Major Beliefs Day 59 – The Practical Transformation of the Gospel (Ephesians 4)

Major Beliefs Day 59 – The Practical Change of the Gospel (Ephesians 4)

 

Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

One of the mistakes of the American church is that it thinks the Gospel is for the lost and that once a person has become a follower of Jesus Christ, that they should move past the Gospel into the deeper things of the faith.    When Paul writes all of his letters however his focus is always on the Gospel.  He is writing to a churches, to groups of believers and yet he never ceases to talk about the cross and the blood of Jesus and the empty tomb.  Why? Because it is the Gospel that transforms us, it is the Gospel that changes us.  And because of that we as believers should be constantly and consistently reminding ourselves and each other about the truth and the beauty of the Gospel.

We should never tire of hearing about what Jesus has done for us.  After all Paul says, “it is the power of God”.  The Gospel saves us but it also changes us.  For example one of our callings as Christians is to put other people’s needs ahead of our own.  That however goes against our nature doesn’t it?  We are born with a desire to “preserve ourselves” and then we are taught “to look out for #1”.  The Gospel flies in the face of that doesn’t it?  For what if Jesus had done that, what if Jesus would have only looked out for Himself? Then there never would have been a cross.  He would not have endured the shame and the humiliation, He would not have suffered the wrath of God the Father, instead He would have simply looked out for Himself.  But He didn’t, He was (and is) the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  He loved us enough to go to the cross and do die for us.  When He was nailed to the tree He wasn’t looking out for Himself, He was looking out for His children.

As we contemplate that wonderful truth it changes us because if Jesus put others first and we are His followers then we should put others first as well.  We should very practically do what Paul is talking about here and “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving.”  But lets be honest sometimes that hard isn’t it? Its hard to do those things.  So how can we? Through making up our minds and saying we are going to do better? No way, that doesn’t work.  We might do it for a few days or hours but then we are right back to “looking out for number 1”.  What does Paul say? He says to do those things because God through Christ forgave you.  In other words he takes them back to the Gospel and he shows them once again the truth of the love and grace of God.  For it is that love and that grace that changes us isn’t it? “It is the love of God that constrains us,” the Bible says.  Keeping the Gospel before us changes us, it makes us into what God has redeemed us to be.  People who care for and who love other people.

That is counter cultural isn’t it? It certainly isn’t what we see in our world.  But it is what Jesus did and as we think about what He did for us on the cross then we supernaturally become those kind of people as well. People who ask not how can I look out for myself, but how can I care for and love other people.  People who look for opportunities to share the Gospel, people who look for chances to help and love others, not to earn salvation, but because they have been given it.  People who are grateful for what Jesus did for them on the cross and as they think about His blood and His love, are motivated to give of themselves to other people.  Sola de Gloria, To God be the glory!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Major Beliefs Day 58 – A Willing Prisoner (Ephesians 3)

Major Beliefs Day 58 – A Prisoner (Ephesians 3)

 

Ephesians 3:1 – “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you gentiles….”

 

John Bunyan the author of the classic, Pilgrim’s Progress once said “they may put me in prison but as long as I have Jesus and my Bible I will still have joy.”  In other words there is nothing on this earth that could still his joy away, not even being put in prison.  Why? Because he was a child of God.  He knew that he was loved by God and that he had a hope beyond this world that nothing on this earth could take away from him.  Bunyan would later be thrown into prison, he lost his freedom but he did not lose his joy.

Paul was the exact same way.  He too was imprisoned.  Thrown into jail.  His freedom was seemingly gone.  Paul however still talked about the freedom that he had in Jesus.  Why? Because he had been in prison before.  Not a prison of bars and walls, not a prison that was guarded by a Roman soldier, but a prison of his life.  He was enslaved to sin.  It had put him in a prison.  He could do nothing but sin, that is until Jesus set him free.  And as we are told “if the Son shall make you free you shall be free indeed.”  Paul was truly free, even when he was thrown into a prison cell.

Why was he in prison? For preaching the Gospel, for telling others about Jesus, for taking a stand for truth.  He was thrown into prison but he was still free.  He was chained but thanks be to God, through God’s amazing grace his other chains were gone.  He was no longer a slave and a prisoner to sin, he had truly been set free.  Because of that he willingly went to prison.  He knew that nothing could steal away his joy and his relationship with Jesus.  So even though he was in prison, he was set free.  And as he said, “nothing can compare with the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus as his Savior and Lord.”  It is so good that he gladly went to prison for it.  To God be the glory!

Major Beliefs Day 57 – Keep It Pure (Matthew 16)

Major Beliefs Day 57 – Keeping It Pure (Matthew 16)

 

Matthew 16:12 – “Then they understood that Jesus did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

One of the things that I really enjoy is getting a new pair of shoes.  I typically agonize over which pair to buy, especially with running shoes, and then when I finally make a decision I try to keep them as spotless as I can for as long as I can.  I broke down and bought a new pair not too long ago and was very proud of how clean I kept them until last night.  I was out on our deck talking on the phone and the storm clouds began to roll in, I was getting ready to go in the house and then it happened.  I got shall I say “bombed” by a bird that was flying ahead of the storm.  So much for keeping the shoes clean and white.  Their purity was gone.

I like to keep my shoes clean and pure but in the overall scheme of things it really doesn’t matter does it?  They will run the same whether they are clean or not.  The Gospel however is a different story.  We must keep it pure no matter what. It is essential because it is the truth.  If we add to the Gospel or take away from it, we have changed its purity.  And Paul says to the church at Galatia, “if anyone presents to you a different gospel (i.e. changes it) then let them be accursed.”

The Gospel must be kept pure, we must as Jude says, “contend for the faith that once and for all delivered to the saints.”  It is our calling and it is of the utmost importance.  If it wasn’t Paul certainly wouldn’t have used such harsh language in his Galatian letter.  The Gospel is true, and the truth is what sets us free.

So what truly is the Gospel? It is as simple as the line of an old hymn, “in my place condemned He stood.”  Jesus came and went to the cross to pay the price for our sins.  We are the ones who should have been there, but He went in my place so that I could be forgiven and so that I could be redeemed.  He took the wrath of God (what the Bible calls propitiation) so you and I wouldn’t have to.  That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We are sinners who desperately need a Savior and Jesus went to the cross and died willingly so that the justice of God could be satisfied and so that we truly could be forgiven.  If we are saved, we are now righteous in the eyes of God.  He gives us His righteousness.  How? Not through anything that we do, but through what Jesus did.  That is the Gospel! We don’t work our way to salvation! No it is a free gift given to us.  We don’t work to get saved.  Our works don’t save us, Jesus’ work does. 

We don’t do good works and good things to earn God’s favor or approval.  We can’t earn our salvation.  We do however do good things because we have been given God’s approval, because He has forgiven us of our sins.  That should motivate us to be serious about Him as we serve Him.  We serve and we love because He first loved us. 

That is the purity of the Gospel.  It is Jesus.  If it becomes anything other than that, or if it becomes Jesus plus something else then we have missed out on the whole point.  The Gospel is Jesus.  It must all be about it, and if it isn’t then we are called to repent and realize that we are only saved through the blood of Jesus.  If it wasn’t for His blood, none of us could be saved.  That is why we should live our lives glorifying Him because He has given us the gift of salvation.  As Paul says, “thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” To God be the glory!

Major Beliefs Day 54 – Sitting Down (Hebrews 10)

Major Beliefs Day 54 – “Sitting Down” (Hebrews 10)

Hebrews 10:12 – “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.”

We are a sedentary culture aren’t we?  We sit a lot and don’t do a whole lot of moving.  We can sit in our seat and change the channel, we can sit on our lawn mowers and mow the yard, we can sit in our cars and travel 100s of miles a day, and we can sit and look at a computer screen and access all sorts of information.  We are a sedentary culture.

During Jesus’ time on earth however things were different.  The lifestyle of the Middle East around 0 A.D. was anything but sedentary.  They were a moving culture.  They walked almost everywhere they went, they worked diligently (most of the time on their feet) and they certainly did not have the relaxation furniture as we do today.  They were on their feet a lot, and in many cases they spent the whole day or at least most of it standing up.  They usually didn’t sit down until the work was complete.  Don’t forget that as you read Hebrews 10 because its extremely important.

Notice what Jesus does in verse 12.  After He offers up the single sacrifice for sins (meaning Himself) He sits down at the right hand of God.  Why? Because the work is in essence completed.  Remember what He said, “I have come to seek and save that which was lost.”  Through His death on the cross He made that possible.  He made it possible for us to be saved and redeemed.  He fulfilled His mission and after that He sat down.  The work was complete, salvation was now available.

What does that mean for us? It means that we don’t need to do anything else to be saved.  Jesus has made the way, the only thing we need to do is repent of our sins and place our faith in Him (Mark 1:15).  That is all we need to do.  That’s good news because what it means is we don’t have try to work our way into heaven.  No Jesus has already made that possible, He has given us  eternal life and redemption as a gift, we just have to accept it.

And once we do it is a gift that fills us up with joy.  A joy that is amazing and life changing.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in one of the darkest moments of his life (being pursued by the Hitler and the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s and 40s), “Because of the joy of the Lord, I can look death squarely in the eye and find life in it.”  That is pretty amazing isn’t it? But that is the gift of God, we have the gift of eternal life.  Jesus has completed the work and has given the gift to us.  And because of that gift we can be joyful even in the darkest of circumstances, knowing that God is with us and that He is working good and that He has given us the gift of salvation.  Because of that gift we can look even death in the eye and see life.  How? How is that possible? It is possible only through the blood of Jesus Christ and because of His gift we can know that even if we lose this life we will gain life with Him.  Or as Paul put it, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Thanks be to God for His amazing gift.  To God be the glory, He has completed the work.

Major Beliefs Day 53 – Getting Out of the Maze (John 10)

Major Beliefs Day 53 – Getting Out of the Maze (John 10)

John 10:7 – “So Jesus again said to them, Truly truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”

I saw more of myself today than I wanted to.  As I wandered around a mirror maze I was met with my reflection looking back at me at least 1000 times, and I saw more of myself than I’m used to.  A few times I ran into me and wasn’t very happy with myself.  Finally however I found my way to the end thanks to my 7 year old son.  If it wasn’t for him I would still be wandering around and running into myself.  Thanks to him however I found freedom.
Jesus says He is the door for His sheep.  Once we walk through that door we find freedom.  Yet in the process we must come face to face with ourselves, with our own sins and our failures, with the people that we are.  When we come face to face with those sins, we realize just how sinful we are and we realize just how much we need a Savior.  John Newton, the writer of the epic hymn “Amazing Grace” once said, “I don’t remember much but I remember I am a great sinner in need of a great Savior.”  We all are.
We don’t like to look at ourselves and examine ourselves because we are afraid of what we will find.  When we do come face to face with ourselves what we find is that we are sinners.  We find out that Paul told us the truth in the book of Romans that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  We are all great sinners in need of a greater Savior.
I love how Thomas Watson put it, “the Scriptures are a mirror showing us our sins, and the blood of Jesus is a fountain that washes them all away.”  When we read God’s word, it makes us look at ourselves, it becomes a mirror to our soul and it shows us our sins, even our secret sins.  Once we see that and come face to face with ourselves we know that we need a Savior, we need someone to set us free.  We need Jesus.  He is the door to freedom.  He is the one, the only one who can wash our sins away and through His grace give us the gift of salvation. 
We can’t get out of the maze of sin on our own.  We can’t get out of the maze of our sinful nature on our own.  We can’t save ourselves.  We need someone who can, and that person is Jesus, the door of the sheep.  The one who is the way, truth and the life.  He is the only way to freedom, any other way leaves us lost.  Jesus however made the way through His own blood, to God be the glory!

Major Beliefs Day 52 – Life (John 5)

Major Beliefs Day 52 – Life! (John 5)

John 5:24 – “Truly, truly I say to you whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

Do you remember the show “Family Feud”?  On the show a question was asked and then the contestants guessed people’s response to the question.  For instance, the host might ask “name a green vegetable?”  And the contestants would try to guess which green vegetable the people who were surveyed said.  The number one answer on the board would probably be green beans, even though peas would probably be a close second. 
Well if we were playing Family Feud and the question that was surveyed was, “name something people are afraid of”, people would probably guess spiders and snakes and other things, but the number one answer on the board if people were honest would have to be death.  We are scared to death of death aren’t we?  We are scared because we have no idea what happens next.  We know what we’ve been told, but we can’t see it so many times we don’t believe it or at least we have a little bit of doubt.  So we remain scared of death.
Jesus however tells us that we have already passed from death to life.  We are already alive.  Yes one day our earthly body will die, but Death has once and for all been defeated, and because of that we have passed from death to life.  The Bible says that we are “dead in our trespasses and sins,” but the Spirit of God has made us alive.  In othe words we are dead without Jesus.  We are zombies if you will, dead men (or women) walking.  But with Jesus we are alive, and alive for ever more.  We have passed from death to life.  If we are followers of Jesus Christ, if we have repented of our sins and placed our faith in Him, if we are covered with the blood of Jesus, we will never truly taste death again.  We will die, but when we die we are just being removed from this life and going into the next.  Years ago, people said “they passed over”, and that is exactly what has happened, a Christian doesn’t die but they just pass over.  Going from this life to the next. 
Isaiah says “and He will destroy death forever” that is already a present reality.  We don’t see it but its there.  We don’t die, we just pass over from this life to the next, inheriting eternal life and not coming into judgment (John 5:24).  That to me is truly good news.  This life is filled up with uncertainty and trouble but thanks be to God, this life is not all there is and because of the blood of Jesus we don’t have to fear death or the judgement.  We have already been made alive.  To God be the glory!

Major Beliefs Day 51 – “Stuffed Animals and the Gospel” (John 3)

Major Beliefs Day 51 – Stuffed Animals and the Gospel (John 3)

John 3:3 – Jesus said, “Truly truly I say to you unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

I’m not sure how it happened but it did.  I found myself walking through a parking lot in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee with a stuffed animal in my hand.  It was a platypus and somehow it wound up in my hand.  Maybe it was because I was trying to make sure my 5 year old didn’t run out into the parking lot while I was carrying the baby.  Its all a blur but somehow it ended up in my hand, a stuffed platypus, and it got me thinking.
Thinking about childhood and that led me to John 3, “you must be born again.”  When we become Chrisitians, when we begin to follow Jesus, when we repent of our sins and put our faith in Him, we are born again.  Born again as blood bought children of God, and in fact we are called to become “like little children” and to have a childlike faith.  Whats does that mean? It doesn’t mean all the time carrying around a stuffed platypus, (unless the situation calls for it), but what does it really mean?
It doesn’t mean becoming childish, and always wanting our way all the time.  It doesn’t mean we are demanding, or we whine a lot.  So what does it mean to have a childlike faith and to be born again?  It means to be radically changed.  It means that once we see the love and the grace of God and what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross that we are changed, radically changed.  It is a process for sure but once we become a follower of Jesus Christ we are born again, we are changed.  We become instantly righteous in the sight of God (2 Corinthains 5:21) and then God through HIs love and radical grace begins to radically change the people that we are. 
We are born again, we become new creations.  We were once dead but now we are children of God.  And as children we have a childlike faith, which means that we trust no matter what.  We trust that God has really forgiven us of our sins, we trust that He really is going to lead us the right way, we trust that He as our Father has a place just for us, we trust that He is going to be with us no matter what, and we trust that He is working good in all situations (Romans 8:28).
Having a childlike faith doesn’t mean we always get our way, no its much richer than that.  It means that we have a loving heavenly Father that we can trust no matter what, and if we have been born again through the blood of Jesus it means that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8).  Not our problems, or our pain, or our struggles, or the temptations of the world, or the state of the world, not even our sins, and not even death.  We are His children, born again by His grace.  To God be the glory!