Well, 2011 is here now and like many others, we’ve spent some time looking back at 2010. There are a lot of good memories of our children and grandchildren, supporting cancer foundation efforts, hosting Colorado College international students, and having room in our home for ‘sojourners’ of various sorts. Perhaps two of the most significant ‘recollections’ of 2010 were the following:
Our son Daniel, who had confronted his condition apart from Christ and met his Savior the year before, was married to a wonderful girl here in Colorado Springs last April. They live not far from us, and it is a delight to watch them grow together as a married couple, as well as spiritually.
Our six year old grandson was only recently riding in the car with his Mom and Dad in Virginia, and broke out in tears over ‘bad things’ he had done. His Mom and Dad lovingly explained to him why none of us ‘deserve’ heaven, also explaining Christ’s perfect life and sacrifice for our sins, and a six-year old trusted in, and professed Jesus as his Savior!
We noticed a common thread in both our son’s and our grandson’s meeting with the Savior. They both faced their ‘bad things’ (sin); realized their condition before a Holy God, and in the spirit of repentance, received God’s provision through the death of His Son, on their behalf. The only difference between them is the depth of understanding a thirty-something might have and that of a six year old. Whatever that might be, they both dealt with the most fundamental issue at stake in the salvation of fallen people, the issue of ‘sin’.
Way back in 1973, a psychiatrist, Karl Menninger, authored a book titled ‘Whatever Became of Sin?’ (New York: Hawthorn Books). After an extensive survey of the ills of human kind, the doctor concluded that something basic must be wrong with the human race, whether one uses such terms as sin, crime, wrongdoing, mental illness, etc. There was then, and there still is a tendency in psychiatric circles to blame all the ‘bad things’ people do on external issues or society in general. He found such complacency toward the idea of “sin” that he thought the question should be the title of his book.
While we don’t find it particularly surprising that the issue of ‘sin’ has been largely removed from secular arenas, it should be absolutely startling to find the topic of sin and the dreaded “S” word omitted, or treated lightly, from many ‘pulpits’ across America, and virtually taboo in many ‘Christian’ small group discussion venues.
What does all that have to do with reminiscing about our son and grandson? Maybe not much to readers of this blog, but to its author it’s a really BIG deal, and a great comfort to know that the central issue of the message of the gospel, the main reason Christ was sent to earth, to die for the sins of men, was the central issue of their meeting their Savior and professing faith in Him.
You see, as we look across the landscape of evangelical Protestantism in America these days, the central issue of the gospel message appears to have changed. We hear all sorts of things presented as ‘fundamental’ to the gospel message; meeting our temporal needs, fulfilling our desire for meaning, transforming society, lifting up the poor, and even making us rich and healthy.
Admittedly, all of these ideas about the gospel latch onto a perceived problem and say, “That’s what the gospel is all about!” But are any of those things what the gospel is really all about? Are any of those things the fundamental problem the gospel addresses?
The Bible says “No, none of them.” The Bible clearly teaches that humanity’s fundamental problem is our sin and God’s wrath against us because of our sin.
God’s wrath against our sin is the fundamental problem the gospel addresses. Jesus died on the cross as a propitiation, a sacrifice that turns away God’s wrath (Rom. 3:23-25; 1 Jn. 2:2, 4:10) in order that we would be saved through faith in him.
- “Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? “His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him” (Nahum 1:6)
- “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18).
- “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6)
- “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev. 6:15-17).
I wish I knew the number of hours I spent last year discussing with professing Christians, both in online forums and face-to-face, the fact of the issue of ‘sin’ being at the center of the message of the gospel. There was a time in the Christian church when that was a ‘given’. I fear that time is long gone. When Paul’s very specific definition of the gospel (1 Cor 15:1-4), “that Christ died for our sins” is called ‘personal opinion’, we have a very serious problem in the church. When a professing Christian, who has claimed to have read the Bible, states that sin is ‘part’ of the gospel and the plan of redemption, but NOT central to its message, we either have a serious problem in the church, or a complete failure of our schools and learning institutions to teach us how to read a book and pick out its major theme.
I will proclaim on my deathbed, as I sometimes do now, that the duty of a Christian to share the gospel, the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ , is by far the greatest privilege bestowed upon the children of God by their eternal Father! We must do so faithfully and accurately, whether people like the message or not, trusting God to do His work and save His people. If I, or you, ‘lead’ someone to Christ with ‘secondary’ promises pertaining to this life the main focus, but without making the main thing THE ‘main thing’, all we are doing is helping lost friends and loved ones think they are saved while still bound for Hell. Will their blood be on our hands?
Food for thought for the New Year. . .
The above was adapted in part from a Q&A section of 9Marks ministries.