The Great Lie

The gospel is always proclaimed in opposition to an organized lie—the Great Lie that man realizes himself by pretending to be God, in autonomy from God; that his life consists of the things he possesses; that he lives for himself alone and is the owner of his destiny. All history is the story of this Lie and of the destruction it has brought upon man….
The gospel involves a call to repentance from this Lie. The relation between the gospel and repentance is such that preaching the gospel is equivalent to preaching “repentance and forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47), or to testifying “of repentance of God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Without this call to repentance there is no gospel….
Where there is no concrete obedience there is no repentance. And without repentance there is no salvation (Matthew 21:32; Mark 1:4; Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38, 3:19, 5:31). Salvation is man’s return to God, but it is at the same time also man’s return to his neighbor.
In the presence of Jesus Christ, Zacchaeus, the publican renounces the materialism that has enslaved him and accepts responsibility for his neighbor (“Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold”—Luke 19:8). Zacchaeus’ response to the gospel call could not be expressed in more concrete or “worldly” terms. It is not merely a subjective experience, but a moral one—an encounter that affects his life precisely at that point at which the Great Lie had taken root; an experience that brings him out of himself and turns him toward his neighbor.
Repentance is much more than a private affair between the individual and God. It is the complete reorientation of his life in the world—among men—in response to the work of God in Jesus Christ.
When evangelism does not take repentance seriously, it is because it does not take the world seriously; and when it does not take the world seriously it does not take God seriously. The gospel is not a call to social quietism. Its goal is not to take a man out of the world, but to put him into it, no longer as a slave but as a son of God and a member of the body of Christ.
If Jesus Christ is Lord, men must be confronted with his authority over the totality of life. Evangelism is not, and cannot be, a mere offer of benefits available through Jesus Christ. Christ’s work is inseparable from his person; the Jesus who died for our sins is the Lord of the whole universe, and the announcement of forgiveness in his name is inseparable from the call to repentance, the call to turn from “the rulers of this world” to the Lord of glory.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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