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Forgiveness, Resurrection, and Eternal Life

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
July 15, 2022 12:01 am

Forgiveness, Resurrection, and Eternal Life

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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July 15, 2022 12:01 am

Not a single soul will escape the accountability of God. But there is hope for all who flee to Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Today, R.C. Sproul articulates the essence of the gospel as it is confessed in the Apostles' Creed.

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The Bible informs us that not a single soul will escape the accountability of a holy God. Now, I know that that tends to be obscured in our culture and people don't like to talk about last judgments and so on, but you cannot have an intelligible understanding of the preaching of Jesus if you obscure that central motif of judgment. The last stanza of the Apostles' Creed states, I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. Today on Renewing Your Mind, we return to Dr. R.C.

Sproul's series, Basic Training. He's been teaching us the fundamentals of the Christian faith by taking us line by line through the Apostles' Creed, and today we see the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let's look then at that first of the last triad, the forgiveness of sins. Not too long ago, I listened to a theologian complain about the fact that theology sometimes gets lost in abstract theories about what God has done in His sovereignty and in the atonement, and we have a doctrine for this and a doctrine for that, and he said, where is the accent of what all of these doctrines mean for us personally? He said, where's the message of the forgiveness of sins, which is a very personal matter, and yet it's where the heartbeat of Christianity is found. I know, again, if I can just be personal and experiential for a second, when I go back to my own conversion experience to Christianity, from an experiential perspective, from a feeling dimension, an emotional dimension, if you will, what my experience was was an overwhelming awareness of the forgiveness of my sins.

And I think that more than anything else in terms of my own psychology and my own emotions is what turned my life upside down. Now, we call that an experience of grace, and we can talk about it abstractly, but there's something very, very real about that because every human being has to deal with the fact that he has fallen short of what God has called him to do. And sin is the most common denominator that we have within our humanity. And I can remember oftentimes being involved in intellectual discussions with unbelievers and debating apologetics, and people tell me they don't believe in God or they don't believe in Christ or this and that.

And we argue through the cosmological arguments and teleological arguments and all that business. But one of my favorite questions to ask somebody after we've discussed all of the intellectual questions is to look them straight in the eye and say, but what do you do with your guilt? And I've never heard somebody, I mean, I'm sure there were people do it in print and everything, but in a personal, honest conversation, I've never had somebody look me in the eye and say, I don't have any guilt. Because everybody has guilt, and everybody experiences guilt, and guilt is something real, something objective. We can distinguish between guilt feelings and the objective state of guilt.

And sometimes we confuse them. Sometimes people will say, well, I don't feel guilty, therefore I'm not guilty. But we know that in the law court, that a defense of murder would not get very far if the only defense was, well, I couldn't have committed that crime because I don't feel guilty. Guilt is a matter of an objective relationship to standards and to law. When we transgress the law of God, we incur guilt.

And that creates a problem for our lives, for the quality of our lives. Now, I think that there is a rationale for the connection of these three elements of the creed, forgiveness of sins, resurrection of body, and the life everlasting, because forgiveness of sins is immediately thrust into a future perspective. And biblically, the most significant dimension of forgiveness of sins is that we are not merely to assuage the paralysis that guilt feelings place upon our personalities in this world. We talk popularly about people having guilt hang-ups, and we know that guilt problems can cause all kinds of emotional and psychological paralysis, which inhibit the quality of our life in this world. And so there is a sense in which people are concerned to get relief from guilt now, here, in order to be liberated for a higher quality of happiness in this world.

And I don't mean to suggest that that's unimportant or that the Bible considers it unimportant, but the central significance of the problem of guilt biblically has to do with our future, because the Bible teaches and Christ taught unequivocally that every human being will stand accountable to God for His life. Now, I know that that tends to be obscured in our culture, and people don't like to talk about last judgments and so on, but you cannot have an intelligible understanding of the preaching of Jesus and the teaching of Jesus if you obscure that central motif of judgment. In fact, he saw his own mission as bringing about crisis, which is the Greek word for judgment. Croesus is the Greek word for judgment. Jesus brings about a crisis by His very appearance on this earth, and He talks again and again and again about a value system of being careful to be prepared for that last judgment.

What shall it profit a man? He says, if you gain the whole world here, but lose your soul. Have you noticed that when the New Testament talks about the final judgment, there is a uniform description of the response of those who are to be judged.

Do you know what that uniform theme is that runs through it almost every time Jesus or the apostles speak about man standing before the tribunal of God? What is the human response? Silence. Now, when somebody accuses you, even if it's something you're guilty of, what's the normal human response? Protest, or to say you're making too much of it, we become defensive. We give our excuses. Our mouth is going a mile a minute to explain why we did it.

Yes, I did it, but, you know, and try to minimize the heinousness of whatever it is that we have done. In other words, our mouths are filled with excuses or with pleadings for ameliorization of the situation. Jesus tells us and the apostles tell us that at the final judgment, every mouth will be stopped.

Why? Well, I think the analogy comes out of the book of Job. After Job is protesting with God, and God comes and interrogates him for several chapters, and after God interrogates Job with one rhetorical question after another, finally, Job repents, and when he repents, he says, I repent in dust and ashes. I will place my hand upon my mouth and speak no more. There's a sense in which when we stand before God, we are, for the first time in our lives, going to get a perfect and impeccable and infallible evaluation of our performance.

We can never cry foul that God's evaluation of our lives is prejudiced, unfair, unjust. It will be perfect, and we will know it. We will know it. So, on the one hand, it will be useless to protest. On the other hand, it will be absolutely foolish to protest. The evidence will be so overwhelming, will be so clear that words would be totally inadequate as a defense.

Our mouths will be shut. One thing that man desperately needs is forgiveness. I mean, what good is an incarnation, a virgin birth, a crucifixion, a burial, a resurrection, an ascension, a return in glory if there's no forgiveness? But the bottom line for me is that what Christ has done, He has made it possible for me and for anyone who has violated the standards of God's righteousness to be restored to a righteous relationship with God, to be reconciled, to be justified. And that comes about through the forgiveness of sins, which is real. I don't know how many times as a pastor I've had people come to me and say, I committed this sin, and I'm just tormented by guilt, and I don't have any peace. And I read in the Bible where the Bible says, if you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and to cleanse you of all unrighteousness. They say, I know all of that, and I've repented of my sin, and I've confessed this sin seventeen times to God, but I still feel guilty. I don't have any peace.

What can I do? And I said, well, what you need to do is repent. And they get angry. They say, what do you mean repent? I have repented seventeen times I've repented for this. And I said, I didn't ask you to repent for the sin. I want you to repent for asking God twice to forgive you of the same sin.

They said, what do you mean? I said, do you realize how you slandered God? Did God say that if you confess your sin, that He would forgive you? Yes. Does God lie?

No. I said, if God says, I will forgive you if you repent and confess your sins, and you do that once, and then you get up off your knees and you're still feeling guilty, so you say, because I feel guilty, I'm still guilty. Do you allow your feelings to have the final authority over what God Himself has promised and declared? I said, that's arrogance. That's the sin I want you to confess, the sin of arrogance. Get back on your knees and ask God to forgive you for your unspeakable arrogance of assigning to God the same kind of inconsistency and lack of truthfulness that characterizes our own lives. Well, of course, this is kind of like shock therapy or like hitting somebody over the head with a board to get their attention.

But in reality, the person is in a sense trying to justify themselves. They say, look, being forgiven by grace, that's okay for you folks, but not for R.C. Sproul. I mean, my sins are so bad that even Christ cannot atone for them. Only R.C.

Sproul can make up for it. It's my duty to feel miserable the rest of my life and to repent in dust and ashes not once, but seventeen times for the same activity. Now, of course, if you commit the same sin seventeen times in a row, you've got to confess it seventeen times in a row. I'm talking about repeated confessions and repentance over the same actual individual sin.

That reveals a lack of trust and confidence in this article of the creed. But as a Christian, we say, I believe in the forgiveness of sin. I believe that when I come to God and confess my sins, He forgives me. That's the joy of the Christian life.

It's like Christian and pilgrim's progress to get that ugly, obscene, dreadful burden of weight that's weighing down on the back, get it off of you and thrown away. And what it means is that when God says, I forgive you, He holds it against you no longer. Now, as for those who are in Christ, the apostle says, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That doesn't mean that we don't have to go through an evaluation.

But those who are in Christ, the forgiven people, will never be condemned by the wrath of God. That is the greatest benefit and blessing that a human being can ever experience. That's why there are lots of things in this world that I would like to have that I don't have. I would like to have a million dollars.

I really would. I would like to have perfect health. And I can see people in this world that suffer far greater than I do. But you know, as human beings, we can also see people who apparently are better off than we are.

And it's easy to covet something, isn't it? I mean, all things being equal, I'd like to have financial security. I'd like to have absolute sound health, a good job, a good job, all of those things. But what do we have?

A pearl of great price, a healed and restored relationship with our Creator that lasts forever. Yeah, the body suffers. The body they may kill, as Luther said. I remember Karl Barth in his latter days, in his last couple of years of life, he would write personal letters to his friends and to his former students and to pastors and to theologians. And they were all writing, inquiring about the various illnesses that he had endured near the end of his life. And he talked about my friend body, you know, friend body. He said, my body's not quite what it used to be. But he had this perspective of, well, yes, my body is falling apart.

The outward man is decaying, but the inner man is being renewed day by day. And it's no fun to be sick. And it's no fun to grow old in the sense of losing functional capacities in the body, things that you formally took for granted. You know what it's like when you pass a certain age. Now, when you get a stomach ache, you're not sure it's the flu, like when you were eight years old. The body is a very important part of our lives, and it is on a one-way ticket to destruction.

We know that. But because of forgiveness, we can say, resurrectiones carnus, I believe in the resurrection of the body. God doesn't just promise me a restored soul or peace of mind, which in and of themselves are the pearl of great price, but He promises us a new body.

And there are lots of times when I think, hey, you know, that's what I need, a new body, because the old one is wearing out and the old one is falling apart. But God says that we will be given new bodies in the resurrection, glorified bodies, bodies that are immortal, bodies that are indestructible, bodies that function without pain, without disease, without decay, without death. When the Christian stands up and says, I believe in the resurrection of the body, I've noticed that some people think that what they're saying when they say this, that they're affirming the resurrection of Christ. No, when we say we believe in the resurrection of the body, we believe in the resurrection of the body, whose bodies are we talking about? Ours, our own body, that that's the result of the resurrection of Christ, and it's a bodily resurrection of Christ. That's why we look for a resurrection of our bodies. This is what differentiates the Jew and the Christian from the Greek. The Greek saw redemption as being redemption from the body, the old Platonic categories where the body was what's wrong with man. The body is the prison house of the soul, and death then liberates the soul or the spirit of man from that prison house. But the Christian doesn't believe in redemption from the body, but redemption of the body.

One last point here. Pascal, the great mathematician, philosopher, and theologian, Pascal called man the supreme paradox. And if you recall, the reason why Pascal saw human beings as being so paradoxical was this. He said, man is the creature of highest grandeur and at the same time of the most misery. Man's grandeur is found in his ability to contemplate, to reflect, to think.

Not that other animals or beings don't have some brain capacities and everything, but it's obvious, isn't it, that the human capacity for reflection and thought far transcends anything else we see on this planet. And that's the greatness of man. That's how man can produce the world that he has produced and do the things that he does. And yet Pascal says that's at the same time the basis of his misery.

Our ability to contemplate is also our misery for this reason, that man in his ability to reflect and contemplate always has the capacity to contemplate a better a better existence than he presently enjoys or is able to bring about so that we're always living with our hopes frustrated. I mean, I can conceive of a life without pain, without suffering, without death, but I can't make it happen. I can't stop the aging process. I read the little plaques in the stores, you know, from the Pennsylvania Dutch, we get too soon old and too late smart, right?

I mean, why? It doesn't seem fair that just when I'm beginning to understand what life's all about, my body won't let me do what I would like to be able to do because I'm getting old. And when your bodies are in its most robust period, our minds are so undeveloped, you know, you have that problem. But we can always think of a better situation that we now have but can't bring it about. And some say that's the very basis for religions being established, that people just project their dreams and ideals into some future state. But what the Bible says is not wish fulfillment or wish projection, but Jesus Christ has conquered death.

And He says to us that there will come a time because of the forgiveness of sins that our bodies will be raised and we will have everlasting life. Now we do everything in our power to continue the life that we now enjoy. Most of us would rather bear those ills we have, as Shakespeare said, than fly to others we know not of. I don't want to die. I want to hold on to a life that is marked by tears, by failures, by pain and sickness, death.

I still want to live. But the life that we are promised in the resurrection of the body is an everlasting life that our Lord says is in a situation where He personally will wipe away every tear. There will be no more pain, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more death, no more sin. That's the gospel.

Now you can call it pie in the sky, but I want a ticket to that feast, and I don't want to lose my appetite for that pie because that's the pie that every human being wants. But it begins with the forgiveness of sins that rests on everything else in the creed of one who is God the Father almighty, the one who made the heaven and the earth. That one is the one who sent His Spirit of holiness to quicken a virgin so that she would conceive and have a child. And it was that sovereign God of heaven and earth who brought that Son to a destiny of judgment under Pontius Pilate so that He was crucified, so that He died, so that He was buried, so that He descended into hell, so that He was raised from the dead, so that He ascended into heaven, so that He sits at the right hand of God right now, and He says that someday from there He's going to come to judge everybody, the alive and the dead. It's the one who is the one who is the one who is the basis of our forgiveness. It's the one who sends the Holy Spirit, who creates a community called the church, and who promises us the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. That's the message of the New Testament in an outline, and it captures the essence of Christianity. I think that says something for the riches of the Creed, and why it has persevered so long, and I'm sure will continue in the history to come. And with that, we wrap up the series that we call Basic Training. It's Dr. R.C.

Sproul's look at the fundamentals of the Christian faith as stated in the Apostles' Creed. I'm Lee Webb, and you're listening to Renewing Your Mind. Thank you for being with us today. We'd like to send you the DVD containing all six messages from this series. Just contact us with a gift of any amount. You can reach us by phone at 800-435-4343.

You can also go online to make your request at They can readily tell that if you teach a membership or catechism class in your church, if you homeschool or lead a Sunday school class, this series is helpful. But even as we've heard today, it is wonderful at any stage in our walk with Christ to be reminded of these great truths. So again, with your donation of any amount to look at your ministries, we will send you this series. Again, it's titled Basic Training.

Our number is 800-435-4343, and our online address is Well, next week, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson joins us to continue talking about the basics of the Christian life. Is Christianity simply an ethical system or a set of doctrinal beliefs, or is it something more? Dr. Ferguson will show us what it means to be in Christ. I hope you'll join us beginning Monday for Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-24 10:30:09 / 2023-03-24 10:39:01 / 9

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