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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Is forgiveness of sins required?

Below is an interesting article by Pastor Tim O Brien.

I've posted it because it raises an interesting question: Does God require that a person's sins be forgiven before they can experience His presence? According to Pastor Tim, the answer is no. According to Pastor Tim, much of evangelism is centered around getting a person to recognize their sinfulness. If you have ever heard of Ray Comfort or Kirk Cameron or seen the television show "Way of the Master", you will know what I am talking about. Cameron and Comfort believe that the use of the law (specificallly as revealed in the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount) for the purpose of showing a sinner their sinfulness is indispensable to salvation. Cameron and Comfort would also question someone's conversion experience if they have not been "awakened by the law." While I agree that Comfort and Cameron have discovered a valid Biblical principle, I have to ask: Is it true that the use of the law is the only valid form of evangelism? Pastor O Brien says no. I would like to know what my readers think.

It is often said something like, “You have to get forgiveness of sins before you can experience God.” The idea is that someone has to recognize their sinfulness and ask God’s forgiveness before they can expect anything from Him. This, however, was not the attitude of Jesus.

Jesus went about graciously healing the blind, freeing the vexed, granting the crippled to walk, and lifting up with gracious words those of ill reputation. He did not demand them to recognize their sins or to cry out for forgiveness in order to receive His favor. He would often say something like, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Jesus rebelled against the religious system of His day. That system not only categorized actions as clean or unclean, but it categorized people as clean or unclean. The “unclean” could not expect any favors from God.

Ironically, the evangelical church often does the same thing today. We categorize people as saved or unsaved. Now, I understand that there is a theological correctness to whether someone has received a saving knowledge of Jesus or not, but this was never supposed to exclude someone from experiencing God’s favor.

When God’s presence is clearly abiding with us, then everyone in the room can experience God, saved and unsaved. God will heal. God will touch. God will speak. God will grant favor to anyone.

If we demand that people say a sinner’s prayer before they get God’s attention, we are not following the pattern of Jesus. Once they are touched, then they can make their decision, just like the lepers that Jesus healed.

So much of the time Christian religion is focused on getting people to recognize their sinfulness. Although sinfulness is certainly an issue, it is often not something that stirs the heart of the non-believer. They either do not think they are sinful or, even if they do, they don’t believe it will do any good to feel bad about it.

The fact is that God can open up a heart that doesn’t even recognize it’s own sinfulness. God can reveal His presence to them or grant their request. God loves to do great things for people, to display His goodness.

All God needs is a people who are inviting Him into their midst. Jesus said, “My house must be a house of prayer for all,” not a house of robbers. When we make God’s house a house of prayer, then the robbery stops. People stop being robbed of their chance to experience God.

When we steward the presence of God, we give everyone a chance. Everyone gets to touch Him. But to steward the presence of God, it takes our very lives. Who is willing to give their life to host the presence of God so everyone can get a chance?

[People are gathering in the dozens at Rock of Ages Mondays at 7pm to deliberately call on God for a visitation. We are experiencing Him in greater and greater measure. If your heart is for revival and a move of God, come help us call on Him. Reference: Luke 17:12]

NOTE: We have Jesus Camp T-shirts for $8 XL and $9 2XL.

by Pastor Tim O’Brien

Rock of Ages Ministries

Author may be reached at

For Daily Guide 6 Apr 07 edition


Pete said...

Good post! I have lots to say about this so I'll try to keep it under a page.
I would take issue with some of the things stated here. I will agree that one can experience God without necessarily recognizing their sin. However, I think that in order to experience God one must recognize their need for Him and therefore most people must recognize their sin.
It was noted that Jesus did not make people recognize their sin in order for him to do great things for them. Point taken. However, did he not, in almost every circumstance, wait until they recognized their need for him and express their faith in some way?
As a counterpoint, I know that God does bless some peoples' lives without them even acknowledging His existence. This does not change my opinion though, because, while these people may have been blessed by God, they aren't recognizing the need and being humbled by His grave and mercy.
For example, if I were to walk up to the average person and buy them a meal and they would eat and be happy and then never think of me again. On the other hand, if I search for a person who is starving and will die soon if they do not eat, a person who hasn't been talked to or listened to for years unless they were being cursed at, and I buy them a meal and sit and eat with them, they will cherish that moment forever and they will never forget my face. Likewise, no person can fully appreciate God until they have come to a point where they recognize just how much they need Him. Since there is one life threatening disease that every human has in common:sin, it seems to me that bringing that into light would be the most universal form of evangelism.
Also, I would like to add in that there is more to experiencing God than what He can do for you. When one is brought to a realization of God and has an experience with Him, they shouldn't come away simply feeling better about themself. When presented with God's awesomeness, one may be blessed, but realistically, come away with a sense of God's complete lordship and wanting to do something for Him.
But that's just my $.02

Aaron D. Taylor said...


Your comment on this is excellent. I agree with everything you said. I do think Pastor Tim has a valid point though, that if we can bring people into an authentic encounter with Jesus (even if it is through meeting a felt need), the the Spirit of Jesus will do all of the convicting necessary for salvation. This seems to be the case overseas, especially in places like India where the primary cause for conversion is almost always some type of physical healing. In my experience, I have seen that those who convert to Christ through some type of power encounter almost always develop a solid faith. This seems to be especially true on the mission field. It's an interesting discussion.

toby said...

great topic and thoughts guys. keep it up.

marhaban said...

I don't think people need to recognize their sin to begin their spiritual journey. I know too many people who were accepted into a church group unconditionally. The church loved them without pointing out their shortcomings. God took care of their spiritual growth. Slowly, God changes us for the better.

I've always wondered where the "saved" concept came from. I've read the pamphlets but they seem to be taking things out of context.

Pete said...

The "saved concept" came from the Bible not pamphlets. Also, I would like to point out that simply because people have been accepted into church groups or were loved without their shortcomings being pointed out doesn't mean that they have given their life to God.
Now if you are referring to the fact that there are those who have come to Christ without having been evangelized to, well that's great, but that is a minority and even if it weren't, the Bible ( meaning God himself ) commands to go and preach the gospel, of which, one of the foundational points must be the sinful nature of man.

marhaban said...


When a man asked Jesus how to get to heaven, Jesus did not say you need to say this little prayer asking me to forgive your sins and come into your heart and then you will be saved.

When his disiples asked how to pray, he did not say you need to confess your sins and ask me into your heart and then you will be saved.

Jesus was a man of action. He said follow me, he said sell everything give the money to the poor and follow me.

The sinners prayer and the saved concept are only about 200 years old. They are not directly mentioned in the Bible.

I'm not saying we don't need to share God's love and our testimony with other people, I do believe that is required. But, I believe growing spiritually is a journey. God works through people as they are ready. They grow spiritually, but need our love and support.

If we allow God to work in our life, the sins will go away. God changes people. I don't think we have to confess our sins to begin our spiritual journey.

Pete said...

Please go back and look at the first thing Jesus said in reply to that man.
Also, please reread the Lord's prayer and see if you can find the part about being forgiven of sin.
I would like to know where you got your number that says that the first time a sinner asked to be forgiven and gave their life to God was 200 years ago.
Also, the "saved" concept is directly out of the Bible in that exact phrase time and time again. I'm sorry if you're not a fan of the concept but God made it, not me, so be angry at Him.
I'm glad that the sin has left your life and that you no longer need to be forgiven, but I still wake up every day and find myself instantly at the mercy of God because I am a disgusting sinner and in constant need of a savior.

marhaban said...


Don't say that I said things that I didn't.

I never said that I don't sin or need forgiveness for sin. You assume too much here. I said that God starts working sometimes before that has happened.

Here the verse that I think tells how to be saved, but maybe not... salvation, how to get into heaven are questions I've been struggling with for a while...

And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

I'm glad things are so straightforward for you. Sorry for pissing you off.

JesusCamper said...

Jesus healed a blind man who later on could not even say who it was that healed him. Jesus later tracked him down and revealed himself. Jesus chose to give this man favor without any notion of his sinfullness. There was no indication that the man recognized his need for God or his own sinfulness.

When I was 10-years old my family was radically touched by God. It changed everything. God healed my partial deafness and changed the relationships in our family. I did not become aware of the salvation message until I was 12-years old at a Baptist Bible camp. When I heard it, I knew God was good because I had been experiencing His presence for two years. At that point, it was easy to repent of my ways and ask for His. I was willing to do anything for Him.

Pete said...

"the sins will go away"
Sorry, this is a direct quote. Maybe you meant to say that the power to say no to sin will be given to you, but it reads that you will become perfect.
I would not dispute that God can start working in a life before they have confessed their sins, but that person isn't heaven bound without doing so.
I'm not finding fault with you at all for trying to work through some ideas and thoughts and feelings. I have been discovering over the last several years that I have always believed what was convenient for me. It was easier for me to take the parts of the Bible I liked and believe in a God that was just happy and sweet and tender all of the time than to take the Bible for all that it's worth and start discovering who God really is. The Bible is a big book and God is a huge person to understand. It is not at all straightforward for me, but I am challenging myself to believe what is true, not just what feels good to me.
Finally, I'm not pissed off, and I hope you aren't either. Even if I was, that would be my fault and not yours and it's Aaron's forum so as long as he's okay with our debates, I am as well. Besides, if you believe what you are saying is true than that is something you should never apologize for. I once taught a lesson that I was scared about teaching and my pastor told me, " Don't worry about making people angry by representing God truthfully, worry about making God angry by representing Him falsely!"
I've appreciated your thoughts more than you know.

marhaban said...

To clarify, when I said sins go away, ...

Sometimes people are doing things that are wrong, but they justify them somehow in their head. They may not be wrong in the normal sense, but they could be things that are holding them back spiritually. But then God starts working in their life and one day it doesn't feel ok anymore. They feel guilty about it and start to change. Then a few years later or whatever God will pick something else. I think if we are listening and want him, he will constantly be pushing us to change and grow. But, if God had, at the very beginning, shown all the thousands of sins we commit everyday, it would be overwhelming and cause people to give up.