The genuine gospel is much bigger than the individual. It is a God-sized gospel.
The God-sized gospel teaches us that God is redeeming a people for Himself. This people is to be reconciled to Himself, through Christ, from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Paul describes his personal ministry from the risen Christ. This is crucial for the church to understand. In order to understand, we have to take off our “ME-centered” glasses and put on “God-centered” ones.
I have a problem. Maybe you do, too. I bet you can at least relate.
I think from my perspective. Sometimes I pursue my agenda. This probably happens more often than I’d like to admit.
I like to do, what I like to do, when I like to do it, where I like to do it, how I like to do it, and with whomever I like to do it. I like to listen to and believe what makes me comfortable.
I think you do, too.
Sometimes we are good at hiding our self-centeredness. I believe it is possible to have moments where we put others above ourselves. Powerful emotions like love, hate, and disgust can cause us to act contrary to our self-centered nature.
The sinful, selfish nature of human beings is evident early. Tantrums and screaming fits naturally flow from young children who do not get their way.
Adults are usually better at hiding their tantrums. Usually. They may be throwing a tantrum in their heart, though.
Christians are given the gift of God’s grace. Grace is even more powerful than selfishness. We receive this gift when we repent of our self-centered ways and trust in Christ alone.
Today is the Christian holiday called “Good Friday.” It’s a celebration of and remembrance of the crucifixion of Christ.
The name of the holiday causes confusion for some. On the surface, it is easy to ask: What’s so good about a crucifixion?
The Jews and Romans certainly didn’t intend for it to be good. Crucifixion was designed by the Romans to be as shameful and painful as possible. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by the Romans as an enemy of the state.
Jesus was handed over to be crucified by His own people. They accused Him of being a blasphemer. They wanted Him to die a shameful death under the curse of God.
On the surface, there seems to be nothing worthy of celebration or remembrance. Nothing good. That’s why we need to look beneath the surface.
We live in a crooked and perverse world. The darkness can cause people to lose hope.
The Bible promises that the peace of God will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. It promises that the God of peace will be with you. It promises that God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. It promises all this just in Philippians 4.
But the Bible doesn’t promise this without qualification.
It doesn’t say that these promises are yours if you put them on a bumper sticker. It doesn’t say this will be true if you wear it on a t-shirt or sing it loud enough. These offers aren’t promised if you have them memorized or written on a refrigerator magnet.
We are supposed to take hold of these amazing promises by pressing on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Our family is memorizing the book of James together.
As a parent, I’m delighted to hear my children recite the words of Scripture each week. The older kids are doing a great job. It is easier for some than for others. All of them are putting in the time required to learn.
The younger kids are also participating by hearing us recite what we’ve learned. They, too, can recite big chunks of Scripture that they’ve memorized simply by hearing their siblings and parents practice. It’s not required for them but it is adorable.
As a Christian, the practice of memorizing Scripture is always fruitful. Hiding God’s Word in your heart and meditating on it day and night has wonderful implications for your character and formation into Christ’s likeness. I’ll never stop being amazed at how often the passages we’ve memorized become immediately relevant to daily life and interactions.
Part of our memory section this week is James 1:21-22.
(This post originally appeared on Fourth Year Ministries blog)
I’ve been exposed to a lot of church growth books and materials over the years. I’ve seen programs, systems, agendas, theories, and campaigns.
A question we must wrestle with is how do we measure success?
Perhaps you’re expecting me to diminish a focus on numbers and reaching the multitudes and emphasize spiritual factors that are harder to quantify. Things like spiritual maturity and growth in Christ’s likeness.
Actually, I’m not suggesting that we focus on or emphasize either to the neglect of the other.
Many people have heard of the “problem of evil” or the “problem of suffering” – but the problem of God’s goodness? For many people that’s a new one.
As I’ve shared the gospel over the years I have heard people bring up the problem of suffering many times. The basic version asserts that any god who is all-powerful, all-good, and all-knowing would eliminate suffering and ensure that bad things don’t happen to good people. Yet, clearly the world contains much suffering.
Many people who are seemingly decent have terrible things happen to them. Human action can’t account for all of the suffering either. Natural disasters bring suffering to both kind and unkind people equally.
Of course, this philosophical objection is merely a straw man. It may be a strong argument against the god of the philosophers. This god exists only in theory. It is a non-argument against the living God revealed in the Bible. The reason is not because the logic fails. The reason is because the argument fails to account for God’s goodness.
The problem of God’s goodness is the one we need to worry about. Continue reading
My children enjoy making obstacle courses in our backyard and basement. They enjoy racing against each other to see who can get through the course the fastest. Some adults enjoy obstacle courses.
I am not one of those adults.
Obstacles are annoying to me. I prefer a straight, smooth course. Even still, life is filled with obstacles. They are unavoidable. We must learn to deal with them.
Everyone who desires to live as a witness of Jesus Christ needs to understand three common obstacles to the salvation of others. We must understand and look for them so we can faithfully navigate the way. Continue reading
Most people I know are trying to eliminate tension in their lives.
Commercials offer products to reduce it. People go on vacations to escape it. Medications are designed to help people forget it.
Tension carries a negative connotation for many. Certain types of tension can be hazardous to your health.
Not everyone avoids tension. Some types of tension are sought on purpose. Bodybuilders actively seek muscular tension. To gain strength and muscle mass they intentionally put their muscles under as much tension as possible for as long as they can. Tension is positive in this case.
I believe Christians should actively seek theological tension. I believe this is healthy. Continue reading
When I was growing up I was taught that you don’t talk politics or religion. At least, not with strangers. Better to keep these topics “in-house.” Only bring either of these up when you know the people you are conversing with already agree with you.
If you’re not careful these two topics can be polarizing. It can get heated pretty quickly.
After becoming a Christian, I found out that followers of Christ are commanded to talk religion. It’s the Great Commission. We are supposed to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.
We can’t do that without opening our mouths. We have to talk about it. We have to tell people about Jesus. Who He is. What He taught. Why it matters.
I also found that when followers of Christ are humble and loving in their evangelism that many people – even strangers – don’t mind the conversation. Surely, some people still get pretty upset whenever someone talks about Jesus. But this isn’t new.
Experience has taught me that politics can sometimes be much more treacherous territory than religious talk. That’s not what concerns me. Continue reading