I think if Jesus were to walk our very streets in this day and age saying what he used to say when he began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, he would be faced with the reply, “Repent? Repent of what?”.
While Jesus came to save people from their sins (Matthew 1:21), I wonder if he would find any sin today to save people from, not to say at all that people are without sin, but to say that sin is no longer regarded as sin but has become rather a right people fight for. And since Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32), what is therefore the need for a savior if there is no one to save?
I live today in a world where righteousness is reduced to simply being good, thus making everyone righteous by their own admission. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who hasn’t answered a blatant yes when asked “do you consider yourself to be a good person?”.
More so, of the things that Jesus said in Matthew 15:19 would defile a person (evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander), at least half isn’t even considered wrong anymore because people have come to redefine every one of them as would seem fit. Evil thoughts are now synonymous with malevolent schemes instead of being simply any thought that goes against the will of God (Romans 12:2), murder is restricted to the physical act of killing another human being while in fact Jesus makes it very clear that anger or rash words against your brother is equivalent to killing him (Matthew 5:22), adultery is defined as having extramarital sexual relations while Jesus says even lusting in your heart after a woman is committing adultery (Matthew 5:28), sexual immorality is defined as “the evil ascribed to sexual acts that violate social conventions” thus reducing it to sexual relations outside the frame of consenting partners, like abuse and rape, while true sexual immorality encompasses any sexual relation outside the premise of a married couple, in other words, orgies, homosexual acts, incest (Leviticus 18).
Pondering this takes me to the following question:
What then will make people repent of their sins?
Before going up to heaven, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to help the disciples saying of him: “You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17). Then to describe the work of the Holy Spirit he said: “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:8).
Now I am not a big fan of pointing out people’s sins and convicting them of doing them as I believe this is the Holy Spirit’s job and not ours and any attempt to do so will be discarded by the other end as an act of judgment to which the reply will most probably be: “Who are you to be judging me? Only God can judge me”. This method has proved to be in most times ending in failure and Paul even proves so by saying: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13a).
However, I also believe that we are the body of Christ on earth and if the Holy Spirit is to do any work here it will be mostly through us, since he dwells in us. So this leaves us with the responsibility to set a standard that will standout as a light in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation (Philippians 2:15) and unless we do so, people will not feel the need to repent of their sins or even admit their sinfulness since they’re not seeing anything better being offered on the table. Again, if Jesus is to save people, they must feel the need to be saved by seeing that there is another way which is far better than their sinful ways.
But how do we do so?
When Jesus sent out his disciples, he told them to proclaim the good news, which is synonymous with the word gospel (Mark 16:15). But what is the good news exactly? Is it just that Jesus died and rose again to life, bringing salvation from sin to all those who call upon his name?
I think in order to understand the full extent of what Jesus asked us to do, we need to have a deeper understanding of what the “good news” actually encompasses.
Jesus died on the cross to pay a price no one ever could, a debt we owed because of our sinful ways. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Jesus was the only one who could pay this price because he was the only one to have lived a life without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
By living a sinless life and dying on the cross he fulfilled in himself the righteous requirement of the law in which there is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). Through this sacrifice, Christ freed us for good from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2) and brought us to live under grace where salvation is given for free and not by merit of works and caused us to be born again in the Spirit to be living under the law of faith (Romans 3:27-28).
“Under grace” is something that we still fail to fully grasp. Grace is not merely the giving of something we don’t deserve but it exceeds that to mean “divine empowerment to do what you couldn’t normally do in the flesh”. This pretty much means that you have the full power of the deity living in you (Colossians 2:9-10). And being freed from the law of sin and death, you no longer live by rules that say “do not do this and do not do that”, because to set your mind on following these rules means you will transgress them eventually (Romans 8:6-8). But instead we set our minds on the things of the Spirit because if we walk by the Spirit we will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
Not only so, but we have been seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6) and Christ now also lives in us (Galatians 2:20), which means that we can constantly tap into the fulness of grace since we have access to it by faith (Romans 5:2).
So the good news isn’t just that we have been saved from our sins, but it is that we have been made sons and daughters of the living God who reign in life by receiving the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).
Unbelievers should see that!
Jesus said that signs and wonders will follow those who believe (Mark 16:17), meaning that they should be a natural part of our lives, a natural part of the good news that we proclaim. Unless unbelievers see a different standard of living in the body of Christ than what is offered in the world, a lifestyle that would convict them of their sinful ways simply by contrasting the error of their ways to the abundant life they can have in Christ (John 10:10), they will not feel the need to repent of their sins and choose what is better for them.
Sometimes we forget to realize that if Jesus used signs and wonders to show people he is the Son of God, then how much more we as his co-heirs need to be walking in his footsteps and tapping into the same well of grace he drew from before us instead of trying to show people the error of their ways in our own efforts.
I think it’s time we changed our ways.