Tag Archive: power

Do you understand the gospel?

Have we understood the gospel?

Do you know what the gospel is all about – do you understand it well? I’m not sure if Einstein actually made the assertion that, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”, but I do know that RC Sproul said something similar suggesting that sometimes the only way that you could fully grasp a doctrine was to prepare to teach on it.

Extremely good news

The gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness, or lack of it – or the righteousness of another.

The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well-being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God. It is without doubt, the greatest news we could ever receive.

Defining the gospel

The Greek term “gospel” (ev-angelion) in Paul’s day distinguished the Christian message from that of other religions. An ‘ev-angel’ was news of a great historical event, such as a victory in war or the ascension of a new king, that changed the listeners’ condition and required a response from the listener.

The gospel is news of what God has done to reach us – it is not advice about what we must do to reach God. It’s God’s initiative! God reached out to us whilst our back’s were turned!

God has entered the world in Jesus Christ (fully God and fully man) to achieve a salvation that we could not achieve for ourselves which now converts and transforms individuals, forming them into a new humanity, and eventually will renew the whole world and all creation. This is the ‘good news’—the gospel.

And it is good news in three important ways.

The gospel is the good news of gracious acceptance.

Jesus lived the life we should live. He also paid the penalty we owe for the rebellious life we do live. He did this in our place (Isaiah 53:4-10; 2 Cor 5:21; Mark 10:45). We are not reconciled to God through our efforts, but through his efforts alone.

When we trust in Christ for our acceptance with God, rather than in their own moral character, commitment, or performance we are simultaneously sinful – yet accepted. We are more flawed and sinful than we ever dared believe, yet we are more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope at the same time.

“Legalism says God will love us if we change. The gospel says God will change us because He loves us.”
– Tullian Tchividjian

Of course, God’s grace leads me to the place where i don’t want to do the things that displease Him, and that is yet another way we see the power of the gospel – the gospel has power to change us from the inside out.

The gospel is, radically different from religion. Religion operates on the principle: “I obey, therefore I am accepted”. The gospel operates on the principle: “I am accepted through Christ, therefore I obey.”

A lack of deep belief in the gospel is the main cause of spiritual deadness, fear, and pride in Christians, because our hearts continue to act on the basis “I obey, therefore, I am accepted.”If we fail to forgive others–that is not simply a lack of obedience, but a failure to believe we are saved by grace, too.
If we lie in order to cover up a mistake–that is not simply a lack of obedience, but a failure to find our acceptance in God rather than in human approval.So we do not ‘get saved’ by believing the gospel and then ‘grow’ by trying hard to live according to Biblical principles. Believing the gospel is not only the way to meet God, but also the way to grow into him.

“Worship Transforms, Teaching Incarnates, and Ministry Penetrates” – Jack Hayford

The gospel is the good news of changed lives.

Paul says to Christians, ‘your life is hid with “Christ in God’ (Col 3:3), and in numerous places he says that we are now ‘in on the one hand, that the Father accepts us in Christ and treats us as if we had done all that Jesus has done (cf. Col 3:2a). But this is also means Christ’s life comes into us by the Spirit and shapes us into a new kind of person. The gospel is not just a truth about us that we affirm with our minds, it is also a reality we must experience in our hearts and souls.

An example of this is seen in 2 Corinthians 8:9 where Paul wants the people to give an offering to the poor. He says, “I don’t want to order you. I don’t want this offering to simply be the response to my demand.” He doesn’t put pressure directly on the will (saying ‘I’m an apostle and this is your duty to me!’) nor pressure directly on the emotions (telling them stories about how much the poor are suffering and how much more they have than the sufferers).

Instead, Paul vividly and unforgettably says, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). When he says ‘you know the grace’—he uses a powerful image, bringing Jesus’ salvation into the realm of money and wealth and poverty. He moves them by a ‘spiritual recollection’ of the gospel. Paul is saying, ‘Think on his costly grace. Think on that grace until you are changed into generous people by the gospel in your hearts.’

So the solution to stinginess is to focus on the generosity of Christ in the gospel, where he poured out his wealth for you. Now you don’t have to worry about money—the cross proves God’s care for you and gives you security.

Now you don’t have to envy any one else’s money. Jesus’ love and salvation confers on you a much more remarkable status—one that money cannot give you. This is just grace upon grace.

Faith in the gospel re-structures our motivations, our self-understanding and identity, and our view of the world. Behavioral compliance to rules without heart-change will always prove to be superficial and fleeting. The gospel changes your heart.

The gospel is the good news of the new world coming.

The gospel then, is not just about individual happiness and fulfillment. It is not just a wonderful plan for ‘my life’ but a wonderful plan for the world. God’s world.

It is about the coming of God’s kingdom to renew everything. Gospel-centered churches do not only urge individuals to be converted, but also to seek peace and justice in our cities and in our world

Christ wins our salvation through losing, achieves power through weakness and service, and comes to wealth via giving all away. Those who receive his salvation are not the strong and accomplished but those who admit that they are weak and lost.

This pattern creates an ‘alternate kingdom’ or ‘city’ (Matt.5:14-16). in which there is a complete reversal of the values of the world with regard to power, recognition, status, and wealth. When we understand that we are saved by sheer grace through Christ, we stop seeking salvation in these things.

The gospel at its very least, creates a people with a whole alternative lifestyle and agenda. Racial and class superiority, accrual of money and power at the expense of others, yearning for popularity and recognition–all these things are marks of living in the world, and are the opposite of the mindset of the kingdom (Luke 6:20-26).

Paul  put it so well when he said that he was not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God unto salvation. We underestimate the power of the gospel. Don’t pray for people to have dreams about Jesus, that is outside of the anything taught in scripture! Instead, pray a prayer that God will be happy to answer – that the gospel will have free reign and fruitfulness in the life of the unbeliever. The gospel is the news that Jesus Christ died and rose for our salvation in history. It is the power of God unto salvation.

The gospel is a transforming grace that changes our hearts and inmost motives, it is the power of God unto salvation.

The gospel brings a new ‘order’ in which believers no longer are controlled by material goods or worldly status and have solidarity with others across customary social barriers, it is the power of God unto salvation.

The gospel is the dynamic for all heart-change, life-change, and social-change. Change won’t happen through ‘trying harder’ but only through encountering with the radical grace of God.

Do we really understand what the gospel is all about? I doubt it. It is a vast wealth of treasure and discovery, and probably the very reason that he sometimes gives people long lives for. Discovery.

Discover and enjoy it for yourself. In the meantime, here is John Piper doing what he does best, introducing the gospel…

    5 reasons you need to make sermon notes

    Old, BooksImagine the folly of a policeman taking a witness statement, and instead of making notes, he nods his head, occasionally glancing around, distracted by activity in the distance whilst all the while reassuring the poor victim that they will remember the details – and that any important information will not be overlooked or forgotten when the case comes to court. In a year’s time.

    Clearly, such an irresponsible approach to the gathering and recording of important information, facts and words would be unacceptable.

    You can see where this is going. There are five reasons that I want to suggest to you that you need to take sermons seriously by making notes. They are all flawed arguments in one way or another but I think you will sense the importance of this encouragement to you personally. And that is all it is, an encouragement. You don’t have to pursue this, but I think you will be in the benefit of it if you do.

    1. What works for you? 
    Of course, I am speaking to those who are not already convinced note-takers. If making notes of sermons doesn’t work for you, then what does?

    For your own sake, you have to answer the question both seriously and honestly. Probing a little further, how are you reminding yourself of truths that impacted you 3 or 4 years ago? What were those five things in Romans 9 that gripped your heart? Why were they so important? Have you grown in God since then? How do you know? Some people consider themselves to have eidetic memory, but most of us go about our every day business forgetting what has happened with no notes to trigger our memories or assist our recall.

    2. You may not be taking preaching seriously.
    It could be that if you are not taking notes, that you are yet to be convinced that sermons are an essential and important part of the Christian ongoing experience. Is it your conviction that the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart?  (Hebrews 4:12) This is what is coming into action when you hear sermons and it may well be that the best response to God’s grace is to make a careful note of what you hear, so that with a willing-heart, you can obey it.

    3. Getting approval
    The awesome news of the Gospel means that there’s nothing you need to do to gain God’s approval, but there is one thing you are encouraged to do, and it is will vastly increase your confidence in God and the veracity of His Word.  As you listen to sermons you are thinking, processing, meditating on God’s eternal, inerrant, infallible, sufficient and clear word. The encouragement is, do your utmost to present yourself to God as one approved a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15) This really is something to be ambitious for. Take notes and let the Word of God get under your skin, embedded in your heart and renewing your mind. Everyone loves John 3:16, but Colossians 3:16 is vibrant with promise too; “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

    4. It’s worth doing
    As Christians, we are to be known for our love for God, and a real love for God will produce a love for His Word – and what we hear, we want to remember. We are living in a time when Biblical illiteracy is on the rise. We want to continually grow in our knowledge, understanding, and application of God’s Word. This is why opening our Bible and making notes as we listen to the preaching of the Word is so important—it will help you to see what the preacher sees in the text, which will inevitably help you learn how to read the Bible well. Your notes become a reference point for you. Paul commended the Bereans (Acts 17:11) because they checked to see if what he was saying was in fact Biblical. Additionally, Paul commended the Thessalonians for the way they received the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13). What sermons should I make notes of? Make notes of the sermons you want to remember – the rest you will forget!

    5. Context.
    There is a very good reason for making notes and it is about context. Ask yourself what the central theme is that seems to be running through the messages you have heard over the last few years. You can guess, but having the notes to hand means you know. It becomes easier to connect the dots. How seriously are you looking to God to speak to you?

    It’s a bit like expecting God to speak to you in dreams, but ignoring them when you have them! During these last few years with the international trouble we have seen, the crisis in the economics, the evil actions of Islamic State do you notice something that God has been teaching us about putting our confidence in Him, about not being anxious, walking in faith and obedience, etc.

    What God says to you now, may very well be what He has been saying and encouraging you in for some time now. The context for what God does in the next few years, may well be seen in the past. Now what was it, oh dear, I didn’t make any notes….

    Personal suggestions.
    I use a few resources for taking notes.  My Moleskin notebooks, Evernote, Simplenote, Simplemind+ and Memo. I have included a few of my sermon notes as an example for you! Let me know what really works for you!

    sermon_notes Joseph