It Is Enough … Can You Say This?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

18Dec  You may be wondering, “What is enough?”   What is the “it” of “It is enough?”  We find the answer in the Bible, where in Matthew 10:24-25 our Lord Jesus is recorded as saying, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master . . .”

Jesus tells us that “it is enough” for students to be like their teachers and servants like their masters.  So . . .

The question for you today must be,

“Is this true for you?  

Is it enough for you

To be like your Teacher

And Master, Jesus Christ?”

 Surely you would not want to be exalted above your Lord; neither should you desire to receive a crown of glory on this side of the grave when our Lord received a crown of thorns.

Throughout His three-plus years of ministry, our Lord was mocked, ridiculed, persecuted, , denied, condemned, betrayed, abandoned, beaten, scourged, and nailed to a cross.  He came into this world among the beasts of burden, having been born in a manger because there was no room for Him in the inn.  He departed this world hanging on a cruel cross between two condemned criminals.  Along the way, the Creator of the universe and the Savior of the world had no place to call “home,” as He said in Matthew 8:20, “Foxes have their holes, and the birds of the air have their nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).

So, if the student is not above the teacher nor the servant above his master, what are we to expect on our way to glory?

If we are indeed His student and servant,

We should expect to experience much

Of the same unpleasantness

That Jesus received.

Despite what some badly

Misguided “prosperity teachers”

Would have us believe,

Christianity is not about

Living a life of health,

Wealth, and comfort;

Far from it!

The apostle Paul expected to get much of the same as His Savior did, and that is what Paul received at the hands of those who despised his Master.  He briefly recounted his trials to the Christians at Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:22-28): multiple beatings and floggings, stoned nearly to death, shipwrecked three times, naked, cold, and hungry, in danger from the Roman authorities and from his own countrymen.  And yet . . .

Even in his final charge

To his beloved companion

And co-laborer Timothy,

Paul provided the necessary

Encouragement to remind Timothy

– And you and me –

That it is indeed “enough”

To be like Jesus.

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”  For many today, one of the hardest verses to live by is Philippians 1;29 which says, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”  Today we are seeing the world reacting more adamantly against Christian truths and principles in every area of life.  Because of this we may be called to suffer on behalf of Christ.  Let’s look at three truths on this:

1) We may suffer through our connection with Christ.  It has been that way throughout the years of Christianity.  Today we may be met with ridicule or opposition at work, at school, on social media, and at social gatherings as we seek to live for and serve Christ faithfully.

2) We may suffer for the cause of Christ.  We may serve Him by our suffering.  Faithful endurance is itself a grand witness to Christ.  The martyr preaches Christ as truly as the missionary.  Even the patient endurance of pain because it is Christ’s will that we should bear it does honor to Christ.  Many a sufferer, who thinks his life a useless burden to others, teaches such high lessons by the spirit of faith and love with which he endures, that he serves Christ more effectually in his infirmity than others by the most vigorous activity.

3) It is a real blessing to be permitted to suffer on behalf of Christ.

  1. a) It is proof of fidelity. Rather than causing us to fear the adversaries of the Gospel, as we respond in a God-honoring way we have our faith confirmed in their trials.

    b) It is a means of serving Christ. It is an honor and a joy to serve Christ in any way, and most of all where the service is most effective.

    c) It is a proof of  The best soldiers are selected for the hardest service.  The persecuted and martyrs are the flower of the Christian army.  It will lead to the greatest reward,

    d) The peace and joy of heaven will be intensified by contrast with the pain and the battles we fight in life.  As someone has said, “Only the toiler can know the true sweetness of rest, and only the sufferer the deep blessedness of heaven.”

This is to be the desire

And reality of every Christian

. . . To live a godly life in Christ Jesus

The more you become like your Master, the more you will face opposition and persecution.

And in that persecution,

Regardless of what form

It may take,

It will be enough

To know that you

Are like your Lord.

The world will welcome you as long as you speak and live according to its values and ways.  But when you choose to live according to the Word and seek to obey and honor Jesus with your life, the world will do everything in its power to ridicule you and shout you down.

Knowing that this was the life of our Lord, which ended on a hill outside the city nailed to a cross, let us be strengthened and encouraged by the truth that “It is enough” to be like Him in every way.  And that, my Christian friend, includes His suffering.

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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It’s All About Me: Self Forgiveness Or God’s Forgiveness, Part 4

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

16Dec  I am sure at some point in your life, someone has told you that you need to “forgive yourself.”  The idea of practicing self-forgiveness is so popular that a quick Google search of the phrase yielded 95,700,000 results!

It sounds good – in theory.  Who hasn’t done something or made some mistake they wanted to forget or be forgiven for? In addition. the shame and guilt we carry from our bad decisions or behavior seems to follow us wherever we go, sometimes for years.

So . . .

Shouldn’t we just find

A way to forgive ourselves?

There is a big difference between being forgiven by someone, accepting forgiveness, and forgiving yourself.

For example, if your behavior has hurt someone else, then you hope they will forgive you.  If they choose to forgive you, then you must choose to accept their forgiveness. However, how many of us have been forgiven but still struggled to forgive ourselves?

This is because

Self-forgiveness

Is a myth.

The truth is . . .

Forgiveness is something

That is given and

Something we must

Choose to accept.

It is not simply

Something we can grant

Ourselves for ourselves

Any more than

A debtor can forgive

His own debt.

In fact, try calling your mortgage company.  Tell them how you have forgiven yourself of their mortgage and listen carefully to what their response it.

If someone on death row proclaims to the judge that he has forgiven himself of the crime he committed, what would the judge do?  Release him?  Of course not.  His crime has not been forgiven, and the penalty for his crime must be paid.

Fortunately . . .

There is an answer.

Those who accept

What Jesus Christ did

For them

On the cross

Can receive the ultimate

Pardon and forgiveness

For their sins

Because the penalty

Was paid.

Because shame and guilt weigh so heavily on us, it makes sense that we look for ways to make ourselves feel better.  However . . .

Attempts at self-forgiveness

Without Christ

Only lead to

Repeated attempts

To bury our

Guilt and shame.

Look at some of the many ways people try to practice self-forgiveness.  Have you tried any of these ways to forgive yourself?

  • Compare Your Decisions To Everyone Else’s.

Do you compare your mistakes to everyone else’s to make yourself feel better?  When you discover a “bigger” sin, does that make you feel “more forgiven”?  Of course not, because the regret remains.  It does not address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

  • Have A “Nobody’s Perfect” Attitude.

Some people try to cover their shame by embracing this mindset.  This person says, “So what? I messed up. Everyone does.”  Do you think this will make the shame and guilt go away?  No.  It doesn’t address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

  • Make Excuses For Your Behavior.

Many of us have excused our poor decisions or bad behaviors – and many of these excuses are true.  “I was young.” “I wasn’t thinking.”  When you think through your excuses, do you feel better?  Do you feel forgiven? It doesn’t address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

  • Acknowledge It But Only As A Learning Experience.

Psychology Today says, “Retain what you learned from the event but release everything else.”  A popular theory says by accepting our mistakes as learning experiences, we can forgive ourselves.  While we can learn from our mistakes, it does not mean we are no longer burdened by them.  It does not mean that our past behaviors no longer hold pain for others. It doesn’t address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

  • Focus On Being Less Self-critical.

Psychologists often encourage people to be less self-critical as a way to practice self-forgiveness.  While we are children of God and should not live in a perpetual autopsy, constantly being critical of ourselves, it will not make us forget when we’ve done something wrong.  When you look in the mirror and practice positive self-talk, do you forget what you did that caused such pain? Of course not. It doesn’t address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

  • Use Positive Emotion Refocusing Techniques.

Another self-forgiveness method, according to Prevention, says, “Simply close your eyes, draw in a long breath that gently pushes out your belly, then slowly exhale as you relax your belly.  Draw a second breath, and exhale.  On the third deep breath, create a mental image of someone you love or of a beautiful place in nature that fills you with awe.”  But, let’s be serious.  This might make us feel better for awhile but that is about all it will do.  We need more that to feel better … we need actual forgiveness of our sins.  This method does not bring self-forgiveness in our life.  It doesn’t address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

  • Attempt Mindfulness.

Mindfulness meditation is a popular practice where individuals attempt to be mindful of experiences occurring at the present moment.  Mindfulness can be a helpful tool to focus on the moment instead of dwelling on the past, but the practice does not help you forgive yourself because the past remains.  It doesn’t address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

  • Attempt Mindfulness.

Others will spend significant time or money trying to do better in hopes it will help them forgive themselves.  Ask someone who tried this method if it worked or if they just continued to do more and more.  I have a feeling I know what they’ll say. It also doesn’t address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

All the above practices are merely coping mechanisms to help us bury the things we have done and are most ashamed of, but they actually do nothing to deal with the root cause of our guilt and shame. The best they can do is to cover feelings up for a short time.

All of these approaches will fail because you are trying to do the impossible.  The Good News is that there is another way.

You don’t have to forgive yourself;

Yourself has already been forgiven.

Here’s what you need to understand.  Modern coping mechanisms or psychological methods will only help you redirect your thoughts of guilt for a brief moment of time.  The feeling may temporarily fade, but the past always creeps back in.

Fortunately, there is a solution.  God saw how the world was full of people who committed all sorts of sins and were in desperate need of real forgiveness.

So, He sent Jesus to die on the cross for your sins.  So, through Jesus, permanent forgiveness is possible.

Roy Lessin sums it up really well,

“If our greatest need had been information,
God would have sent us an educator.

If our greatest need had been technology,
God would have sent us a scientist.

If our greatest need had been money,
God would have sent us an economist.

If our greatest need had been pleasure,
God would have sent us an entertainer.

But our greatest need was forgiveness,
So God sent us a Savior.”

A popular hymn says, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus; What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

People all over the world

Are looking for a way

To feel whole and forgiven.

People want to feel

At peace with themselves.

But . . .

The only way to true forgiveness

Is to believe Jesus,

The Lamb of God,

Was sacrificed

To take away our sins.

All the earthly means

Of striving for self-forgiveness

Will never take the place

Of what Jesus did

On the cross

(John 1:29).

So, what now? We all need forgiveness. It is why God sent His Son!  If you recognize that all you are doing to try to forgive yourself is not getting you anywhere and want to learn more about true forgiveness, I encourage you to confess your sins to the Lord and accept His forgiveness.

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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It’s All About Me: Self-Love Verse Loving God, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

13Dec  The concept of self-love is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society.  Most admit it’s become a bit extreme, like the practice of people marrying themselves because they love themselves.

While the idea of loving oneself

Isn’t the worst idea in the world,

It does lead to a downward

Negative spiral of unfulfilled

Expectations in life.

It causes us to become

Increasingly self-absorbed,

Which leads to

Many undesirable results

And unfulfilled dreams.

In this series, we are discussing America’s obsession with “self.”  Today, we are focusing on self-love.  Dictionary.com defines self-love as, “the instinct by which one’s actions are directed to the promotion of one’s own welfare or well-being, especially an excessive regard for one’s own advantage” as well as “conceit, vanity” and “narcissism.”

When people throw around self-love talk, they often avoid the definition of “narcissism.”  Why?  Because we intuitively know prioritizing ourselves over others is wrong and self-centered.  For example, most religions, especially Christianity, frown upon being selfish and encourage their followers to care about others.  Caring for yourself is natural and automatic.  Caring for others takes effort and intentionality.  The Bible reminds us about that in 1 Corinthians 10:24,

“No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”

With all the talk of loving yourself, it’s important to highlight some of the ways people are being taught to practice self-love.  For instance, the concept of self-love is tied together, and often interchangeable with the following ideas:

  • Self-Compassion: According to the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion (Founded in 2012 by Dr. Kristin Neff and Dr. Christopher K. Germer), “Self-compassion involves responding in the same supportive and understanding way you would with a good friend when you have a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.”  This relates to self-forgiveness.”

This view runs contrary to the Biblical view – You don’t need to forgive yourself when you have a Savior who has already forgiven you!

  • Self-Acceptance: Merriam=Webster defines self-acceptance as “The act or state of accepting oneself: the act or state of understanding and recognizing one’s own abilities and limitations.”

The best place to go to understand and accept yourself is the Bible.  The correct way of viewing ourselves in Romans 3:23-24, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  We don’t have to accept ourself.  If you have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ His son, you are already accepted by God Himself.  In fact, you are a child of God (John 1:12).

  • Self-Talk: There’s tons of information you can find about self-talk, which refers to internal dialogue, whether it’s positive or negative.

The problem with self-talk is the emphasis on what you think versus what God says.  Instead of relying on yourself to positively lift your spirit and thinking, why not read the authority on the subject?  Read and study all the ways God loves you in the Bible.  A place to start is 1 John 3:1, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are “

  • Self-Worth: Closely related to self-esteem, your self-worth refers to your sense of value or worth as a person.

Again, those who put their faith in Jesus Christ find their value in Him – not apart from Him.

  • Self-Affirmation: Merriam-Webster defines self-affirmation as “the act of affirming one’s own worthiness and value as an individual for beneficial effect (such as increasing one’s confidence or raising self-esteem).”

You have probably heard people talk about “using positive.”  This is when people believe speaking positively will influence attitudes and outcomes.  Again, rather than trying to find your value in yourself or your own merits, find your value in Christ. The most life-changing, attitude-shaping affirmations are found in the authority of the Bible.

  • Self-Image: Self-image is how you see yourself.

Depending on the day of the week, if you focus on you, then your self-image will change like shifting shadows.  Sometimes this happens hour by hour or minute by minute.  However, In Genesis 1:27, God gives us a a thought/truth that will never change – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).” You and I were made in the image of God.  Why should anyone focus on something less than that?

By focusing on self

More than our Savior or others,

We lose our perspective

On God’s love

And opportunities

To worship Him

And love others well.

Plus, we already love ourselves!  You may have days where you’re disappointed in yourself, but you generally still try to take care of yourself, right?  The Bible says in Ephesians 5:29,

“After all, no one ever hated their own body,

but they feed and care for their body.”

Even when we think we “hate our bodies,” don’t we still eat and take care of our basic needs?

Why focus on self-love when you can focus on God’s great love for you?  The Bible says in Ephesians 3:16-19,

“I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.  Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him.  Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

If you haven’t accepted His love, the time is now.  Receiving God’s love and life that comes from Jesus will change everything.  You will find all the “self-needs” (compassion, acceptance, worth, affirmation, words of life, and so much more.) fulfilled in Him!

Now that you understand

The type of love

That really matters,

It’s time to live

In a way

That honors God’s

Tremendous love for you.

The best way to do so is to put others first.  Instead of focusing on self-love, love others!  As the Bible says in 1 John 4:7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.   Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Starting today . . . Say NO to self and YES to God and the opportunities He provides.  This truth is found in Philippians 2:3-4, “Count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

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-Righteousness Or The Righteousness Of Christ? Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

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

2018BlogTheme

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

2018BlogTheme

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

2018BlogTheme

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

2018BlogTheme

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

2018BlogTheme

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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