Tag Archives: Gospel

The Gospel Message of Resurrection

Ten days after the ascension of Jesus to heaven the apostles received the Holy Spirit and began preaching the gospel (Acts 1-2). This was fifty-three days after His death. Their message from the beginning to the end of their ministry was built upon and around the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus had commissioned them: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16.15).

In explaining the gospel, Paul wrote,

“Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received…For I delivered unto you first of all which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; that He was buried; and that He hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15.1-4).

Christ’s resurrection from the dead is our assurance that He was the Son of God and that His sacrifice is acceptable with God. The basic fact upon which the entire scheme of redemption is supported is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Everything in the Christian religion is founded upon the resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, the church itself becomes a monument to the resurrection, since from the beginning it has rested on the resurrection of Christ as its foundation.

– Homer Hailey, From Creation to the Day of Eternity, 83-85

 

Grace and the Gospel

Grace

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2.11-14).

Grace and the Gospel

♦ We stand in grace –

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5.1-2).

♦ We stand in the gospel –

 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand  (1 Corinthians 15.1).

♦ We are saved by grace –

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2.8).

♦ We are saved by the gospel –

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15.1-2).

 

The Primary Goal of Evangelism

We often think the goal of evangelism numerical growth; as long as pews are being filled evangelism is being achieved. Or, it’s all about baptisms; as long as people are being baptized, we’re fulfilling the goal of evangelism. Don’t misunderstand, baptisms and “church growth” are important, but these could be in vain if we do not understand the primary goal of evangelism.

What Is Evangelism?

The word “evangelism” comes from the Greek word, “euaggelizo,” which means to announce good news. Obviously in the context of Christianity, the good news about which we’re talking is the Good News about Jesus Christ: the Son of God was born King of the Jews, was crucified, and was raised King of kings and Lord of lords; and He gives eternal life to His disciples.

Evangelism is telling people the Good News about Jesus.

What is the Primary Goal of Evangelism?

But why do we tell people the Good News? What’s our primary goal in that? Our goal is for them to know how to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, if they so choose. The decision to be a disciple is not to be taken lightly.

Jesus said people ought to consider the cost. He compared it to building a tower. “Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it” (Luke 14.28)? Jesus wanted people to understand the enormous commitment required when responding to the Good News:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple…any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14.26-27,33).

Again, the primary goal of evangelism is for people to know how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Some will, sadly, decide the cost is too high. Others will see the Good News for what it is. In faith, they will repent of their sins and say, “Here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8.36).

Evangelism Is Not Just for the Lost

As a side note, when we understand the goal of evangelism is for people to know how to be disciples of Jesus, then we will realize that evangelism is not just for the lost, it’s also for the saved. Even the church needs to be constantly reminded and matured concerning how to follow Jesus.

  • We could easily define evangelism by the “Great Commission,” in which Jesus said to go and make disciples by teaching them, baptizing them, and continuing to teach them how to follow Jesus (Matthew 28.18-20).
  • Paul said evangelists and other leaders “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4.12).
  • Evangelists like Timothy and Titus remained in churches, teaching and reminding Christians how to be disciples of Jesus.
  • Every one of Paul’s letters was evangelistic, but they were evangelistic to the saved, not the lost.

Evangelists teach the lost – and the saved – the Good News about Jesus, so they know how to follow Jesus. All Christians, in some sense, need to be evangelists and to have evangelists in our lives. We all need to be taught more (and reminded often) about the Kingship of Jesus, so we know how to follow Him.

Why It Matters That We Know the Goal of Evangelism

Why does it matter that we realize the primary goal of evangelism isn’t just to baptize people or get them “coming to church”? It matters because we’ve developed all kinds of methods and strategies to baptize people and grow churches. We can quickly walk people through why they need to baptized. We can show people why our congregation is a great place to be. But are we being evangelistic?

Being evangelistic means teaching people about Jesus. If we teach them about Jesus and they reject Him, we’ll still be evangelistic. But if we use some slick presentation to get someone baptized, or get them coming to our congregation, but they don’t know what it means to be a disciple, then we have NOT been evangelistic.

Baptism and church attendance are absolutely necessary to be a disciple, but they are not the primary goals; the primary goal is that we learn to bear our cross and daily follow Christ. If we don’t learn faithful discipleship, baptism and church attendance are ultimately in vain.

Wes McAdams, Radically Christian

 

Cleansing the Shirt’s Fibers

He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3.5-7

Think for a moment about what happens when you wash a dirty shirt: the water and laundry soap move through the fibers of the shirt material and carry out the dirt lodged within those fibers. When we come to God, our minds and hearts are like that dirty shirt, cluttered with false beliefs and attitudes, deadly feelings, past deeds, misguided plans, and hopes and fears.

The Word of God – primarily the gospel of His kingdom and of the life and death of Jesus on our behalf – enters our mind and brings new life through faith. As we open our entire life to this new power and to those sent by God to minister the word to us, the word moves into every part of our personality, just like water and soap move through the shirt’s fibers. God’s word pushes out and replaces all that is false and opposed to His purposes in creating us and putting us in our unique place on earth.

 – Dallas Willard

[Dallas Willard, professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California and author well known to many Christians for his books on spiritual formation, including The Divine Conspiracy, The Spirit of the Disciplines, and Renovation of the Heart, died May 7, just days after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
His son-in-law posted this excerpt shortly before his death: “No Death…This accounts for Jesus’ numerous indications that, for the godly, death is nothing. Have no fear of those who can only kill the body, he says (Matthew 10.28). We will not even experience death (John 8.51-52) and will, in fact, not die (John 11.26)…Such is the understanding of the New Testament as a whole. Those who live in reliance upon the word and person of Jesus, and know by experience the reality of his kingdom, are always better off ‘dead,’ from the personal point of view…we live in the knowledge that, as Paul elsewhere says, ‘Jesus the Anointed has abolished death and has, through the gospel, made life and immortality obvious’ (2 Timothy 1.10).” The Divine Conspiracy, 393-394]

 

“Obeying the Gospel”

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1.16).

Both Paul (Romans 10.16) and Peter (1 Peter 4.17) use the expression “obey the gospel.” The primary idea in obedience is submission. We must submit to Christ as sin-offering to be saved by Him. Obedience to Christ as teacher and king is not enough. We must obey, submit, to Him as sin-offering.

But how can we “obey the gospel” unless in our obedience we are responding to Christ as sin-offering? How can we “obey the gospel” unless our obedience relates directly to the gospel? Why didn’t Paul and Peter simply demand obedience to Christ as one in authority? Because they understood that Christ saves by means of His death on our behalf, not simply by His authority, but by His propitiation.

When, therefore, does belief, repentance, and baptism constitute “obeying the gospel”? The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15.3-4). The conditions of belief, repentance, and baptism constitute “obeying the gospel” only when they are responses to and express reliance upon the crucified Christ. To obey in those respects simply because we have been commanded to is to ignore the cross and render it void.

Faith in Christ is faith or trust in Him as the sacrifice for our sins. Merely believing in Him as God’s Son with no thought of the cross is not enough. Likewise, repentance with no thought of His crucifixion or baptism except as a response to His death for our sins, are not enough.

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6.3-4).

In “obeying the gospel” we should know that we are responding to the blood of Christ and not merely recognizing the right of Christ to demand our obedience.

– Bill

 

Bearers of Good News

Just prior to His ascension, Jesus told His disciples to “go make disciples of all notions, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28.19).

The Gospel is “good news.” It is an expression of love from a gracious God for His earthly creation. Jesus is our Savior, our Redeemer. He reconciled us to God through His death (2 Corinthians 5.17-19; Ephesians 2.12-16). And He delivered us from the bondage of death by His resurrection (Romans 6.3-9).

The Gospel is the “good news” the world needs to hear. It’s the message Holyoke and Imperial need to hear! The privilege of making that message known has been entrusted to us. If our salvation was of such importance to God that He sacrificed His only Son, how much importance do you think He would want us to place upon the proclamation of that message?

We are Christians. We are called after Him who died for us. We claim to have made Him the Lord of our lives. We wear His name. That calling and privilege has responsibility as well as reward. And it will be a tragic mistake to think that we shall receive the reward without accepting the responsibility.

Our Mission

Christians, disciples of Christ: we wear His name because He redeemed us, forgave us, and adopted us into His family (Ephesians 1.3-12). Matthew 10.24 reminds us that “a disciple is not above his teacher.” Jesus had a purpose, a mission in coming to earth and dwelling among us. Luke 19.10 records that mission in His own words: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Because we are His disciples, His mission is now our mission. We are His servants, His ministers, His messengers, His hands, His feet, and His mouth. Our mission is to make known the “good news” of salvation in His name. Our mission is to herald the coming Day of the Lord when every soul must stand before His judgment seat. Our mission is to “to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2.9). Our mission is to be transformed into His image that others might see in us “Christ the hope of glory” (Colossians 1.27).

May God bless us and help us all to be constantly conscious of the urgency of our mission – our sacred calling to be His bearers of the Good News!

  – Bill

 

“Thou Art the Christ”

On one occasion as Jesus and His disciples were traveling through northern Palestine in the area of Caesarea Philippi, He asked them what the people were saying about Him: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They responded, “Some say John the Baptist; and others Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Jesus then asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” It was then that Peter spoke up and confidently answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16.13-20).

That’s a familiar episode in the life of our Lord. We’ve heard it many times. But it’s helpful for us to review it often and think about the significance of its meaning.

Peter affirmed the person and purpose of Jesus and His mission. Christ is the Greek word for the Hebrew term Messiah.  They mean exactly the same thing, “the anointed one.” Jesus is God’s “anointed”: the One God approved, ordained, selected, and sent into the world to be the Savior of the world. That’s the gospel, the “good news” that we continue to proclaim – “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Years later, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15.1-4, outlined the gospel’s message with these simple affirmations:

Christ died for our sins,

He was buried,

He was raised from the dead,

And now He is alive!

Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice to redeem us from sin. That’s the good news of blessing and assurance we Christians carry within our hearts and acknowledge to others. Without Jesus, we are nothing. Let us never forget that. We belong to Jesus. Our purpose is to glorify God by the way we live and make known to the world that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

– Bill

 

Freedom behind the Wall

Educating Offenders

I recently found myself standing in the “hub” of the East Education Building talking with a retired educator who coordinates college classes for the offender population in Sterling. She’s paid by a grant program that helps offenders plan their college career so eventually they can graduate with an Associate’s degree. There were a couple of thoughts that struck me as I listened to her tell of her long and auspicious career in academia.

First was the “impression” that she regarded unlearned people in a different class than those of high academic accomplishment. It was also clear to me that she desired to use her skills to make a difference with the offender population during her years of retirement all at no cost to the State of Colorado as she was paid through the aforementioned grant program associated with a leading philanthropy.

The second thing I learned is that the offenders are required to pay out-of-state tuition for any Colorado college credits. State statute reasons that the offender population does not have the same rights to access as law-abiding citizens. This makes good public policy sense.

Christianity: Call to a Different Standard

Christianity is a call to a different standard than society’s standard of justice, propriety and good public policy. If Jesus were to use the standards implied above, I wonder how you or I would fare in the scheme of redemption.

Wisdom teaches, “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15), but knowledge without love brings arrogance as Paul is clear to state in 1 Corinthians 8:1-2, “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know.”

First and foremost, in regard to the offender population in prison, the state is responsible for public safety. Second to that is offender rehabilitation of which education is a key ingredient.

Not a Call to Comfort

Sound public policy allows us the means to justly administer limited public funding. However, my fear is that we in the body of Christ have become comfortable inside our buildings and have allowed the public sector to fulfill our responsibility.

I’m not advocating that the church become the means to fix the social problems of society, for Jesus himself states that His mission was to save man from his sin (Luke 19:10). Each one of us has that special something we call a talent that can be used to show Jesus to a lost world. Sometimes it is a smile or kind word or maybe a gift of food or help in time of need. It could be leading class discussion, sharing our faith with a neighbor or even attending one of the training schools within the brotherhood to prepare for dedicated evangelism.

Whatever your niche, let’s get uncomfortable and move outside our buildings and serve the King of kings because we see the value of the soul (Psalm 8:4-5). Your opportunity is waiting.

Dan

 

The Mustard Seed

What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree; and the birds of the air nested it its branches. Luke 13.18-19

The parable of the mustard seed is a part of a group called the “Kingdom Parables.” Its purpose is to illustrate the nature of the growth of the kingdom – the church.

Small Beginnings

One of the greatest lessons of the parable is the importance of little things. We live in a “mega” world; things have to be big to be of any value. But Jesus taught that was not necessarily so. He cautioned us to pay attention to small things – like the mustard seed that produces a plant far greater than its size would suggest.

The parable emphasizes the consequences of small beginnings. Most things start out small. Huge buildings begin with just a few bricks. Great symphonies begin with just a few notes. Every piece of literature ever written – book, essay, or poem – is composed of just a few simple letters from an alphabet.

Bricks, notes, and letters by themselves are of little value. However, stack the bricks together by course and bond, and you have a strong shelter. Put the notes together in harmony and rhythm and you have music. Arrange the letters into words, then sentences, and you have communication. Each part, no matter how small, is significant.

Such is the Kingdom of God, the church of our Lord. Christianity is history’s greatest movement, but it began with a baby in a manger. The growth of the first century church continues to amaze us. How, in the space of just a few years, did those early disciples “turn the world upside down” with the message of Christ?

The Relevant Gospel

Certainly there are differences between that time and now. But the Gospel is always relevant – it does not change; nor does human nature. Sin has always been sin. What was sin then is still sin now. There are no old sins that have changed into non-sins. Neither are there any new sins for which new remedies must be designed.

The Gospel, from the first time it was ever preached has been the one and only solution for sin. It was that simple message of salvation that our first century brethren preached throughout the world. They were not intimidated by the task ahead of them. They needed no catchy slogans or gaudy gimmicks to capture the attention of the masses. They felt no need to re-organize the church so that each member was involved in some sort of interaction social group. They were already involved in the great work of evangelism. They had heard the simple message of the Gospel, responded to its call, and then became teachers themselves. They knew what it meant to be “doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1.22)

When everyone does his or her part, though it may not be spectacular, though it may seem very small and insignificant like the mustard seed, nonetheless it vitally contributes to the whole. It is God, then, who gives the increase. It is God who is glorified.

– Bill

 

The Power of the Seed

And He was saying, The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows — how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. Mark 4.26-29

Jesus reminds us through this parable that the results of our labor lie not within ourselves and are not dependent on what we do – the power is in the seed. As everyone who lives in our part of the country knows, it takes time for the crop to develop. The parable emphasizes the principle of cooperation and patience; if we do our part, the seed will work its power and produce life.

Not every seed sown will germinate. Just as the sower broadcast the seed across various soil types, so the gospel will fall upon deaf and careless ears just as certainly as it will be heard by those who will readily receive it into their hearts. Scripture affirms that God’s Word will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55.11). We are the planters and waterers in God’s field; the results, the increase are in His hands (1 Corinthians 3.6).

You men who work the fields are demonstrating a parable. You’ve recently finished planting, and look at your fields. The seeds have sprouted, sent up their first shoots – now begins the weeks of watching, watering, working, and waiting for the crop to mature and produce its fruit – but don’t you still marvel at the wonder of it? How does that little seed do it?

The same wonder and faith apply to the Kingdom. We don’t have to understand how growth is going to occur before we begin our work of planting. Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ (Romans 10.17). It is God’s Word through the Spirit that convicts the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16.8). God’s Word is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4.12). Jesus called that Word a “seed” to remind us that the power is in the seed and not the sower.

As we look out across the fields of maturing wheat and freshly sown corn, let’s think about these principles of seed growth, because it’s easy to become discouraged or frustrated at what appears to be lack of growth or progress. Let’s remember the Lord’s assurance that if we cast the seed upon the soil, the seed will sprout and grow.

So then, let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary (Galatians 6.9).

– Bill