In the past few years I have heard a lot of people talk about what it means to be a Christian. It seems that the rhetoric and terminology being used emphasizes the relationship part of being a Christian. They want their audience to know that Jesus wants to be your friend and he will be the best friend you never had and always wanted. You may let him down but he will never let you down, or even be mean to you when you make a mistake. If you believe in Jesus and receive his spirit then you will become a part of his family.
You will notice that I did not capitalize any of the pronouns that referred to Jesus. The reason why is because this Jesus they are talking about is not the Jesus of the gospels. Jesus did spend most of His time with the “sinners” of His day but that did not mean that He did not tell them that they needed to repent of their sins. It is likely that they heard Him preach about it in one of His many sermons because not all of His sermons are recorded. Some are alluded to, like the time when He asked Peter if He could use His boat to teach from. The sermon is not recorded. It is only recorded that He taught and then asked Peter to take the boat out and lower His nets.
I believe it is safe to assume that Jesus taught a lot about repentance of sins. It just wouldn’t be prudent and repetitious to record every single time He spoke about repentance. A lot of what is recorded in the gospels is sermons that summarized His main message. Jesus was all about forgiveness and being in a relationship with His people but not before the problem of sin was addressed. It is not entirely wrong to talk about a relationship with Jesus, our Lord and Savior, but it is wrong when repentance and forgiveness of sins is not equally emphasized.
The correct formula is not relationship then forgiveness of sins then and ignore any kind of repentance. The sin problem must be dealt with first. The correct “formula” is recognition of our sin problem, repentance of our sins, knowing that we are forgiven for our sins and then we are able to have a relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The saying is that there is not forgiveness of sins without repentance, but there is no relationship with the Creator of the universe with the first two steps. And none of this happens on our volition or power. It is a gift of God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son.
Just remember when Rick Warren tells you it is about a relationship and tells you to say, “Jesus, I believe in you and I receive your spirit,” it is not the same Jesus of the gospels. Your sins are not mistakes, they are acts that are an offense to the Holiness of God that He names as sins, and He does not equivocate like men do.