One of the key differences between the historic evangelical faith and the modern version is the emphasis on forgiveness. The historic evangelical (confessional evangelical) believes that s/he needs to hear of the forgiveness of Christ often. In fact, if the Sunday service does not include some words of forgiveness, the historic evangelical will tend to feel cheated.
For the modern evangelical, however, the word of forgiveness (announcement of Jesus Christ’s death) is a “once only” proposition, and does not need to be repeated. Rather, at any point beyond “receiving Christ”, a believer is expected to “work out your salvation …”. A word of forgiveness on a Sunday would seem odd, even if it is a welcome word for the majority of a congregation.
The difference lies in this: Are we real sinners, or just “painted sinners”?
Here are some questions for your perusal to answer this question:
1. Do we obey all of the ten commandments every day, for every second of every moment?
2. If we do, then do we obey Christ’s deeper understanding of these commandments in the sermon on the mount (i.e., in the heart) every day, for every second of every moment?
3. If you can answer “yes” to both of these, then the question is, do you love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neigbor as yourself, every minute of every day?
If you’ve said “no” to any of these questions, welcome to the club! You, like me, are a sinner. Not just someone who makes a “Christian mistake”, but a fallen creature at enmity with God. But, you protest, “I love God most of the time, I just blow it once in a while.” Really? How about your ongoing resentment toward your parents for how they raised you? How about your continual struggle with pornography? How about cheating “just a little” on the golf course? How about the way you really feel about your children sometimes? How about the secret judgments or the gossip you’re involved with (and can’t stop engaging in)?
James writes, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (2:10). Often, Christians who think they’re “pulling it off” by being moral become critical of others who aren’t as “righteous” as they are. This is called judgment. This makes you a judge of Christians. Who are we to judge others who have been washed in the blood of Christ? They have been made righteous, and we are calling something evil which God has called forgiven.
Even when we Christians sin (and we do, a lot), Jesus tells us, I forgive you. Great or small, few or many, seen or unseen, Jesus forgives you. How do we know this? Because “He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf, so that we might have the righteousness of God”.
Even if we judge ourselves, God does not. He lives to forgive you … even now.