[forthright] Preaching the Forgiveness of Sins

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Mon, 11 Jan 2010 10:59:54 -0200
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross

Join us in the daily Bible reading with an open post
for each weekday by Ron Thomas.
http://fellowshiproom.wordpress.com


COLUMN: FINAL PHASE

Preaching the Forgiveness of Sins
  by J. Randal Matheny, editor

Zhang Zhixin was a young Chinese woman who opposed Mao
Zedong's communist government. She was executed in 1975
for her struggle for human rights. Before her death, in
order to ensure she could not speak out again at the
last moment, the authorities cut her vocal chords.

Tyranny seeks to squelch the voice of freedom.

Satan seeks to do the same to Christians. The great
danger is not oppressive governments and persecution
from authorities, but from saints who let timidity,
cowardice and conformity to the world silence their
proclamation of the gospel.

The Gospel of Mark is known as a vigorous account of
Jesus' actions. But in the first chapters it also
highlights Jesus' principal activity and mission:
proclaiming the forgiveness of sins. This he does, even
in the midst of opposition.

His example calls us to do the same. Let's see seven
points where Mark establishes Jesus' major activity.

#1. The gospel opens declaring "The beginning of the
gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Instead of
telling about Jesus' birth or childhood, it goes
directly to the forerunner, John the baptizer, whose
principal job is "preaching a baptism of repentance for
the forgiveness of sins" (1:4 NET). Though John is
before Jesus, his message signals what Jesus will be
about.

#2. When Jesus started his ministry, soon after his
baptism at the hands of John, he "proclaimed the gospel
of God" (1:14). The content included the imminent
arrival of the kingdom, repentance and faith in the
gospel (v. 15). He called men to do the same, to be
"fishers of people" (v. 17).

#3. When the disciples search for Jesus to appease the
crowds, he refuses and declares why he came to earth:
"Let us go elsewhere, into the surrounding villages, so
that I can preach there too. For that is what I came
out here to do" (1:38). Jesus came to preach. If he
didn't allow his vocal chords to be cut by Satan,
neither would he become a panderer to crowds or a
miracle-worker for physical and material good.

#4. After four men strained to get their paralytic
friend in front of Jesus, the Lord offers him ...
forgiveness of sins! (2:5), because he knew what the
man most needed. Only to prove that he had authority to
forgive sins did he finally heal the man.

#5. Infrequent as Jesus' declarations of purpose are in
the gospels, it is surprising to see another so soon
after 1:38, but in Levi's house, among publicans and
sinners, he answers a question put to the disciples:
"Those who are healthy don't need a physician, but
those who are sick do. I have not come to call the
righteous, but sinners" (2:17). The calling comes by
going to the sinners and inviting them into the
forgiveness of God.

#6. Mark lists three reasons Jesus designated twelve
apostles, or envoys: "so that they would be with him
[to learn from him] and he could send them to preach
[to continue what he started] and to have authority to
cast out demons [confirming the message, Mark 16:20]"
(2:14-15). And when he did send them out, what did they
do? "So they went out and preached that all should
repent" (6:12).

#7. The story about Jesus' family attempting
intervention surrounds the accusation that he cast out
demons by Satan's power. He meets that accusation head
on, but winds up speaking about what? Forgiveness and
non-forgiveness of sins! "I tell you the truth, people
will be forgiven for all sins, even all the blasphemies
they utter. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy
Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an
eternal sin" (3:29-30). Jesus winds up the family issue
by saying that his family (the forgiven ones!) are
those who do the will of God. A good part of that will,
as John and Jesus and the disciples taught, was
repentance.

This short survey of the beginning of Mark's gospel
establishes that Jesus came to preach and offer
forgiveness of sins. (Mark 10:45 will establish the
means.) Jesus spoke at every turn, in the face of
opposition, criticism and bald attempts at
intervention.

If we want to be like Jesus, we will do the same. For
Satan will cut our vocal chords only with our
permission.

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