In early January of 2018, my grandfather passed away at 93 years of age. For the last several years of his life, he suffered from a debilitating cognitive disease known by many as "dementia". Those who have dealt with loved ones who have dementia know of the struggles in which an individual must endure to provide the much-needed care that is required. Not only is this horrible disease difficult on those who directly suffer from it, but it is difficult on all of those who care for and witness their loved one's rapid decline.
Yet, although an awful disease for those who encounter it, the subject of memory loss can sometimes prove to be a very good thing. The intentional, divine memory loss of our wonderful Lord proves to be a blessed event for repentant sinners.
Isaiah 43:25 states: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake and remembers your sins no more.”
Think back with me for a moment about the story found in Luke chapter 23. We all know this portion of scripture to be about three men on crosses. One man was innocent, and the other two were criminals. One criminal was remorseful, the other arrogant. For our sake, let us focus on the remorseful criminal for a few moments. This criminal we read about who hung alongside Jesus Christ on the cross had committed a serious crime of some kind. Although we do not know all of the details in which the crime entailed, we do however know that it was of a serious caliber, being punishable to the point where he could no longer continue to live in society. As many in the town most likely heard of his sentence of being punished by crucifixion, many most likely said that he had gotten "just what he deserved".
Have you ever been there? Maybe someone hurt you and you were angry. And to nurture your feelings of anger and deep hatred, something unfortunate happened to them and you gloated. The thought came to your mind: “They deserved it”. Or maybe you were the one who was being punished for something, yet the act which you had previously committed was already embarrassment enough. And, without fail, someone hurled that same insult at you: “you deserved it”.
This man on the cross most likely had many in society jabbing their fingers in his face saying, “You deserve this”. Unfortunately, Christians are some of the most obstructive individuals to those who are attempting to get to Jesus Christ. Denominations, theological beliefs, and personal practices have excluded many from even hearing or accepting the gospel because of our own self-centered and unbiblical behavior. We should keep the main thing the main thing: The Word of God. It never returns void. Let us refocus our focus back to the Word of God!
It breaks my heart when I hear individuals tell me, "Spencer, I'm not good enough to go to church" or "I've sinned too much to where God could never accept me." My first thought is: "WHO IS!" Yet again, we are responsible for making those who must be made welcome to feel unwelcome. It isn't society and it isn't just Satan. It is our attitudes toward others that Satan uses to manipulate them out of the church and back into a life leading to destruction. Actions speak louder than the "visitor" or "guest" parking you so proudly boast about near the front doors of your church. All are not welcome to preach in my church, but all are welcome to sit in the pew and listen to the Gospel being preached, in hopes that through words of truth and encouragement they might be brought to a point of conviction.
I believe that the picture of these three men on the crosses of Calvary is a display as to what we as a church have become. Unfortunately, we are the arrogant criminal on the cross. Constantly we ask the Lord to prove Himself to us before we can fully place our trust in Him. Paul wrote a wonderful, living truth in Romans 5:8 when he stated: "But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!" That's an amen verse right there! But do we actually believe it? Where is our trust? Do we arrogantly ask the Lord to continuously prove Himself to us so that we can satisfy a doubt we possess, or do we place our full trust in an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God who's truths run deeper than our own words, thoughts, and deeds.
Speaking directly to my Southern Baptist folks for just a brief moment, I noticed the headline for this year's convention reads: "We are Great Commission Baptists". Let us just pause a moment and reflect on the absolute nonsense that headline displays for our current situation. We might as well change that phrase to "we were". Baptisms rapidly declining, as well as the touting of theories, Critical Race Theory, and Social Justice? That doesn't sound like the great commission to me! Within the last several verses of the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 28, those phrases regarding political nonsense are not found. The great commission ought to be a desire to reach the lost. If we want true unity in our convention, in our churches, and across our land, let's unify the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not political jargon that further divides Christianity from reaching any individual in modern society. Give people Jesus. Nothing more. Nothing less.
For this remorseful criminal, he realized the truths that Christ so passionately taught. In his final moments of life, he asked Jesus Christ to remember him when He entered into His kingdom. At that point, Jesus promised this criminal, who was indeed frowned upon by society, that he would be uniting with Jesus Christ in His kingdom. What powerful words, and what an expression of grace that Jesus Christ offers. Folks, it is by faith alone that we make it. Not by works. Not by practices. BY FAITH ALONE. And this proves to be the perfect example. You can bend any scripture you want to fit your own ideals, but this scripture cannot be altered. Ephesians 2:8-9 - "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."
Sometimes we like to believe that it is by works. We want to be God's favorite. We subconsciously believe that if we feed the poor, donate to enough causes, assist the sick, have perfect Sunday school and worship attendance, and punch our "mission trip" card which was no more than a glorified retreat/vacation, we will somehow earn a better seat in Heaven. Friend, our righteousness is as filthy rags. Prove me wrong. I'll wait.
Pastors, Church members, Sunday School teachers, lay leaders, lay speakers, and all Christians: Our responsibility is to spread the Gospel. We alone can't change lives, nor can we change the world, but by the power of God through the proclaimed Gospel, I have witnessed lives become completely changed. Homes restored. Families reunited.
I praise our wonderful Lord today that our sins are no longer remembered when we confess and repent of them, but that He remembers us when we make that everlasting commitment to Him. There is joy in that blessed forgetfulness, but there is also joy in that divine remembrance. It's all about Jesus. It's all about the Gospel. Always.