Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What Gospel Are You Hearing? Is the Gospel a Political/Social/Activist Gospel?

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7 NKJV

16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile Romans 1:16 NLT

 We've begun a brief study I've entitled what Gospel are you hearing? Many are proclaiming a message that is an either a Gospel mixture of Law and Grace or of truth and error. There is only one Gospel. The Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 Let's revisit the true definition of the Gospel. The Gospel defined by Thayer's Greek Lexicon is the glad tidings of salvation through Christ. The proclamation of the Grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ. It is that simple. This is the simplicity of Christ.

 Whenever we proclaim the true Gospel of Christ this is what we are supposed to be preaching. We aren't bringing sad tidings or bad tidings if you will. We are proclaiming good Gospel news. When you hear someone proclaiming a message that is contrary to this, know you're not hearing the Gospel. You're just hearing a message.

The political gospel?

 The pulpit is a place to proclaim the Grace of God. It is a sacred place to lift up and exalt Jesus and His Finished Work. It is not the place to promote a political message. 

 Am I teaching that Christians should not participate in politics? Absolutely not. Each of us abides in some nation of this Earth. As responsible citizens, we can let our personal voice be heard during elections, (unless one's resident is in a place where there is no free election and Government control makes all the decisions the best recourse is prayer and if it all possible perhaps relocation). 
 Though we can personally allow our voice to be heard with a vote, this is not the Gospel message. There are some 200 nations on this planet. Which political message then is the one size fits all message that is part of the Gospel? 

Wasn't Jesus a socialist?

 This mentality is an unfortunate philosophy some cling to. Because Jesus taught giving to the poor and unfortunate some have interpreted this to mean Jesus' message was an ancient form of  Marxism. Jesus was not a socialist. He didn't conquer Rome and then "equally" redistribute the goods and property of the Roman empire throughout the globe. Jesus taught freewill giving. He didn't proclaim a message that Government was to impose its will on the people and force them to redistribute their material possessions. 

 The good news Gospel of Grace is a message that doesn't need men to muddle it up with human philosophies and ideologies. Under Grace, we have received the everlasting love of Almighty God within. God's Spirit personally directs our love and giving to be a blessing to those around us. Let's let God be God in people's lives and He will direct their steps. 

The social/activist gospel?

 Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ a social or activist message? If it is which cause are we to take to the streets to march and demonstrate for? Which is the one cause all believers in Christ have been instructed to contend with? I have viewed the news media outlets over that past few years, so which cause is the Christian cause?

 Are believers compelled by Christ to march to ensure Europeans have a 30 hour work week? That American youth shouldn't have to pay for their college education? Is the cause that should unite all believers in Christ, that America has immigration laws that some don't want to be enforced or want to repeal? There is a strong and passionate debate on this issue. 

 If immigration is the issue, then are we called to protest only the United States immigration laws? Why not Canada? Why not Ireland? Why not Israel? Why not Austraila or Japan? I can only trust that you see the futility in labeling this a Gospel issue. 

 We are to proclaim the Gospel of Grace to all nations and tribes and tongues. We are not to add to the Gospel. The Gospel is not the message of liberalism or conservatism. It is not a social movement. I want you to pause your passionate cause for a moment. The Gospel is Jesus plus nothing or is it?

Is the gospel Jesus plus a cause or activity?

 So is the Gospel message Jesus plus "income equality"? Jesus plus who you vote for? Jesus plus open borders in America? Jesus plus the 2nd Amendment? I wish God would clarify this for us. 

 Allow me to address another aspect of this. The social aspect some cling to also includes good works not just protesting or activism. Feeding the hungry, taking care of the homeless and other good deeds are these the Gospel? If you say, of course, let me frame it another way.

 What washed us from our sins, cleansing us and what forgave us once for all time? Is it the Blood of Jesus plus taking care of the poor and destitute? Is it Jesus once for all sacrifice plus our giving shelter to the homeless? Is it the Finished Work plus building orphanages? I hope you already know the answer.

 It is only the shed blood of Jesus that forgives and cleanses us. It is His final sacrifice that washed us, made us clean and exchanged our old life with His new eternal life. It was His Finished Work that made us the righteousness of God in Him, perfect and acceptable in the eyes of our good Father in Heaven. 

 I have actually heard some make statements like giving a person a hug is more effective than hearing someone preaching a sermon. I'm sorry, that is not conveying the Gospel. Can you imagine someone sharing a testimony like this;
 "Oh I know I'm saved, a Christian gave me a hug on the street."
"I know I'm right with God because a ministry fed me a chicken dinner."
 That sounds silly but the way some speak about the Gospel this is the impression they leave and what they declare the Gospel is. Is this accurate?
13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” Romans 10:13-15 NLT

What am I saying?

 The Gospel is the Gospel of the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not a politically affiliated message. It is not an activist cause. It is not a social movement. It is not about doing good deeds. If it is then we've traded the Gospel of Grace for a gospel of works and performance. I sure hope you marched at the right rally, took up the right cause, fed enough hungry, visited enough prisoners, clothed enough naked, and met enough needs to become righteous.

 Now when we received the Gospel of Grace and have been transformed by His love and goodness, we will begin to bear fruit. Give someone a hug alright, but do it in Jesus name. Hug a fellow tight, but afterwards, share that Gospel with them. Feed the hungry, help the homeless, but make sure they know this is God's love in action. After they're warm and fed, give them the good news of Grace. 

 The Gospel needs to be conveyed for it to be received. The Gospel of Grace is the only thing that brings change to people. Simply feeding them or providing a need is good but not enough to bring about new life. If so the many, many secular thrift and consignment stores in the World should have many lives changed but there is no testimony of salvation because of them. As believers, we have the message that brings hope, love and new life. As we go about doing good and meeting needs let's not omit giving people the good news Gospel of Christ. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What Gospel Are You Hearing?

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7 NKJV

 We are beginning a new series of study on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What actually is the Gospel? The biggest question we will be examining is what Gospel are you hearing? 

 There are many "voices" in the wind. Many talking heads proclaiming a message. What we want to do is to distinguish who is preaching the Gospel and who is just spouting off words that have no real substance. 

What is the Gospel?

Traditionally we've defined the Gospel as good news. What some consider good news, however sometimes makes me wonder if they have actually read the Word or do they even know the Lord. Thayer's Greek Lexicon has probably the best definition of the Gospel.

 The English word translated Gospel in the New Testament is the Greek word "Euaggelion". It is defined as the glad tidings of salvation through Christ. The proclamation of the Grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ. Here is proof positive of what Radical Grace preachers have been saying. Grace is not a message or a movement but the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 This is the base as to what we will be using to determine if a message being proclaimed is the Gospel or some other message. So what message have you been hearing?

The discouraging/unhappy gospel

 This is the message that some here whenever they turn on Christian Television or whenever they attend church. This is that message that is grievous and somber. This is the message where we are expected to wipe off our smiles and cheer as soon as we step foot into the sanctuary of the church building.

 Church is supposed to be serious. We can't have any joy or encouragement, we need to study God's Word. I liken this message to the child who sees some dessert on his dinner plate and begins to be joyous inside and maybe even cracks a grin but suddenly the austere guardian quickly swipes it off their plate. "They don't need that, they need more spinach!"

 If you go to church and leave more discouraged and unhappy then when you came in, you might want to examine what you're hearing. These ministries are the ones always angry at the so-called happy gospel or "gospel lite" messages from that mega church in Houston TX. Church isn't supposed to build you up. You're supposed to come to church to learn about the areas you're not measuring up in. 

 If you're listening to messages that continually tear you down or never lift you up, turn that junk off. God paid a high price for you. You're the apple of God's eye. If God had a refrigerator your picture would be on it! The Gospel is glad tidings of good things! It is the good news that God loves you and has a welcome place for you at the King's table.

The hopeless gospel

 This message is mostly proclaimed on Christian programming. These are the fellows peddling freeze dried food and doomsday prepping gear. These are the talking heads continually proclaiming doom and gloom. 

 I have no issue with some proclaiming that we are in the last days. I am not saying stick your head in the sand and pretend there exist no darkness in this World. Certainly, there exist darkness in our time. Yet that is exactly why Christ is our hope. Surely darkness is here on Earth, but as the darkness exists the glorious brightness of our Gracious good Father is ever brighter. 

 The hopeless gospel message is that financial woes, famine, pestilence are overtaking the planet. Much of what is proclaimed by these "ministers" is always negativity and judgment. If there was a tsunami in Asia it was because God designed it because they were bad people. This vitriolic rhetoric turns off lost people who are looking for hope in this darkened World. 

In Christ Jesus, there is always hope. There is always a new day promised. There is an exit door. God has made a way for us to live in victory and possess the land even in this fallen World. If what your hearing keeps you in fear and anxiety it is time to turn it off and embrace Jesus and His victorious overcoming triumph over sin, the curse, and all the enemy.

 What Gospel are you hearing? Keep hearing the good news of Christ. The glad tidings of salvation through Christ gives us hope and joy in this darkened World. We have a joy and a spark that attracts others and ignites a passion in those around us. That is the transformative power of the Gospel. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Eternal Security: What if we forsake Him?

 And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b NLT

But then something happened: God our Savior and His overpowering love and kindness for humankind entered our world; He came to save us. It’s not that we earned it by doing good works or righteous deeds; He came because He is merciful. He brought us out of our old ways of living to a new beginning through the washing of regeneration; and He made us completely new through the Holy Spirit, who was poured out in abundance through Jesus the Anointed, our Savior. All of this happened so that through His grace we would be accepted into God’s covenant family and appointed to be His heirs, full of the hope that comes from knowing you have eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 Voice

 We've concluded our series on Healing Grace with our last post, revealing that understanding our eternally secure salvation helps us in better receiving all God has done for us in Christ. Whenever we mention our eternally secure salvation objections are immediately raised. I sensed in my heart that I needed to address an objection of our secure salvation.  Let's look at this objection from the Scriptures.

 In 2 Chronicles a prophet of God spoke a word to King Asa. You can see the whole prophecy in context here. I would like to focus on one statement Azariah spoke.
And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. 2 Chronicles 15:2 NKJV

  Those are some pretty strong words from the prophet. If you forsake Him, He will forsake you. Those who've learned to rightly divide the Word based upon Old Covenant and New Covenant can rightly conclude this was a strong warning given under the Old. Yet many have adopted this same view concerning our salvation in the New Covenant. Many have concluded rightly that we can't lose our salvation, but by golly, we can forfeit it. This idea of walking away, forfeiting our salvation, "leaving it" or however it is labeled stems from passages such as this rooted in people's thinking.

 Let's first analyze this passage. In context, it's not so doom and gloom filled as it appears. The king had just come back from a major battle where he was victorious. God, was, in essence, telling him to place his trust in Him and not his strength or own power. Sounds like Grace to me. Trust in God and not performance or self-efforts. Though there is some Grace revealed in this passage, there still exists this stern warning.

 Understanding, that this is the Old Covenant, and judgment for sin and rebellion was swift. There was no mediator, no intercessor, and no price paid for sins. Also, the standard of Law was perfection. Yet, even in the midst of Law, which is a Covenant based upon man's ability to stay faithful, a system of do good get good, do bad and get bad, God's love was still clearly seen. 

 In order to see and understand God's Grace, it is paramount to understand the severity of God. He is a just and righteous God. Yet He is love and Jesus is Grace. I want to reveal to you this great Grace in action. As we know Jesus' birth didn't usher in the New Covenant. Galatians reveals Jesus was born under Law. It was the Finished Work that established the New Covenant.  

 Now that we've established that Jesus was abiding under the Old Covenant, let's look at an event in the life of Peter. Peter was very zealous and many times he leaped before he looked. Yet, with all his zeal Peter actually forsook our Lord. You can see it in full context here.

71 Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!” Mark 14:71 NKJV

Here we see Peter curse and swear and deny Jesus. He forsook Jesus. Peter, therefore, should be forsaken by God right? This was under the Old. God shouldn't have anything more to do with Peter. Yet what is Jesus reaction to Peter's denial?

 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 62 So Peter went out and wept bitterly. Luke 22:61-62 NKJV

Peter looked upon Jesus, the face of Grace. Did Jesus curse Peter? Did Jesus say, "see you're a worthless disciple"? Did Jesus say "well, you forsake me, so I forsake you"? On the contrary, Peter saw Jesus and when He beheld Grace, the Lamb who was taking His place for all our sins, Peter immediately had a change of mind and heart. 

 Now look how God sees Peter after Christ's resurrection
but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.” Mark 16:6-7 NLT

 God had the angel give a message to all the disciples. He specifically calls Peter's name out. He identifies Peter as a disciple, a follower of Jesus, even after he forsook the Lord. Why didn't God forsake him after he clearly forsook Jesus?

 Because the Finished Work changed it all. Jesus took Peter's sin upon Himself. Peter under distress, fear and anxiety and extreme emotions forsook the Lord. Yet Father God still saw Peter as one of His own. In the gospel of John, we even see Jesus restore Peter to ministry.

 We can learn so much from this amazing account recorded in Scripture. Even the worst sin has been forgiven in the Finished Work. Look at the promise from the Word.
 And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b NLT

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 NKJV

 This is too good to be true but true good news. He will never leave us, abandon us or forsake us. If you look at this word forsake in the Greek it shows just how amazing His Grace is. The Greek reveals this word means to leave behind. To abandon. God in His goodness and Grace will never leave you behind. 

 This is amazing news. Religious tradition invents lesser penalties for our sins. God will distance Himself from you when you blow it. He will leave you behind if you go wandering. The Gospel of Grace reveals He will never leave or abandon you. If we walk away He is right there walking along side us. 

 Under Grace, we have received of the Finished Work. His blood has washed us clean and placed us in perfect right standing with God. We have become one with God by our union with Christ. We are joint heirs with Christ. We, therefore, can never abandon or forfeit our salvation in Christ.

 Think of it, in Christ, believers possess the mind of Christ. We have been made new creations in Christ. His love has been shed abroad in our hearts. We have exchanged that old stony heart with the new creation heart. God Himself abides within us in the person of the Spirit. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, this New Covenant new creation righteous one, secure in the hands of Father God, cannot from the heart reject and forfeit that salvation. 
 Believers in Christ, rejoice we have permanent peace with Almighty God. We are no longer appointed to wrath but to total salvation in Him. God isn't angry or disappointed in His kids. We are forever secure in His hands, and we can rejoice He will always be with us. We are saved for eternity. That's something to get excited about.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Healing Grace: Fully Saved, Secure and Made Whole

For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazingEphesians 2:8-9 Voice

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. 3 John 2 NKJV

 We've been in a study of God's Grace pertaining to healing. We've seen that God is the hope we cling to. We've seen that our focus should be Jesus and not our imperfections. Last time we explored how our sins and shortcomings won't deter us from receiving what Grace has already provided.

  Continuing along this line, I felt compelled to explore God's goodness and His Grace deeper when it comes to healing. I want to share a divine healing and wholeness truth I have never heard anyone minister. This doesn't mean it hasn't been ministered somewhere before, it's just I haven't personally heard anyone minister on this. 

 In order to illustrate this truth I want us to revisit a passage in Mark's Gospel and see God's healing Grace in action. We saw in an earlier post in Mark 5, the account of the healing of the woman with the issue of blood, reveals God's healing in the gift of righteousness. Surrounding this account we also see the healing of Jairus' daughter. To save time you can read the full account of this marvelous healing here

 In this powerful passage of God's healing mercy and Grace, we see many wonderful truths revealed. In verse 38 and 39 of this passage Jesus hears the commotion and sees the dreary and depressing atmosphere, He interjects faith, hope, and joy into the situation. In the remaining passages Jesus dispels the doubt and removes the unbelieving ones and ministers resurrection life and healing to the child.

 This account of the healing of Jairus holds all these truths of walking in wholeness. Trusting in Jesus alone, keeping your joy, and dispelling doubt. Yet there is one thing Jesus told Jairus that is critical. 
35 While He was still speaking, there came some from the ruler’s house, who said [to Jairus], Your daughter has died. Why bother and distress the Teacher any further? 36 Overhearing but ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, Do not be seized with alarm and struck with fear; only keep on believing. Mark 5:35-36 AMPC
 This is a powerful statement by the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly, allowing fear to direct your thinking hinders us from fully trusting God. At times, when fear is driving someone, they won't trust in God alone, but will look to other means and sources to find help and hope. I am not referring to going to a Doctor or seeking medical care, or taking medications. I am talking about trying to solve our problems or finding resolutions to our troubles in our own strength. Much of performance based faith is founded on fear and anxiety rooted in condemnation.
 While it is true that fear and anxiety and worry can hinder trust in God, as Jesus infers in this passage I see another area of fear that hinders us in fully trusting in Christ. When Jesus spoke these words to Jairus He was saying, in essence, don't have confidence and trust in the negative but have a confident expectation in me and me alone. I am the only source of hope and help and healing.
 What is the area that produces much anxiety and uncertainty and produces a lack of confidence in a believer? It is having a lack of full assurance of salvation. It is having no confidence that salvation is truly eternal and forever secure. Where there is a question as to whether or not our salvation is secure there will exist an uncertainty, no matter how minute, in the minds of believers.
 What am I saying? A Christian who has come to believe that there exist a point of no return where one can lose or forfeit salvation hinders complete trust in Christ. How can I say this? I have personally heard testimonies of believers who thought it was possible to commit an unpardonable sin. Many thought that they had actually committed such a sin. They were fearful that they had crossed some line and there was no more hope for them.
 If we can't fully trust Christ to keep us saved after we received Him and His free gift of Grace, how could we then have complete trust that He would honor the rest of His promises? Some may be resisting this concept. Some may be thinking you're way off brother. Some may even be saying to themselves;
"So you're saying because I reject eternal security, I have a weak faith?"
"Because I refuse to believe in once saved always saved I don't fully trust in Christ to meet my needs?"
 Some may be upset at me or even angry at me for even suggesting this. I submit to you that there exist a connection between a full confident trust in Christ and confident expectation of receiving all He promised and purchased by Grace, and an acceptance and understanding of an eternally secure salvation in Christ. This connection of healing and eternal security I have never heard ministered on. Yet as I meditated on what Christ spoke to Jairus I saw the connection. 
 Let me share an account of my life to you that better illustrates this. While serving in the United States Military, during some off time I ventured into town and found a Christian ministry that had an outreach for those serving. It had refreshments and a place to meet others and enjoy fellowship. I recall meeting a brother who believed in eternal security. At this time, I had not accepted this truth. Of course, I had to disagree with him. We only spoke a few moments. Yet he possessed a quality of joy and peace and happiness that I did not have. Why was this?
 You must understand, I was a Spirit-filled believer. I had ministered healing to others. I flowed in God's supernatural gifts. I certainly had a level of joy in my walk because of the Spirit. Yet, this brother who belonged to a denomination that didn't believe in the Gifts of the Spirit for today still had such a great level of joy that surpassed mine. The reason? Because his hope and trust were founded in the confident expectation that what God started in Him would be completed by Christ alone, not his efforts.
 I am confident that the Creator, who has begun such a great work among you, will not stop in mid-design but will keep perfecting you until the day Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, returns to redeem the world. Philippians 1:6 Voice 
 Great joy, everlasting peace, and complete confidence and rest are made fully aware when we understand just how complete and secure our salvation in Christ truly is. When we know He will preserve us to the very end, and present us spotless to our Father in Heaven, we rest assured in the knowledge that we will arrive fully complete and perfectly whole. In His perfect and secure hands, we can confidently expect wholeness and healing. We are perfectly secured in His hands. Nothing the enemy or this fallen World brings against us can truly prevail!
 This sounds like good news, but what about those passages that seem to suggest we can lose or forfeit salvation? What about Hebrews 6? What about Hebrews 10? What about 2 Peter 2? These are all posts that examine these often misunderstood Scriptures. It appears you don't have one on 2 Timothy, that passage really proves we can forfeit salvation. Yep, I have a post on 2 Timothy 2. Remember obscure passages don't change or alter clear Scripture.
 In summation, rest in your eternally secure salvation and embrace a confident expectation of all Christ has done. He has forever saved us and provided for us all things that pertain to life, both here and in eternity. Embrace the fullness of His great Grace. Saved, secure and completely made whole because of what Christ purchased for us by Grace.