A couple of summers ago I did some research on a small-town, rural Idaho pastor for some friends. He turned out to be an absolute heretic. Last week, I made the mistake of listening to a new sermon by this pastor. Why? It must be similar to our seemingly natural response to look at a car crash. It did not take long for this pastor to remind me of why he is a heretic when he stated:
It is the singular most important issue that Jesus came to address…
OK. I will pause here and let you think about how you would finish his sentence. What was the most important issue Jesus came to address? Think…think…think…
Do you have an answer yet? Is that your final answer? OK, are you sure you want to see this pastor’s answer? Maybe you should look away? No? OK, here is his answer:
Jesus came to respond to the universal human need to know how to live well.
That was not a minor fender-bender, but an absolute, unmitigated disaster: “the universal human need to know how to live well.” Really? He spent a week of sermon prep and came up with that? God had told us how to live well about 1500 years before Jesus came. You may not have heard of these guidelines, but they were called the Ten Commandments. We could all live exceptionally well if we just followed that simple 10 step program. In fact, Jesus even confirmed those rules as words to live by.
There is only one teensy, weensy little problem. We cannot live by them. Not you. Not me. No my Roman Catholic friends, not Mary either. Only Jesus. That law is what convicts us, condemns us, and leads us to Christ Jesus that we may be saved by faith:
But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:22-24).
Unlike the law-based gospel preached by this heretic, Jesus came not to tell or show us how to live well, but to respond to the universal human need to have our sins forgiven. We do not need more rules or excellent moral examples. We cannot keep the rules God had given long before Jesus arrived. We need a Savior. Jesus was and is that Savior:
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
If you church is teaching anything remotely like the message given by this pastor I listened to—RUN!