"Viewer Discretion Is Advised”
Insults and attacks upon Christianity have been around for many years. Throughout the centuries, the Christian faith has been under fire by those seeking to test or even discredit its truth claims. Today, there exists another force that rails against the Christian faith. The grandeur and splendor that Christianity so rightly proclaims appears to be in short supply. This absence of the loftiness of God felt within Christian circles has seemed to stimulate a lack of confidence or even skepticism of the Christianity we see portrayed on TV, heard on our radios, and experienced in our churches.
Who or what is to blame for this trend? Are these feelings fueled from external sources such as our rapidly changing culture and diversity of belief systems, changing worldview’s, or just political correctness? Or is something going on inside our churches such as a lack of trust in our church leaders, congregations conforming themselves to what common culture wants, or a failure of the church to accurately and correctly share the word of God, specifically Law and Gospel? “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life inChrist Jesus our Lord.”Romans 6:23
All of these seem to play some role and share some of the blame in this prominent shift within the Christian faith. But there’s one that stands out more than the rest, and to me is the most significant of them all. A failure to properly share the Word of God tops my list. Many different gospels are being preached today unlike the Gospel that proclaims Christ’s death on the cross, His burial and His rising from the dead on the third day to save man from his sin. Unfortunately, the Gospel is often preached as something that we are to do. As well, the Law is mostly scaled down into new lists of principles and tips to try out in one’s life for the week. Thus, turning Christianity primarily into a religion of legalism and moralism rather than one of grace and faith which makes it indistinguishable from any other religion found out there. All the while, Law and Gospel are mingled and confounded, and the hearer is left confused unable to distinguish between the two.
When we look at man’s greatest need in life, it’s imperative to identify his main problem, and then look to the solution for which Christianity no doubt does provide the answer. Man’s greatest problem in life is sin. The Law correctly applied exposes sin, accuses one before God, and ultimately pronounces a death sentence upon him. A Physical death yes, but even more so a second death or spiritual death resulting in separation from God and eternal damnation. Sin is born into every person and it must be dealt with in order to put him in a right standing with God. “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.”Romans 3:20
The Law taught primarily as something that we are to do and keep for moral improvement can do nothing to help save one from this life-threatening condition. The proper work or function of the Law is to make a person aware of his sin, his rebellion against God, and his inability to do what God demands of him. It thrusts him to despair of himself and forces him to dash all hope of saving himself by his own good deeds, works, or self-improvement. When one comes to the realization that he is in big trouble and in need of a great rescue, he is driven to repent. Saying, “I can’t do this.” “I can’t do this very thing that God requires of me.” “God, have mercy on me!” “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.”Galatians 3:24 NASB
Here is the moment for the contrite sinner to hear the comforting message of Good News, the Gospel. Your sins are forgiven in Christ! That everything necessary for salvation has already been done for him in Christ dying on the cross on his behalf, being in the grave for three days, and rising from the dead. This is the crux of the Christian faith and should be the central theme in every congregation and heard from the mouth of every pastor every Sunday.
The Gospel is the Good News simply because it gives free gifts and asks for nothing nor demands anything from us, the recipients. God gives to us by His grace: new birth, the gift of the Holy Spirit, adoption into His family, peace with Him, the forgiveness of sins eternal life and salvation. The Gospel provides for us a righteousness that is not our own. A righteousness that was won by Christ’s death on the cross and subsequent rising from the dead on the third day. This righteousness is now placed over us like a well-worn garment for all who believe. All of this is given to us freely and credited to our account and received by faith on account of Christ. A faith as well that is the gift of God. Faith takes hold of what God promises us in Christ with confidence and assurance that what He says in true for us personally making them our very own.“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”Ephesians 2:4-5
Yes, in America our culture, beliefs, and ideologies are changing in many ways. And yes, the church is facing many issues of its own namely in its failure to properly present God’s Word, especially Law and Gospel. Many today present a Christianity of moralism, self-improvement and self-help, prosperous living, and more purposeful living, rather than teaching a faith in a God who rescues sinners from their sin by way of Christ’s great work on the cross in dying for them and giving Salvation as a free gift. There is a great need to shift away from salvation by works or performance-based salvation in all its forms, even as subtle as it may be, and back to a salvation by Grace through Faith on account of Christ. “know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.”Galatians 2:16
In spite of all the assaults on the Faith and inconsistencies within, Christianity has stood the test of time and it always will. The Kingdom of God will continue to advance and Christianity will continue to thrive in the mist of all forms of adversity transforming the lives of millions. May the Law be preached in its full rigor and strength that people would come to know the seriousness and severity of their sin. And in the same breath, may the Gospel proclaim and announce to the broken and contrite the forgiveness of their sins in Christ, that they may be free from the burden of the Law and the guilt of their sin. Free to live in the grace of the Gospel of Christ with glad hearts loving God and serving their neighbor.