Voices: Don’t lose the plot of the gospel: forgiveness of sins

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Have you ever had this experience when leaving a gathering of some kind: You became aware you had “missed the plot?” Not to be confused with “lost the plot.”

As a credentialed mental health practitioner, I am duly certified to tell the difference and, yes, I have known some who “lost the plot.”

It happened to me one evening as I was leaving our second Regeneration meeting, which is meeting in-person on Monday nights. I sat in the corner, double masked (like Bernie Sanders without mittens). The testimony was awesome and penetrating. The power of transparency, humility and vulnerability were beyond measure.

Then, we broke up into small groups and processed the material from our individual study during the week.

While at the hand sanitizer station on my way out, Mark 2:1-12 and a scene from “The Chosen” played through my head. Both the Scripture and the scene reference a paralyzed man lowered by his friends through a roof opening to be in front of Jesus. Jesus’ first words were, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Replaying that scene and passage of Scripture, I realized on leaving the meeting that night, I really had “missed the plot.”

How did I do that? Well, again and again I got distracted by Jesus’ miracles.

He did so many, but an understanding of the times would reveal he did not heal every leper, every blind person or every demon-possessed person in Israel. But healing everyone was never was the “plot.”

The real plot was embodied in those simple words of Jesus to the unnamed paralytic: “Your sins are forgiven.” That night, the “plot” came home to me with a clarity I never had before.

Jesus was laser-focused on the plot

Regeneration is about shining the hope of the gospel into our brokenness so we can find healing and recovery. This is a problem for many Christians.

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The gospel always has been about the forgiveness of sins. Zero in on the paralyzed man’s experience with Jesus. Jesus was not focused on the man’s disability—which some believe he struggled with from childhood—or the fact that getting to Jesus required friends to carry him and their believing Jesus could do something. Rather, Mark and Luke both mention Jesus was laser-focused on forgiveness of sins. After addressing the first and most pressing problem—forgiveness—Jesus moved on to the paralysis.

There is the plot.

Addressing brokenness

Everything about Jesus is the seeking and saving of the lost. It never has been about miracles, never has been just about signs and wonders, never has been about the supernatural acts that can happen in a world where God is all powerful. It always has been and is about forgiveness of sin and brokenness.

I remember a conversation with a pastor’s prayer group that singled out the troubling sins of the culture but neglected a core teaching of the Scripture. I asked the group, “Men, have you ever considered that original sin, total depravity, lostness can be summed up in the notion of ‘brokenness?’”

We all are broken, terribly broken, hopelessly broken, and in each life, brokenness may manifest itself differently.

Suppose someone experiences brokenness in their sexuality. Are they less outside the forgiveness and grace of God?

There were some moments of silence in the group. These kinds of brokenness are not “respectable ‘sins,’” to use the title of a book by Jerry Bridges.

As a therapist, I can appreciate how such brokenness can resist grace, resist healing, can resist vulnerability, and create and deepen isolation. After regaining the plot, I better understand how the heart of God and the sacrifice of Christ is focused first on the forgiveness of sins and only secondarily on helping us clean up what sin has done to our lives, our relationships, our families.

Both forgiveness and healing are powerful, but we must start at the beginning. We must experience for ourselves that our sins are forgiven.

Michael Chancellor is a former pastor and a licensed professional counselor practicing in Round Rock, Texas. The views expressed are those solely of the author.

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