Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.
You probably have seen the movie Amazing Grace. There we see John Newton confessing “I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great savior” This was a man who knew God’s forgiveness. When He says “a wretch like me”, he really meant it li..te..ral. He was a drunkard, slumber and a slave trader. Every time I read of his biography, it reminds me of the prodigal son and the great savior who knows how to seek and find sinners. Newton though was raised by a Christian mother, who taught him the Bible at an early age, yet ended up working as a slave trader. The screams of those slaves whom he transported under the deck of the ship haunted him. However, in an island off of west Africa, he was humiliated, his cloth turned to rags and beg for food. Oh, the beauty of the gospel. The same newton was used to abolish slavery in England and wrote a beautiful hymn that captures the heart of the gospel. The same God who created by speaking Word, spoke one more time in His son. This gospel of the Christ, in it, contains the word of the same God who said “let it be”. When the gospel is heard, it creates. Just as the earth was chaotic , formless and void, It turns these chaotic sinners into beautiful redeemed, newly created, powerfully converted, graciously redeemed, wholly sanctified- born again sons and daughters of God the Father; brothers and sisters of Christ the Son, and a glorious temple of the Holy Spirit. How awesome is the gospel?!
In the last post, I have shared with you a dark narrative of life without Christ, similar to what we find in Romans 1:18-3:20. However I would like to note that, nonetheless it is the necessary precondition of the gospel, yet it is not the gospel. Every calamity, natural disaster and tragedy is nature’s way of reminding us, unless we repent (Lk. 13:3, 5) there awaits for humanity a day of disaster (the gospel warns humanity Rom. 2:16) . But here is the good news, God prepared a way out. The book of Exodus ends with a glorious picture of the glory of Yahweh filling the tabernacle. But Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. It takes the next book, the book of Leviticus to prescribe how men and women approach this glory that dwelt among His own people. The gospel tells us that now Jesus who is the glory of God has tabernacled among us. He presented His body as a sacrifice of atonement which was presented on our behalf as a penal substation. He presented His body as the curtain torn-apart so that sinners can approach the living God. His resurrected body, that mediates people with God, is the new temple that Yahweh promised through the prophets (John 2:18-22) that he would rebuilt it.
When the kingdom of God dawned in the person of His Son, the good news of the kingdom was being proclaimed to the poor, and the year of Jubilee to the captives (Isa 61:1-2; Luke 4:16-21). Matthew nuances that a bit by adding “the poor in the spirit”. The message of the kingdom was being received by those who understood their bankrupt state and their need of God’s mercy: the harlots (Luke 7:37, 39), the tax collectors who had defrauded many (Luke 19:7) were flocking to Jesus. It was his mission to minister to sinners (Mark 2:15-17).
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1)
In reaction, Jesus gave three parables, the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7), the lost coin (Lk. 15:8-10) and the lost son (Lk. 15:11-32) all center on the idea of lost and found. “for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
God in Jesus is seeking the Lost:
Here was where the Pharisees went astray. They seem to misapprehend God’s righteousness and in doing so they draw an artificial hedge between sinners and righteous based on their misinterpretation of God’s demand. In doing so, they justify themselves, instead of seeking God’s justifying mercy through his own provision. This leads us to the next.
God in Jesus is inviting the Lost:
one of the beautiful pictures of the kingdom is presented in the gospels, when Jesus ate with sinners in the house of Levi.
Jesus pictured the final salvation in terms of a banquet (Matt. 22:1; Luke 14:16) Jesus by eating with sinners, he confirmed their status in the kingdom of God. The kingdom will be populated with sinners. George Ladd beautifully summarizes Jesus’s message of reconciliations as follow:
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