The Gospel of God and of Jesus Christ

The Gospel of God and of Jesus Christ

The following is the Gospel, the good news, the euangélion in the Greek, that we are blessed to preach to all the nations.  Are you faithful in proclaiming the wonderful Gospel of God to others?

And, if not, why?

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In accordance with the Father’s good pleasure, the eternal Son, who is equal with the Father and is the exact representation of His nature, willingly left the glory of heaven, was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin, and was born the God-man:  Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 2:23; Heb. 1:3; Phil. 2:6-7; Luke 1:35).

As a man, He walked on this earth in perfect obedience to the law of God (Heb. 4:15).

In the fullness of time, men rejected and crucified Him.  On the cross, He bore man’s sin, suffered God’s wrath, and died in man’s place (1 Pet. 2:24, 3:18; Isa. 53:10).

On the third day, God raised Him from the dead.  This resurrection is the divine declaration that the Father has accepted His Son’s death as a sacrifice for sin. Jesus paid the penalty for man’s disobedience, satisfied the demands of justice, and appeased the wrath of God (Luke 24:6; Rom. 1:4, 4:25).

Forty days after the resurrection, the Son of God ascended into the heavens, sat down at the right hand of the Father, and was given glory, honor, and dominion over all (Heb. 1:3; Matt. 28:18; Dan. 7:13-14).

There, in the presence of God, He represents His people and makes requests to God on their behalf (Luke 24:51; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 1:3, 7:25).

All who acknowledge their sinful, helpless state and throw themselves upon Christ, God will fully pardon, declare righteous, and reconcile unto Himself (Mark 1:15; Rom. 10:9; Phil. 3:3).  This is the gospel of God and of Jesus Christ, His Son.

Wait no longer.  Go to those whom God has placed in your life and share with them the Gospel of God and of Jesus Christ.  Nothing else matters.

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From The Gospel’s Power and Message by Paul Washer.

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254:  The Two Most Important Questions Asked of Jesus

254: The Two Most Important Questions Asked of Jesus

The first of the two most important questions asked of Jesus is:  Who are You? (John 7:12)
This question can be asked of Him as long as He is with the crowd, as long as He’s at arms length to each of us.  But when He invades our world, everything changes.

Now we are faced with the second most important question asked of Jesus:  Can we believe what You say?  Are Your words true?  And what exactly are You saying to us? (John 7:16-18).

Or, to summarize CS Lewis’ statement in Mere Christianity:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Want to know more?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 7:15-24.

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Jesus in the letter to Philemon

Jesus in the letter to Philemon

When I look at the often neglected book of Philemon I assume, unfortunately, that this simple letter from Paul to Philemon about a returning runaway slave has little to offer us today.  After all, there is no great teaching on the sacrifice of Christ or on the doctrine of election or on the imminent fulfillment of prophecy.  There are no instructions to the church in holiness or repentance or sanctification.  It seems somewhat out of place, nestled between the instruction of Titus and the theology of Hebrews.

But I could not be more mistaken.  Let me explain.

For starters, Philemon is about a rich man who lived in Colosse and had been converted to Christ through the ministry of Paul.  We know he is rich because the church meets in his very house.  We also know he has a least one slave, Onesimus, possibly more, who ran away from Philemon and robbed him in the process.  Even though Philemon did not pursue his runaway slave, the Roman law was broken and the penalty for Onesimus, when caught, was death.

Sometime later, possibly in jail with Paul, Onesimus is also converted to Christ through Paul’s ministry.  And, in the course of Paul’s discipleship of Onesimus, Paul urges him to return to Philemon, face his past, pay his penalty, ask for forgiveness, and try to set things right.

So Onesimus does just that.  He returns to the scene of his crime and to the man he wronged, taking with him the letter to Philemon, Paul’s letter on behalf of the runaway slave.

Let’s look briefly at this personal letter from Paul to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus.

The letter begins with the usual salutations characteristic of Paul.  He says:

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Philemon 1-3).

Paul then spends the next couple of verses talking about Philemon, how he misses him, how he prays for him continually, how others have been refreshed by the faith of Philemon.  Then Paul moves into the purpose of his letter.

Paul says he “appeals to you (Philemon) for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains.”  In other words, Philemon, I am coming to you on behalf of my son in the faith, Onesimus, whom I led to Christ while I was in prison.  I am sending him back to you as a forgiven brother and friend and fellow minister and not as a runaway slave.  And I am asking you to receive him as a brother and not as one who has taken from you or has harmed you and your family.  I am asking that you forgive him, restore him, and accept him as you would me.  “You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart” (vs. 12).

Paul’s appeal to Philemon is summed up as such: “If then you count me as a partner (or, as a fellow partaker, a companion in the Gospel), receive him as you would me” (vs. 17).  Or, I appeal to you to treat Onesimus, not as a sinner who has wronged you, but as a saint— a forgiven, redeemed, restored brother in Christ, just as I am also.

And then the crux of the message, the pinnacle of Paul’s’ letter.

But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account.
I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay— not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides (vs. 18-19).

If Onesimus has stolen from you and has sinned against you, put it on my account.  Let me pay the price for what Onesimus has done to you.  Let me be wronged, let me be punished, let me suffer for his sin.  Let me stand in the place of Onesimus before you and let me bear the wrath of your anger against him who has hurt you so.  Let me be his substitute.  Put his sin on my account, impute his crime to me, and I will repay all that he owes.  See, I am writing this promissory note with my own hand, I will repay.  Let Onesimus, my son in the faith and now your brother, not suffer for his sin against you, but let his punishment fall on me, who is innocent of any charge.

Can you see the pageant, the glorious play unfolding out before us?

Philemon

Philemon represents God the Father, the One who is wronged, the One who was sinned against, the One who rightfully sits in judgment, the One who holds in His hands both life and death, freedom and bondage, for Onesimus, the rebellious, guilty, runaway slave.

Onesimus

And who are we?  We are Onesimus, the arrogant, ungrateful, rebellious, guilty-as-charged, runaway slave.  We stand before Philemon with no defense, convicted, ashamed, ready to be judged for our actions.  We, like Onesimus, chafed at the yoke placed upon us and decided to run, like the prodigal son, into the world to make our own way with our pockets full of stolen money.  We are guilty, judged, and stand ready to be sentenced.  We have no alibi, no excuse, and we can expect no mercy from the Roman law that must be obeyed.  After all, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

Paul

Paul represents the Lord Jesus Christ.  He sees value in what the world throws away (vs. 11) and offers grace to those who deserve none.  He knows that Onesimus is guilty and deserves the punishment he has earned.  But Paul, like Christ, also loves the runaway slave and offers himself as the satisfaction of the Law.  “If he has wronged you, and we all know that he has, put the consequences of his sin on me.  Impute his guilt to me.  Let me pay the penalty for his sin and let what I pay atone for what he has done.  Let me stand in his place, as his substitute, and let my payment satisfy Onesimus’ debt.”

It’s an amazing thing when we put the Lord Jesus in the middle of a passage that doesn’t seem to “speak to us where we are” and find, in every case, the picture of His redemption displayed with such breathtaking clarity.  Let us all, as runaway slaves, remember the grace and love and sacrifice of Jesus who bore our sins Himself so we can be free (2 Peter 2:24). And let us live for Him, in that glory of His sacrifice, forever.

Adveho quis may.
Come what may.

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241: Play Spiritual Whac-A-Mole

241: Play Spiritual Whac-A-Mole

As crazy as it may sound, many of us spend our Christian lives playing Whac-A-Mole with the strongholds of sin and consequences of disobedience that we have allowed to take root in our lives.  And why do we do this?  What’s the point?  Where’s the payoff for us?

There isn’t any.  We strive and struggle again and again, whacking one mole only to have another pop up in its place, with no end in sight.  Our so-called “abundant life” can easily become one of frustration and defeat.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We can live victorious over the enemy and experience true freedom in Christ.  How?  Keep listening to find out.

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The Letter to the Church at Ephesus

The Letter to the Church at Ephesus

“Nevertheless I have this against you,
that you have left your first love.”
Revelation 2:4

The best way for me to show you that these seven letters do, indeed, reveal to us an outline of church history from the time of the Apostles until the coming Rapture is to simply jump right in with the first letter.  The letter to the church at Ephesus.

But before I do I want to give you a quick introduction on how the Lord systematically lays out the design of each letter.  For example, in each letter there are seven design elements from the Lord.

First, there is the name of the church and the meaning of that name.

Two, there is the particular name or title of Christ that is different for each church.

Third, there is the good news or the commendation Jesus has for the particular church (and not all have something good said about them).

Fourth, there is the bad news or concerns or criticism He has for each church (and again, not all have something bad said about them).  We can call these two steps the Lord’s report card to the churches.  In some of the letters, to Smyrna and Philadelphia, the Lord only has good things to say about a particular church.  To others, Sardis and Laodicea, He only has bad things to say.  To the rest, there is a combination of good and bad news.

Fifth, there is the exhortation or words from Christ about what needs to be corrected in each church.

Sixth, there is a particular promise to the overcomer that varies for each church.

Seventh, there is a unique closing phrase for each church: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  Note, that is churches, plural.  We are to hear what the Spirit says to all the churches and not just to the particular church addressed in each letter.  You will also note that in some of the letters, the first three for example, the closing statement is found in the body of the letter.  But in the last four it is found at the end, almost like a postscript.  This is not an accident.  It is by design and has great prophetic meaning that we will discuss when we get to the letter to the church at Thyatira.  Also, if these seven letters were listed in any other order than they are in the scripture, the prophetic timeline would not work. You will see God’s amazing hand in the design and placement of each of these letters.

One final comment, since we know that there are at least four levels of interpretations of these letters: (1) as a letter written to a local church dealing with situations unique to that congregation at the time it was written, (2) as a letter written to all churches in general throughout time for their encouragement and admonition, (3) as a personal letter written to each of us for our personal growth in the Lord, and (4) as a prophetic picture of church history given to us in advance— I will only focus on the fourth level of interpretation for each letter.

So, with that beginning, let’s take a look at the Lord’s letter to the church at Ephesus.

The Letter to the Church at Ephesus

The period of church history covered by the letter is defined as the Apostolic age and runs from about 30-100AD.  It is the time when the church was at its infancy, full of missionary zeal, coming to grips with its doctrines and practices, and facing persecution that would only grow more intense over the next century.  It was also the time where the church was led by the Apostles and when the inspired scriptures were written and circulated.  Much heresy was being confronted by the early church, especially Gnosticism, that is clearly addressed and refuted in John’s letters.  But as history has shown us, the early church was growing weary and lax in their stand for the truth they once enthusiastically proclaimed.  By the end of the first century all the disciples, save John, had met a martyr’s death.  Paul was beheaded in Rome.  Peter crucified.  Nero blamed his burning of Rome on the Christians and the lions of the Coliseum gorged themselves on the flesh of the struggling church.  It was a bad time to be a Christian and it was only going to get worse.  In addition, Rome had tired of the rebellious Jews and destroyed Jerusalem in 70AD, sending the nation of Israel into another exile that would last until May 14, 1948, when once again God miraculously brought His people back into their land.

To this church and to this time in church history the letter to Ephesus was written.

Church Name –  Ephesus means darling or beloved or desired one.  It was a term of endearment.  It was a church founded by Paul at the end of his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19-20) and was known by its commitment to fervent evangelism.

Description of Jesus –  The letter begins with Jesus being described as “He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands” (Rev. 2:1).  We know from Revelation 1:20 that the stars and lampstands represent the churches themselves.  In other words, Jesus is telling them, and us, that He is among the churches and His power is available to all of them.  They are not left alone.

The Good Words –  Then Christ’s good words, His commendation, to the church is as follows:

“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.  And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars, and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.  But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Rev. 2:2-3, 6).

First, the church at Ephesus was a church doing what God had called them to do.  They were a working church, an enduring church, a church that was not lazy or centered on itself, like many churches today.  You can see this by the accounts of the church in the Acts (18-20) and because the Lord knew and commented on their work, labor, perseverance and patience.

Second, Ephesus was a church that was separated from the world.  They understood clearly that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor. 15:33) and that they were to be “in the world but not of the world” (John 17:16).  How do we know this?  Because Jesus said that they “cannot bear those who are evil.”

Third, they were a church that valued purity and genuineness in their leadership and refused to let Satan creep into their fellowship under the cover of darkness as false apostles.  There were no tares in their wheat field.  Jesus commended them of the fact that they “tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars.”  Even without the advantage of having a completed Bible, the church at Ephesus was committed to sound doctrine in their dealings with church leadership.  In fact, this was the very warning Paul gave the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20:25-31.

Finally, they hated the things that the Lord hates.  The word Nicolaitans comes from two Greek words: niko, meaning “to conquer, overthrow” and laos, meaning “the people or the laity.”  The followers of Nicolai had two serious heretical views that the church at Ephesus and the Lord both hated.  One, they indulged in gross sensuality and sin due to their radical separation of the physical and spiritual natures.  They practiced what we today would call postmodern compartmentalism, where we place all our fleshly desires in one compartment and our life as a follower of Jesus in another compartment and then make sure our Jesus compartment never influences our flesh compartment.  In essence, it is a denial of absolute truth.  And therefore, with no absolute truth, each part of someone’s life can have a changing truth of its own.

For example, someone’s religious life may say that Jesus is the only way to God and that the Bible is true in all matters.  And, within the sphere of religion, they may passionately hold to that belief.  But in a person’s entertainment life, they may believe that anything is permissible for them to watch as long as it has a “good” meaning in the end regardless of the profanity, blasphemy, gratuitous violence or nudity in the film.  But, doesn’t watching this R-rated movie contradict the religious beliefs or truths held by that person?  Not necessarily.  You see, a post-modernist compartmentalizes their life into various segments or compartments that have their own truth or set of values and do not seem to communicate those truths among themselves.  And, even if these compartments contradict each other (such as holding to the holiness of the Savior and still watching the profanity, nudity and blasphemy of an R-rated film) the person feels no tension because each segment of their life is in watertight compartments that don’t communicate with each other.

Again for example, you can go to someone’s Facebook page and see (actual example) a statement about themselves that reads: “Hey, I’m Kaetlenn, some of you guys know me as Katie.  I am a Christian and proud to be one.  My favorite Bible Verse is Roman 6:23.  I have the most amazing family.  My Favorite song is F#^&#$* Perfect by Pink!”

Really?  Anybody see a problem with this?  For a non-postmodern, yes.  How can you claim to be proud to be a Christian and have a favorite song that is laced with profanity?  You can’t.  The two are inconsistent, contradictory.  But for Kaetlenn, she would say, “No, I do love Jesus will all my heart (in my Jesus compartment) but I don’t see anything wrong with telling the world my favorite song is F#^&#$* Perfect by Pink (in my music compartment).  I don’t see any problem with the two.”  Of course you don’t. You hold to a postmodern view of Christianity and life in general.

In essence, compartmentalism leads to a schizophrenic view of Christianity that says we can embrace the Lord in any way we want and yet not have Him affect any of the other parts of our lives.  Why?  Because each of our compartments has its own truth… and since truth is not absolute, we find no tension with that.

And this teaching is one the Lord hates— as much today as back then.  We might want to take notice of that fact.

The second heretical teaching of the Nicolaitans was trying to set up an ecclesiastical order within the church and rob it of its autonomy.  For the first time the distinction between clergy and laity is promoted and it appears they wanted to establish bishops, archbishops, cardinals, popes and the like which would enslave the church to one man or a small group of men and not to the Lord Himself.  And this, like postmodern compartmentalism, the Lord hates.

The Not-So-Good Words –  When you see the word, nevertheless, coming from the Lord, it usually is not a good thing.  And that also holds true with the church at Ephesus.  The no-so-good words from the Lord are: “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4).  What does this mean?  Had the church walked away from God and the Gospel?  Had they devalued Christ and begun worshiping idols like in the days of the Northern Kingdom?  Were they now apostates, alienated from the love of God?  Absolutely not.  Leaving their first love meant they were focused on the eternals, sound doctrine, building the church, discipleship and all the other trappings that go with Christianity.  But what was missing?  Passion.  Love.  Fervency.  Excitement.  Wonder.  Awe.
They were so busy doing the work of the King that they had no time for the King Himself.
In other words, the honeymoon was over and the incredible joy and giddiness of knowing the Lord of the Universe had become commonplace, second nature, almost boring.  They had substituted the good for the best— and their relationship with the Lord was, at best, strained.  More likely they took the Lord for granted and their “familiarity bred contempt.”

“Lord, we are doing all the things you commanded us to.  So what’s the big deal?”  You are doing them out of duty and not out of love.  And to the One who gave His life so we can live, that is a big deal.

The Exhortation of Jesus –  Jesus said that to correct this lack of love the church at Ephesus must do the following:

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen” – They were to re-examine their life with Jesus and remember what it was like when they first came to faith in Him.  And if they were more in love with Him, more enamored with Him, more excited about being in His presence then than they were now… uh, “Houston, we have a problem.”

“Repent” –  Admit, confess and turn away from their apathy and indifference and coldness and run back into the arms of Jesus.

“And do the first works” – Or, go back to your roots, your beginnings and do the things that pleased the Lord in the beginning and not the things that seem to please you now.  After all, it is all about Christ and not about us.  We are to follow His commands (John 14:15) and produce the fruits that can only come from Jesus (Mat. 7:16).

And what if we don’t?  Fair question.  But the Lord has a frightening answer.  He says, “Or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand (symbolizing the church) from its place— unless you repent” (Rev. 2:5b).  In other words, the early church, as us today, needs to repent and act like the church or Jesus will remove that church from its place of safety, influence and blessing.  It was a warning to the early church to get back to the center of their faith because stormy, no bloody days or persecution were coming and their self-centered, cold, stale orthodoxy won’t be enough to see them through.

As you can see, the exhortations and warnings can fit almost any church in any church age as well as for us as individual believers.  But they historically fit perfectly the early church during the first century (you will see more clearly how they all fit together as we go along).  After all, it was the desired and beloved church that Christ gave His life for.  It was the only church that mentions Apostles and it was a church striving to remain doctrinally pure and was working tirelessly for the Lord.  But that was not enough.  They had left their “first love” and needed to rekindle their love for the Lord.

Tomorrow we will look at the letter to the church at Smyrna, the persecuted church.  And this is one of two churches that the Lord only has good news for.  Do you wonder why?  We shall find out tomorrow.

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