Luke 1:76 “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.”
When actress Sally Field received her second Oscar in 1984 for her work in the movie Places in the Heart, she told the audience it led her to the conclusion, “You like me. You really like me!” Forgiveness leads us to an even dearer conclusion with God: “You love me. You really love me.” Forgiveness provides the true foundation for our faith in God.
There were many kinds of salvation people hoped that Jesus would bring. Most of their ideas are still spooking around. Perhaps more than any other misplaced hope, Jews of Jesus’ day hoped that he was the Messiah coming to be a political Savior. He would make their nation great and free again. Attempts to mix Jesus and politics in our time are still common. They still lead to questionable results at best. He didn’t come to be that kind of Savior.
After he fed the 5000, some people saw him as their economic Savior. They even tried to make him king by force. His many miracles of healing led others to crown him their health-care Savior. But while they embraced him as a doctor for their bodies, they were lukewarm to the idea of making him the physician of their souls.
If you preach Jesus this way today–the Savior of your finances or your health– you can build a religious empire, complete with your own television show and best-selling books. But you will have something less, not more, than Jesus came to bring.
All of these things are a “salvation” of sorts. They involve rescue from a kind of danger–political, economic, or health threats. They involve a rescue to safety of the same sort. But none of this involves the salvation Jesus came to bring.
What people really need is “knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” What does it take to draw a sinner back to God again? Sin makes us afraid of him, like Adam and Eve were after the fall. They hid from God in the Garden of Eden, because a just God punishes sin. Anyone who says he loves God, but doesn’t believe in the forgiveness of sins, is either a liar or an idolater. He may be a liar, because you can’t, you won’t love the God who is going to punish all your sins. You are terrified of him. Or he is an idolater who has created a make-believe god, one who doesn’t take sin so seriously as it really is.
Only those who know the God who forgives sin can love and trust God, because only they know he has already punished every sin in the death of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness rescues us from the danger of God’s judgment. Forgiveness makes it safe to come close to him, confident he no longer has anything against us. The “knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins” is the foundation for our faith–it enables and empowers us to be near God once again.