Last night, I went down to my favorite fishing hole at Concord Park. I sat on the rocks for about an hour, reading one of my favorite books. It’s called “Basic Christianity” and it was written by John Stott. I read it years ago when I was in Scotland after a friend suggested it to me. John Stott is a great English preacher and he writes with a wonderful clarity.
I was reading a chapter about Jesus and the claims He made about Himself. As John Stott puts it, we can’t know much about Christianity until we learn about Christ. This makes what Christ had to say about Himself as very important to our faith. We cannot pick and choose what we like about Jesus and disregard the rest.
One of the claims that Christ made, which got Him into a lot of bother, was the ability to forgive sins. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus forgives the sins of the paralytic before He sets out to physically heal the sick man. It caused a great deal of consternation amongst the witnesses because they thought that who else but God can forgive sins? Some of them wanted to stone Jesus to death for blasphemy. They didn’t care about the sick man; they only wanted to purge the community of Christ’s sinful mistake.
I guess we would be much the same. If a preacher were to come into our town proclaiming that he had the power to forgive all of our sins, we’d probably tar and feather that person and kick him out of town.
John Stott says that Jesus claimed this divine power for Himself and that we have to deal with this issue. If Christ is truly the Son of God, then He can indeed forgive our sins. But if He does forgive our sins, then don’t we owe Him all of our faith, allegiance, and loyalty? In other words, you can’t go halfway and make a compromise with Christ. It’s either all or nothing.
In these confusing days when we are bombarded with New Age philosophies and other world religions, it’s hard to make a total commitment to Christ. It’s like putting all of our eggs in one basket, whilst so many people in the world want to keep their options open. But as Stott writes throughout the book, either Jesus is both everything He says He is, and His claims are unchangeable, or Christ has made false claims about Himself and Christianity is untenable.
For me, I think both Christ and Stott have it completely right. Jesus is God’s Son and the Savior of the world; so when I need forgiveness, I confidently come and pray to Him.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Son of the Living God, the Savior of the World, and the Lord of our lives. You alone have the power to forgive our sins and restore us to God. We rejoice in Your Sovereignty and Authority. We praise You both now and forevermore. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.