1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear.
Have you ever tried to explain the gospel to someone WITHOUT mentioning sin? It is truly impossible to do. Yes, you can say there is peace to be found in Jesus, and explain the promise that He will take our burdens upon Himself. But in the long run none of that means a thing without the FIRST step, which our Lord spoke in His first sermon:
14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
“Repent,” our Savior said. It was His first directive, His first command. Just as Isaiah wrote in the verses above, Jesus knew that the only thing keeping us from salvation was our sin. That was what kept God at a distance, what kept Him from hearing our pleas for justice and equity. So Jesus told us to first REPENT of our iniquities and then BELIEVE in the good news that He had brought salvation to us.
Of course, when we are explaining the gospel to someone, the hardest part is getting them to acknowledge that they are sinners. It’s also difficult getting them to understand that the reason they have not known God in their lives is BECAUSE they are sinners. No one likes to be told they have done something wrong. And yet it is ESSENTIAL that people understand that part of the gospel message. You cannot have salvation without repentance, and you cannot repent unless you acknowledge your sin. Of course, once we DO repent, the possibilities are endless, because we worship a God whose arm is plenty long enough to accomplish anything!
In our efforts to follow the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15), let us not forget to preach the hard part of the gospel no one wants to hear: “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
Lord God, only Your own righteousness could make us fit to stand before you. We acknowledge our own sins, Precious Lord, and we pray that when we speak your good news to others that they will come to acknowledge their own sins. Through Your Spirit and Your Word, teach us ALL to Repent and Believe. Amen.
– written July 3, 2009