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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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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A Live Of ThanksLiving, Part 4

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

29Nov  Today I’m presenting the final installment of a three-part message on “Thanks-living.”  We’ve looked at what we think and what we do – or, more accurately, why we do what we do.  Today I want us to see that thanksgiving also involves what we say.

There is power in what we say

And every word we sow

Into the lives of others

Results in some kind

Of harvest being left behind.

As with the previous two blogs, I’m only going to deal with one verse of Scripture.  I encourage you to find others that will strengthen your Thanks-living for God’s glory and for the good of others.

The Bible says in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Experience has taught me that this command is much easier to say than to actually do. Perhaps it is the same for you.  Unwholesome talk seems to roll so easily off the tongue and leave a wasteland of hurting hearts in its wake.  We say things without thinking that we ought not to say and prove that the old childhood saying – “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” – is so very wrong.

To be sure, sticks and stones may break some bones but those wounds eventually heal.  However, the harsh, unwholesome speech we direct at others can and often does scar for a lifetime.  Is there anyone reading these words who does not know this truth by way of personal experience?  We have all been scarred and we have all scarred others. When I was involved in athletics, I saw young people driven out of a life of sports because of insensitive coaches who could not control their tongues.

But this is not what God desires of us!

Thanks-living is marked by language

That builds others up

And encourages others.

Someone has called it being a “good-finder” (rather than a fault-finder) and broadcasting the good we see in others.  One of my best friends is quite gifted in this area.  It is as if God has given him a mission to build others up according to their needs.  He does this with me week by week by way of messaging or when we are together, and I hear him doing it with others he comes in contact with as well.

The Greek word for “encourage” literally means “to give heart.”  Those who are marked by Thanks-living look for every opportunity to speak words of life into others and strengthen their hearts.

What they say

Is intended to

Help the hurting,

Bless the broken,

Strengthen the weak,

Lift up the downcast

And always to

Encourage their brothers and sisters

To continue to run the good race.

The only people who can lift others up are those who are secure in themselves.  Insecure people tend to put others down, for fear that the spotlight may not shine their way.  Some Christians have become so comfortable with this practice that they even weave their discouragement into their prayers, saying things such as “Oh, bless his (or her) heart” . . . right before lowering the boom of criticism or gossip.

As children of the Most High God,

We have so much to be thankful for

. . . And one of the greatest blessings

Is that God has called

And equipped us

For Thanks-living.

I am often asked about the best techniques for evangelism; I reply that they are as many and as varied as the people who share the Gospel.  But I always add that the way we live our lives will either make the Gospel attractive or unattractive to those around us.  The best evangelists in the world are those whose lives are marked by Thanks-living through what they THINK . . . DO . . . and SAY.

And please remember this: Thanks-living shines the brightest light on the One to whom we should offer joyful thanks.  That is a life worth living!

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

A Life Of ThanksLiving, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

28Nov  Today is Thanksgiving Day.  How will you spend it?  Some will spend the day with family and friends, enjoying food, fellowship, and perhaps some football.  Others will spend it alone.  But regardless of your plans this year, let me encourage you to spend the day thinking about what it means to live a life of thanksgiving to the One who has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).

The Bible says in Colossians 2:6-7, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

The apostle Paul tells us that overflowing thankfulness is the mark of Gospel-soaked saints, regardless of the cost or circumstance.  And Paul knew hardship and suffering for the sake of the Gospel!  He was no “ivory tower” teacher, comfortably distant from the message he proclaimed.  You probably know that Paul wrote most of the New Testament; did you know that he penned most of his inspired epistles from behind prison walls?

Regardless of the circumstances he faced, Paul was marked by overflowing thankfulness because He intimately knew the One to whom he was so thankful.

And the underlying reason why is recorded in Acts 9:1-6, “Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ He replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’”

Here is the man

Who was transformed

From Saul, persecutor of the Church,

To Paul, a pastor in the Church.

He who hated Christians

Became a helper of Christians.

The murderer became a minister,

And Paul engaged in that ministry

Until his very last breath.

He did it in the face

Of incredible hardship and opposition,

Yet his heart always

Overflowed with thankfulness.

One of the keys to Paul’s consistent thanksgiving and praise was located in the fact that he never lost sight of who he was before Jesus showed up.  He never forgot the change that the Lord Jesus Christ made in his heart that day on the road to Damascus – the black condition of his heart prior to his encounter with the risen Savior.  Jesus breathed new life into him, and Paul who exulted, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15.)

So, throughout this Thanksgiving weekend, let us pause and count our many blessings. Don’t bother to try to “name them one-by-one,” as the Bible song says, because there are far too many to number.   We simply need to be “Living Thanksgiving,” living a life of heartfelt gratitude, sharing the love of Christ with everyone we encounter.  Share the love of Christ by telling someone about the His amazing grace and incomprehensible love.  Share that love, with both your lips and your life.

Who can you reach out to this Thanksgiving week and tell them how much they mean to you?  Make that long overdue phone call.  Share that past-due hug.  Write that note of appreciation you have been meaning to write for as long as you can remember.  God will be glorified, your soul (and the other person’s) will be enriched, and you will be living Thanksgiving!

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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A Life Of ThanksLiving, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

27Nov  Throughout this Thanksgiving week I am unpacking a concept that I call “Thanks-living.”  We are looking at what this kind of life entails for every child of God in three primary areas of living out our Christian faith: what we think, what we do, and what we say.  I am only going to focus on one verse of Scripture for each topic; I encourage you to find others that will strengthen your Thanks-living for God’s glory and for the good of others.

The yesterday’s blog we discussed our thought-life; today we will explore how to live in Thanks-living by what we do.  Remember that it has been well said, “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say!”

Here is today’s Scripture: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Everything we do

Should be ultimately

Motivated by one purpose:

Giving glory to God.

Now, that is living a life of Thanks-living that springs from the Spirit and not from our own sinful hearts!  You see, there are always two reasons that a Christian believer does anything.  We can do something for the glory of God . . . or we can do something for our own glory.  When we are doing something – anything – for our glory, we are doing it for what we hope to get.  We are trying to broker God’s favor and blessing in our lives.  We want control, and we try to get it by making God our debtor.  When we operate from this mindset, even when we are doing “good” things, they turn out to be bad things because we were doing them for the wrong reason.

You will recall that the Pharisees did a lot of really good stuff:  They spent lots of time in

the Synagogue, they tithed, they served, they prayed, they fasted, they studied.  But

they did all these “good” things for all the wrong reasons!

Their actions did not flow out

Of a heart of love for the Lord

And gratitude for His grace.

Their hearts were beating

Only for themselves.

Jesus exposed this truth

When He said,

“Their hearts are far from Me”

(Matthew 15:8).

I can’t imagine anything worse being said about anyone . . . could it possibly be said of you or me?

When we do whatever we do for the glory of God, our lives are truly marked by Thanks-living in every way.  We are to eat for the glory of God; we are to drink for the glory of God; we are to love for the glory of God; we are to serve for the glory of God.

We are to live

For nothing other

Than the glory of God

In every area of our lives.

So . . . what have you been doing lately?  More importantly, why have you been doing it?  When what we are doing flows out of a heart of thanksgiving for what Jesus has already given us – and not for what we hope to get – then we live lives marked by Thanks-living and a desire to showcase the goodness and glory of God.  We put the Gospel on display and make our God attractive to all those who are watching us.  And make no mistake . . .

The world is watching

To see if our practice

Matches our profession.

So, remember that . . .

The key to the “Do” part of Thanks-living

Is found in the why we do what we do.

This why is far more important

Than what we do,

And the why is determined

By what our hearts

Are ultimately beating for.

God knows our thoughts; before a word is on our tongue, He knows it completely.  I’m sure that there are those in the church today who, just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, do all sorts of great things . . . but our Lord would say to them, “Your hearts are far from me.”  May that not be true of you or me!

I pray that you and your loved ones enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving Day tomorrow; eat and drink and fellowship for the glory of God!  I’m looking forward to our presenting the final message in this Thanks-living series to

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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From Thanksgiving To ThanksLiving, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

26Nov  Sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas … ghosts in flight and Silent Night . . . a witch on a broom and an inn with no room . . . is Thanksgiving.  For many, it is a time of fellowship with family and friends, fabulous food, and a little football – OK, in some homes, maybe a lot of football!  The day is marked by hours of preparation, 30 minutes of eating, and an hour of clean-up.

It would be hard for a visitor to our culture to recognize the season of Thanksgiving, because as soon as the Halloween decorations come down, the Christmas decorations go up!  Only grocery stores get excited about Thanksgiving.

Because Thanksgiving is not a major money maker for the department stores, we may not give it the attention we should.

If we are not careful,

We can confine Thanksgiving

To a mere day of feasting,

Rather than

A way of faithful living.

Here are three practical steps to help us move from Thanksgiving to Thanks-living:

The first key is to live thankfully.

This will only be done

When we re-orient

Our focus from ourselves

To our Savior.

With our focus firmly fixed on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, our thoughts will ultimately rest on His cross and His resurrection.  When the crucified and living Christ is the center of our lives, we can live in no other way than thankfully.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

The second key in moving from Thanksgiving to Thanks-living is to live worshipfully.

Once the cross and the empty tomb

Becomes central in our lives,

Worship becomes our way of living.

To use a theological term, it is living “doxologically” before the face of God.

We live grace-filled,

Gospel-saturated,

God-centered lives.

We worship Jesus – not only on Sunday, but every day, everywhere, and in every way.  We sing His praises in the boardroom, living room, family room, bedroom, schoolroom, lunchroom, and locker room.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:12-15, “For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.  Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

The third key in moving from Thanksgiving to Thanks-living is to live generously.

As I have said before, “What do you have that you have not been given?”  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “For who makes you differ from another?  And what do you have that you did not receive?  Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

If everything we have is a gift from the hand of God,

How can we live in any other way than generously?

The more we have, the more we are in debt to the One who has given it to us, and the more we should be driven to meet the physical needs of others.  It is a mistake to think the Gospel meets only the spiritual needs of the lost.  To be sure, it does that, but it also meets physical needs as well.  If it did not, how would we explain the two loaves and the five fish that fed thousands instead of Jesus sending them away hungry?  How would we explain the miracles of Jesus in making the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the sick well, and the dead alive?

When we get the Gospel deep down into the very center of our being, we live lives marked by generosity, remembering what God says in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “”So let each of you as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”

As you enjoy Thanksgiving in whatever way you choose to celebrate it, take a moment to reflect on these three keys that will take a day of Thanksgiving and turn it into a life of Thanks-living.

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 Significance And Purpose Of Thanksgiving

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

25Nov  This is Thanksgiving week.  I want to use the my blogs this week to look at the biblical teaching on the why and what of Thanksgiving.  Giving thanks is no small thing for the Christian.  But far too many of us have the wrong idea about thanksgiving.  Deep down, we may see the command to give thanks as optional or something that we do when things are going good.  It is sad when gratitude is not a normal response to the very people who have the most to be thankful for . . .

To sinners forever saved by grace,

Thanksgiving should be significant.

Allow me to use today’s blog to share some biblical truths about the real significance and purpose of having a thankful heart.

1) It Is A Response Of The Grace of God.

We were created by God

To not only experience and enjoy

God’s grace but

To express our unending

Gratitude for His grace.

Through the redeeming work of Jesus we are freed to experience, enjoy, and express our eternal gratitude even more clearly and fully.

Gratitude becomes a central biblical and spiritual response of the heart to the grace of God. The Bible commands gratitude to God as one of our highest duties.  The Bible says in Psalms 100:4, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.”  God says that gratitude honors Him – The Bible says in Psalm 50:23, “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me”

Note the close connection between thanksgiving and the massive biblical reality of honoring and glorifying God.  Thanksgiving is a big thing in the life of the Christian.

2) It Is Central to Honoring God.

The Bible teaches us that thanksgiving is what we were created for, and I believe it is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian.

The Bible says in Romans 1:21, “Although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  

Do you see that?

Side by side

With honoring God

Is giving Him thanks.

Don’t underestimate the importance of thanksgiving.  Gratitude is essential in doing whatever we do to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), and thanklessness is deeply intertwined with what it means to “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  This no small thing.

So, consider this jarring thought:

“The real difference between

A Christian and a non-Christian

Is that the former 

Lives to give thanks,

Honor, and

Give glory to God”

In A Praying Life, Paul Miller adds some similar reflections about the centrality of thanksgiving for the Christian, “While it was thanklessness that was the first sin to emerge from our ancient rebellion against God” (Romans 1:21), in our ongoing redemption, it is thanksgiving that “replaces a bitter spirit with a generous one.”

Thanksgiving is important – essential – because the Christian life, from the beginning to end, is a life of extraordinary grace and gratitude for what God has done through our Lord Jesus.

3) It Nullifies A Debtor’s Ethic.

But a real danger lurks in each of our lives.  The Bible doesn’t have much, if anything, to say about obeying out of gratitude.

Giving thanks to God

For what He has

Given to us

Is precious and essential

. . . But so is trusting Him

For His ongoing provision

In the future.

Thanksgiving is important . . .

But it can go bad on us . . .

If we try to give it Faith’s job.

There is an impulse in every fallen human heart – to forget that gratitude is a spontaneous response of joy to knowing and receiving something.  When we forget this, what happens is gratitude starts to be misused and distorted as an impulse to pay for the very thing that came to us out of the free, unmerited grace of God.

This terrible disposition

Is the birthplace

Of the “debtor’s ethic.”

The debtor’s ethic says,

“Because you have done something good for me,

I feel indebted to do something good for you.”

This impulse is not what gratitude was designed to produce.  God meant gratitude to be a spontaneous expression of pleasure in the gift and the good will of another.  He did not mean it to be an impulse to return favors.  If gratitude is twisted into a sense of debt, it gives birth to the debtor’s ethic – and the effect is to nullify grace.

4) It Involves Thanks For The Past And Trust For The Future.

The one who develops a heart of thanksgiving must learn to delegate, and not attempt to do all the work itself.

 

Thanksgiving has an

Indispensable ally

Named Faith,

And they need to stay

In good communication.

Gratitude exults in the past benefits of God and leads us in faith to embrace grace more and look forward to even more of these benefits for the future.

This causes us

To be more eager

To look back and see

What God has done

And anticipate what

God will continue

To do in the future.

This will lead us with a deep yearning to delight in God and His amazing grace.  We will happily and excitedly keep on trusting Him and look to Jesus for more grace.

5) There Is More Grace to Come.

May God be pleased to fill us to overflowing with thanksgiving for His amazing graces – the greatest of which is the gift of Himself in the person of His Son.  And may thanksgiving give rise to great hope that the God who has so richly provided for us will most certainly give us everything we need for our everlasting good – and continue for all eternity showing us “the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).

The grace we’ve have experienced and enjoyed so far

is only a taste of the grace that is to come!

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 Happens To What Happens To You, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme 

21Nov  In yesterday’s blog, we began to look at Philippians 1:12-14 and learn how God uses all our situations and circumstances in life to free us to have more opportunities to share the glorious gospel to those in our lives.  We saw that the first eleven verses were used directed by the Holy Spirit to allow Paul to write to friends eager for an update of what had happened to him on his missionary journey.  Beginning in verse 12 Paul acknowledges that some things have happened to him.  They were unplanned, unwanted, unpleasant things.  But Paul did not dwell on the details.

His focus was on the outcome of the ordeal.

It was not about what happened to him.

It was about what happened to what happened to him.

Verse 12 says that what happened to Paul served to advance the gospel.

In one sentence Paul

Shifts the legitimate interests

Of the Philippians

From himself to

The great undeterred

Purpose of God in history.

We are going to look further into this truth today.

Things happen to Christians.  You do not have to do wrong for things to happen to you.

Adverse things happen to faithful Christians.

But things do not just happen.

God is in control.

Man has his wickedness.

But God has His way.

The Lord is able to employ, manipulate, and overrule your circumstances for His glory and the good of others.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Do you believe that?  This truth was reinforced yesterday when we considered what the Bible teaches about The Lord Ruling Over The Circumstances Of Life.  In today’s blog, we are going to look at how . . .

The Lord Works Through The Circumstances Of Life.

Someone has said “Life is like a tapestry. “  From the backside, it appears to be a random jumble of tangled thread.  On the other side is a beautifully designed work of art.  The problem is we live on the backside of the tapestry.

We cannot see what God

Is designing on the other side.

Unbeliever can only see

What happens them.

Believers focus on

What happens to

What happens to them.

Verse 12 says, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” How did Paul’s imprisonment advance the gospel?  The Bible gives us the answers in verses 13-14.  These verses show us two ways the Lord works through the circumstances of life.

1.The Lord Is At Work To Influence Unbelievers For Christ.

The Bible says in Philippians 1:12-13, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happed to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”  When Paul was mobbed by the Jews and arrested by the Romans, he used the privilege of his Roman citizenship to appeal to Caesar.  Paul was brought to Rome, where he became an official prisoner, awaiting audience before the Romans Emperor.  According to Acts 31:20, Paul was under house arrest.  There was no electronic monitoring.  They chained Paul to Romans soldiers.

The imperial guard was the finest of all Roman soldiers. These ancient “green berets/special forces” unit were the Emperor’s official bodyguards.  They were Caesar’s secret service.  As a prisoner of Caesar, the imperial guard was assigned to Paul.  Every four hours, a soldier was chained to Paul.  During their shifts, the soldiers watched Paul.  They saw his mood.  They saw his actions and reactions.  They saw him in casual and serious conversations.  The saw his prayer habits.  They saw him read and write letters. They saw him care for Epaphroditus.  They saw him entertain guests. For two years, the imperial guard got an up-close and personal look at what kind of man Paul was.  It was evident Paul was no criminal.  His imprisonment was for Christ.

In Ephesians 3:1, Paul calls himself a prisoner of Christ Jesus.”  In Ephesians 6:20, he calls himself “an ambassador in chains.”

 The Roman government arrested and imprisoned Paul.

But Paul was a prisoner of Christ.

Christ locked him up, not Rome.

Paul conducted himself

More as an ambassador

on duty than a prisoner on trial.

It became manifest to the whole imperial guard

That if Paul was guilty of anything,

It was being a Christian.

Everyone in Rome who met or heard about Paul

Concluded his imprisonment was for Christ.

This led to the all-important question: Who is Christ?  Paul was eager to answer that question.  He literally had a captive audience to preach to!  Lost people were saved through Paul’s imprisonment.  According to Romans 1:15, Paul was eager to preach in Rome.  But he arrived in Rome as a prisoner, not a missionary.  He did not preach to Romans citizens.  He preached to the imperial guard.  Yet, the message of Christ spread through Rome.  In Philippians 4:22, Paul writes, “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”

You may be in a situation you would change if you could; maybe you have even tried, and you can’t.  You have questions: Why me? Why this? Why now?  Let me answer with a question:

Is it possible the Lord has placed you

In that unwanted situation

To use you to win someone to Christ?

You may not be chained to imperial guard.

But you are being watched.

  • You are being watched by unbelieving family members you live with.
  • You are being watched by coworkers at that job you cannot stand.
  • You are being watched by doctors and nurses who treat your sickness.
  • You are being watched by friends and followers on social media.
  • You are being watched by people who know you but do not know Christ.

Live in such a way that lost people will get a glimpse of Christ by how you respond to what happens to you.

A real test of genuineness of Christian profession

Is witnessed when one finds himself

Under pressure, provocation, or persecution.

2.The Lord Is At Work To Influence Believers For Christ.

Verse 14 says “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”  The saints in Rome were somewhat fearful about witnessing for Christ in the imperial city of Rome.  Paul’s imprisonment may have complicated matters and contributed to this feeling.  But they watched Paul’s unwavering devotion to Christ through two years of imprisonment.  Paul calls it “my imprisonment.”  He owned it because he knew the Lord was working through it.

Paul’s imprisonment nurtured

The saints’ confidence in the Lord.

They became much more bold

To speak the word without fear.

We should proclaim the gospel of Christ boldly and without fear.  Bold witness requires spiritual devotion.  Peter and John were arrested.  But they refused to shut up about Christ.  The Bible says in Acts 4:13, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”  Spiritual boldness is the result of being with Jesus.  A key way to be with Jesus is to be with others who have been with Jesus.  The saints at Rome were fearful witnesses.  But they watched Paul suffer.  And it put strength in their faith to speak the word without fear.  The Lord seeks to work the same way through your circumstances.  As you go through them, you are being watched by fellow believers, as well as unbelievers.

  • Your testimony is not how you act in church when you are blessed. It is how you live for Christ when you are burdened.
  • Your testimony is now how you sing when the sun is shining. It is how you continue to sing when the rain is falling.
  • Your testimony is not what you say after the Lord works it out. It is what you say as you are going through.

When you rejoice in the Lord through it all, the Lord can use you to strengthen your brothers and sisters in Christ.  But Christ must be more important than your personal agenda.

Paul wanted to preach in Rome.

He did not get the opportunity.

But his imprisonment created

A movement of undaunted preachers.

Paul joyfully accepted this

Because Christ meant everything to him.

You may be not be the one the Lord uses to do it.  You may only be the one the Lord uses to encourage the one He will use to do it.  And the Lord may use your current struggles to facilitate their subsequent triumph.  Are you okay with that?  You can handle anything, if Christ is your everything!

Verse 14 specifies that “most of the brothers” grew confident by Paul’s imprisonment. This praise report reminds us no church is perfect.  When most do the right thing for the right reason, some will not.  Paul addresses the rest in verse 15-17: “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.  The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.  The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to inflict me in my imprisonment.”  

The believers in Rome boldly spoke the word without fear.  But they did with different motives.  Some proclaimed Christ sincerely.  Others proclaimed Christ hypocritically. Paul was the victim of friendly fire.  They proclaimed Christ to try to strangle Paul with his chains.  Verse 18 is Paul’s response: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”  Some preached Christ to make things worse for Paul.  Paul responds: So what?! As long as Christ was proclaimed, Paul rejoiced.  It did not matter that they put him down as long as they lifted Christ up.

Handley Page, a pioneer in aviation, landed in an isolated area during his travels. Unknown to him, a rat got on board the plane there. On the next leg of his flight, Page heard the sound of gnawing. Suspecting it was a rodent; his heart began to pound as he visualized the damage that could be done to the fragile mechanisms of the plane. But then he remembered hearing that rats cannot survive at high altitudes. He pulled back on the stick. The airplane climbed higher and higher, until Page found it difficult to breathe. He sighed with relief when the gnawing sounds ended. When he landed, he found the dead rat behind the cockpit.

Has the rat of discouragement crawled into the plane of your life?  Is it eating away at your internal belief system?  Don’t crash!  Remember discouragement cannot breathe where Christ is exalted.  The higher your faith climbs, the safer you are.

May these truths free you to live in surrender and joy in whatever situation or circumstance your find yourself.  Remember: don’t just focus on what happens to you; let God use you to show others what happens to what happens to you.  You can handle anything, when Christ is your everything!

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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