We are in the midst of a sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). One of the privileges regarding this sermon series is that I am able to go through Dallas Willard’s book “Divine Conspiracy.” It is loosely based on the Sermon on the Mount and outside of the Bible, has been the most influential book I’ve read in my life.
One of the questions he asks early on in his book is what is the Gospel (Good News)? For many, it seems the Gospel is simply God forgiving us our sins. And that’s it. He says that “the current gospel then becomes a ‘gospel of sin management.’ Transformation of life and character is no part of the redemptive message.” And sadly, I think he’s right. Too often we preach of just the forgiveness of sins and forget to mention that the forgiveness of sins is what really empowers us to lead a changed life. And don’t get me wrong, forgiveness of sins is great, but is that really all there is to the Christian life? In other words, once I’m forgiven, does it matter what I do or if my life actually looks or reflects a change for Christ?
He asks these difficult questions, “Can we seriously believe God would establish a plan for us that essentially bypasses the awesome needs of present human life and leaves human character untouched…Can we believe that the essence of Christian faith and salvation covers nothing but death and after? Can we believe that being saved really has nothing whatever to do with the kinds of persons we are?”
He’s asking these difficult questions because he sees a problem amongst what is being taught and how the Christian faith is being lived out. What seems to be taught, even in Lutheran circles, is that it’s all about the forgiveness of sins. Willard argues, and I agree with him, that that’s definitely important and it is the foundation for Christians, but it is not the entirety. Willard says, “Such a reconciliation involves far more than the forgiveness of our sins or a clearing of the ledger.” In other words, if we are forgiven and are set free from Christ, shouldn’t that mean a change in our lives? Shouldn’t we look different from those who don’t know Christ? Shouldn’t Christians be struggling with things of this world less than those who haven’t received God’s forgiveness?
The reality is that we should be living different lives and that his forgiveness is what gives us new life. And with those new lives we are called to make a change. The more you seek Christ, the more you will want to be like Him. That is ultimately our goal. To be forgiven and set free and made new so that we can be like Him. Willard says, “The Gospel is the good news of the presence and availability of life in the kingdom, now and forever, through reliance on Jesus the Anointed One.” If Jesus is truly your Savior that makes a difference in your life. You want to be like Him and do good things! We are a church that will do our best to not just be forgiven, but to go out and live the eternal life God has won for us right now. And the best way we can do that is to imitate Christ!