Three days ago we joined Pastor John in his “Freedom in Jesus Christ” series, wherein we are learning the true meaning of freedom!
In this installment he got us underway by reading from Galatians chapter 2, verses 19 through 21: “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
Pastor John then got us cogitating by giving us a video clip example from the 2004 movie comedy “50 First Dates”. The young lady protagonist in the film has chronic amnesia, which is to say, short-term memory loss. Every time she can't remember "who is this man?" (that she met and married).
Suppose your mom starts waking up every morning and each time she is surprised to find a man – your dad - in bed with her...”who is this man?” Worse, she then gets up and pretty quickly she sees you...”who are you?”
So, in the movie for the man and woman their times together are always first dates, always getting acquainted. Over and over again. 50 times. The issue then is: with such chronic amnesia, how can you have a successful life together?
Eventually, she watches a video of her life so that she can get caught up to date and then move forward in her life with her husband.
Hey - it applies to us! Don't we so often develop, shall we call it “Gospel amnesia”?
We forget the goodness of the news which is the Gospel?. We forget the amazing grace we have received? Jesus of Nazareth, of the House of David, the one perfect being ever to have trod the earth, died on the cross in full and final payment for OUR sins and sinful natures.
But let us be honest with ourselves and confess...we live our lives as if it never happened!
Gospel amnesia indeed.
Pastor John showed us that Gospel amnesia didn't start with us. Again Pastor John read from
Paul's letter to the Galatians, 2:11-14. “When Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, 'You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?'”
As Pastor John so well illustrated to us last week, the Gospel plus nothing is eternal life; the Gospel plus anything is eternal death. Peter was not only a hypocrite, as Paul explained, but also in effect saying that Jesus's death and resurrection was not enough; one also had to follow Jewish customs to be a Christian and be saved. Peter knew the right answer but he let himself be led astray by Jewish social pressure. So, he had to be caught up short by Paul.
The point of the Gospel is to rely 100 percent on the death and resurrection of Jesus, and on nothing else. No work that we can do that changes that. We read from Paul's letter to the Romans 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Get the point! Pastor John illustrated with a couple of graphs. Both graphs show life after conversion, in each case with the converted person's growing awareness of God's holiness and his own sinfulness.
The difference is in having a growing understanding of the Gospel, or not.
If no such growing understanding, then there is in the growing divide between our awareness of God's holiness and our awareness of our own sinfulness a growing tendency either to try to earn salvation through adherence to a set of rules or to surrender to feelings of guilt and despair.
If we DO having a growing understanding of the Gospel after conversion to belief, then the ever-widening gap between our awareness of God's holiness and our awareness of our own sinfulness is TOTALLY OCCUPIED with our ever-growing wonder and gratitude for Jesus's death on the cross and His resurrection.
God sees us as morally righteous because He sees us, just as believers and nothing more or less, through the lens of Jesus.
A mom and a dad don't forget who each other is each morning, right? What usually begins as exciting infatuation hopefully deepens into true love as the years go by. This deepening love comes through lives spent together meeting all of the crises and obligations that this temporal existence brings, and its occasional joys also. In this lack of amnesia, their love for each other steadily grows.
Hopefully also, it is that way with each of us. No amnesia with us; we don't forget the good news of the Gospel. Instead, we turn to it each day through the Word, each hour through prayer, every week through worship. We don't have amnesia about the Good News because in our ever-amazed gratitude, we constantly seek to live the Gospel, day by day, hour by hour, in WHATEVER circumstances we find ourselves in.