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Jesus, His Cross, and Blotted-out Sins

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts.3:19).

Pretty straightforward, right? Repent and you’re sins will be forgiven. Well, yes, it is simple, but not simplistic. Let me qualify...

Our sins are not blotted out simply with the wave of a magic wand in God’s hand and the words, “You’re forgiven.” It’s not simply that God loves us and simply says “I forgive you.” God does love us. And if we repent, he will forgive us. But, that forgiving love of God is manifested in a particular way, namely, through Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection.

Our sins will be forgiven because they are dealt with by Jesus on the cross. Jesus’ death on the cross is what makes forgiveness possible! That is the way, and there is no other.  A so-called loving God won’t forgive anyone apart from Jesus and his cross.

More and more people these days are saying with more and more frequency that the way God forgives us is to simply say, out of his love, “I forgive you.” We’re forgiven because God loves us. And so, in his kindness, God sweeps away our sin.

Well, the problem with that is that it’s not the whole story. It’s a stunted gospel message. Now, I don’t mean that it’s wrong, or inconsistent at all with the gospel to say that God loves us and in that love he forgives us. That’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that more and more people seem to really believe that that’s all there is to it, and Jesus and the cross are expendable.

So, when they say “God loves you and will forgive you,” they don’t have Jesus and the cross in their minds as what makes that possible for you. They might have the cross in mind as an example of God’s love, but not as something that actually accomplishes anything or what in fact makes forgiveness possible.

Why can’t we just focus on preaching and teaching about the fact that God is love? Good question. One answer: Without Jesus and his cross, we don’t have a God of love!

Yes, “God is love.” But in the name of God’s love, we cannot dismiss the sacrificial nature of Jesus’ crucifixion. It can’t only be an inspiring example to us, rather than actually accomplishing something on our behalf. In fact “...this is love... that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1Jn.4:10). Jesus was not just an example to us, but “the propitiation.” He took God’s wrath on himself and turned it to favor. “...God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro.5:8). The vaunted love of God is manifested in a particular way, namely, in Christ’s crucifixion “for us.” Not an example to us, but a sacrifice for us.

So, God doesn’t forgive us simply by dismissing our sins and their due penalty. Our sins are very much accounted for, but, if we are in Christ, then they are accounted for on his cross. Our sins, then, will be blotted out.