Tag Archives: Forgiveness

What does Christianity have to do with my life?

Last year, Power to Change (York) asked me to speak on this question: What does Christianity have to do with my life? I answered in two parts. The first can be found on my blog post entitled What is Christianity?, and what follows is the second part of my answer.

I want to highlight two gripping ways that Jesus Christ profoundly relates to you. I found these themes in the Bible; specifically in the ancient biography on Jesus written by his close friend Matthew.

1) Jesus is your judge.

Though many people don’t like the idea of judgement, Matthew’s biography clearly shows that Jesus talked a lot about judgement. In fact, Jesus taught that one day in the future, he will come and judge everyone who has ever lived.

In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus paints a picture of what Judgement Day will look like. He is the judge. All peoples will stand before him; and he will separate them, the sheep on his right, and the goats on his left. And their sentence? The sheep (the righteous) will hear: “Come, you who are blessed …” But the goats (the unrighteous) will hear: “Depart from me, you cursed …” Jesus is the judge. He is my judge. He is your judge.

In Matthew 7:24-27 we learn that everyone’s destiny is determined by how they respond to the words of Jesus: destruction for those who don’t trust him, taking him at his word; and life for those who trust him, proving their trust by doing what he says. According to Jesus, your destiny is determined by how you respond to him.

The inevitable event of Jesus’ future judgement ought to inform the way we respond to Jesus now. People save money now in light of future retirement. People pick academic programs now in light of future career plans. Future events have direct ramifications for how we live now. How much more the future judgement!

You may be thinking, “but I’m a good person; I’ll be okay on Judgement Day.” I don’t doubt that you’re a nice person; many Canadians are nice. But when we speak of judgement, the only person’s estimation of your goodness that counts is the Judge’s. So, what does it mean to be good according to Judge Jesus? The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is a great summary of his standards, that is, of true goodness and righteousness. He’s not only concerned with what we do, but what we think, and why we do the things we do; he cares very much about motives. A summary of these righteous standards is found in Matthew 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Truth is, he knows we’re not. In fact, in the sermon, he calls us “evil” (Mt 7:11). Not the most flattering pre-trial assessment. We need a Saviour. We need forgiveness.  This brings me to my second point.

2) Jesus has the authority to forgive your sins.

The name Jesus means God saves. Before his birth, and angel came to Joseph in a dream, saying, “[Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). Judgement is coming. We deserve to be punished for our sins, but Jesus came to save us. Christianity is pretty simple; as John Stott taught, it’s a “rescue religion.”

In Matthew 9:12-13, Jesus says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick … I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus came to save sinners. He came to save people – people who realize they’re not good in God’s eyes and yet call out to him for help. He came to save the spiritually sick from the impending judgement that is coming.

The good news is that Jesus truly  does have the authority to forgive all of your sins. Anyone, no matter how corrupt your past (or how depraved your current habits), can find full forgiveness in Jesus. Just as he displays his authority over nature, disease, demons and even death, he shows his authority to forgive sins (Mt 8-9). In Matthew 9:1-8, he heals a man who is paralysed and proclaims his authority to forgive sins. Interestingly, he shows his authority empirically while proclaiming his authority to do what can’t be seen: forgive sin. The question is: do you believe? Do you believe he has the authority to forgive sin? Even your sins?

When Jesus came, through his death, resurrection and ascension, he ushered in the New Covenant. A covenant is when God establishes an arrangement with people whereby he is their God and they are his people. When it comes to the New Covenant, Matthew wants us to know that Jesus gave wine to the disciples, saying “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). God is establishing a relationship with people through Jesus Christ wherein people receive the forgiveness of all of their sins by faith in Jesus. As people forgiven by Jesus, God is their God and they are his people. Again, the way into this covenant is not by works or trying to be a good person. It is by faith in Jesus Christ. This is the only way to receive forgiveness; and therefore peace with God. Everyone from every nation and background is both commanded and invited to come to God through faith in Jesus Christ, the only one who has the authority to forgive sins.

How else will you receive forgiveness?

Though I could go on, those are a couple of pretty significant ways that Jesus Christ relates to you (and me!). You might not feel the relevance; but Jesus certainly sees it. May he help us to both see it and  feel it.

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Day 6: “I’m Frightened!”

After talking to so many people who are either hostile or indifferent to the Gospel, I thank God for conversations like this one! What follows is a summary and it’s quite abbreviated, but it’s the most encouraging talk I’ve had for quite some time. I will refer to her as T and myself as P. After a minute or so of conversation, here’s how things went:

P: Can I take some time to go through this little booklet called Two Ways to Live?

T: I got that last week.

P: Really, maybe my friends gave it to you?

T: One guy was white; the other was Indian.

P: Yep, those are my friends. We’re from the same church, just over there (pointing), on the other side of those buildings. Well, what do you think?

T: I still have it, but I haven’tread it.

P: Well, while you wait for the bus can I go over it with you?

T: Sure.

P: (reading from the booklet) God is the loving ruler of the world. He made the world. He made us rulers of the world under him.

T: Okay.

P: But we all reject God’s rule by trying to run our life our way. But we fail to rule ourselves or society or the world. We’ve sinned; everyone has. I know you seem like a very nice person, but when the Bible assesses you and I, here is the assessment: “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). Would you say that you are a sinner?

T: Well, yes, we all are.

P: But God is just. He won’t let us rebel forever. His punishment for our rebellion is death and judgement. So, what we deserve for our rebellion against God is punishment.

T: But what if we have a struggle that we really wan’t to be rid of but we can’t seem to overcome it?

P: Do you mean sin?

T: No, not sin; I’m not talking about hurting others, but an inner struggle.

P: Do you mean something like, say, anger?

T: Yes, like anger. What happens if I struggle with that?

P: Well, if it’s unrighteous anger, you will be punished because it is sin.

T: But what if I go really deep in prayer.

P: The Bible teaches that you can’t remove the guilt of your sin.

T: But what if I really try to stop and I don’t like it?

P: No, God hates all sin. He is just and must punish it.

T: So there’s nothing we can do?

P: That’s right; it’s too late; we’re guilty.

T: (with sincere concern) So, I’ll be guilty forever because of my sins?

P: Well, there is a way to receive forgiveness and that’s the good news.

T: (looking straight at me with all seriousness) Well you better tell me soon because I’m frightened!

P: Okay, Well here it is: Because of God’s love, He sent His Son, Jesus, into the world. Jesus always lived under God’s rule. He didn’t rebel like us, but he came to die in our place. And by dying in our place he took our punishment and brought forgiveness.

T: Really?

P: (Bus came) Oh, do you need to get on the bus?

T: No, it’s okay, I’ll just get the next one.

P: Okay, well, not only did Jesus die for sinners, God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus conquered death and now gives new life and He will return to judge the world.

T: So, this is why Jesus came?

P: Yes, and we will either trust in Him and what He has done for us, and submit to his rule, receiving the forgiveness, or we reject him and we’ll be punished for our sins.

T: Thank you for sharing.

P: Well, isn’t it great news?!

T: (In a sobered manner)Thank you; I’m going to pray about this.

I really encouraged her to come to church to learn more. She has my contact info, as well as all the church info she needs. Please pray for her salvation.

An Evangelistic Prayer Meeting (Accidentally)

A couple of weeks ago, Steve K and I were praying on a bench just behind Shops at Don Mills. While Steve was praying, I noticed that a lady sat down on the bench right across from us. I thought, “She must see that we are praying. Our heads are bowed and she can certainly hear Steve. Should I talk to her? God, what do I do?” As soon as Steve was finished praying, I said, “It’s a beautiful day isn’t it.” She responded by telling us how encouraging it is to see people praying in public.

We had to slightly yell to communicate, so Steve and I ended up sitting on the bench with her (not too close though … it was not awkward .. the benches were quite large). With a smile she told us, “I’m a stanch Catholic.” She went on to tell us of some struggles her brother is having. At that time I was able to share what Julian had been preaching on in 1 Peter 1:6-7, that God gives us trials to for the testing of our faith.

She was thankful for what I shared and went on to speak about the goodness of God and our need to follow Him even when times are tough. It was a nice conversation, and it was quite tempting to NOT push to the Gospel, BUT, being compelled by God, I knew it would not please the Lord to let this opportunity pass … how often to we have people approach us in the midst of prayer?!

I asked her, “Do you think God will accept you because of your faith in the work of Christ alone OR  because of your faith in Christ PLUS her efforts of following God?” She was quite sure that her works contributed to her reception of the forgiveness of sins. I asked her if I could show her a passage from the Bible that teaches that savlvation is by faith in the work of Christ alone. She consented. So I opened my Bible to Ephesians 2:8-9 and read it to her. She was silenced and seemed a little surprised. I went over it again, nice and slow.

However, somehow she was able to redirect the conversation. I forget how this happened but suddenly she asked me if she still needs to forgive a family member who has done many wicked things and remains unrepentant. I took her to Matthew 18:21-35 and read it to her. She seemed to want me to move on and just tell her my thoughts … but I persisted in reading Scripture – I figured, “you need the Word, not my opinions; I’m gonna give you the Word.” I emphasized that she must forgive as she’s been forgiven, that is, of course, if she believes she deserves hell and has received God’s unmerited grace. I re-read to her Mt 18:35 – “So also my heavenly Father will do to everyone of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

I asked her if she had unforgiveness and bitterness in her heart (for by the way she talked, it seemed she may be struggling with it). She said, “No, I have forgiven him.” But then she asked me, “How can we know if we’ve forgiven someone?” I took her to Psalm 103 and read these words: “as for as the east is from the west so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” I told her, “when God forgives, he completely removes the sin. He forgets it and he does not hold it against us. He does not hold onto it. It is gone.” She persisted in saying that she had forgiven him, but we continued to chat about this. I forget the exact comment she made at the end, but she basically ended up saying something like, “Maybe I haven’t forgiven him as much as I originally thought.” Then she left.

Now that’s an accidental evangelistic prayer meeting. Be it Ephesians 2, Matthew 18 or Psalm 103, may the Lord use His Word and draw her to the Gospel of his grace.