Friday, July 8, 2011

Celebrating without the cross

What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds? When he finds it, he lays it on his shoulders rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (Luke 15: 4-7).

When she [the woman who lost a coin] has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15: 9-10).

Trice Gibbons, co-moderator of More Light Presbyterians, is quoted in an article, ‘Presbyterians celebrate landmark day,” stating of the July 10th possibility[1] that LGBTQ persons can be ordained, "As a seminarian, I feel like the angels are celebrating!" She has also stated, according to the news release, “We now have a policy that helps us to love God who is the author and creator of all of us--including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people." All kinds of aberrant theology is being used with these two statements. But more importantly the wondrous work of salvation offered by the Lord of the church is being misapplied.

There are at least four errors:

1. God & angels rejoice over repentant sinners, not over those who refuse to repent.
2. We love God by obeying his word not by policy making that is unbiblical.
3. God’s creation was created good but because of the fall of humanity we are all born with a sin nature. One of the symptoms of our sin nature is deviant sexuality.
4. While God is the creator of all, the fallen need reconciliation to their creator, that is why Christ befriended sinners. Like the good shepherd he seeks the lost bringing them home on his shoulders.
Jesus welcomed and ate with sinners. He did that because he wishes to bring the sinner home, not because he wishes to bless their sin. On the cross Jesus Christ carried all of us with our sin on his shoulders. He suffered and died for the sinner. With Bonhoeffer we must say over and over this is not cheap grace. Instead it is the one who is both God and human on the cross dying in agony, for us. This is such a wonder that Peter wrote that the angels long to look into the wonder. (1 Peter 1:12)

In view of the suffering, death and redemption of Jesus we are called out of our sin into a righteousness that belongs to Jesus. Once again Peter explains:

… and he himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by his wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (2: 24-25)

In what is referred to as the lost parables of Luke, (that is they are about the lost) the wandering sheep and the lost coin and the wayward son are likened to those who because of their repentance are celebrated in heaven. But one important point should be noted. It is after or as they are found by God that they repent. Those two things, being found and repenting go together, they cannot be separated. As we are picked up, welcomed, put on the shoulders of God and carried home, we repent.

If we refuse to repent or acknowledge our sin there is a big question mark hanging over us. (1 John 1:5-9)And heaven is not rejoicing nor should the Church of Christ. A celebration without the saving, transforming resurrection power of Jesus Christ is not a celebration, it is instead a travesty. It is a failure to understand both the word of God and the saving work of Jesus Christ. It is a mockery of the cross of Jesus.

[1] It is yet to be seen if this truly allows for the ordination of unrepentant sinners, after all neither the Bible or the Book of Confessions allows for such ordination.


Brad said...

It has been oft noted that the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day were in complete agreement with the three lost and found stories of Luke 15 until the older brother entered the picture refusing to join the father's rejoicing of the return of the younger wayward son. The saga continues into the 16th chapter of Luke when Jesus' reveals how the Jewish leaders abused their ordinances of morality, marriage and wealth. They knew Jesus was telling these stories against them; they should have known and lived according to God's original intents and purposes. Sadly, History is now repeating itself 2,000 years later.

Viola Larson said...

Brad are you equating the failure of some of the Pharisees and Sadducees to recognize the grace God offers for transformation with the failure of some Presbyterians to also recognize God's transforming grace?

Brad said...