John 8:23-24 – He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”
I recently heard that a Christian teacher told his or her students that Jesus would never come to you and point out your sin. The goal of this was, I am sure, a desire to show Jesus to lost students as gentle, kind, and appealing. The teacher likely thought that the best way to help students to become Christians would be to show Jesus as their friendly supporter, not as one who would ever call them sinners. (I also have to say that, since this is a second-hand story, I could also have been given an unclear representation of the teaching.)
Regardless of what happened in that particular situation, one thing is clear: no presentation of Jesus that does not include pointing out that we are sinners is not a fair presentation of Jesus. Here, where Jesus was speaking to the Jewish leaders, he made it quite plain that they not only were sinners, but were going to die in their sins if they did not believe that Jesus is “he.” So, our own Lord Jesus told people that they were sinners, were in danger of dying in those sins, and that the remedy for their sin was to believe that Jesus is “he.”
In the issue of our sinfulness, we have to recognize and declare with honesty that we are all sinners, and Jesus knows it. There is no way to present the gospel without presenting man’s sinfulness. To call someone to salvation without presenting to them from what they must be saved is an empty, ineffective, and dishonest call. Christ never called people to come to him for forgiveness without expressing that they needed that forgiveness because of their sin. Likewise, Jesus’ disciples in their writings are unabashedly clear that we need Christ because we are sinful before him. The good news of the gospel is not that we are not sinners or that we are all OK, the good news is that God loved us so much that he sent his Son to die as payment for our sins if we will simply place our faith in him.
The other point of interest is that the way that people are saved is to believe that Jesus is “he.” Sadly, today’s Crosswalk reading cut off the passage before the end of John 8. At the end of the chapter, Jesus makes the clear statement for us to know exactly who he is. Besides telling us that he was the one sent by God, Jesus tells us, “Before Abraham was, I am.” In that simple statement, we realize that the “he” that we must believe is that Jesus is God. He existed before Abraham was. He applies to himself the permanent present of “I Am,” and that is a title that only points to God (see Exodus 3). Jesus believed himself to be God, and he demands that we see him as God to be saved.
So, what is the gospel, the good news? The good news is that you are a sinner who is in danger of dying in his or her sin. God, however, out of a desire to show himself glorious and gracious and loving toward you sent his Son, Jesus, who is God in flesh, to pay the price for your sins. Now, if you will put your faith in the person and finished work of Jesus, you will be forgiven. You are not forgiven by being a good person, you are forgiven by God’s grace as you place faith and faith alone in Jesus Christ.
Would Jesus ever come up to you and call you a “sinner?” He most certainly would. If he would not call you a sinner, he would not love you. Love demands that Jesus tell the truth about the danger you are in before God until you place your faith in him and his finished work to save your soul. He would call you a sinner so you could recognize your danger and come to him for forgiveness. He would never call you a sinner just to call you names or to hurt your feelings, but he would most certainly call you one to lead you to salvation. So, let’s not present Jesus as anything other than who he is, the perfect, loving, and honest Son of God who tells us who we really are in order to bring us to himself.
Lord Jesus, I thank you that you are never going to affirm me falsely. I thank you that you have always declared the truth about who I am before you, even when that truth was that I was a lost sinner before you. I know that I am a sinful person who has no hope on his own. My only hope is that you are God, and that you died to pay the penalty for my sin and to reconcile me to God. I trust in you and your finished work for my salvation. Thank you for your grace that makes me(not a good person, but ) a sinner saved by grace.