There is a section in the Book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament where God has the prophet Jeremiah proclaim destruction on the Babylonian empire. (Babylon was one of the great empires of the world, but as it turned out, their power came from God, who raised them up for the sole purpose of punishing His disobedient chosen people in the nations of Israel and Judah by conquering them and carrying them off into exile and captivity.) But Jeremiah also prophesied that God would preserve a remnant of His people who would remain true to Him, and He would bring them back home.
“In those days,” says the Lord, “no sin will be found in Israel or in Judah, for I will forgive the remnant I preserve” (Jeremiah 50:20).
My mind immediately went through an interesting metamorphosis as I read this. First, I saw, “no sin will be found in Israel or in Judah,” and thought: You mean there was a time when a group of people were perfect? There was a time when the law actually worked? They were living without sinning?
But, of course, I hadn’t noticed yet the rest of the sentence: “… for I will forgive the remnant I preserve.”
Of course; I should have known that. There is only one way that anyone on earth can be without sin, and that is when God has forgiven their sins. That is the only way. We keep trying to go back to having something to do with this, but it’s no use. There is only one way, and that is the way of grace. Only one way you and I can be declared righteous and acceptable by God, and it’s by way of His forgiveness and grace. This is true for us, and true for everybody.
The only way to be without sin is to have your sins forgiven.
But isn’t it amazing, as familiar as I am with forgiveness and grace, how easily my mind goes back to the law? My first thought was not: Well, of course there wasn’t any sin because He forgave their sins. It was: You mean they were perfect?
The way of grace is what’s important for us today. This is our message, and this is why it’s called the gospel, or “good news.” It’s the announcement that Christ has forgiven everyone — all the sins of the world — on the cross.
How many of us have been reluctant to “witness,” or “share your faith,” or “tell somebody about Jesus,” or however we want to say it, because we don’t want to be one of those people who go around trying to convert everyone?
Well, we’re not converting people, or getting them to stop sinning, or getting them to renounce whatever it was they were believing before we came along; we are, quite simply, letting people know that their sins have been forgiven. That’s it. That’s our message. That is the message of grace turned outward.
If you knew someone you loved had been forgiven of all their sins, and the only issue was, they didn’t know it yet, wouldn’t you want them to know about that?