Moral Earthquakes & Secret Faults: Reaching a new generation for Christ - Part 18

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:7

Ephesians 1:7

Throughout Christ’s ministry we see Him continually offering the gospel, healing and love to the sinners around Him. Even when the religious leaders of the day made remarks about this practice, He replied that only a sick man needs a doctor. Ironically, those religious leaders were some of the most notorious sinners around. Christ’s delicate balance of love and boldness changed lives. His model of balance for ministry is an aspect desperately needed by many churches.

In our world today, beyond the walls of the church of Jesus Christ is an almost entire lost generation — lost to Christ and lost to His church. They have been raised in an unprecedented culture of moral ambiguity. They have been taught through their schools and in many of their homes that there are no ethical certainties, and, therefore, absolute truth doesn’t exist. Yet we, the church of Jesus Christ, have a glorious commission from our Commander in Chief — a command from headquarters, a mandate from the Lord Jesus Himself. We are to reach out to that lost generation. Our commission is to go, make disciples and teach them, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We have a heaven-sent commitment to reach the lost world.

Many churches are scrambling to do so. Yet, some in their quest to make their message relevant compromise the good news and sacrifice the message of the gospel. Pastors tell funny stories on Sunday mornings, yet their sermons remain little more than fluff because they never open the Word of God. The message they offer, devoid of any spiritual meat, lacks impact. These churches forget that Christ preached boldly before all, accepting the fact that not everyone would be happy and accept His message of godly truth. Christ realized that the sin nature in man would desire to reject and suppress that truth.

Other churches don’t compromise, but they condemn. So while an entire generation is lost outside the walls of the church, they sit inside, beat their Bibles and scream in condemnation of the world. These churches are so indignant about the fact of unbelievers sinning that love seems to evaporate in an isolationist us-against-them mentality. Like the Pharisees, many seem to have a legalistic holier-than-thou attitude. These churches have forgotten that all have sinned and fallen short. Just because we’re saved doesn’t mean we’re not sinners anymore.

Then there are the churches that neither compromise nor condemn. They condone. In their quest to reach a lost world, they simply condone immoral lifestyles. They refer to them as “alternative” lifestyles. These churches put a great deal of emphasis on the accepting love of Christ. They say He always loved and never cared how a person acted. They preach a feel-good gospel: Jesus accepts you where you are, and we don’t need to change you a bit — ever. These churches forget that once we come to Christ, we are to conform to Him, not make Him conform to us.

This generation

We need to realize that this lost generation did not leave the church. In many ways, the church left them. So we need to go back and get them. Our commission is to reach this unchurched generation. How do we do that? First, we must know more about them. Studies and research name five common characteristics of this generation without Christ.

First: They are searching for meaningful relationships. Many in this lost generation have never really known a real relationship, and because of this, many of them are afraid of any kind of commitment.

Second: They don’t want to wait for anything. They want it all now. They want immediate gratification.

Third: They want it for nothing. By and large, many of them haven’t had to work for what they have, so they expect a free ride through the rest of life. The first thing that comes to many of their minds is this: What’s in it for me? Give it to me, but make sure you give it without cost and without condition.

Fourth: They want guilt-free living. They’ve been raised with no moral absolutes. In his demographic studies, George Barna says that 81 percent of them don’t believe that there is absolute truth. If it feels good, they want to do it.

Fifth: They’re searching for prosperity. They want it; they just don’t have much hope of obtaining it. Most will not live in as nice a home throughout the rest of their lives as the home in which they were brought up. Their parents were brought up in the free love atmosphere of the sixties. They are brought up in a world full of AIDS. Their parents were brought up in an economic boom, so they are brought up in a world of downsizing and low-entry level jobs. They get their college degrees, but then can’t find any place to use them. They will have heartaches, struggles and needs.

This lost generation struggles with problems most older adults know very little about. At a time when relativism is rampant in our country; at a time when churches are compromising, condemning or condoning; at a time when social ills abound: What do we have to offer them? What do we have that they desire?

The answer is simple: We offer truth. We offer them the infallible and steadfast truth — the Word of God. They may believe that material gains are worth searching for; however, that is not the true focus of their search. Although they may not realize it, the focus of their search is an understanding of their own human hearts. This understanding can only be achieved in the true Word of God. It can only be achieved at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ.

At the cross

What happened on the cross can only be understood in light of the Old Testament sacrificial system. All of the Old Testament sacrifices pointed toward the Lord Jesus Christ. He is pictured in the innocent little animal that was slain and whose skins were taken to cover the sins of the first man and woman. Adam and Eve watched that little animal breathe its last breath, shed its blood and die. They were the first to know the expensive toll that sin takes upon one’s life. They knew that there is no remission except through the shedding of blood. When Abel brought his sacrifice, his offering of the first of his flocks — it was a picture of Jesus.

During the first Passover, every one of the Israelite homes was instructed to get a lamb, one that was pure and spotless. They were told to kill it. With a hyssop branch, they then spread the blood of the Passover lamb over the doorpost and lintel of their home, so that during the night when the death angel visited Egypt, he would see the blood and pass over that house.

The blood of the Passover lamb meant deliverance from death and freedom from slavery. This was a picture of the blood of Jesus Christ. When Abraham was told to sacrifice on Mount Moriah, he offered his only son Isaac. Jesus was the substitutionary ram caught in the thicket to take Isaac’s place.

The Bible says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). That is why Simon Peter said, “You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:18–19).

That is also why, when John the Baptist saw Him coming down to the Jordan, he pointed his finger in our Lord’s direction and said for all to hear, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). If there is one subject in the church that is ignored today, it is the blood of Jesus Christ. Many preachers speak platitudes and refer to the Sermon on the Mount, but few really preach about the sacrifice on the mount — the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, that cleanses us from all sin. Charles Spurgeon told the young preachers in his school that a true test of whether a man is preaching the gospel or not is the emphasis he makes on the blood of Jesus Christ.

What Christ has to offer us is freedom from guilt. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Eph. 1:7). That is what Christ has to offer us — the forgiveness of sins. Without that covering, sin will hound and haunt us. David said, “O, my sin is ever before me.” When we come to Jesus Christ and let His blood cleanse us, Christ comes into our life and we receive the free gift of eternal life. Written across our lives are the words of true liberty: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

What is guilt-free living? We live in a world ridden with guilt. Some of it is authentic. Some of it is artificial. Some of it is heaped on us by someone else. Yet, at the same time we have a society that is becoming desensitized. When there is no acknowledgment of God in a culture, in a school or in a government, consequently there is no sense of sin.

That is why the anti-Christian forces want to remove the Ten Commandments everywhere. They don’t want anybody praying at public events. Prayer in the schools is an acknowledgment of God. What happens when there is no acknowledgment of God? There is no sense of sin. When there is no sense of sin, there is no need to be forgiven of anything, especially if there are no moral absolutes.

We need to remember that Christ offers us forgiveness. His forgiveness is not superficial. The word for forgiveness comes from a Greek word that literally means “to leave, to send away.” A form of the same word is found in Matthew 4. It says that when the disciples saw Jesus, He called them to follow Him and they left their boats. They didn’t look back. They never went back to their previous lives. They left. The same word is used in the Gospels in a story about a child with a fever. After Jesus’ touch, the fever left — the same form of the word translated “forgiveness.” Matthew 18 talks of a shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep. The word means “to send away or to leave.” The word for sin is not the familiar word for sin which means missing the mark. It is a compound word in Greek from a preposition meaning “beside” and from a verb that means “to fall or to fall away from or to fall beside.” Thus, for those of you who have stepped over the line, who have fallen down, who have fallen alongside and fallen away, what does Jesus offer you? He offers to send away your sins.

The Old Testament sacrificial system speaks of a scapegoat. The priests would take the scapegoat out and send it away in the wilderness: “Send it away.” That is what He wants to do with our sin. It is like a fever that goes away, or like men who leave their ship. He will send it away. That is what He offers — the forgiveness of sin.

We often have the wrong idea of forgiveness, but then, Jesus knew we would. That’s why He gave us the story of the prodigal son. The wayward son went home in fear and trembling. He had prepared his speech to say, “I am no more worthy to be called your son.” What was the father’s response? “Bring a fatted calf!” The son received full reconciliation, as if it never happened. His sins were forgiven; his sins were forgotten.

Most people have a wrong concept of guilt. We often view it as our foe. Authentic guilt, if it is caused by something we have done, is not our foe. It is our friend. Guilt is sometimes God’s way of saying, “You have sinned.” Confession is our way of saying, “I agree.” Those authentic guilt pangs — not the ones heaped on you by someone else, but those that come upon you by God’s great providential power — are God’s way of pricking your heart. In fact, the word confession used in this text comes from a compound word that means “to say the same as God says.” We like to pretend that we are not responsible. For example, when somebody sitting at a table knocks over a glass of iced tea, everybody jumps up and takes their napkins — except the guilty one.

So often that is the way we are with our sins. We cheat in business and God says, “What happened?” We say, “Oh, Lord, it was the pressure of the economy.” We get in trouble on a Friday night, and God comes around and says, “What happened?” We say, “Oh, it was peer pressure. Everybody was doing it.” When someone runs off with somebody else and God says, “What happened?” They say, “Oh, it is just one of those things.” It should not be this way. Confession takes responsibility. There is no forgiveness without confession. Confession says, “I agree with God.” Guilt-free living comes only with confession.

What does Christ have to offer us? Christ offers us something purposeful, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). What Christ has to offer us is purpose. He is the only one who can fill the void of life. Some of us have been trying to fill the void with things or with money. All the money in the world can’t fill that void. We try to fill it with cars or homes or people. All those things will never compare to the riches of His grace. What makes it all possible? The last word in the verse and the last word of the gospel: grace.

How can we know the riches of His grace? We discover the worth of something by knowing the price that we pay for it. When we buy a new car, the price we pay is what we think it is worth. Consider a painting? What about a house? We should never forget that the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is the price of redemption. God did not send His own Son into the world because we kept pleading with Him to do so. Our redemption is entirely by His grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8–10). No wonder Paul said, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

Moral earthquakes don’t just happen! They are preceded by secret faults that run through one’s life leaving cracks in character, which ultimately bring damaging and often devastating results. When left unchecked, these secret faults begin to converge and build pressure below the surface until they finally erupt into a moral collapse. But this need not be the result. God knows our weaknesses. He is rich in mercy; that is, we don’t get what we do deserve. And He is full of grace; that is, we do get what we don’t deserve. When given freedom in our lives to do so, He can make a way when there seems to be no way. Is grace the last word for you?

Moral soundings

  • New conditions may demand new methods, but not a new message. Do you believe that?
  • The current generation is utterly lost. What will you do to reach it?
  • At a time when moral earthquakes are rampant, will you hold out the great hope of Jesus?
  • Do you see the connection between Old Testament sacrifices and Christ's ultimate fulfillment?
  • Is grace the last word for you — on every subject?
ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

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