Is It All About Me: Self-Righteousness Or The Righteousness Of Christ? Part 2

Grace For The Journey

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12Dec I want to continue my blog series on, “Is It All about Me.”  In these studies, we are looking at many commonly held belief systems and terms used by our culture.  My aim is to see if our preoccupation with self is helpful for living a happy and successful life.  Today, we are looking at self-righteousness.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who acted holier-than-thou?  Did the individual act as though he or she was right and everyone else was wrong?  I’m guessing the answer is yes.  We’ve all encountered these people.  How did these encounters make you feel?  Did they make you want to change your ways, or did they make you want to do just the opposite?

Seldom do conversations with self-righteous people make us want to be like them.  But, here’s the issue . . .

You may be self-righteous

Without even realizing it

Because self-righteousness

Is something no one

Sees in the mirror.

Many people act self-righteous, but they don’t see it that way.  Why?  Because they see it as being right.  For example, if you catch yourself putting down others’ behaviors and justifying your own, you might be self-righteous.

By the time you finish reading today’s blog, I hope you will recognize your own self-righteousness, if it exists in you, and more importantly, find the cure.

What Does It Mean to Be Self-Righteous?

Here are a few definitions of self-righteous:

Merriam-Webster – “Convinced of one’s own righteousness especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others: narrow-mindedly moralistic.”

Urban Dictionary – “A self-righteous person acts superior to his peers because he believes his moral standards are perfect. This ‘moral smugness’ is condescending by nature and is usually found offensive by others.”

Cambridge Dictionary – “Believing you are better and more moral than other people, often expressed in an annoying or offensive way.”

In short . . .

A self-righteous person

Is someone who believes

He or she is better than,

And morally superior

To someone else.

I’m sad to say this, but I think that sounds like a lot of “Christians.”  If you call yourself a “Christian,” you really need to examine your heart on the subject.  Christian self-righteousness is the worst kind and so repulsive.  The exact opposite of what Christ really meant for us to be.

A true Christian never boasts

Of his own righteousness

Because a true Christian

Knows he doesn’t have any

Through his own initiative.

A true Christian knows

From where his righteousness

Really comes.

Self-Righteous Does Not Belong at all to the “Righteous.”

Often, people only associate “self-righteousness” with people who are Christians.

This is understandable because the word “righteous” is used throughout the Bible to describe those who conform their heart and lives to Jesus Christ and seek be godly living their living.

However . . .

The term “self-righteous”

Does not belong

Solely to those

Who follow God.

In fact, anyone can be self-righteous if they believe their ways are the right ways, and everyone else’s ways are wrong.  Sound familiar?

Self-righteousness attitudes are rampant as people become intent on proving their moral superiority.  In the Los Angeles Times article “Has Millennials’ Self-Estems Become Self-Righteousness?” the author argues, “The indignation and dripping sanctimony we see from so many young activists isn’t narcissism, or even the storied self-esteem this generation has been ostensibly mainlining since birth.  Maybe it has undergone some sort of chemical conversion into something even more dangerous: self-righteousness.”

Whether you are or aren’t a Christian, you can easily fall into the trap of self-righteousness and the sin of justifying yourself.

The “self” tacked on

To “righteousness”

Is the problem.

When you start

Justifying self,

You get into trouble.

For example, those who are self-righteous are quick to point out the sins in others to justify their own shortcomings, insecurities, and sinful behavior.  Let me give you three examples of this from the Bible.

  • Hypocrisy: Self-righteousness reeks of hypocrisy.

    The Bible describes self-righteous hypocrisy this way in Romans 2:1-2:.  The Message states it this way, “Those people are on a dark spiral downward. But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors.  But God isn’t so easily diverted.  He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.”

  • Pride: Those who are self-righteous are often full of pride.

    Self-righteousness focuses on the outward behavior of others rather than one’s own heart.

    These want attention for their imagined “righteousness,” such as the Pharisees in the Bible.  In Matthew 6:1, Jesus says, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.

    The Pharisees’ self-righteousness and pride prevented them from recognizing and seeing their need of the Savior.

  • Judgment: Self-righteousness is fed by judging others.

    Over the last 20+ years of pastoral work, the people who often tout “judge not” are often the people who judge the most.  Not only do they judge others, but they make up their own rules for judging others.  They think they are better than others based on actions.  They blame others for their own sins, and they justify themselves by judging others.  But note what Jesus says in Matthew 7:3-5,

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

The problem with self-righteousness is that it makes the person believe he or she is righteous.  They arrogantly put themselves in the position of God, bestowing judgment on whomever they see fit.  That’s a big problem.

As you read this, if you’re thinking of other people, stop.  Consider yourself.  Think through your own actions.  Apply this to you.  The self-righteous will have a difficult time examining their heart.  That might be a clue that it’s you.

The Bible speaks very clearly about this.  It says in Romans 4:11-12,

“Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”

Self-righteous people not only judge others’ sins, but they begin to believe their “self” is “better than” others.  The result is they think they don’t need a Savior.

As Steven J. Cole explains, “But it’s a serious, damnable sin because it keeps people from seeing their need for the gospel.  It believes the lie that we can be good enough in ourselves to qualify for heaven.  Thus we don’t need a Savior who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.”

Here’s the truth . . .

No matter how good you are

According to the world’s moral standards,

You will never be good enough.

You are a sinner.

We all are

(Romans 3:23).

No matter if we follow most of the rules and keep most of the commandments, it’s impossible to “qualify for heaven” on our own.

Since sin is deeper than bad behavior,

Trying to do better isn’t a solution.

Only grace that changes the heart

Can rescue us.

There is a difference between a person in whom disappointment leads to self-reformation and someone in whom grief leads to heartfelt confession.  The first person believes in personal strength and the possibility of self-rescue, while the second has given up on his own righteousness and cries out for the help of another.”

That’s why God sent His son, Jesus.

God knew we couldn’t do it on our own.

The penalty for our sin is death.  Thankfully, Jesus, who never sinned, came to earth to die for our sin on the cross. It’s only because of His blood shed for our sins that we are forgiven (Hebrews 9:22).

For those who have not accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  Acknowledge and confess your sin to the Lord and any party you have injured.  Begin with any self-righteousness in your heart.  Believe Jesus died on the cross for your sin and place your faith in Him as your Savior and Lord.

For those who already are Christians, confess and repent of any self-righteousness in your life, and don’t just confess that to God, confess it to anyone you’ve been self-righteous toward.

To the Christians, 2 Corinthians 13:5 tells us to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; Test yourselves.   D o you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified.  But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.”

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Is It All About Me: Self-Esteem Or Christ-Esteem? Part 1

Grace For The Journey

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11Dec  Today, people go to great extremes in protecting people’s self-esteem.  It has become a central part of our vocabulary and teaching practices.  One definition of self-esteem that I have seen is . . .

Self-esteem is

An individual’s

Subjective evaluation

Of their own worth.

We worry about our own self-esteem, and we worry about our kids’ self-esteem.  We are continually encouraged to help ourselves and others develop high self-esteem and overcome low self-esteem.

There are three things you need to know about self-esteem up front:

  1. Self-esteem is a psychological concept introduced in the 1960s, and it has steadily gained acceptance in society.
  2. Self-esteem is situational, meaning it can change according to various life situations.
  3. When self becomes the sole focus, it morphs into a misguided concept.

Where Do You Find Your Worth?

The most basic definition of self-esteem relates to one’s understanding of his or her own worth.  Unfortunately . . .

Humans have a hard time

Establishing our worth

When we fail

To view ourselves

Through the lens

Of our Creator.

Here are some key questions . . .

  • How is your view of yourself shaped?
  • Is your worth shaped by how the world sees you?
  • Is your worth defined by how many “likes” you get or how many followers you have on social media?

With the rise of social media, there are numerous studies on its effects on self-esteem. One study found 60% of people using social media reported that it has impacted their self-esteem in a negative way.

When you place your value

In other’s people’s hands,

It is no wonder your self-esteem

Is situational and changes constantly.

Feelings are fleeting; and if your self-esteem is based on feelings, you’ve got a lingering problem.  One individual put it this way, “The power to dictate your worth based on the fleeting opinions of people rather than the timeless truths of God is when problems arise”  The solution to this problem is to live by truth summed up in the following statement . . .

What other people say

About you is opinion.

What God says

About you is fact.

The way to know

Your worth is to focus

On the facts.

Instead of focusing on the opinions of others, we need to turn to the Word of God to see what He says about us.  And what He says in pretty amazing – We are loved, we are forgiven, we are cared for, we are made in His image, and on and on!

However, there is a fundamental problem with self-esteem.

The key word is “self.”

By focusing so intently on ourselves, we turn inward instead of outward.  Even those who are not Christian understand the danger of focusing on yourself more than others.  For instance, the secular magazine “Psych Central” declares, “Yes, you can have too much self-esteem.”

Self-esteem becomes a problem when you fail to realize that there are other people to consider as you go about your day.  Note that none of the [self-esteem] catchphrases say anything about ‘we,’ ‘us,’ or ‘others.’”

For those who call themselves Christians, self-esteem becomes a bigger problem. In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus told His followers:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your  neighbor as yourself.’”

If we are focusing

On loving ourselves,

Then we are not focused

On loving God and our neighbors.

We put our needs

Ahead of God and others.

Furthermore . . .

If I esteem me,

I don’t esteem Christ.

We don’t need

More self-esteem;

We need

More Christ-esteem.

In addition to that, the Bible teaches that we are supposed to deny self, not uplift self. We are to lift up Jesus.  Note what the Bible says in Matthew 16:24-26:

“Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

The Cure for Low Self-Esteem

is NOT Loving Yourself More

If you Google how to cure low self-esteem, you will find plenty of “cures.”  Unfortunately, most of these cures are self-focused.  This is not the solution; it’s part of the problem.  If you want to “cure” your low self-esteem, then . . .

The real cure is to think

About yourself less.

Instead . . .

Shift your focus

To God and others.

Look for opportunities to uplift and serve others.

The Bible says in Philippians 2:3-4,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Instead of looking

For ways to

Lift yourself up,

Humble yourself

And

Boast in Christ!

It is only through recognizing our need for a Savior that we can understand our worth is found solely in Him.

We really need to be

More Christ esteemed

And

Less self esteemed.

When we understand what Christ did for us on the cross, we have far more than enough reason to esteem Him.  What a wonderful gift God gave to us on that cross!  It would be a shame to lose yourself in yourself and not gain the kingdom of Heaven!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Ocean Of Omnipotence

Grace For The Journey

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10The Bible says in Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Consider the ocean and be encouraged today.  Those who live near an ocean can call this picture to mind easily . . . some of us may need to recall the last time we stood before the vast, unending sea and set that picture in your mind.  Do you have it?

Now consider this . . .

Until you can drain

This immense body of water dry,

God’s ocean of omnipotence

Is always available to meet you

In your place of deepest need.

The only way to fear not

Or not be dismayed

Is to stand upon the faithful,

Loving promises of God!

God has given you everything you need to do everything He is calling you to do.  Make no mistake, no weapon formed can ever come up against you and overcome the power of the Most High God that is at work within you.

Think about it this way . . .

The Creator of the universe –

The One who made the earth

And hung it on nothing

And directs it in its orbit . . .

The One who continually fuels

The flaming furnace of the sun

. . . The One who commanded

The morning to begin and the day to dawn

. . . the One who closed the floodgates

Of the sea set limits which it cannot pass

– This is the One who has promises

To strengthen and sustain you

For the work He has set before you.

You are swimming in the ocean of His omnipotence, and with every stroke, you are strengthened by His righteous right hand.  God is not like man, for He cannot lie, nor does He promise and not fulfill His Word (Numbers 23:19).  When He said, “I will strengthen you and help you,” He means what He said!

It is impossible that God could fail you,

Regardless of what it is you are facing today.

God cannot “over-promise” Himself, for the Bible tells us that every promise He makes to us is “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).

So, regardless of where this finds you today, do not fear and do not be dismayed.  You may be facing mountainous obstacles, but what is that to Omnipotence?  Keep these words of the prophet Isaiah with you today and stand upon them every day God gives to you.  Your ocean of omnipotence is overflowing and fully available to you if you will but dip your toe in it and believe this undeniable and unwavering truth:

Greater is the power that is in you

Than any power that comes up against you!

As a matter of fact, don’t just dip your toe in God’s ocean of Omnipotence, go ahead a plunge all the way in!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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What Is the Gospel? Part 4

Grace For The Journey

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7Dec  How would you answer that question if someone asked you?  Over the past three blogs we have been looking at what the Bible teaches about the Gospel.  I pray that as we have been presented with these truths that they have enlarged your heart in appreciation of the Gospel and for the Gospel.   In my blog today, I want to look again at the Word of God and not only see the truths about the Gospel but come to personally and practically understand more clearly what the Gospel is so that we can not only define it more clearly, but we will be able to declare it more boldly, and defend it more firmly so that we can help other understand this wonderful and much needed truth.

Today’s blog will be different that my normal writing.  I am going to let you do your own Bible Study.  I will guide your study through suggested steps under three areas.   My intention is to not only drive you to the Word of God but that from an in-depth study of the Word of God you can declare it more easily.

Defining the Gospel

  • From each of the following verses write out a definition of the Gospel: Romans 3:10; Romans 3:18, Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; John 1:12; John 3:16; 1 John 1:9; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:13; Revelation 3:20. 2:8-9.
  • Read Peter’s sermons: At Pentecost in Acts 2:14-36; at the temple in Acts 3:12-26; to the religious leaders in Acts 4:8-12. Give the main points, with verses, that are the same in each sermon. How do these main points define the Gospel?
  • List the phrases from Luke 24:1-7 that contain these same points.
  • Write in your own words a definition of the Gospel for someone who has never heard it.

Declaring the Gospel

  • Why was Paul obligated to declare the Gospel? Compare Romans 1:14 to 12 1 Timothy 1:12-16. To whom did he declare it in Romans 1:16??  Is anyone excluded from it?  Support your answer with phrases from John 3:16 and Acts 4:12
  • Read Romans 1:15-16 and 2 Timothy 1:8-12. From these passages, what was Paul’s  attitude about declaring the Gospel?
  • What was Peter’s attitude about declaring the Gospel in Acts 4:20?
  • Read Acts 4:18-31; 5:40-42. What was the attitude of the early Christians towards  declaring the Gospel?
  • How does Paul describe you and me in 2 Corinthians 5:20?
  • What is your attitude toward declaring the Gospel?
  • Pinpoint the time, the place and the person with whom you last shared the Gospel.
  • Pray now and ask God to give you the opportunity this week to define and to declare  the Gospel to someone who doesn’t know it.
  • As you pray and then look for opportunities to share the Gospel, what encouragement do you receive from the promises in Luke 21:15 and 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17?

Defending the Gospel

  • How does Jude 3 challenge us to defend the Gospel?
  • Why is this defense necessary, according to Jude 4 and 18
  • How does Paul challenge us in 2 timothy 1:13-14 to defend the Gospel?
  • What warning do we need to heed in Galatians 1:3-9?
  • What are some “other gospels” being preached today?
  • How do we defend the Gospel according to Ephesians 6:10-18?
  • Why is sharing the Gospel so difficult? See 1 Corinthians 1:23; Ephesians 6:12; 2  Timothy 4:3-5; and 1 Peter 5:8.
  • What is our Lord’s command in Mark 16:15? Is obedience optional?
  • Read 1 John 4:4-6 and 1 John 5;3-5. From these verses, what promises does God  give to those who are obedient?  What insights?  What encouragement?

In a politically correct, inclusive, and tolerant culture that says there are many gods and that all religions are equal, what will you do to define, to declare and to defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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What Is the Gospel? Part 3

Grace For The Journey

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6Dec.jpgOver the last couple of days, we have been learning about “What is the gospel?”  From our last two blogs we can formulate a one sentence definition:

The gospel is the news

That Jesus Christ,

The Righteous One,

Died for our sins

And rose again,

Eternally triumphant

Over all his enemies,

So that there is now

No condemnation for

Those who believe,

But only everlasting joy.

AS we continue to look at the biblical teaching on the Gospel, I want to use today’s blog to bring it down to our lives.  The Gospel is not only about what Jesus has done for us through the cross and His resurrection it is also about what He is continuing to do through our lives as we surrender to Him daily.  Let’s consider some important truths.

The Gospel is . . .

1) A Power You Never Outgrow.

You never, never, never outgrow your need for the gospel. Don’t ever think of the gospel as, “That’s the way you get saved, and then you are able to leave it and do something else.”  That is not what the Bible teaches.  The Bible says in Romans 1:5, “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.”   We are strengthened by God through the gospel every day to live for Him and lift up His name from the moment we are saved until the day we die.  You never outgrow the need to preach gospel and live by its power (Romans 1:16).

2) A Principle That Strengthens You.

The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that we whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.”

God does not only save us from hell and for heaven but that we might be used by God to help others see the difference He can make through a life that is yielded to Him.  Our life, after we are saved, is to be all about Jesus.

3) A Provision That Is Perfect for Your Needs.

The Gospel, as it relates to our lives, is perfectly timed, perfectly applied, perfectly suited to our need.  Someone has said, “That’s why the Bible is so thick: because there are so many different needs that you have.”  Throughout the Bible there are suitable places where the gospel is unfolded for you, so that if you immerse yourself in the whole Book, always with an eye for what Christ has done for you and purchased for you in this thick, glorious history of God’s interaction with people, He will give you what you need.

The Bible says in Romans 16:25-27, :Now to Him who is able to establish you, according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting, for obedience  to the faith – to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.”

Because God came into history in Jesus Christ, Who died in order to destroy the power of sin, Satan, hell, and death, God is able to give us all that we need to love Him and lives for Him.

4) A Plea To Believe.

I know that there are people reading this who are not trusting Jesus Christ, and therefore can only expect condemnation.  So, I’m just going to plead with you here: Lay down that rebellion; embrace and accept the gospel that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Righteous One, died for your sins, was raised on the third day, triumphant over all His enemies, reigns until He puts all of His enemies under His feet, offers forgiveness of sins and a right standing with God.  Come freely through Him alone, by His grace alone, and by faith alone.  I plead with you:  Don’t try to please God in your own strength or way.  It will not be enough.  Only one source of live and strength will be enough – the life and strength that God gives according to the Gospel.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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What Is the Gospel? Part 2

Grace For The Journey

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5Dec Many Christians, churches, and organizations regularly use the word “gospel” to describe their ministry.  Theological controversies have occurred and do occur over the meaning of the gospel and who preaches it faithfully.  What does that familiar word “gospel” mean?  The best way to answer that question is to turn to the Bible.

In the Greek New Testament, the noun euangelion” (“gospel”) appears just over seventy times.  Since, in one sense, the whole New Testament is about the gospel, we might have expected the word to have been used more frequently.  Even more surprisingly, its use varies greatly among the authors of the New Testament books. Paul uses the word more than three times as often as all the other authors combined.  Most of the other uses are found in Matthew and Mark, with very few, if any, in Luke, John, Peter, and James.

The word “gospel” most simply means “good news.” The word is not unique to the Christian message; it was also used in the pagan world to refer to a good announcement.  In the New Testament, it refers to the good news of Jesus the Savior. Often, it is used with the assumption that the reader knows what the word means.

As we look more closely at the ways in which “gospel” is used in the New Testament, several points come through strongly:

First, we often find the phrase “the gospel of God.”  This phrase stresses the source of the gospel as a gift from God.  The gospel is of divine, not human, origin.

Second, the character of the gospel is specified in several ways: the gospel is true (Galatians 2:5, 14; 2 Corinthians 1:5), gracious (Acts 20:24), and glorious (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Timothy 1;11).

Third, we see two responses to the gospel.  The primary response is faith (Acts 15:7; Ephesians 1:13).  But obedience is also a response (Romans 1:5; 10:16; 16:26; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:7).

Fourth, we see several results of the gospel.  The gospel, of course, brings salvation (Romans 1:16; Ephesians 1:13).  It also brings the kingdom (Matthew 4:23; 9:35;24:14).  It evokes hope in the people of God (Colossians 1:23).  The gospel is also a motivation to sanctification (Mark 8:35; 10:29; 2 Corinthians 9:13; Ephesians 6:15; Philippians 1:27).

All of these ways in which the word “gospel” is used point to its content, but there are also passages in the New Testament that are explicit as to its content.  In examining these texts, we discover that sometimes the word “gospel” refers broadly to all aspects of the salvation and new life that Jesus gives His people, and sometimes it is used narrowly to refer to what Jesus does for us outside of ourselves.  In other words . . .

Sometimes the term “gospel”

Refers broadly to Jesus’ work

Of justification and sanctification

For and in His people,

And sometimes it refers

Narrowly to Jesus’ work of justification.

Another way of putting this distinction

Is that sometimes the word “gospel”

Refers broadly to

All the New Testament fulfillment

Of what was promised in the Old Testament,

And sometimes the term gospel

Is used narrowly of Jesus’

Doing in contrast to

Our doing of the Law.

An example of the broader sense of the word “gospel” can be seen in Mark 1:1 where the Bible says, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

This use of the word “gospel”

Refers to everything

That Mark tells us

About the teaching

And work of Jesus.

We see another broad use in Revelation 14:6-7 where the Bible says, “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Here the gospel is

The call to repent

And worship God.

More often, the term gospel is used narrowly and its content is specified.  We see this in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, where Paul is led to write, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

Here, the gospel is

The message of the saving

Death and resurrection of Jesus.

In 1 Timothy 1:11, 15-16, Paul writes of “the gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust,” and he specifies what that gospel is: “The saying is faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief.  However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”

Here, the gospel is

The saving work

Of Christ for sinners.

Paul writes similarly in 2 Timothy 1:8-10; 2:8, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according too our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” … “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead, according to my gospel.”

This narrow use of the word “Gospel” was very common in the writings of the sixteenth-century Reformers.  We can see this in the thought of John Calvin: “The word of faith is put by metonymy [using the name of one concept for another concept to which it is related] for the word of promise, i.e. for the Gospel itself, since it is related to faith.  The contrast between law and Gospel is to be understood, and from this distinction we deduce that, just as the law demands work, the Gospel requires only that men should bring faith in order to receive the grace of God.”

It is also clear in Zacharias Ursinus.  Near the beginning of his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Ursinus divides all of doctrine into law and gospel: “The doctrine of the church consists of two parts: the Law, and the Gospel; in which we have comprehended the sum and substance of the sacred Scriptures.  The law is called the Decalogue, and the gospel is the doctrine concerning Christ the mediator, and the free remission of sins, through faith.”

Such reflections on the gospel have remained common in Reformed theology, as we see from this long, fascinating quotation from the great Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck: “But the Word of God, both as law and gospel, is the revelation of the will of God, the promulgation of the covenant of works and the covenant of grace… . Although in a broad sense the terms “law” and “gospel” can indeed be used to denote the old and the new dispensation of the covenant of grace, in their actual significance they definitely describe two essentially different revelations of divine will [Bavinck here cites many New Testament proof texts]… . In these texts law and gospel are contrasted as demand and gift, as command and promise, as sin and grace, as sickness and healing, as death and life … . The law proceeds from God’s holiness, the gospel from God’s grace; the law is known from nature, the gospel only from special revelation; the law demands perfect righteousness, but the gospel grants it; the law leads people to eternal life by works, and the gospel produces good works from the riches of the eternal life granted in faith; the law presently condemns people, and the gospel acquits them; the law addresses itself to all people, and the gospel only to those who live within its hearing.”

How clear, distinct, biblical, and precious

Is this presentation of the gospel.

The church needs to preach the gospel in both its broad and narrow senses.  The Greek word for “gospel” has given the English-speaking world the word “evangelism.” True evangelism, according to the Bible as given by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 . . .

Is a matter of making disciples:

First, in the narrow sense

Of calling men and women

To believe in Jesus

And,

Second, in the broad sense

Of teaching them

To observe all things

That Jesus has taught His people.

This is why it is so important that churches today center all that they teach and do on proclaiming and explaining the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Only by it will people be really and eternally happy, fulfilled, complete, satisfied, forgiven, have abundant life now and be able to live eternally.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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What is the Gospel? Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

4Dec  As we enter the Christmas season, I want to spend a few days looking at the announcement of the angel of the Lord that the Bible records in Luke 2:10, “Then the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.’”  Here is the first public declaration of the Gospel in the New Testament.  The word “gospel” means “good news.”

While the term gospel is a non-technical term for any good news, the New Testament usage defines it as good news for everybody, regarding the benefits and blessings which come to us from the person and work of Jesus Christ.  This gospel contains everything related to the person and work of Jesus Christ, including all of the events leading up to His birth, and all the ramifications from Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for unbelievers and believers.  In ancient and biblical times, the word is often used regarding things like children who recovered from sickness, a battle which was won, or a successful trading voyage

Just as the words “good news” can refer to almost any sort of happy event or positive outcome today, so also, the words “good news” or “gospel” could refer to almost anything good in biblical times as well.

In the New Testament though, the phrase “good news” or “gospel” has a more focused meaning.

Though it can sometimes

Refer simply to

An encouraging message

(1 Thessalonians 3:6),

And Jesus often used

The term to describe

The coming of the Kingdom of God

(Matthew 4:23; 9:35),

Paul uses the word most often

In reference to describe

The complete chain of events

Regarding what God has done

For sinful man

Through Jesus Christ

To provide eternal life

For them.

And when I write “the complete chain of events” I mean everything that the Bible teaches regarding the why and how of what God has done: beginning with God eternal love for humanity, including the creation of mankind and their subsequent fall, and going through God’s calling of Israel, His work through them during their checkered history, the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the return of Jesus and the new heavens, the new earth, and our eternal existence with God. The biblical “gospel” includes all of this. Every bit.

So what is the gospel?

It is everything about Jesus

Today, I want to help us understand the gospel by looking at six key truths of the GOSPEL Journey.  I will use each letter of the word to unfold its complete meaning:

G od created us to be with Him – Genesis 1-2.

In these two chapters . . .

God creates all of the universe

And everything in it (Genesis 1:1),

Including the first man and woman,

Adam and Eve.

God created Adam and Eve with purpose –

To know Him and glorify Him in what they did.

He called them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28) and fill the earth with their offspring.  He gave them the mission of taking care of the earth and tending the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15).

God made them to be in complete fellowship with Him and with each other. Their nakedness (Genesis 2:25) represented the fact that they had no sin, therefore no shame, therefore nothing to hide before God or each other.

They regularly communed with God

In the garden and had sheer bliss,

Pure happiness, and unadulterated joy

In that relationship.  It was during this time

That they were living everyday as God intended,

In right relationship with God, each other and His creation.

The only command God gave to them was not to eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

In the same way God made us to be in fellowship with Him.  His original plan was that you and I were in absolute and perfect relationship with Him and with each other in total unity.  God created us to be in harmony with all of heaven and all of earth.  But that plan was disrupted by one evil act thousands and thousands of years ago.

O ur sins separate us from God – Genesis 3.

When Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6), and thereby sinned, they immediately became aware of their “error.”  They sewed fig leaves together to cover their shame and hid in the garden from God (Genesis 3:7,8).  Now they were hiding from the one that they used to fellowship with regularly.  Men and women have been hiding from God ever since, covering their sin and shame with the fig leaves of religion, philosophy, promiscuity, etc.

God confronted them face to face.  As a result of their sin there were immediate and future consequences.  The immediate consequences were losing fellowship with God Genesis 9), being banished from the garden (Genesis 3:23,24), having difficulty in childbirth (Genesis 3:16) work turning from a joy that we love to a job that would be hard and difficult (Genesis 3:17-19).

The future consequence for Adam and Eve was physical death.  God had promised in Genesis 2:17 that the day Adam sinned by eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that he would “surely die.”  Spiritually Adam and Eve died the day they sinned in the garden.  Their souls became immediately polluted by sin and selfishness.  As a result, all of their offspring (and that includes you and me) were born sinful and selfish.

Through Adam every person ever born

Is both deprived and depraved,

Deprived of God’s fellowship

And

Depraved to the core of their being

(Romans 5:12-14).

When confronted by God, instead of owning up to their sin, they began the blame game.    Adam blames Eve (Genesis 3:12) and Eve blames the snake (Genesis 3:13).  Humanity has been playing the blame game ever since.

What began as paradise

Unraveled with a single choice

To disobey God and

Listen to Satan instead.

Every war, famine, argument,

Sin and tragedy can be traced

Back to the garden of Eden

Where Adam and Eve chose to

Turn their backs on God

Resulting in spiritual and physical death.

S ins cannot be removed by good deeds. (Genesis 4 – Malachi 4)

From the beginning man has attempted to remove the stain of sin by good deeds.  When Cain offered God vegetables instead of the offering God had desired as an atonement for his sin God rejected it (Genesis 4:1-4).  Cain was infuriated and killed his brother Abel.

In Exodus, the second book of the Bible, God gave the Israelites the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), not to save them from their sin, but to show them that they couldn’t live up to His perfect standards on their own (Galatians 3:23-24). Instead of looking to Him in faith many of the Jews looked to themselves and thought they could please God in their own strength.  But God saw their “righteous” deeds like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  Even the best of their good deeds were corrupted by selfish motives.

In Leviticus, the third book of the Bible, God gave the Israelites the sacrificial system. Every time a Jew sinned, he or she was to sacrifice a goat without any blemishes (Leviticus 4:27-31).  Think about that.  If you were a Jew in the Old Testament and had to make a sacrifice every time you lied, lusted, gossiped, complained, or argued you would need an awful large herd of goats!  Other offerings included offerings of bulls and sheep.

The sacrificial system was meant

To point inward, upward, and forward.

It pointed inward

To convince you

Of your sinfulness.

If you were honest before God ,

Then you would soon realize

That you could never

Make enough sacrifices

For your sin.

It pointed upward

To make you trust

In God for your salvation

Instead of sacrifices

That you could make

(Psalm 51:16,17).

It pointed forward

To the ultimate sacrifice

Of the lamb of God,

Jesus Christ,

Who would one day

Come to take away

The sin of the world

(John 1:29).

The rest of the Old Testament tells the story of the Jewish people, some of whom realized they were sinners and needed God to save them (Psalm 51:1,2) and most of whom trusted in their own goodness instead of the mercy and grace of God (Isaiah 64:6).

P aying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again – Matthew – Luke.

When Jesus came to the earth . . .

He came as

The fulfillment of the law

(Matthew 5:17)

And the ultimate sacrifice

(Luke 24:46).

He lived the perfect life

That we could not live

And died in our place,

For our sin.

When He died upon the cross

He met God’s righteous demands

And therefore He could declare,

“It is finished” (John 19:30).

What He meant by these three words

Was that the price for our sins

Was paid completely.

He was fully God and entirely man.

As a perfect human

He could die for other humans.

As the true and living God

His payment for sin was enough.

Jesus rose from the dead three days after He was murdered on the cross (Mark 16:6). He was seen by over 500 witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:6) on at least 12 separate occasions over the course of forty days (Acts 1:3).

Because He shed His blood

Our sins can be forgiven

Because He died

Our sins are paid for entirely.

Because He rose from the dead

We know that Jesus was

Who He claimed to be,

God in the flesh.

E veryone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John)

The amazing thing about eternal life is that . . .

It is a free gift

Given to us by God

By grace alone,

Through faith alone,

And because of Jesus alone.

We are not saved

By any goodness in ourselves

And not by any of our good deeds

(Ephesians 2:8,9).

Jesus paid the price for our sins

When He died on the cross

And all we must do

Is receive the gift of forgiveness

Through faith.

When we believe that

Jesus died for our sins

And trust in Him alone

We receive eternal life,

Are passed out of death into life

And are guaranteed

A home in heaven

(John 5:24).

Eternal life is not achieved by good deeds but received through faith.

It’s not a matter of trying but trusting.

When we believe, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life.  Almost the entire New Testament is dedicated to talking about this eternal life and the implications of it in our everyday lives.  From John through Jude the disciples of Jesus show us how to live like Jesus intended.  This is the heart of eternal life!

L ife with Jesus starts now and lasts forever – Acts – Revelation.

Because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead we will be with Jesus forever in heaven. When we trust in Jesus we enter into a personal, permanent relationship with God called “eternal life.”

Part of the reality of eternal life

Is that it doesn’t start

After you die

But as soon as you believe

(John 10:10).

This life is the joy of a real,

Exciting relationship with Jesus

Every single day through prayer,

Worship, and living in the strength

That God provides through his Holy Spirit

(Ephesians 5:18).

The other part of

The reality of eternal life

Is that all who have

It will be with Jesus

Forever and ever

In heaven someday.

Once we receive Jesus

He ours forever

And

We are His forever!

The last chapter of the last book of the Bible makes it clear that we will “rule and reign forever” with Jesus (Revelation 22:5).  In essence, the last chapter in the story of the Bible concludes by saying all of God’s promises are fulfilled and purpose is realized

 This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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How Full Is Your Glass?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Dec  Traditionally, today’s rhetorical question has been used to assign people to one of two groups: optimists and pessimists.  The question highlights two contrasting points of view when looking at the very same thing.  The optimist sees the glass as half full, demonstrating an attitude of gratitude and abundance.  The pessimist sees the glass as half empty, demonstrating an attitude of thanklessness and scarcity.

How is it for you?

Do you see your glass

As half full?

Or half empty?

Some people are uncomfortable with the question and respond tartly with phrases like, “It all depends on whether the person with the glass is in the process of filling it up or drinking it down . . . Just because I see the glass as half empty doesn’t make me a pessimist . . . Half of the glass is full of liquid and the other half is full of air.”

To be sure, your answer to this question is ultimately irrelevant; the important issue is your disposition as a child of the Most High God.  What is relevant is the way you live out your faith before others and how you reflect the joy of the Lord.

Those who see their life as “Half-full” see all of life as a gift from God.  They realize that everything they have is a gift – not because they deserve any of it, but because God is so gracious to give it to them.  Their attitude is that everything they have is “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever!”  And the more they have, the more they give thanks and praise to the One who has given it to them.  We should always see our glass as half full, because it leads to living a full life before the face of God.

Those who see their life as “Half-empty” are never satisfied with their portion, because they fail to see the Lord as their ultimate portion.  They are focused on the “stuff” of life.  If they have a job, they want a better-paying one.  If they have a home, they want a bigger one.  If they have a spouse, they want a newer one!  They view life with dissatisfaction, always hoping for something better to come along.  They live in the gloomy light of Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong, will!  They have the proverbial dark cloud hanging over their head.

We do not need to speculate about what our attitude should be about the glass; The Bible provides clear instruction in Philippians 4:11-13, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

Those who know and live by Bible truths every day always see the glass as half full.  In fact, they are simply thankful for whatever God has chosen to pour in their glass at that moment.  The celebrated Confederate general, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, once said, “I have so fixed the habit of prayer in my mind that I never raise a glass of water to my lips without asking God’s blessing.”  General Jackson was standing on the Rock!

He knew full well that we

Deserve nothing but

Judgment and condemnation;

Instead . . . if we have trusted

In Christ’s atoning death on our behalf,

We receive mercy and grace.

We should be overwhelmed that,

While we were still sinners,

Christ would die for us!

We should be awed by

The inconceivable love of Christ

And receive whatever comes our way

With a heart of thanksgiving.

Does this describe you?

Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not suggesting that we are to live lives devoid of dreams and desires.  God created us for growth and we should growth in every area of our lives that furthers the purposes of God.  What I am saying is that while we are dreaming, desiring, and doing everything we can to expand the cause of Christ for the glory of God, we should maintain an attitude of thanksgiving for whatever portion He delivers to us.

The glass is always half full for those who live Gospel-saturated lives, and their attitude of joy and abundance is evident to all who come in contact with them.  This is the best picture we can show a broken and hurting world of our good, glorious, and gracious God.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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First Priority

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

2Dec What is your top priority in life?  Is it your marriage?  Your family and raising your children?  Perhaps it’s your job and climbing the ladder of success?  Maybe a special relationship with someone?  Maybe it is a favorite recreation or hobby?

Today we’ll see what the first priority is to be for those who are in Christ.  The Bible says in John 1:40-42, “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.”

What a remarkable passage of Scripture –

One that is both instructive and inspiring!

The first thing Andrew did after hearing John the Baptist say, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35) was to find his brother, Simon.  He told him about the Christ and brought Simon to Jesus.

It would be great if that was said of all of us – that the first thing we were known for doing was bringing others to Jesus!  Andrew, who lived much of his life in his brother Peter’s shadow, is known for doing just that.

The Bible also says of Andrew in John 6:8-9, “Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’”

Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus; later he brought this little boy with the loaves and fish to Jesus.  In reading through the New Testament, it is striking to find that – outside of John’s Gospel – Andrew is only identified in the lists of the apostles.  We read of his brother Peter in a variety of circumstances: from walking on water . . . professing to die with his Savior . . . to actually denying Him to a servant girl . . . and to preaching at Pentecost, where 3,000 were saved.

It seems that Andrew lived

An anonymous life

For the Almighty

Compared To his brother,

And yet we see him

Doing what every believer

Is called by God to do:

Bringing others to Christ

. . . Sharing the Gospel

With those who

Do not know Jesus.

Now, before you start thinking you need to quit your post and get into full-time vocational ministry, know this:

God is calling

All of us to simply

Sow His Word

Where we are planted.

And our growth is to be marked by the growing number of people whom we tell about Jesus.  Take a moment to talk with someone about Jesus today and invite someone to come to church or to a Bible study where they can learn about Jesus.  God will be glorified and you will be blessed!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

 Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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