Tag: the gospel

Jesus Died For All

Sitting in a local shopping mall, I began to reflect on one of the most important and profound truths ever to be revealed by the angels of God, the people of God, and God Himself.

Jesus died for all.

Friends, enemies, people I like and those I don’t give a hoot about.

Americans, Canadians, Mexicans, Chinese, and even those who haven’t a clue to their nationality.

People who think like me, act like me, vote like me, and like the same kinds of food.

But, He so loved the world He died for those who are even the exact opposite of me.

And He loves them as much as He does me.

Jesus died for everyone who’s now in Heaven, as well as those who are incarcerated forever in the place of the damned.

There are more than seven billion people on this planet and Jesus died for each and every one.

He died for the conservative, the liberal, the gay, and the straight.

Those with tons of intellectual power and those who barely have enough smarts to blow their nose; Jesus died for them.

Many say they don’t believe, can’t believe, in such a ridiculous thing. They claim mankind made up a fairytale to make themselves feel better about the hereafter.

People say a lot of things. 

Some say they used to believe, but they outgrew such nonsense. Others won’t believe because, in their minds, the gospel doesn’t make sense. Like, why would God do such things? Create mankind knowing he would fall from his position of glory. Give His Son (if He could be called that) for people who demonstrated nothing but contempt for Him. And raise Him from the grave three days later?

To those who have such a difficult time with faith (or in things they can’t figure out, explain, see, etc.), they must have forgotten all the times they have believed something they haven’t figured out, could explain, or ever saw.

Most people will follow their doctor’s advice, even if it includes going under a surgeon’s knife. Why? They certainly can’t figure out the whole procedure, nor will they be awake to assist. No, they believe because they choose to believe.

And make the necessary arrangements.

But whether or not they really believed the doctor isn’t what made the doctor’s message true or false.

The doctor knew.

The message isn’t true because it’s validated by the hearer. Nor is it false, because the majority won’t believe. Truth. Jesus lived, died, and rose again. He did.

He did it for me, you, and anyone who’s ever taken a breath of air. Jesus died for all.

Believe it? Good.

Can’t figure it out? Good.

There’s only One Person Who knows for sure, Who planned everything, and Who continually invites all to believe. God, the Father. He knows.

So why not choose to trust, even though it all seems so preposterous?

Why not yield your life to the One Who cares for you more than you or I could ever imagine?

Jesus died for all. 

That includes YOU!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16 – 3:17 ESV)

A Controversial Message 

It’s that time again. 

Time to get out my spiritual Kitchen Aid, plug it in, throw in a few ideas and stir things up.

After all, it’s the nature of the gospel of Christ.

The basic, undiluted message of Jesus is controversial. There’s no better way to describe it.

Controversial – relating to or causing much discussion, disagreement, or argument; likely to produce controversy.

Yep, that describes the gospel perfectly.

How else would you describe it? I mean, would YOU use words like these?

Peace, Serenity, Calm, Love, Life, Grace, Abundance, Beauty, Family of God, or Heavenly?

Would YOU use those words, or would THESE words paint a truer picture of the gospel message?

Death, Hatred, Ugliness, Depravity, Loneliness, Brokenness, Violence, or Hell?

Remember Jesus’ words, “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39 NLT)

Do those words sound anything less than controversial?

Jesus didn’t come to bring mankind the best thing since sliced bread.

He didn’t come to give us another option for our retirement plan, you know, kind of like a spiritual IRA.

God the Father didn’t demand such a violent death from His only Son just so you and I could sing “Joy to the World” or “Silent Night”.

No!

The reason for the gospel was our utter deprivation, completely at odds with the Holy God, Creator of the heavens and earth. We were DEAD in our sins.

Jesus didn’t come to earth because we were so welcoming. Sure, as long as our belly was full of fish and bread we loved the Lord! But when it looked as though our lives were to be threatened by the people in charge, “Crucify Him” is what came screaming from our lips!

We didn’t need a president or even a governor. We couldn’t have made it if we were simply sent a nanny; someone to feed us, help us not feel lonely, and remind us to brush our teeth.

No! We needed a Savior! Someone Who would come into our mean, nasty, ugly world and make it possible, supernaturally possible, to be changed into a brand new person!

Not cleaned up, dusted off, or remodeled.

Brand new!

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

That’s why it took a controversial message to shake us, awaken us to the possibilities of something FAR GREATER than anything imaginable up to that point.

Paul said, “For I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation…” Romans 1:16.

“I’m not ashamed… to say I belong to Jesus. The old guy died, NEEDED to die and never be resurrected because he was vile, wicked, EVIL without God.”

“I’m not ashamed… to live according to the Word of God, even though IT IS NOT THE POPULAR THING TO DO!”

“I’m not ashamed… to embrace controversial messages that go against the grain of a world system that feels it has an axe to grind with God.”

“I’m not ashamed… though persecution is part of taking a stand for the One Who died and rose again so I could have life.”

“I’m not ashamed…to say Merry Christmas, even  if Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. It’s an opportunity to point people to the controversial message; the gospel.”

The gospel is the power of God, resulting in salvation and all the other nice things we like to think about.

But FIRST, the gospel must be embraced. In other words, we must believe and receive the controversial message.

There’s no other way to do it. For Jesus said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”

Controversial? Yes! Worth the price?

You bet!

Damned Prisoners 

IMG_7500.JPG
Have you ever been inside a maximum security prison? I have.

Years ago I visited a young man from our home town. After driving about three hours to his place of incarceration, I was able to spend about 45 minutes with him.

At least he was able to have visitors.

Just being inside those cold, stone walls and hearing the iron bars slam shut was enough to convince me that crime doesn’t pay.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’ve had my turn at living as though rules didn’t matter; “to Hell with the consequences”, I was going to do what I wanted.

And I spent time in the juvenile court system to prove it.

Jails and prisons. Places to house those who need rehabilitation. Or, sadly, for the ones who are beyond help. 

Either way, lawless people shouldn’t be allowed to have the freedom to terrorize those living within the law.

Jails and prisons are, in a way, quite similar to a place called Hell. The primary difference being that Hell is NOT a place where any rehab takes place.

Hell is for damned prisoners. 

It’s a place where people go who have refused to live within the universally righteous laws of Almighty God.

It was never intended for mankind.

But ever since Adam and Eve regrettably turned aside from God’s commands, rebellion and lawlessness have been in the heart of every single person.

And, because life is eternal, meaning man’s spirit lives on after his earth suit has been buried six feet under, the rebellious and lawless must not be allowed to terrorize or defile Heaven’s eternal citizens.

 

Where eternity’s damned prisoners, those who’ve refused rehabilitation, refused to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, must forever remain.

 

Without visitors.

There is some good news in all of this. Since Hell wasn’t created for you and I, we don’t have to go there.

We can be rehabilitated without going to jail. We can change our eternal destination by receiving, by faith, the work Jesus did for us through His death, burial, and resurrection. And as a result, receive a brand new nature.

He went to Hell for us. For our rebellion; our lawlessness.

“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 ESV)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18 ESV)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ESV)

Jesus gave His life for people like us; you and I, damned prisoners.

But thanks be to God, he whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

Damned no more. Prisoners to rebellion and lawlessness no longer.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” (John 1:12 ESV)

“…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:9-10 ESV)

Isn’t it nice to know you have a choice?

Hey, who in their right mind would want to be a damned prisoner anyway?

Craigslist Christianity 

IMG_7468.JPGOne can find just about anything on Craigslist. Boats, cars, guitars, keyboards, pool tables, and lots of other stuff.

Why, you can even find people on Craigslist.

I’m not lying.

Most of what you’ll see advertised are used items; things no longer wanted or needed by the seller.

Things the seller has no more use for.

It wouldn’t surprise me to someday see a listing that reads something like this:

“For Sale: one old rugged cross, complete with blood stains. Nails are available for an extra five dollars. Also must sell my set of beliefs, doctrines, and dogmas covering everything from the bodily resurrection of Jesus to the Glorious Appearing. 

“For the true collector, I will throw in such religious relics as beliefs about the Holy Spirit, an actual place called “Hell”, and the Great White Throne Judgment.

“I’ve been collecting for years and have come to realize these items are no longer necessary.

“Will negotiate price, and all items must go. I no longer have the storage space I once had.”

Maybe there’ll never be a listing like the one I just mentioned, but there might as well be. Because for too long people have been trading the beliefs they once held dear, which were tried and true, for something foreign to the Gospel of Jesus. 

 

People who were once sold out for God have seemingly sold out God. 

 

Not everyone, of course. But too many, that’s for sure.

The old landmarks, the ancient property lines, have been moved. To former “collectors”, it was too much work keeping the property maintained. So move the fence, get rid of the extra land, and make the maintenance task that much easier. There! No fuss, no muss.

However, there may come a time when the land being sold is really needed. Like, at the end of one’s life. Or when trouble or tribulation arise.

“You shall not move your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.” (Deuteronomy 19:14 ESV)

“Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.” (Proverbs 22:28 ESV)

Yes, it’s true. People get rid of things they believe they’ll never use again. And that’s alright.

Just don’t let yourselves buy into the Craigslist Christianity way of living.

Because it’s no way to live.

Should I…?

 

IMG_7009.JPGI sometimes wonder about this crazy, mixed up world. 

Specifically, how should I act as a follower of Jesus Christ?

Should I be nice, smile a lot, and show God’s love with only my actions?

I mean, we all know most people aren’t interested in church, religion, or Jesus, don’t we?

I would rather not make someone mad, or turn them off, by speaking about such a personal topic.

Would it be best if I built a good rapport with people before I mentioned something as strong and personal as “God loves you”? Like I said, a person’s relationship with God is a VERY personal thing!

And how should I, as a preacher of the gospel, relate to this world and all its diverse and tolerant people?

Can the gospel I believe COEXIST with other faiths; other religions?

If I dilute the gospel message, so it’s not quite so offensive, will I still witness the power of God? Will people be transformed if I share a more “sinner friendly” message?

How much truth should I be willing to defend? Must I stand against government pressure, and possibly lose my tax exempt status? Do I have to look like a religious goofball in order to present the message of life?

How strong a stance should I take against sin, whether in or out of the church?

If I succeed in “getting along” with everyone here on earth, will anyone be in heaven because of my testimony?

Do I REALLY need to hate my life, loving Jesus more?

Contemplating these and other questions, and wondering what society will be like just prior to Jesus’ return, I remembered what the early followers of Jesus had to contend with.

Suddenly, I received the answers to all my questions.

“But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”

“And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council and all the senate of the people of Israel and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”” (Acts 5:17-32 ESV) 

There’s only one way to live for God, and thus make an impact for Him.

Though not everyone who hears will agree, if they are going to “repent and believe the gospel”, they must HEAR the gospel in all its purity and power.

If God is to “confirm His word with accompanying signs”, I must preach His word; not some weakened substitute.

As for “coexisting”: yes, we all can live on the same planet, and maybe sit together and share a steak or a bowl of soy beans. But if Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, and He is, then nothing else will work.

If NO ONE has eternal life without receiving Jesus as the Lord of their life, then lighting a stick of incense and joining hands while singing Kum Ba Yah just won’t cut it. 

I MUST be prepared to go all out for the gospel; giving my all for my Savior. If I’m only going part way, I might as well not go at all.

I truly hope we, as “last days followers”, do as well as the “first days followers” of Christ. What was their response to the pressures and questions of the day?

It was a response that ignited the fury of the devil, but released the power from on High.

“We must obey God rather than men.”

And so must you and I.

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