey in March of 1975. In a moment, after God had pursued me relentlessly, I suddenly realized who Jesus really was! I can only share with you a limited narrative since what I experienced on the inside cannot be fully communicated. All of us who are believers came to that moment when the Lord Jesus comes alive with a sacred explosion in your spirit. And then something eternal happens.
The weight of your sin which you had gotten used to is lifted, and you breathe your first breath of redemptive air! I am reliving it again as I type. I mean if we ever lose sight of what He has done for us and who we were and who we are by His matchless grace, then we have lost everything. I have done hard drugs with needles, I have been drunk beyond reason, I have been in street fights, and I have engaged in all sorts of debauchery and immorality, but nothing - NOTHING - NOTHING - has ever compared with what I experienced that night in March.
And that is what is bewildering to me as it concerns this western, bastardized version of the faith in Christ. Have they actually had the born again experience? I had never heard the term “born again” on the night in March of 1975. But not too many days afterward I read the term and my heart leaped within me. I thought, “Yes, that is exactly what it felt like!” Of course, because it was God’s Word. I walked in forgiveness. And even though I still sinned and still was in God’s family classroom designed to make me like Jesus, I felt the eternal weight of sin had been lifted.
In some ways those days were unvarnished and unclouded by all the wrangling over all sorts of side issues. I was in love with Jesus and He was in love with me. I do not minimize the process of maturity we call sanctification, but what I do confront is when maturity expels the childlike faith that always glories in the cross and rejoices in the forgiveness of sins. That is not maturity, that is humanism. I am not ashamed to tell you that I have been saved for 37 years and yet I am almost overcome with emotion as I again revisit the cross of my Redeemer. Have we become so jaded and so doctrinally elite that we can no longer shed tears when we think about our Glorious Lord? Have we become so “mature” that we dare not weep in praise and worship before the Crucified and Risen Christ? If that is our lot than we of all men are most miserable.
So here we are in this world. The evil in tomorrow will take care of itself. But we have been forgiven. We did not deserve it, and in fact we have sinned many times since we were initially forgiven. Redemption is not a license to sin, but it is a covering for sin. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. It doesn’t say that man does not sin, but that God does not mark down his sin against him. Where does it go then?
It was nailed to the cross and it is now at the bottom of the sea of God’s forgetfulness. Listen, let’s be honest here, even after I was saved I still deserved hell just based upon the sins I committed after I came to know Christ. And yet I stand before God clothed in the sinless righteousness of Jesus Christ. Cleansed, redeemed, forgiven. What does the world have to compare with that?! Spurgeon once observed,
When we get to that Celestial City, and when upon that first moment we lay our spiritual eyes upon the Risen Christ, we will think ourselves a thousand fools to ever have been attracted to anything in this present world”.
Amen, amen, and praise the Lord.

1 comment:

Denny said...