What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? It is a question that the North American church is asking less and less. Feel good sermons, word of faith preaching, and prosperity gospel teachers dominate the landscape. Surveying a number of sermons recently I was shocked at how many teachers are advocating that if you repeat your request often enough and loud enough God will respond to your petition. It is as if God is some dancing bear sitting in Heaven just waiting for us to pull the strings of prayer in order to make Him get up and dance to our tune.
The idea that a Holy God is paraded around at the whims of sinful humanity is beyond belief. If we truly want to grow beyond this childlike view of God then we need to start with the reality that we are sinful and God is not. Our sin separates us from God and keeps us separated from Him. As we have mentioned many times on this blog there is nothing we can do to span the gulf between our sinful nature and the Holiness of God. The initiative has to be with God. He has to make the move, to not only fulfill the penalty of sin, but to offer forgiveness and wholeness.
We cannot come to the cross if we think we are good people and being a Christian is just another thing in our lives. We can only approach the cross with humility and thanksgiving when we realize how unworthy we are to approach the cross. Jesus death wasn’t some appeasement to an angry God, but a substitution of His perfect character for our sinful natures and actions.
When you and I realize just how sinful we and all of humanity are, then we can begin to understand how wonderful the sacrifice of Jesus is on our behalf. Pick up the newspaper and you will read of sexual abuse, murder, rape, torture, child molestation and every other sin imaginable and unimaginable within our society. Jesus had to die for all of this and carry the weight of all those sins upon His shoulders to the cross if He was to have the power and the right to forgive us. He took our place on that cross. He died the death that we should have died for our sinfulness and rebellion against His love and grace. He then accredited His perfect character and His fulfillment of taking the penalty of death for sin to everyone who would freely ask.
The result is when the Father sees me He no longer sees a sinner but instead a perfect person because I am covered by Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for me at the cross. It is only when we realize what a wonderful gift redemption is, and the cost of that redemption, do we truly fall at the foot of the cross.
Psalm 130 reads, “Out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice! Let thy ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! If thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (awed). v.1-4 It is out of the depths of our heart that we can cry out to God to hear our prayers and our pleas for forgiveness. But, the Psalmist notes that if God should hold our sins against us or keep them to throw in our faces, then there would be no hope for us. Instead, we can come to God regardless of how sinful our past, with awe and thanksgiving because to all who ask, our sins are forgiven and forgotten.
Discipleship begins by looking in the mirror and realizing how sinful we are in relationship to God. Our problem is that we try and compare ourselves with each other and then make excuses because we are not as evil as a murderer. But the comparison must always be to God’s Holy and perfect character. If we are to walk with God as Adam did, then our spirit must be reconnected to God’s spirit.
Praise God for the sacrifice of Jesus that allows us prodigals to come home again! We will not long to live the Christian life and be authentic followers of Christ if we don’t start with the premise we are sinners and God is not. Then and only then can we understand our utter need of His saving grace.