In Luke 18, Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed, "God, thank you that I'm not like other men, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give tithes of all I get."
But the tax collector wouldn't even lift his eyes to heaven, but he beat his chest saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" Jesus said, "I tell you this man went down to his house justified." But the other will be condemned.
What does it mean to be justified? Justification is a legal declaration in which God pardons the sinner of all his sins, and credits to his account the righteousness of Christ, so the sinner is made innocent in the sight of God.
What is the basis of this verdict? It is based solely on the work of Jesus Christ: His perfect obedience, His atoning sacrifice, and His resurrection from the grave. See, God doesn't merely expunge our sins, He expiates them. We owed a debt for our sin, and Jesus paid that price.
Colossians 2:14 says that God has "forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross." The debt has been paid by Christ alone. He took our sin, and we received His righteousness, and we are justified by His grace as a gift.
How does someone receive this free gift? By faith in Jesus Christ. Turn from your sin and ask His forgiveness, and you will be justified, when we understand the text.
Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber. The musical has been popular ever since its debut in 1970, from Broadway to going on tour, several films, and a live concert version that aired Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018, on NBC.
In case the mainstream success of Superstar is not a dead giveaway, the theology is a blasphemous mess. It comes across as a story told from the perspective of Judas, who opens and closes the opera with the first and last numbers. But even Mary Magdalene refers to Jesus as "just a man."
There is nothing miraculous or even caring about this Jesus. When the sick come to him for healing, he gets angry and tells them to leave him alone. When his disciples ask him about the future, he's annoyed and says he doesn't know. At the last supper, he tells them, "For all you care, this wine could be my blood. For all you care, this bread could be my body."
In his prayer in the garden, Jesus says he's uninspired and doesn't understand his purpose. He says being a martyr would be better, so he tells God, "Take me now before I change my mind." And then he dies and becomes a superstar but doesn't rise from the dead.
As lyricist Tim Rice said, "It happens that we don't see Christ as God but simply the right man at the right time at the right place" (Time Magazine, November, 1970).
The Bible says that when the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, Jesus, to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), and redeem them by His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. Whoever believes this gospel will be forgiven their sins and have eternal life. Whoever does not believe will not be saved, but the wrath of God remains on them. Accept no imitation, when we understand the text.
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." Galatians 4:4-5
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raise don the third day in accordance with the Scriptures..." 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." Galatians 1:8-9
"Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel..." 2 Timothy 2:8
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life... Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." John 3:16, 36
The day after Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey's colt, to shouts of "Hosanna!" and "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" He went to the temple and drove out the merchants overturned their tables. And He said, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers!" (Mark 11:17)
All three of the synoptic gospels -- Matthew, Mark, and Luke -- tell of Jesus cleansing the temple after His triumphal entry. This would have been on the Monday before He was crucified on Friday. But the book of John records something different. It says Jesus cleansed the temple way at the start of His ministry, a few years before He was crucified. What gives?
These are actually two separate temple cleansings. It's in John's story where Jesus famously made a whip of cords, which He used to drive everyone out and He overturned their tables. But it's in what Jesus said that we see the biggest difference between the two cleansings.
In the first cleansing, He said, "Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade" (John 2:16). But in the second cleansing, He said, "My house shall be called a house of prayer." In the first cleansing, the temple was His Father's house. In the second, He called it His house.
And rightly so: Jesus is God, and it has always been His house. But the second cleansing was right after the triumphal entry, announcing Himself as King, that He referred to the temple as "My house shall be called a house of prayer, for all the nations."
Jesus gave His life to purify for Himself a people from every nation (Titus 2:14), that we might become a spiritual house unto the Lord, when we understand the text.
"These I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Isaiah 56:7
"As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:4-5
What is the gospel? Well, the word gospel means "good news." Good news about what? The good news that God so loved the world He gave His only Son, and whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. The good news that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
The good news that Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead. The good news that by God's grace we are saved through faith in Christ. The good news that God is reconciling all things to Himself. The good news that Jesus bore our sins on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. The good news that Jesus reigns forever.
Now, if that doesn't sound like good news, that's because you don't understand the bad news. You have sinned against a holy God and He will destroy you in His righteous judgment. But God shows His love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. By faith in Jesus, you are forgiven. You're no longer the object of God's wrath but the object of His mercy. And that's good news.
The gospel is not doing nice things for people, but a believer will show the love of Jesus. The gospel is not miraculous healings, but a believer who was dead in their sins has been raised to life in Christ. The gospel is not worldly prosperity, but a believer will inherit the heavenly kingdom of God.
The gospel is a message. Therefore, it must be spoken. Only those who believe the gospel, who repent of their sin and follow Jesus, will be saved from the judgment of God. But how will they know unless they are told? You must believe the gospel, then go and share the good news, when we understand the text.
1 Peter 4:16 says, "If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name." What is a Christian? Very simply, a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ.
The word was first used at Antioch when the Greeks called Jesus followers Christians. Before that the followers of Christ referred to themselves as disciples. So, what is a disciple then? Well, a disciple is... a follower of Jesus. But what does that mean to follow Jesus?
Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits himself? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words," I will be ashamed of him on the day of judgment.
Jesus also said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." Meaning that you must value Christ above everything. After all, Jesus gives us everything, dying on the cross for our sins, so that all who believe in Him will live forever in heaven.
Being a Christian means you follow Jesus with your whole life. You turn from sin and be holy. You obey His word, the Bible. You love His people, the church. You love others and share His gospel.
Following Jesus is not easy road. Jesus Himself said people will hate us just for His name. But praise God, we're following the one who rose from the dead. He will bring us into His kingdom. Being a Christian will cost you everything. But it's worth the cost, when we understand the text.