Years ago, my pastor made a great statement: “The Gospel has a catch: it’s only for the guilty.” He’s right.
The Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection is only good news if one sees its necessity. If someone thinks, “I’m a good person deserving of God’s blessings,” then the good news – the Gospel – is of no value to that person. He or she does not recognize the need for it.
On the other hand, if someone is convicted of their sin – if they recognize the wrongness of their actions, thoughts or words – then the Gospel is good news indeed, and it will have an effect on that person.
My concern is that many people today think that the Church should only preach grace. They suggest that talking about sin – or referring to people as sinners – will alienate those people from the Kingdom of God. We should only, therefore, share the good news.
Well, that is an interesting theory, but it’s not biblical. Jesus told the adulterous woman to “Go and sin no more.” That was clearly a reference to her adultery being sin. He didn’t just cover it up. In essence, He said, “Stop doing it.”
Stephen – apparently the first Christian martyr – spoke clearly when he called his listeners “stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears.” (Acts 7:51) He went on to tell them that they were just like their fathers because “you always resist the Holy Spirit.”
It does the world very little good if they hear the good news of Jesus’ substitutionary atonement, but they think they don’t need it.
If we don’t recognize sin as sin – if we don’t repent and turn to God – then we don’t receive the forgiveness and cleansing that are provided, nor do we see the need to.