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Yes, it is about sin, writes Lyndon Weggery.
I had great plans to pen a response to Ian Harris' article (ODT 11.3.16) suggesting that the Christian Gospel was more than just dealing with sin, but the death of my mother just before Easter delayed this intent.
She was a firm believer in Jesus Christ and her Christian funeral was not just a celebration of her life but an affirmation that God had taken her home to Heaven.
Recently, I picked up her ashes from the funeral directors, as they are to be interred in the Karori Cemetery in Wellington alongside my father.
When I looked at the urn, the powerful thought struck me that for any human being cremated at death, this is the only tangible evidence of their life.
All her possessions have been sorted by the family and her estate processed by Public Trust.
But her soul and spirit live on into eternity because she believed in the death and resurrection of Christ for her and, contrary to what Ian Harris contends, personal forgiveness for her sin.
If we examine closely the Judaeo-Christian belief, you will see that it is all about God's endeavours to deal with humankind's "fallen'' nature.
There is enough nastiness and evil in the world today to confirm there is still a problem to be dealt with.
If we cannot save ourselves from the spiritual sickness, then it stands to reason that something (or someone) outside of us needed to step in and do the work.
What Ian Harris fails to understand is that God has dealt with humans in various ages that the Bible calls Dispensations.
When one dispensation ends in a crisis (as with the Flood in Noah's time), then God initiates a new beginning.
That's why Bible scholars will teach you that the Creator of the Universe did intervene and started the long process of "salvation'' by choosing (in the Dispensational Age of Promise) the family of Abraham to form a tribe and then a nation to bring this vision into practice.
If you read the Old Testament of the Bible you can trace the development of sacrifice where this very imperfect family regularly make offerings of animals to appease their one true God they called Yahweh.
It was also part of their worship and a prerequisite for being made clean before a holy God.
By the time of the Dispensational/Age of Law with Moses and the Ten Commandments, the sacrifice had developed into an elaborate ritual with God's Tent (or Tabernacle) situated in the middle of the 12 tribes and a special Day of Atonement where the "sins'' of the Israelites were dealt with by the substitutionary method that Ian Harris refers to.
Because even this approach to corporate sin was less than ideal, the next Dispensational Age came into being with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This time in an Age of Grace, everyone (Jew and Gentile) would be personally accountable for their own sin and God's provision in Christ would be available to anyone who asked.
So, contrary to the modern view, the Bible is really saying that in the eyes of a holy God, Heaven is not the "default'' destination of all human beings.
Two conditions are needed for entry into Heaven - forgiveness of sin and holiness or right living in thought, word and deed.
The Holy Scriptures teach us that the first condition is met by cancelling our sinful past (1 John 1:9) and the second prepares us for our ‘‘sinless'' future. (Hebrews 12:14 -24).
That's the beauty and uniqueness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our present Age of Grace.
● Lyndon Weggery is a lay pastor, serving nearly 10 years at Teviot Union Parish, Roxburgh, and holds a degree in theology from the University of Otago.