My wife and I finally watched “Fireproof” yesterday. Though preachier than I might prefer, I overall enjoyed it as a well-done and worthwhile movie. I was bothered by the content of the obligatory “Gospel Message” in the middle, though. In usual form, the sage believer lectures the unbelieving hero on how he “can’t measure up to God’s standard” because he’s “broken God’s law.” The “Gospel,” as usual, involves getting the hero to acknowledge that because of his sinfulness, he needs Jesus’ redemption.
Nothing new, I grant, but we’ve gotta get this perspective turned around somehow. While I do not dispute for one minute that Jesus’ work frees us from our sin (though I probably mean different things when I use those words), the invitation to Jesus is not, never has been, and should not be centered around sin. People recognize Jesus’ lordship first, and only when they realize that, are they convicted of the ways in which they have failed to live as his lordship demands. It’s not necessary to acknowledge sin in order to believe…in fact, it’s only once we believe that we can understand our sin.
Notice Acts 2 as a great example of this. Peter’s excellent sermon does not use the word “sin” once. Nor does it directly mention anything about anybody’s guilt. Rather, the climax of Peter’s sermon–and the clincher that makes the sale for 3,000 people–is Acts 2:36: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Yes, people are confronted with the reality of their evil act in crucifying Jesus, not because the crucifixion was a sin (though it was), but rather because Jesus is LORD. Those who did not accept Peter’s declaration of Jesus’ lordship, certainly did not accept the sinfulness of his crucifixion.
Here, frankly, we could learn something from Islam. Muslims do not invite people to grovel as sinners to come to God. They merely declare (if I may paraphrase) that “there is only one God, you must submit to him; God sent Mohammed as a prophet, you must listen to him.” Our declaration should only be slightly different: