During a coffee break at a conference, I passed by some young pastors who were discussing the Atonement, a topic covered by the speaker at the session we had just attended. One of them said rather forcefully that he seldom mentions the substitutionary work of Christ anymore in his sermons. Instead, he said, he talks about how Christ encountered "the powers" of consumerism, militarism, racism, super-patriotism, and the like.
I fought the temptation to join their chat. But I was troubled by what I had heard. A few hours later, searching for something to listen to on my rental car's radio, I came upon a Christian station airing a recording of a man who was telling the story of his spiritual journey to a group of fellow business folks.
The man recounted a time when he was increasingly successful in his business dealings, while increasingly dissolute in his personal lifestyle: drinking heavily, unfaithful to his wife, distant from his children, his marriage headed toward divorce. His wife and daughters were active in church life, but he never attended.
One Saturday evening, after he had downed several martinis, his 10-year-old daughter pleaded with him to come to church the next morning. Her singing group was going to participate in the service, and she wanted her father there. He reluctantly agreed, something he greatly regretted the next morning when he woke up with a hangover. But he kept his promise.
In that service, he said, he heard for the first time in his life that he was a guilty sinner who needed salvation, and that Jesus had taken his sin and guilt upon himself on the Cross of Calvary. The man wept as he heard the sermon, and he pleaded with God to take away his burden of shame. From that point on, his life took a new ...