The Wrong Message

Why did Jesus die?
He died to forgive you of your sins.

We often hear this response in church communities. This over-simplification of Christ’s work unveils a fatal misunderstanding about the faith. Not fully grasping the impact of Jesus’ death and resurrection could also be the cause of much powerless Christian living.

Jesus didn’t die to forgive you of your sins.

The resurrection didn’t miraculously empower Jesus to forgive sins. A quick scan through the gospels readily shows us that He forgave sins long before he ascended the hill of His death and rose again. (Matt. 9:2, 9:6, Mark 2:5, Mark 2:7, Luke 5:20, 5:24, 7:47-48)

What is the difference between the cross being a means of God’s forgiveness and redemption?

If Jesus died to pardon sins, then we are merely recipients of a Divine bailout plan. We need only to accept His payment for our sins and our transaction of debt cancellation is complete. But salvation is not God’s payment plan for the morally indebted. It is His resurrection plan for the dead. Jesus made a way for us to shed our old nature of sinful thinking and behavior. We were given a new opportunity since that first Resurrection day to live free from the power of sin. This liberty was given to us because Jesus made new capacity for relationship with our Father God. (John 17:11, Romans 6:11)

God through His Son removed the single obstacle between Him and us. He opened a way to rid us of our own human nature.

What does the belief of Christ not forgiving sins at the cross mean for us today?

It means we no longer need to live as slaves to our own self-driven appetites.

Can you be forgiven of sins and not be changed? Surprisingly, yes. Many can and will go to God to be eased of a guilty conscience. Many will pray and feel a momentary freedom from the shame of sins committed.

God forgives because it is His nature to do so. However if forgiveness is all that was made available to us at the cross then we may be grateful for His work but remain unchanged.

Christ rose from the dead not to forgive one dead in sins, but to awaken us to a new life of relationship with Him. This means as recipients of salvation we are entering into the relationship of being changed by Him. Forgiveness is only the initial step of His transformation.

A relationship with God will quickly push you into an undeniable reality. You must change. You can’t remain as your usual sinful self and live in relationship with a holy God. To add to this dilemma, once you realize your inability to be holy, you also will realize that you have no pathway to become holy which you can truly achieve.

There is no keeping of moral laws, ceremonies, or self-sacrifice you can lay on the alter of God’s requirements to make you holy. (Romans 3:20, Galatians 2:16) This is where the meaning of the resurrection brings hope.

Jesus became what we could not be. He became sin so I could become righteous before God. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus doesn’t merely offer to forgive us of our sins. No, He offers us an invitation to become as He is. (1 John 4:17).

This Sunday I urge you to consider what truly happened on that first resurrection day. Leave behind the thought that you are a forgiven sinner who continually must come to the place of repenting for your sins again and again and again. Christ offers you his resurrected life. One free from the power of sin. (Romans 6:14) You can join in His divine nature and experience the liberty of being a saint whose life is saturated with the presence of God. Does this mean you are immediately sinless? Yes! It also means you will sin less as you are constantly aware of God’s presence with you.

When you’re alleviated from the consequences of your own sins you’re simply happy to be guiltless. When you’re transformed by the power of Jesus and enter into intimate relationship with Him, you enter a new life of experiencing Him. You can experience God like Jesus experiences His Father. (John 17:21).

This is what His resurrection is truly about. God desires that you live seeing your old nature completely dead because of His death and your new nature alive because He lives. (Galatians 2:20)


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