Further, many who hold to that theological view admit they make moral ‘mistakes’. However, instead of the idea that our sin has alienated us from God, and that we are in dire need of forgiveness and restored communion with God, religion is seen as chiefly being therapeutic with the goal of feeling good about ourselves. If that’s all true, then where’s the need for a Savior?
As a pastor, I frequently encounter this belief system. At funerals, I often hear family members confidently affirm that their loved ones are in heaven because they were such good people. In the summer, we’re able to hold worship services outside. Sometimes, passersby will stop and listen. I recall a young man with his son who sat down on the grass during one sermon, but when the word ‘sin’ first came out of my mouth, he promptly left. Maybe he just had to leave to be somewhere, but perhaps he left because the idea of sin didn’t fall into his theological scheme of what would make him feel good about himself.
In the Bible, Joseph was told regarding Mary that, “she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save is people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Why the need for Jesus to save us? Can’t we just do better next time? After all, aren’t we mostly good people, and God therefore just wants us to try harder?
Well, firstly, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us…”, and secondly, “whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 1:8; 3:4). Clearly, it’s more serious than many think. Sin is not just making some moral slip-ups that we can make up for. It’s breaking God’s laws, and God, who is ultimately just, must act justly. And therefore lawbreaking requires due punishment, and God has ruled the penalty to be eternal death.
The good news is that the same God who has issued His verdict from the bench has also, in the Person of Jesus Christ, placed Himself in the prisoner’s dock to receive the punishment. Jesus came to save believing sinners by fulfilling all the requirements of the law on their behalf; in His perfect obedience to the law, and in His paying the legal debt due because of sin by suffering and dying on the cross. The proof of His having satisfied everything the law requires is His bodily resurrection from the grave.
Amazing! This is not a God of deism who keeps Himself at a distance, but One who has come very close, lovingly close to save sinners. And it’s not just to present a religion that applies some kind of spiritual therapeutic salve to make us just feel good.
The entrance of Jesus Christ into the world for the purpose of going to the cross was a radical act of grace by God to pardon and recover lost alienated sinners into union and communion with Himself through Christ.
The Apostle Paul put it this way; “Christ Jesus whom God set forth as a propitiation (that’s a word meaning that Jesus’ death on the cross was a satisfaction for God’s justice) by His blood, through faith… to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:25, 26).
Moralistic? Therapeutic? Deism? No, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 2:15).