Posts Tagged ‘ Gospel ’

November 9, 2017

November 9, 2017

JOHN 11-12

Focus Verse: Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.
John 11:1-6

 

This is such a difficult concept for us to wrestle with, whether you are a Christ follower or not. The fact that God moves on His timetable, in His way, and it very rarely meshes well with the way we think it should happen can cause many to walk away from the faith, or at least struggle mightily with whether God actually loves them or not. The same had to have been true for Lazarus and his family.

 

Jesus knew that Lazarus was sick and either really misdiagnosed how bad this illness was, or had a divine plan from the beginning. Knowing what we know now about Jesus, it most likely was the latter. I have a very hard time believing that Jesus didn’t know how serious Lazarus’ illness was and that He wasn’t, in Babe Ruth fashion, calling His shot here; that He would raise Lazarus from the dead.

 

Regardless of how it all played out though, Jesus took His sweet time leaving to go check on His sick friend. You cannot tell me that this didn’t leave questions in the mind of Mary, Martha (Lazarus’ sisters), and Lazarus. “Well I thought Jesus was our friend, but He isn’t showing up to help our brother.” “Jesus said He loved me, why isn’t He coming to heal me of this illness like He has for so many strangers He doesn’t even know!”

 

Sounds a little too familiar, doesn’t it? I’m sure we can all go back through our walk of faith, whether that walk has lead to a stronger walk with God, a more damaged walk with God, or a walk completely away from God. It is so easy to look at those moments when we feel the most alone though and wonder why God has forgotten about us.

 

But God NEVER forgets. Even though we may not be able to see it, God is working behind the scenes making everything come together. And in His perfect will, HE gets the most glory and EVERYTHING works together for the good of those who trust in Him (Romans 8:28). His greatest glory…not just good glory, but greatest glory. Our greatest good, not just average good or good good, but greatest good.

 

A few weeks ago we were having guests over to our house. My wife got home from school and I was lying down on the living room floor. Needless to say, she was a little upset with me since we still had a lot of work to do. What my wife didn’t know though, was that I had been downstairs cleaning up the basement and doing laundry. It was no fault of hers…these were just things that she couldn’t see. All she could see was that there was cleaning to be done and I was comfortably sprawled out on the floor.

 

I’m not an idiot…I didn’t dare give my wife this sermon illustration in that moment…but we both got teary at the goodness of the Lord a few days later when we compared our situation to the Gospel. God is always working. He may not always be working on things that we can see, but rest assured, He is always working. Our part in the Gospel is to trust in Him. Don’t freak out when a prayer isn’t being answered how and when we think best. God doesn’t think best. God knows best. And we need to put our trust in Him.

 

This is hard to do. In fact, I would say it’s impossible. But Jesus did. He trusted His Father while the nails were being driven into His hands and feet. He trusted His Father, even when God had to turn His face away and forsake Jesus because of our sin laid on His shoulders. And now, through the Holy Spirit in us, we can trust the Father too.

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October 14, 2017

October 14, 2017

MATTHEW 27-28

Focus Verse: And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20

 

Contrary to popular belief (maybe not popularized in our theology but popularized by our actions for sure), the Gospel doesn’t end with the resurrection of Jesus Christ! The Gospel “ends” with this command from Jesus…which means that the Gospel NEVER ENDS!

 

Jesus Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on the earth and chooses to use that authority by sending us out in His name. I talked about this verse a few days ago, so let’s be very clear here, He did not give us authority. Our authority is limited to the extent in which He grants it to us, to the extent in which we are in His will. We don’t get to run around “binding and loosing” anything we want while we are here on earth. We are to listen to HIS voice and work in HIS power.

 

But we ARE TO GO! We aren’t supposed to sit around and act like the Gospel is over and done with. This command from Jesus doesn’t something absolutely incredible, it writes YOU into the Gospel. You are now sent to the nations, you are now responsible for telling the world about Jesus, you are now empowered to baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, you are now to teach everything Jesus commanded while He was on earth and LIVE out His teachings.

 

Sound like a tall order? It should. You can’t possibly do this own your own. But Jesus did and will through the Holy Spirit in you.

October 10, 2017

October 10, 2017

MATTHEW 20-21

Focus Verse: When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ So the last shall be first, and the first last.”
Matthew 20:11-16

 

So here’s the story…condensed style: This landowner hires some people really early in the morning. They go work on his land. Then he hires some more people a little later in the morning. They go work too. Then he goes and hires some more people. He hires some more people around lunch, and then some more people a little after lunch. With only a few hours left in the workday, there’s still work to be done, so he hires even more people to work the last few hours.

 

Then payday comes. The men who were hired last get paid first, and they get exactly what the landowner had agreed to pay the people whom he hired first. These workers see this and get really excited! If he paid them that, he for sure has something special up his sleeve for us! But he doesn’t. He pays them exactly the same thing that he paid those who were hired last.

 

Clearly this was a hard pill to swallow for these workers, and it’s even a hard pill for us to swallow as believers. I think that this parable is actually an excellent way to measure how much you understand the Gospel though, and here’s why.

 

The reason we struggle with this concept is because we can’t separate ourselves from this earning and deserving process. It is so ingrained in us that we can’t even separate it from the process of salvation. But we have to. Because that’s the only way we can come to the Gospel – by seeing that we can’t earn any part of the Gospel, by seeing that we don’t deserve it, even at our best.

 

I’ll be honest, my thought process when I read this parable goes a little something like this: “Alright Jesus, so You’re telling me that I’m just as good if I live like a sinner, cheat on my wife, live however I want, do the most immoral, distasteful things, and then on my deathbed, give my heart to Jesus, as I am if I live every second of my life serving You? That can’t be the lesson that You want people to get from this.”

 

To which I believe Jesus would respond, “You still don’t get it Jeremy. You still don’t understand the Gospel.” Sure, I understand that Jesus was born of a virgin, that He was fully God and fully man, that He lived a sinless life, that He died on a cross for me, that He was buried and in three days rose from the grave. I believe that He ascended to the right hand of the Father after forty days on this earth in resurrected form and then ten days later released the Holy Spirit to fill anyone who would put their faith in Him. But those are just the events of the Gospel. That’s not the multi-dimensional Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

When we dig down into the meaning of those events, we see that Jesus HAD to do these things for me because I am more wicked and sinful – even on my best day – than I would ever want to admit. When we dig down into the meaning of those events, we see that Jesus was GLAD to do these things for me, because He saw who I could become IN HIM. So even while I was lost, He loved and accepted me because He knew that HE could make me beautiful.

 

It is this meaning that drives the Gospel down into your core. When this becomes who you are…when you become driven by the Gospel by having the Gospel driven down into you, you see something different in this story.

 

You see that you, on your own, are no better than any other “sinner” on this planet – past, present or future. So whether you’ve been serving Him faithfully for two days before your time on this earth is up, or two hundred years, at your core, without Jesus, you still deserve eternal judgment and death. It doesn’t matter HOW LONG you’ve been saved. The only thing that matters is WHO has saved you.

 

You also see your real motivation when you read this parable through the lens of the Gospel. Are you serving Jesus to earn more brownie points in heaven? I absolutely hate it when people talk about adding jewels to their crown in heaven. Or that God is going to add rooms to their mansion in heaven. Keep your jewels and keep your extra rooms. I want a cot at the feet of Jesus and that’s all I want in heaven. HE is the only jewel that we need. HE is the only mansion that we need. The Gospel shows you that.

 

Now, theologically, do I think that God will reward some more than others for their service to His Kingdom? Yes, I actually do think that is scriptural. BUT WE CANNOT LET THAT BE OUR MOTIVATION! The people who hate this story so much (even though you would never admit that you hate one of Jesus’ parables), those of us who (like me) think that this parable encourages last minute salvation instead of life-long commitment and service, we miss the motivation of service.

 

The world says, “Obey and you will be accepted.” The Gospel though is unlike anything else in the world. It is quite literally God taking the standards and motivations of the world and flipping them upside down. In the Gospel, complete acceptance comes first. We saw it when God called the Israelites out of Egypt, we see it in the life of every figure throughout the Bible. This isn’t just a New Testament teaching. Abraham was accepted and THEN he obeyed. Noah was accepted and THEN he obeyed. Moses was accepted and THEN he obeyed. Even Jesus’ disciples were accepted and THEN they obeyed.

 

The motivation of the Gospel is love in its purest form. Like I wrote about yesterday, “I am completely known, YET I am loved and accepted, unconditionally and fully, therefore, I obey.” That’s the Gospel.

June 23, 2017

June 23, 2017

PSALM 51-57

Focus Verse: Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You.
Psalm 51:10-13

 

Psalm 51 is the perfect summary of the Gospel. Written after David’s fall into sin with Bathsheba, it summarizes the human condition of sin and the complete dependency on God to blot out our transgressions against Him.

 

This passage hits on that dependency from even before the first step of our salvation process. Before we even ask for forgiveness, the Holy Spirit is working on us, convicting us of our sins and softening our hearts so that we will have a willing spirit, ready to give up the past and turn to God’s intended future.

 

I really love verse 13, “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.” Are you saved? Have you experienced God’s salvation and forgiveness? Then who are you telling about it? If you have been completely forgiven of your sins – if you truly realize how lost and broken you were – then you won’t be able to shut up about His grace and mercy in your life! You ought to be screaming it from the rooftops! I would challenge you, if you don’t feel that way about God’s forgiveness, you need a new revelation of how lost you really were. I would be so bold to say that you have too low an opinion of how bad you were really lost in your sins.

 

Jesus teaches in Luke 7:47 about the woman who anoints His feet with oil “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” If you find yourself lacking in love, ask God to reveal to you how lost you really were before He called you into His marvelous light. It will rock your world.

 

When you realize how good God has been to you, you can’t help but share Him with those who are lost. But notice what David talks about sharing with them. He doesn’t start with God’s law, he starts with God’s ways. What are God’s ways? Kindness, mercy, forgiveness, patience, LOVE. We don’t jump straight to their sin – without giving God’s love first, sin is an impossible gap for us to cross – but when we open up God’s love to them and show them God’s ways in dealing with us, the HOLY SPIRIT (not us) begins to close that gap.

 

So how much have you been forgiven? And who are you telling about it?

June 17, 2017

June 17, 2017

PSALM 21-25

Focus Verse: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
Psalm 22:1
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”
Psalm 22:7-8
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
Psalm 22:14-18

 

Little Bible trivia for you: Psalm 22 is the most quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament. It probably won’t get you any further in life, but you’ll know now if the question ever comes up on Jeopardy or in some Christian version of Trivial Pursuit.

 

But it makes sense, doesn’t it? I’m sure I’ll address this again when we hit Isaiah 53, but how can you miss the significance of this chapter in the Bible. King David wrote this about 1,000 years before Jesus Christ was born! Are you picking up what I’m throwin’ down?

 

If you were to read this chapter to someone who had little to no knowledge of the Bible, I guarantee that they would identify this passage as describing Jesus, NOT David. That’s how prophetic it is!

 

One thousand years before Jesus Christ was born, God was already working in the hearts of His followers how His only Son would die. The plan had already been made, even down to the last words that Jesus would cry out on the cross.

 

God’s plan to win your heart back to Him has been in effect since the moment Adam and Eve fell in the garden. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”, Paul tells us in Romans 5:8.

 

You are the apple of God’s eye. Do you believe it yet?

June 8, 2017

June 8, 2017

JOB 24-28

Focus Verse: For as long as life is in me,
And the breath of God is in my nostrils
Job 27:3

 

There it is right there. This is the pride killer. This is the answer to all of your problems. “You don’t know me.” you might say, and that is true, but I do know the Gospel and what it tells me of the human condition. I do know myself and all of the junk that I wish I didn’t struggle with, and I’m willing to wager, if you look deep enough, you’ll see some of the same traces in you that I see in me.

 

We need this attitude toward life or we will be consumed. I wrote about my favorite Bible verse a few days ago, Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him”. This verse is the prequel to that verse.

 

You cannot suffer well so that Christ is glorified unless you realize the truth of this verse. Job is recognizing that his very life is borrowed. His breath is not his own. If you approach it any other way, you will never make it in front of the throne of God. Why can I be so sure of that? Because there is nowhere in the Bible that teaches that the proud will inherit the Kingdom of God, quite the contrary actually. The only thing promised to the proud is that they will be humbled…one way or another.

 

Ok! Deal. Then we all just need to strap up our boots, realize it’s God’s breath in our nostrils and that’ll take care of it. WRONG! I’ve heard a lot of people say that worship is the path to destroying pride. I don’t even think that’s the case. I understand it, and I’m splitting hairs a little bit on this, but I think it’s a hair that needs to be split or else we could come away with a faulty conclusion.

 

Praising God is absolutely a great way to keep our pride in check. Giving Him our thankfulness, our worship, our praise – recognizing all that He has done for us – that absolutely is a great thing.

 

But if we claim that as the way to destroy pride, then the power to destroy pride still lies within us and our actions…and that’s the problem with pride: as long as you have ownership, as long as it’s yours, pride will always accompany it one way or another.

 

Jesus Christ is the only one who can destroy our pride. I said earlier that pride will never let you approach the throne of God, but once you’re ready to get rid of that pride, the throne of God is the only place where you can get rid of it. God has to take it. The most beautiful illustration of this comes from C.S. Lewis’ book, The Voyage of the Dawntreader from the Narnia series. Just reading through it makes me tear up every time when I think of what God has done for me.

 

The passage is about a young boy named Eustace, who, because of his greed, tries to take a dragon’s treasure and finds that he himself has turned into the dragon. He tries to peel off the dragon scales on his own, and succeeds in pulling them off, but no matter how many times he tries, he continues to find that underneath there are more scales, more layers of dragon skin that he cannot be rid of. Then the lion, Aslan, the Christ figure in the story, intercedes:

 

“Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke — You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

 

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was jut the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

 

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

 

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .”

 

Do you need to turn into a boy (or girl) again? Jesus Christ will take your pride, your greed…any sin that is standing in between Him and you. It will hurt, realizing what you’ve become, but the freedom on the other side is unlike anything you have ever felt before.

 

It’s all His to begin with. Your very breath belongs to Him. When you give it back and become that boy (or girl) that He initially created you to be, you will experience freedom like never before. Following Christ will become a joy! Even in the midst of suffering! You will finally be who He created you to be…there is nothing more glorious than that!

June 2, 2017

June 2, 2017

JOB 5-7

Focus Verse: “Why then do You not pardon my transgression
And take away my iniquity?
For now I will lie down in the dust;
And You will seek me, but I will not be.”
Job 7:21

 

I love this! This is such an awesome tool to keep in your back pocket for rainy days. If you are following Jesus Christ and have repented of your sin, God cannot punish you.

 

Now, for those of you who aren’t doing the whole Bible reading with each of these passages, let me give you a quick recap so you can connect the dots with how these things tie together. Job’s friend, Eliphaz, has more or less told Job that the reason for his suffering is because Job has sinned against God. So the purpose of Job’s suffering is discipline to get Job to turn back to God.

 

The problem with that, is that God is a really good mailman. He is never going to deliver your mail to someone else without letting you in on that secret. Job has confessed his sins! He’s made sure that sin is not the reason that any of this has taken place, and that’s what prompts him to ask this question of God in verse 21.

 

And any good theology student (you don’t even have to have studied a lick of theology to pick up on the answer to this one) will tell you, God has forgiven every transgression and taken away all iniquity. As soon as we ask for it, God grants grace. That is at the very core of who He is.

 

That is the blessed assurance that we have in Christ Jesus. It’s my favorite hymn of all time: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.” Does it get any better than that?

 

Here is just one facet of what Jesus Christ offers those who rest in Him: you no longer face the punishment of God. All of that wrath, every single bit of it, fell on Jesus at Calvary. That means that any pain, suffering or trial that you are currently going through is NOT punishment. It’s a test designed to grow you more perfectly into the image of God! That’s not going to make it hurt less, but it will give you reason to rejoice through it. God has counted you worthy of this trial and will give you His Spirit to guide you through it.

 

If I had to give the book of Job a subtitle, it would be this: “How to suffer well, so that Christ is glorified.” That is exactly what Job does. He suffers well. It doesn’t look pretty and there are times when Job wishes he were dead, but in the end, God judges that Job has suffered well.

 

Let us learn from Job, so that when we stand before God, He can tell us that we too suffered well. And never doubt that there is now NO condemnation in Jesus Christ – your punishment has been taken care of – your trials now are for your benefit, in this life or the next.