The Gospel of Jesus is at times rejected because it is scandalous… it IS scandalous!
Think about it. The Gospel of Jesus declares that people are NOT saved by their good deeds. The Gospel of Jesus declares that the people who ARE saved are NOT good people! The Gospel of Jesus declares that HORRIBLE, SINFUL, WICKED, NO-GOOD people CAN BE and ARE saved by simply receiving God’s gift of salvation on His terms (NOT ours). This IS scandalous. Especially when we look at what God’s terms for salvation are.
In order for me to be saved, God DEMANDS these things from me (Yes, like all plea-bargains, there are conditions to receiving God’s pardon in Jesus!):
1) Recognizing I am a sinner. If I am to experience God’s pardon in Jesus, I must recognize that I am not good in and of myself, that I am deserving of God’s judgment. Righteous people do not need a savior, sinners do (see Matthew 9:13; Luke 19:10). The problem is that without Jesus WE ALL are sinners (see Mark 10:18; Psalm 14:1-3; Romans 3:9-20, 23)!
2) Turning away from my sin (which is likely something I enjoy – why else would I do it? – and perhaps I even find my identity in it). If I am to experience God’s pardon in Jesus, I must repent, I must turn away from my sin and turn toward the God who loves me enough to die for me – even when I wanted nothing to do with Him (see Romans 5:8). Only those who repent and confess of their wrongs receive forgiveness. Should I justify or excuse my wrongdoings, there is no pardon, no forgiveness (see 1 John 1:8-10)!
3) Trusting and loving Jesus AND willingly obeying Him BECAUSE of that love! If I am to receive God’s pardon in Jesus, I must trust and love Jesus. If I trust and love Jesus not only will I receive His promise of pardon, but I will also begin to willingly obey Him (see John 14:15, 21-24). If I refuse to lovingly obey Jesus, how can He be my Lord (see Luke 6:46)? Though the Lord paid the price for my sinfulness and willingly extends to me a pardon on His terms, it is TRUE that wicked people will NOT be in heaven! I cannot continue to live doing things that should not be done to you, or to God, or to anyone else and still enter the gates of heaven as if my wrongdoing has no consequence! The Bible warns us of deceiving ourselves by thinking such things (see Matthew 7:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 6:7-10; 1 John 2:3-6, 3:7-10; etc.).
These are God’s terms and conditions for me and you and anyone else to receive the greatest pardon of all: forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God because of Jesus! These are His terms and these terms ARE scandalous. Why? Because God’s terms allow ALL people an equal opportunity to be forgiven and experience eternal life. Both those whom WE would call “good” (like Mother Teresa, or the person whom we love and delight in) and those whom WE would call “evil” (like Hitler, Stalin, or child rapists and mass murderers) are given an equal opportunity to be forgiven and live. This is scandalous! Of course, as mentioned above, this equal opportunity will only be experienced IF they would accept the scandalous Gospel of Jesus on God’s terms. If not, though a legitimate pardon was extended to all freely, those who reject it remain guilty and will be judged by God for their sin (see John 3:16-18). Yes, this IS scandalous! But this IS the Gospel of Jesus!
The scandal of the Gospel of Jesus continues because it is true, sadly, that those who reject God’s terms and pardon in Jesus may very well be WAY, WAY, WAY better people than those who later repent of their wickedness and receive God’s pardon in Christ! This is scandalous! People may do MANY good things! Wonderful! But those things will not and cannot save them if they choose to reject God’s pardon on His terms, the pardon which was valid enough – executed and extended to us by the very blood of Jesus. Those who reject such a great salvation will be condemned – though this is the very thing the Lord does NOT desire (see Hebrews 2:1-4; Ezekiel 18:23, 31-32; 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9)! Even the best person amongst us has still fallen short of the perfect score required by God to enter eternal life (see Matthew 5:48; Romans 3:23, 6:23; Hebrews 12:14). Rejecting Jesus and His Gospel for us is rejecting the Living God Himself (see John 14:6; 1 John 2:23). I know this is scandalous… but it is the Gospel, the Good News for us all! The Good News for us all is that WE CAN BE SAVED BECAUSE OF THE SCANDALOUS GOSPEL OF JESUS!
I know that we all struggle with the reality of our own sinfulness… We all also struggle with the scandalous Gospel of Jesus which allows people whom we consider to be much worse or even extremely wicked to have an opportunity of salvation… It is scandalous, but praise the Lord it is true – for my sake and for yours!
Below is a section written by Ken Blanchard in chapter 3 of Dwight Johnson’s book, The Transparent Leader. Within this section, Blanchard speaks of how he came to recognize what Jesus had done for him (and what Jesus has done for us all). Blanchard too had struggled with seeing his original sinfulness. In this section, Blanchard writes of how he came to understand his falling short of God’s perfection and how the same forgiveness extended to him in Jesus was equally extended to one much more wicked than he was. I pray his words will be a blessing to all who take the time to read it:
Scoring 100I remember that when I was seriously examining my own faith, one of the things that bugged me about Christianity was the concept of original sin. Why do we have to start of bad? It didn’t make any sense to me. I’m a humanist – why not believe in original potentiality?Then I ran into Bob Buford, the author of that fabulous book Halftime.“Bob, why this original sin stuff?” I asked him.“Blanchard, do you think you’re as good as God?” he asked.“No, of course not. If there is a God, that’s perfection,” I answered.“Okay,” he said. “Let’s give God a 100 and ax murderers a 5. We’ll give Mother Teresa a 95 – she was a pretty good person. You’re not bad, Blanchard, because you’re trying to help people, so let’s give you a 75.”I was able to follow him this far.“The great thing about Christianity,” he continued, “is that the Lord sent Jesus down to make up the difference between you and 100.”That made sense to me. I could more easily accept that I’d fallen short of 100 than someone calling me a sinner.“Before you get too excited though,” said Buford, “let me tell you something you might not like as much. The ax murderer has the same shot at the ball as Mother Teresa. Grace is a gift; it depends on your acceptance of Jesus as your savior, not your performance.”I remember when I first found out that Peter Drucker, the great management guru, was a believer. I asked him why he was a Christian.He answered, “There is no better deal. Who else has the gift of grace?”Hybels told me that the difference between religion and Christianity was in the spelling. Religion is spelled D-O. To get grace, there is a “to do” list of things you have to do to measure up. Christianity, on the other hand, is spelled, D-O-N-E. The Lord sent Jesus down to take care of our sins because we all fall short of 100.
The section above is from Ken Blanchard’s chapter, “Following the Real Leader,” in The Transparent Leader by Dwight L. Johnson (Mechanicsburg: Executive Books, 2011), pages 35-36.
May we all – regardless of how well or poorly we have scored apart from Christ Jesus – come to Jesus in order that He can make up the difference in our score: both forgiving our falling short and bringing us to a perfect 100 so that we can be with the Only Perfect One forever. Praise the Lord for the scandalous Gospel of Jesus! Without it, I would have no hope. With it, I have the hope of glory!
-Pastor Chris Montgomery, ComeUnity Fellowship