The word gospel means “good news” right? How can we communicate the good news in an effective way at the local church level? Is there a balance that needs to be achieved between sin contemplation and gospel reflection?
These are questions that the elders at my church are seeking to answer. We want to be a place that clearly presents the gospel every week. However, we think that the best way to do that is to be repeatedly reminded of our own sinfulness.
One of the main ways that we seek to serve our people in this area is through the corporate confession of sin. We have a prayer of confession of sins, which is introduced by a pre-confession Scripture, for example: Psalm 51:1-4
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
After the Scripture is read, the confession leader leads the congregation in general prayer of confession. Then the leader indicates a time of silence for corporate confession of sins. After a brief time of silent confession of sins, the leader concludes the prayer on a note of hope in light of the cross. Then the post confession Scripture is read by the leader. An example could be Psalm 51:10-12
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
So, we take note and remind ourselves of our inability to please God (1), then (2) we corporately confess our sins, then (3) we rejoice in the cross and God’s promises made through His Word. We don’t want people to leave thinking: “Man, I needed encouragement and I really got beat up today.” We want them to leave saying: “Wow, isn’t God’s mercy great? He reached down and saved a sinner like me…or…I know that my only boast is in the mercy of God through Christ Jesus…Praise Him!”
This article, by Nico Van der Walt expresses well the importance of the doctrine of sin in our lives. He argues that we don’t have the Gospel when we are not biblical in our anthropology. He also shows the far reaching implications of a “sinless” Gospel presentation. Also, I recommend this article by Al Mohler on the subject.
So, if your church is going to be like the Thessalonians who “sounded forth the Gospel” to those around them; everywhere they went, sin must be reflected upon, repented of, and warred against.
The Gospel is Robust; let’s spend our lives exploring the depths of God’s grace through our dependence upon the atoning work of Christ on the cross!