Tag: The Gospel

ULTIMATE FREEDOM-IF YOU WANT IT

Sometimes I don’t think about God. Sometimes I don’t speak with Him. Sometimes I’m not completely honoring of Him in the way I live my life. But here’s the good news: God is still there: He’s everywhere. He is where you are, right now.

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When I fail my God, and when I ignore Him, and when I let Him down, He doesn’t act like a petulant jilted lover. To put it another way, He doesn’t act like we do. God is merciful and loving and patient. And herein are the riches of freedom in Christ. I’m not talking about a license to sin, or about being consistently luke-warm and uncommitted. I’m saying that God is far more patient and forgiving than we are.

We Christians are free to worship or not. In fact, all humans are free to worship or not to worship. God forces no-one to serve him, unlike the gods of other world religions I could mention. Jesus Christ imposes himself on no man, even though men have attempted to impose themselves in His name, denying the very grace that their claimed Lord brought to them.

It’s human nature, not divine nature, to want to impose ideas and philosophies upon others. Even in our supposed Western “civilization”. The philosophy of evolution is forced upon us from the earliest age, without a hint of evidence to back it up (have you seen any?). Try gaining a degree these days while opposing the theory and you’ll have problems.

In our “democracy” we’re all assaulted with political and social ideology, pushed onto us  without any real love for truth or for what’s genuinely best for everyone or for society. In the world of religion, and even under the umbrella of Christianity, there are plenty attempting to foist their own ideas and goals upon us. They work to take away the freedom we all have to choose Christ.

In this vein is the entire misinterpretation of predestination, in which certain Christians have been and still are proponents of a false freedom: a freedom in which you are not really free- you only think you are. According to this view you do not choose to follow Jesus Christ-he chooses you. I agree that we cannot save ourselves and that we need His Spirit to draw us and to lead us. But this philosophy leads to the inescapable conclusion that God allows literally billions of people to come into existence only to be sent to hell for all eternity, because Christ has not chosen them. To my mind, this is itself a hellish doctrine, denying the work of Christ, the words of Christ, and the will of Christ, who himself said:

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32 KJV).

Little words are as important to our God as the big ones, and that little word, “all” is, in this subject, paradoxically one of the biggest words there could be in our language. He did not say “some”. He did not say “I will draw some men to myself”. Christ died for the sins of the whole world, says our Scripture, and as the deniers of freedom attempt to explain away such passages as meaning something they were never intended to mean, they risk adding to and subtracting from Scripture the deepest truths that are known to man. Christ died for the whole world-not just for some.

There is, however, as is also attested to in Scripture, a condition to our being accepted by the Father of the Son. That is, that we accept His Son, the will of the Son…that we become like Him… and the work that His Son accomplished on the cross. The creator of the universe holds out a loving hand of acceptance, but with that love comes the option for us to reject Him, as terrible a choice as that is, with all its immediate and long-term consequences.

Yes, some people have never heard about Jesus: I’ve written about that: please see my previous post if you’re interested in the subject.

But you have heard about Jesus. You have been blessed with the good news that there is a loving God who has done everything necessary for you to be accepted into an eternal kingdom of light and love. To you is given the incredible gift of a clear choice. Will you seek your Creator, and His Son, or will you reject Him? The best kind of freedom-ultimate freedom-comes from our submission to the One who made us, sustains us, and loves us.

THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST

In this world of struggles and disappointments and hardships and loss it’s refreshing to be reminded that there’s something worth celebrating every day of our lives, and that’s the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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The Greek word translated “gospel” in the New Testament means “good news”, and in the context of the Bible the gospel is the “good news” about Jesus Christ. But what exactly was and is that good news, and what does it mean for us?

In answer to the second question first, read what Jesus said:

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).

The Bible speaks of a love-gift from God. That gift is forgiveness of all our sin, and eternal life with our Creator. The only requirement is that we accept God’s son, and attempt, through him, to live God’s way instead of our own.

Contrary to the common view on the street, as promoted by Hollywood and by certain authors, the gospel, the scriptures and the essential Christian doctrines were not all invented hundreds of years after the time of Christ’s life on earth. Lee Stroebel, with an MA in Law from Yale University, and a former award-winning investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune, in his book “The Case for Christ” interviewed a number of believing scholars such as Cambridge educated Sir Norman Anderson. Anderson was a Professor at Harvard, and lectured at Princeton. He was also the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of London. Anderson said that Paul’s letter to the Corinthians can be confidently dated to around 55 AD (1).

Dr. Gary R Habermas, a New Testament historian, received his Ph D from Michigan State University and his DD from Emmanuel College, Oxford. In his book “The Historical Jesus”, Habermas discusses the creed quoted below as found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, and writes:

“That this confession is an early Christian, pre-Pauline creed is recognized by virtually all critical scholars across a wide theological spectrum” (2).

THE GOSPEL

Here, then, is Paul’s first century definition of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which he had given his life to, despite all opposition and threats, having once been a persecutor of Christians:

“Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time….Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also…” (1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 8).

So the gospel of Jesus Christ-the good news we can accept or reject-is this:

1 Christ died for our sins, as prophesied in Old Testament Scriptures (we can be forgiven for all our sin because of Christ’s death on the cross);

2 He was buried;

3 He was raised from the dead on the third day;

4 He appeared alive to his disciples after his resurrection.

5 He has promised peace in this world and eternal life to all who trust in him.

NOTES

1 Lee Strobel “The Case For Christ” (Pub. By Zondervan, © 1998) p. 230.

2 Gary R Habermas “The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ” (College Press Publishing Company, Joplin, Missouri, © 1996 Gary Habermas) p 153.

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL OF JESUS?

What is the gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it socialism? Is it just one of many ways to God? Is it an invention of white American men? I’ve posted this message before…and I’ll post it again…

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The Greek word translated “gospel” in the New Testament means “good news”, and in the context of the Bible the gospel is the “good news” about Jesus Christ. But what exactly was and is that good news, and what does it mean for us?

In answer to the second question first, read what Jesus said:

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24).

The Bible speaks of a love-gift from God. That gift is forgiveness of all our sin, and eternal life. The gift-if we accept it for ourselves and change our ways-takes us from being subjects of God’s wrath into eternal life, even though for now we are in mortal bodies.

Contrary to the common view on the street, as promoted by Hollywood, the education establishment and by certain authors, the gospel, the scriptures and the essential Christian doctrines were not all invented or altered hundreds of years after the time of Christ’s life on earth.

Lee Stroebel, with an MA in Law from Yale University, and a former award-winning investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune, in his book “The Case for Christ”(note 1) interviewed a number of believing scholars such as Cambridge educated Sir Norman Anderson. Anderson was a Professor at Harvard, and lectured at Princeton. He was also the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of London. Anderson said that Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, which contains a clear definition of the gospel as outlined below, can be confidently dated to around 55 AD.

Dr. Gary R Habermas, a New Testament historian, received his Ph D from Michigan State University and his DD from Emmanuel College, Oxford. In his book “The Historical Jesus”, Habermas discusses the creed quoted below as found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, and writes that the gospel existed in the form below even before Paul’s letter:

That this confession is an early Christian, pre-Pauline creed is recognized by virtually all critical scholars across a wide theological spectrum”(2).

THE GOSPEL

Here, then, is Paul’s first-century definition of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which he had given his life to, despite all opposition and threats, having once been a persecutor of Christians:

Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time….Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also…(1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 8).

So the gospel of Jesus Christ is this:

1 Christ died for our sins, as prophesied in Old Testament Scriptures. We can be forgiven for all our sin because of Christ’s death on the cross;

2 He was buried;

3 He was raised from the dead on the third day;

4 He appeared alive to his disciples after his resurrection.

The gospel is here spelled out for you. Accept it, believe it, pray it, confess it, and live it.

NOTES

1 Lee Strobel “The Case For Christ” Pg 230. Pub. By Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49130. © 1998 by Lee Strobel.

2 Gary R Habermas “The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ” (College Press Publishing Company, Joplin, Missouri, © 1996 Gary Habermas) p 153.

BIG GOD LITTLE GOD

The efforts of mankind in and out of “religion” are aimed at shrinking God to a manageable size, so that he’s no longer God but “a” god, and only one of many…

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THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING GOD

Even in the professing Christian world there are many individuals and organizations claiming to represent him who want the rest of us to see God as they do: small, ineffectual, effeminate, powerless, weak-minded and irrelevant. He can’t create and he certainly couldn’t do it in six days. He can’t say anything truthful and he has no ability or will to preserve even what he does say. He has no power over death, he doesn’t know his own mind, his promises are empty and vacuous, and his standards sway in the winds of time, opinion and fashion. In the words of a certain world-leading, head-of-the-Church type person, God “doesn’t have a magic wand”.

The message of the Bible is totally opposite to this attitude of “experts”. God, according to everyone from Genesis to Revelation, is unimaginably huge, powerful and holy. He is so amazing in his being, his character and his standards that were we able to get a glimpse of him in our present form we would immediately die-if only from the shock and awe of seeing him.

…who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him? (2 Chronicles 2:6).

The most intense target of the “Make God small” movement is Jesus Christ. Entire religions and pseudo-Christian cults fiercely contest and deny the idea that Jesus was anything more that a prophet, a teacher, a radical, a revolutionary…a man.

 

Any reading of the New Testament to an open mind demonstrates the complete antithesis of this view. Not only is Jesus Christ declared to be the Son of God, but God incarnate, and the creator of all that exists:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him (Colossians 1:16).

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The diminishers not only work to wipe away or allegorize indispensable Old Testament books such as Genesis, but fundamental New Testament books also. John’s gospel, they say, is a fantasy. Paul’s writings are faulty. The gospels are flawed and need to be hugely edited, or to use a popular political tool these days-“redacted”. It  makes me wonder why people claim to even be Christian when they don’t actually believe anything of it. Why don’t they take up Buddhism or origami instead?

John Doe’s writing are far more reliable they say, and proceed to create their own version of the ancient Scriptures, when the originals claim to be the very Word of God…a dangerous risk and miscalculation.

John wrote,

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Paul said that Jesus Christ is:

“The image of the invisible God…” (Colossians 1:15).

Philip, one of the twelve disciples, said to Jesus one evening:

“Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered:

“Don’t you know me Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8-9).

The present-day deniers of Jesus’ divinity claim that John’s gospel is unreliable, so we can’t believe what it says. Really? Then take a look at the other gospel authors, and the writings of Paul, who all preached the same message. In fact, Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God and therefore God was the reason he was crucified:

“The high priest said to him, I charge you under oath by the living God: tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

“Yes, it is as you say, Jesus replied. But I say to all of you: in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? What do you think?”

“He is worthy of death,” they answered (Matthew 26:63-66).

Jesus Christ was crucified because he was claiming to be God’s one and only Son. He was “blaspheming”. Therefore, in their minds, he had to be shrunk. The fact that he had worked incredible miracles meant nothing to them. After all, anyone can walk on water, right? Anyone can turn water into wine and make a blind man see and a lame man walk, right?

I’m so glad that my God is much, much bigger than theirs. And I’ll say to him, with Thomas,

“My Lord and my God!”

THE GOSPEL OF JESUS, AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE TO US

There is no middle ground in God’s universe. Too many people-even professing Christians-think that the events we celebrate at Easter are insignificant. In reality they represent the most important events in the history of mankind, and the most important truths we could ever consider…

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WE CAN BE FREE FROM THE PENALTY OF SIN

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

So many efforts have been made by enemies of the true gospel to wipe this fact from history and the minds of men. Despots, communists, atheists, politicians and even large organizations purporting to be spreading the gospel have been attempting to destroy it. Why is the sacrifice of Christ so important, and why is his death so vital?

Our sin has separated us from God, because he, being perfect, cannot tolerate sin. He can’t wink at it or ignore it and live with it. Imagine a heaven in which everyone acts as they do in our world today: it would not be heaven, would it? And contrary to popular belief here in the politically-correct twenty-first century, he doesn’t change his views to suit ours. Neither do his standards evolve-they are not “fluid”.

The end product of sin, according to Old and New Testament scriptures, is death, both physical and spiritual. This fact affects us all, no matter how good we may think we are: none of us can match up to God’s standards. God has to be true to his own nature, and he can’t deny his justice any more than he can deny his love.

However, God loved his creation, fallen though it is, and had a plan to destroy sin and ultimately its outcome, death. God’s plan was to send his son to earth as a man, and to die as a perfect sacrifice for sin. Only Jesus Christ could fulfill that mission, because only he was sinless and perfect. When he died on the cross he satisfied God’s holy justice, and paid the penalty, the “price” of our sin.

This doesn’t mean we don’t sin any more, it means that there’s nothing standing between us and our creator, except our own reluctance, and  determination to continue in sin. If we turn from our sin we’re completely forgiven and in a right relationship with God. Paul said:

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8: 1).

Other religions, denominations and organizations have piled more and more requirements, laws, regulations and commitments onto their followers, claiming that these are necessary to gain God’s acceptance, or that only commitment to the organization and its rules can ensure salvation and eternal life. According to the original gospel, which I wrote about in parts one and two, this is totally false and is really an attack on the gospel, because the death of Jesus Christ has entirely paid for our sin. It’s not possible for us or for any human go-between or organization to pay the price of our sin. It’s arrogant and futile to think that we can, and it is an insult to the sacrifice of Christ.

Jesus said “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11: 26). He did NOT say “whoever believes and goes to “XYZ” church and gives at least ten percent of their income…”! I’m not saying that we can live however we want to live and get away with it-we can’t. But if we turn from sin and to him we are completely forgiven.

“According to the Scriptures…”

The Old Testament scriptures foretold the sacrifice of Christ hundreds of years before it happened. As an example, read Isaiah chapter 53.  An entire copy of the book of Isaiah, known to have been written before Christ’s life on earth, was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. There’s virtually no difference between it and what we have in our Bible today.

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OUR SIN WAS BURIED WITH CHRIST

“…He was buried…”

Jesus “became sin” for us. He was buried in a tomb, contrary to many modern attempts to write another version of his life. You don’t bury someone who isn’t dead. His disciples witnessed his death, and the Roman guard sealed and guarded the tomb, at the request of those who wanted him dead and who gloated over his death. They would have all ensured that he was dead and buried, and had the disciples attempted to claim that he was resurrected when he wasn’t, the authorities would have displayed the body for all to see.

Our sin was buried with him, and baptism is symbolic of our association with him, and with the burial of our sin and our past sinful lifestyle.

WE CAN HAVE NEW LIFE NOW, AND ETERNAL LIFE IN CHRIST

“…he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…”

The doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus has been under constant attack, even from within the church. No wonder, because it’s one of the most essential doctrines, perhaps the most essential. Without it the gospel is empty. The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates his power over death, his divine nature, and his ability and willingness to give us eternal life with him as he promised very clearly many times. It’s the resurrection which gives us hope for the future, and which puts our earthly life into its proper context and perspective. Our present physical body is very temporary and weak, but our resurrected body will be full of eternal life force. Again, his resurrection was foretold in Old Testament Scriptures (see Acts 2: 27 – 31 and 13:34 – 37, with Psalm 16:10).

HE DEMONSTRATED HIS POWER OVER DEATH

“…and that he appeared…”

Paul listed those who had seen Jesus alive after his resurrection. Paul was the last to see him. Those who went about spreading the good news had nothing to gain except persecution and death. Yes, people do give their lives to become martyrs to other religions, but no-one will die for something he knows is untrue. Neither did they kill in order to spread their beliefs or agenda. Instead they risked and in many cases lost their own lives.

For example Paul, when converted, voluntarily gave up his position of influence and power to become a hunted and hounded man. His enemies complained that he had “turned the world upside down”. There was no timid cowering in quiet corners for Paul: he wanted to tell the world, not that he had a new set of principles and rules to teach them, but that Christ had risen from the dead, and that he had seen him. He suffered multiple attacks and attempts on his life before finally being executed–such was his conviction that the gospel was true. He was prepared to die, as they all were, because they were convinced of Christ’s resurrection, and that His resurrection ensured theirs, just as Christ had promised. The promise is available to all who accept the gospel.