I have on my shelf a video of Charles Dickens' famous tale, A Christmas Carol, acted out by the Muppets. You undoubtedly know Ebenezer Scrooge, the nasty old businessman visited by his deceased partner Jacob Marley who returned from the dead to warn him to repent of greed or he will suffer the judgment of death. My family and I have enjoyed the movie, but recently I was reminded that the thesis of the movie is at odds with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Consider the words of Christ,
19) "Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. 20) A certain beggar, named Lazarus, was taken to his gate, full of sores, 21) and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. Yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22) The beggar died, and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried. 23) In Hades, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom. 24 )He cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.'
25) "But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in the same way, bad things. But here he is now comforted, and you are in anguish. 26) Besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that those who want to pass from here to you are not able, and that no one may cross over from there to us.'
27) "He said, 'I ask you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house; 28) for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, so they won't also come into this place of torment.'
29) "But Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.'
30) "He said, 'No, father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'
31) "He said to him, 'If they don't listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.' "Luke 16:19-31 (WEB)
Jesus points out through Abraham that even if someone were to return from the dead urging for repentance that it would not be enough to turn a sinner from his sinful ways. This is great and good news for believers in Jesus Christ. I, for one, can easily imagine a host of sins that I could not eliminate from my life even if a band from heaven returned in force with a message of repent or die. The good news is that even though I am in a death struggle with sin, that with the help of Jesus Christ I will conquer each and every sin he enables me to.
Furthermore, the glory of life without sin will never be attained by me or anyone by human effort, but instead is graced to all God's people in eternity. The unbeliever must be mightily discouraged by Charles Dickens' tale as they reform themselves for the New Year only to find themselves a sinner still, even in the seat of Scrooge, Christmas after Christmas.
Oh friends, come to Jesus Christ, who has died not for the righteous or reformed Scrooges, but for hopeless sinners.