The Gospel Transaction.
When it comes to assessing the many religious systems we are surrounded by today, it's really hard for me to know where to begin. Regardless the denomination, I don't really support any of the church structures as they currently stand.
Why? Because I can't see the biblical precedent for any of them.
This issue is complicated, obviously. What I do know is that we humans, more often than not, take the easy route in structuring our lives. This fact seems to inform our religious engagement. But why has such structuring been accepted by religious leadership?
One would think that an expert in any field would passionately defend the inarguable truths in their chosen area of "expertise."
Yet, here we are.
In my 25-plus years of attending church – churches all across the country – I have yet to hear the reality of the Gospel effectively preached.
If you were to take the Bible and the accounts described therein from a perspective of a "true believer," you would probably have to ask yourself: what is the core reality or truth of what is being shared, taught and commissioned?
Yet, it seems to me that this perspective is rarely engaged by pastors at the pulpit. The truth is that the very church they are standing in, is itself not a reflection of how the New Testament church looked and felt.
As bad as all of that is, there's even more that's being missed in our readings.
If you were to take the time and genuinely engage the Bible as a real-life account, you should be asking yourself: what does the Gospel entail, in a transactional sense? We have all heard the Gospel presented in away that implies its benefits for us.
What is often so eloquently "preached" from the pulpit is that the Gospel simply secures your place in heaven.
Close your eyes, they say, repeat after me – you can do so silently – say: "Jesus, I believe you died for my sins. Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior."
"Now, raise your hands so I can see you," says the minister.
Or, "I can see how well my message went. Ok, now open your eyes."
Next, everybody claps and then the music starts. If you are still so inclined, you can come to the front of the sanctuary and, depending on the denomination of choice, you can have a group pray with you or get some water sprinkled on your forehead.
Remember this does not include Reformed theologians. If you are Reformed you probably had no choice in the matter, so whatever happens, happens. Predestination, right?
All of this might well be done sincerely, by well-intentioned folks making a hidden proclamation about their willingness to be "saved."
I get it. But, in my humble opinion, those teaching this attitude and dbehavior are nowhere close to being right.
Did Jesus Died For My Sin?
The answer to this question: "Did Jesus die for my sins?" is, well, kind of.
But, it was not His core motivation. He didn't even want to do it.
We tend to ignore the reality of what took place in order that The Gospel Transaction to happen. If you take the time to investigate the events in the garden of Gethsemane ( Matthew 26:36-56 ), and do so with a perspective grounded in reality, the truth is Jesus did not want to die at all.
In fact, He begged for an alternative.
"And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will'" (Matthew 26:39). Now, couple this with the following description of the event: "And being in an agony [Jesus] prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44 ).
Jesus died out of obedience and love for His Father.
Not for the benefit of us.
In many ways it was just a happy bonus that we benefited. Jesus's Father, God, wanted reconciliation with humankind, and He paid the ultimate price for it. He sent His Son to death in our place.
So, yeah, you can say that Jesus died for your sins...but did He do it for His Father, or us?
A a failure to recognize the exchange, or transactional nature of the event, is most likely due to our own self-pity and selfishness as humans. But, pastors should be correcting our errors here.
They should be shepherding ur towards this truth with sound teaching.
Think about it for a moment.
How would we respond to another human who sacrificed their only child to save us from calamity?
If you were thankful, thankful beyond measure, you would probably sincerely and wholeheartedly owe a debt of gratitude to that person. A debt that could never, ever be fully repaid. Yet, even if you couldn't ever repay in full, your real passion for trying would forever lead you. And don't think that your passion would be valued and appreciated by the parent of the dead child?
The below video does an outstanding job of visualizing the message.
And yes, I know there are those that have this thing right.
But, keep in mind the Pareto Principle: the majority do not.
That is the Gospel transaction, is it not?
And, yes, there is a response that it will lead to. If you genuinely believe it as reality. If you believe it as something that you are ethically and morally bound to.
But this is not do to expectation or mandate from God.
See, it was a gift.
Here Is The Caveat.
There is no demand for you to act or behave a certain way. I get that.
However, willingness to say thank you, with a genuine heart, is the real evidence of your acceptance of this gift that has been given.
There is proof when someone is sincere and in a relationship. God knows this fact since He is the creator of human nature. So, do you show your sincerity?
Imagine being married to someone who says they love you but doesn't show it or put the needed effort into building their relationship with you. Talk is cheap. The proof is in the pudding.
You are either in or out. When you accept the gift, it is not about acknowledgment. It is about wholeheartedly owning it. And this ownership will affect how you live your life. Call it compelling proof. It shows that you are, without question, a true believer.
Engaging in this compelling proof not only honors God, but it makes His heart smile.
And it is the one thing that all human beings have control over.
Be excited. You are sacrificing your selfishness and developing a core identity that reflects Him. This one thing is the most important part of the Gospel.
But, this one thing is not easy.
It requires work, and it requires you putting His graceful suggestions and desires first in your life.
Just keep in mind the uniqueness of this transaction. It is offered without any expectation of return. And it is given to all of humanity.
And this is the one thing that pastors should be desperately trying to guide their congregations to live out.
Take some time and chew on what I have tried to express here in this simple blog post. Share your thoughts as I am always willing to have my iron sharpened.