Why would anyone reject the gospel? I asked myself this question again recently when I concentrated on Jesus’ last words to us in the Gospel of Luke. Luke 24:45-49.
“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
The gospel is the too-good-to-be-true good news! Bottom line, all God asks of us is repentance for the forgiveness of sins—so little on our part and so much on God’s part. The answer couldn’t be simpler, yet, to the majority of people in the world, it is absurd. What comes naturally to us is wanting our own way. It’s our desperate search for our own way that keeps us clinging to this world and the things we think will satisfy the insatiable desire for our own pleasure.
So you’ve got a lot of people wanting anything but the gospel of Christ. Then, you add to it a lot of the people who have gotten forgiveness of their sins through repentance that are witnesses who don’t actually realize what happened to them. Jesus told a parable about it in Matthew 18:21-35. The NIV entitles that section, “The Unmerciful Servant.” These words were spoken to true disciples like Peter. It is a parable of how we sometimes behave in response to experiencing the forgiveness of sins. Sometimes, though we have repentance and forgiveness of sins, we don’t witness to it. Rather, we live like people who need something from this world. The unmerciful servant in this story not only demands immediate payment from a fellow servant but also chokes the debtor and then throws him and his family in jail. He does all this after the King has forgiven him for a debt that he couldn’t begin to pay back.
Why did the unmerciful servant focus on the little bit of money that was owed him by his friend rather than tell his friend about the incredible reality that just happened to him? He didn’t witness at all to the fact that he was forgiven the debt that was so great he could never have paid it back. Perhaps the best way to improve your witness is to spend time daily recognizing the incredible reality that God has forgiven you of all your sins! Most of us don’t let that reality sink in!
I’m not saying that if every one of us lived the mercy and grace of Christ in our lives that no one could resist the love of God. I’m just thinking that those of us who do have forgiveness of sins could stand to never stop being in awe of the wonder of forgiveness. Perhaps if we felt true humility in response to the love of Christ, we would become more authentic witnesses of the gospel of Christ.
Jesus told the disciples to be His witnesses about their own experience of repentance and forgiveness of sins, after waiting on the Holy Spirit. I believe my witness will be improved as I do the same—witness in the power of the Holy Spirit and not in my own flesh!