Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gospel that Saves, or Judgement that Condemns?

It's been said that whenever a tele-preacher/ministry would fall hard, it made headline news for weeks. However, when a celebrity would fall, no one would really bat their eye then. Why is this so? I have to wonder, is it because what’s often give from the pulpit is judgmental and condescending? Could the world be finally getting a chance to say “aha”? For so many years “the people” have been told to not do this or that, and that God would punish them if they did do this or that, now the shoe is on the other foot so to speak? Really, who could blame them? Finally, the one doing the judging is finally being judged. 

Is the message being preached from the pulpit the Gospel that Saves? Or is it the Judgement that Condemns? One is good news, the other is not. What are we hearing?
For years, I taught the Judgement that Condemns, thinking I was sharing the Gospel that Saves. I taught what had been taught to me. The teaching is that Jesus did die on the cross, but that His work wasn’t finished. We needed more forgiveness given to us each time we sinned. We were not, in fact, forgiven creatures, but rather, creatures in need of constant forgiveness. We need to constantly ask God to forgive us, as unforgiven people don’t make it to heaven. So, we try not to sin as much, therefore, we don’t have to ask forgiveness because we “proudly have not sinned in a while.  Is it any wonder that we felt discouraged more often than not? While in a crowd, and talking of our activities that surely God must be pleased with, we felt a sense of accomplishment. However, in the privacy and quietness of our homes, we were faced with the hard fact that we weren’t as good as we thought we were. Of course, all the more reason to “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together”. Makes sense, doesn’t it? The more we get together and pat ourselves on the back, the better we feel about ourselves. Of course, if we meet for lots of activities, we need to pay tithes in order to furnish our ‘house of worship’. If you tithe, God will bless you, you understand, don't you? It was all connected. 
Sadly, I taught this to my children’s groups for years. I cringe when I think of the bondage I put them under. Thankfully, God doesn’t let anything I do, good or bad, mess up His plans of redemption for those who’s hearts are tender towards the things of God. There came such a time that I was hit square in the face with the Gospel that saves.  I am forgiven. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men’s sins against them. I John 1:9 does not have the word ‘ask’ anywhere in it, nor any synonym of ‘ask’. Confessing is giving information, whereas asking is inquiring, or receiving information. Why did I not see this before? After wrestling with a brother in Christ for months based on Scripture, I was asked to read the book, Classic Christianity by Bob George. The same conversations that I had over the months with this brother in Christ, kept popping up in this particular book. There is no longer any forgiveness to be given out. It was done at the cross. That one time act of Jesus dying reached forward to the end of linear time, and backwards back to Adam. The sin issue is done. Will I call God a liar, and continue to ask Him to give me what He’s already given me? Or will I accept the fact that I’m in a state of forgiveness? Will I accept that all of my good works amount to nothing? Will I admit that all my sweat and tears that have been poured into children’s ministries have been for naught? Or will I desperately cling to what I have known all my life for fear of being ostracized by my fellow church people? What will I do? No longer can I sit on the fence and pretend that I don’t know the Gospel. For 60 seconds I hesitate, and then gratefully drank in all that God wanted to give me. 
What about you? Will you continue to ask God to forgive you on a daily basis? Will you constantly live in fear of never living up to the righteous requirements? (BTW, nothing less than perfection will do… sorry--all the sincere attempts of “trying” aren’t good enough) 

It is grace that teaches us to say no to  ungodliness, not self effort, and certainly not the law. Through the Law, I died to the law, and the life I now live, is lived by faith in Jesus Christ. I'm dead to the law. I no longer need it. 
Jesus, however, I need. For life, godliness and justification. 

How will you respond? Will you attempt an entry into heaven based on keeping the law? Or will you humbly accept the fact that you need a savior, and only the Messiah, Jesus Christ Himself, can fill that bill? 
The choice is yours. 

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