Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Gospel

We like to summarize.  I believe we like it to an unhealthy extent, especially when it comes to the Bible.  We like to say, "That's what the Bible is all about," or "Isn't that really the whole Gospel?"  We want a bumper sticker to say it all.  I believe that if that were possible, God would have given us a bumper sticker, instead of 66 books of Scripture.

So, what is the Gospel message?  Is it simply, "Believe?"  Is it, "Let go, and let God?"  Is it possible to summarize?

Here are some vital aspects of the gospel.  Which parts are necessary for people to understand and accept to be saved?  Which parts do not need to be understood?  Read them all.  Tell me what to delete.

·         God is holy.  He wants holy people.  He created Adam and Eve in holiness; to be holy.
·         Adam and Eve disobeyed God, bringing sin and death into the world, tarnishing the holiness in which they were created.
·         Now, we in ourselves are unholy (worse than “not holy”, we are actively “unholy” - SINFUL)
·         Hell was created to punish Satan and the angels who followed him in rebellion before God.  The punishment fits the crime.  Sin in us has condemned all of us to hell
·         Because of God’s holiness, death has to be paid for my sin.  It is the wage my sin has earned.
·         Jesus is God’s Son (holy in character and action), and was without sin.  The spotless lamb.
·         Because of His incredible love and mercy, Jesus' death paid the wage of my sin.  No other payment is sufficient replacement for what I owe; Jesus redeemed me by His blood, and there is no other hope for freedom from hell.
·         The resurrection of Jesus was the greatest victory.  Because He defeated death, we have hope of eternal life, as well!  Without this truth, we are to be pitied more than all others.
·         When we realize all of these things are true (hear and understand the gospel), and we choose to believe it and receive the forgiveness available through Jesus, based on a desire to change the way we live so as to honor Him and submit to His authority as the author of life (repent), and receive the Holy Spirit through the cleansing work of submitting my life into His hands (as shown through baptism, where I died and He came alive in me); when we do this, we receive a new nature, eternal life, and become citizens of heaven.
·         When this has truly happened and you have genuinely believed, you will never be the same, again!  You are a new creation, filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit of God, dead to who you were and alive to what you are becoming.
·         Now, by faith, we live in obedience to God, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  When we blow it, we sincerely ask God for forgiveness, and He faithfully cleanses us.  Then we continue in obedience.  Our lives are His, and not our own.
·         The hope of heaven drives us to daily serve God on earth.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Follow-Up to "Alcohol and Membership Requirements"

A lot of people viewed the article I wrote on this topic some months back.  One person asked a good question that I am afraid no one will read because it is an older post, so I am reprinting my response to his question here for further insight into my views on this.  I want to be honest about this and admit my views have changed immensely since I was a young minister.  The reasons are in this post.  Here is my response to the question regarding why the church would have expectations about alcohol now that would have omitted Jesus and the disciples from membership in the church today:

Since we are talking about a form of governance and not a heaven or hell issue, I do not believe we have to qualify why Jesus turned water into wine at Cana in Galilee.

We have seen such miserable and embarrassing failures in the leadership of the church over the last 30 years that I believe we need to go the extra mile to show that we are serious about integrity and character among our leaders. In Acts 21:26, Paul had some of the Gentiles ritualistically purified to appease the Jewish community even though they didn't have to be in God's eyes. He did this in order to appease people who thought Paul was getting carried away with his freedom in Christ. Sometimes it is better for leaders in the church to submit themselves to the expectations of the whole to create a peaceful environment in the body.

Jesus made Himself submissive to even death for the sake of saving His church. He could have exercised His freedom - and been right to do so - except that no one would have been saved. Now He has called us to be servants of all; submissive to the authorities that exist.

As the church has become larger and more organized, we have seen divisions happen for all kinds of reasons. We have seen false teachers and weak-willed believers create an atmosphere of doubt about the church, our sincerity and whether anyone really believes what we say, anymore. I believe this has changed our obligation to the Lord and to the world in what we expect of ourselves to live "above reproach" in our day. I think this is "What Jesus Would Do".

Monday, September 05, 2011

If God is Good, Why...?

This is the way many people who struggle to believe - and many who just plain choose to disbelieve - start their questions about Jesus and the Bible. The same questikon can have two completely different impacts on me. When someone is asking it sincerely looking for an answer or for help, it causes me to go right into intercessory prayer for them. When someone asks it to be confrontational and "prove me wrong", it causes me to go right into a prayer for wisdom and protection against what will obviously be an attack against me and my faith. One thing we can't let it do is turn into "fighting words", pitting me against the person I am trying to have a resaonable discussion with. I want to build a bridge for them to cross using wisdom and the word of God as the Spirit leads me, I do not just want to win the argument.

If God is Good, why is there evil? Why do babies suffer? Why do bad things happen to good people? All of these can be causes for genuine confusion for many, and I want desperately to be helpful to them. But some people are just asking these questions to make God appear to be a foolish fantasy, and they are asked with anger, mockery and pretension. This second group of people really tries my patience because they are immediately attacking my faith, assuming they already know what I believe.

In your discussions about your faith, do you find that more people are really trying to understand, or are they just trying to tell you why they don't believe and get you off their backs? Are they peaceful in their approach with you, or do you feel that they are instantly angry at the idea of God? I would love to hear from you how people have responded to your attempts to talk about Jesus with them.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

What Style of Evangelism Works?

Many churches are struggling to get our message - the Gospel - out in a positive way.  Some are using food give-away's and mission works to "Evangelize", some are still trying to get people into the church to listen to the gospel, and others are going door to door with a "confrontational" evangelism.

I am interested to hear of successful methods of evangelism - ideas that are currently working.  I am not asking for how you were brought to the Lord, but how you ARE CURRENTLY, EFFECTIVELY reaching your community and seeing lives transformed.