the gospel

THE GOSPEL ANTIDOTE TO THE EPIDEMIC OF LONELINESS

by Debbie Huber

Upon opening Facebook the other day, there was a picture of my family that I had posted a year ago with a notation from Facebook: “we care about you and your Facebook memories”.

Wow!  Facebook cares about me?  The place where I can show family pictures, see pictures from friends and acquaintances, find out about real AND fake news, argue with others without looking them in the eye, not be accountable to anyone, keep my struggles safely hidden from public view…

Right after seeing this I read an article that referred to a major study that was recently presented at the 125th annual convention of the American Psychological Association by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Brigham Young University.  Data from hundreds of studies involving millions of individuals was analyzed. This analysis found that “social isolation, loneliness or living alone was each a significant factor contributing to premature death. And each one of these factors was a more significant risk factor for dying than obesity“.  

More significant than obesity?

Marriage rates have been steadily declining and families are having less children.  Families are separated by miles, divorce, estrangement, and just plain busyness. Schedules are busier and family activities dominate any possibility of free time. Neighbors come and go without ever interacting with one another. Many people live their lives without having anyone truly know about them and care for them.  

There have been multiple studies that suggest that frequent Facebook users do not feel more connected at all; they “actually experience feelings of loneliness, low self-esteem, and depression.”

Sometimes we are alone by choice by putting up walls because it can be too painful or fearful to be vulnerable to others. Or we just want to live our lives for ourselves without the baggage that comes from being accountable to one another. 

The Bible does have an antidote to this epidemic of “loneliness”.

We were made for relationship with one another but it is not necessarily how the world defines relationships.  God demonstrates what a healthy relationship is through the relationship between the Father, Son, and the Spirit. A relationship of fellowship, working together, and enjoyment of each other’s company. 

God calls us to relationship with himself through the gospel. We were “separated from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:12-13)

God made us to need Him and also to need one another. In Genesis 2 He says that “it is not good for man to be alone.”  We were not created to make it in this world alone. 

Real, lasting, satisfying relationships within the context of the gospel brings reconciliation between us because we were reconciled to God through Christ when we were without hope or without God in the world. We have relationship with one another even when it is difficult or inconvenient because we know that Christ died for our relationship to be restored to God even when we were “difficult” and far from Him. 

Be prayerful and watchful for the lonely around you. Seek them out face to face.  Be helpful when they need it, speak of the things of God to one another.  In light of what Christ has done for you seek reconciliation when there is division.  The Gospel will be on display in your lives.

And if you are the one “putting up walls” or on the fringes because you are fearful to be vulnerable or too busy remember the gospel!  You were not meant to go it alone in this world. The gospel tells us that we were made for relationship with God and with one another. Serve, help or become a part of a small group.  Ask God to help you to care for and be vulnerable with others. Preach the gospel to yourself daily and pray that the gospel will be lived out though your relationships.

 

THE UNENDING POWER OF GOSPEL PROCLAIMATION

 

The power of the Word of God can never be overstated.

God’s Word was not only given to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is the Holy Spirit who works through God’s Word when we speak it to ourselves and to others.

Even though we may feel the impact of our sharing the gospel to someone may have long since drifted away like smoke from a chimney – that is not necessarily true.

Here is my favorite story which captures these truths. May it encourage us to be faithful with the gospel and in our prayers for the unconverted.

A young boy named Luke Short once heard the eminent Puritan John Flavel (1630-1691) preaching in Dartmouth, England.  When that boy grew up, he immigrated to New England, going through his life without much thought of God.  

One day as Luke Short sat in a field reflecting upon his long life, he recalled a sermon he had heard in Dartmouth as a boy before he sailed to America.  The horror of dying under the curse of God was impressed upon him as he meditated on the words he had heard so long ago and he was converted to Christ – eighty five years after hearing John Flavel preach.    

From Michael Boland’s introduction to “The Mystery of Providence” by John Flavel. Published by Banner of Truth

 

JESSICA’S STORY

On Thanksgiving Eve, our church celebrated the gospel through the baptisms of people Christ has saved and brought into our church family. Today, I want to share one of those testimonies from Jessica Castiblanco:

I was raised in a Catholic family with a lot of inconsistencies, where emotional abuse was allowed.

I didn’t have a clear understanding of the Gospel. I felt very lonely, didn’t fit anywhere and grew as a rebellious teenager where the fun of the world was my life.

As time passed by and problems were bigger due to my bad decisions my heart was more rebellious. I tried to find answers in the wrong places without success many years ago in Colombia where I used to live, and started seeking God once I was married and having struggles with this new stage of my life.

 After many years of difficult experiences God has gradually opened my eyes and I can clearly see that he has been calling me throughout my entire life.  Now I understand how God has been working through different situations in my life.

I realized about 4 years ago that he has always been there shaping my heart with forgiveness, patience and love. I have learned many lessons from my husband, kids, church friends, leaders and every single person that God has perfectly placed in my life. 

I finally understood that being a Christian is not about how good you–

It is trusting what God has done to forgive our sins through faith in Jesus

I am here today with joy making public my commitment to the one that has been unconditional to me. I continue to grow in Christ through both good and bad circumstances and I can’t express how grateful and amazed I am that God has always been by my side.

THANKSGIVING FEAST

Nothing presents us with more reason for thankfulness than the gospel of Jesus Christ!

And no other passage in Scriptures captures the glory of what Christ accomplished for us than Ephesians 1. Consider reading these verses as a family when you gather for Thanksgiving. Or simply read them to yourself and be inspired in your thankfulness to God.

In these verses we will find our true Thanksgiving feast!

Ephesians 1:3-14

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

To the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight

Making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

So that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,

To the praise of his glory.”

THE UNRELIGION

Dane Ortlund in his book “Defiant Grace”, calls Christianity the unreligion, saying biblical Christianity turns all our religious instincts on their head.

The ancient Greeks told us to be moderate by knowing our inclinations. 

The Romans told us to be strong by ordering our lives. 

Buddhism tells us to be disillusioned by annihilating our consciousness. 

Hinduism tells us to be absorbed by merging our souls. 

Islam tells us to be submissive by subjecting our wills. 

Agnosticism tells us to be at peace by ignoring our doubts. 

Moralism tells us to be good by discharging our obligations. 

Only the gospel tells us to be free by acknowledging our failure.  Christianity is the unreligion because it is the one faith whose founder tells us to bring not our doing, but our need.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.17.13

Prepared for Great Things”  1 Timothy 2:1-7

“First of all” pray

This opening phrase tells us this is a beginning place

The intent is more than casual prayer: “Lord Bless today. Amen”

Paul mentions four types of prayer in v1

We are being asked to go beyond prayer at meals, or for help

We are being asked to become prayerful people

Our prayer is to include “all people”

Love for God never asks us to do the least we can for Him

So then praying for all people is more than “Lord bless everyone today. Amen”

Yet, we cannot literally pray for every person

We are to pray for all kinds of people 

People outside our circle

People we don’t understand

People who annoy us

We are to cultivate the habit of praying for the people who cross our path throughout the day

This approach to life changes more than those we pray for

Praying for all people changes our agenda for all people

Praying for all people gives us God’s heart for all people

Our prayer is to include “kings and all in high positions” (v2)

This is for the broad sake of the gospel

When governments are just, society has led impediments to the gospel

When life has less turmoil, we are less distracted from serving

The kingdom of Christ and his gospel is the great purpose we serve

Our life is in biblical focus when that purpose makes our heart say ‘Amen’

Whether or not we like our place in life, the gospel is needed where we are

This encouragement toward prayer, is to lead us to God’s heart (vs 3-4)

If we don’t pray for what is on God’s heart, then we don’t share it

If our lives are not preparing for what God wants, then we are not pleasing to him

Are you getting the sense of urgency of this passage?  

There is “one God”, and there is only one way to him (vs 5-6)

To think there are various ways to God, denies Him (Acts 4:12, John 3:36)

To say God’s judgment will not fall, mocks Christ who paid our “ransom”

No other way can save us, because only Jesus paid the penalty for our sin

There are pressing implications in these verses

1.  Prayer prepares our life to serve God

Prayer is not to inform, convince or move God

Prayer will shape, refocus, strengthen and encourage us!

2.  Prayer has impact

Prayer doesn’t move God, but He does use it (James 5:16)

Prayer brings change, grace, blessing and answers

3.  We are not serious about God, if we are not serious about prayer

How can we be, if prayer is communication with God, and God has told us to do so?

4.  God wants us to be part of amazingly and wonderful things

Your Church is not trying to bug or burden you, but to awaken us

Jesus did not overstate the value of the Great Commandments, which tell us to love God and neighbor

Part of our Ministry Action Plan is that all of us become disciple-makers!

This means we intentionally taking part in reaching and growing people for Christ

Don’t we recognize that to neglect these things will rob our life and cause us regret?

There are people in our life who need the gospel now

HOW DO WE GROW IN SHARING THE GOSPEL?

Today’s post was suggested by our Pastor of Outreach, Past Tedeschi. It comes out of an article by J.D. Greear, who is the lead pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved.

J.D. offers thoughts that came out of a church leadership meeting to discuss hindrances to evangelism. They came up with 4 key thoughts that are worth our attention:

1. Raising the temperature of intentionality (making outreach our habit rather than something that happens by chance)

2. Sensitivity to the Spirit (we don’t try to force the gospel in, but follow Spirit’s lead)

3. Providing people with tools (guidance in sharing our faith)

4. Models (seeing other people share the gospel)

Every church and every believer needs regular reassessment concerning our how we are reaching other for Christ. I hope you will take the time to read J.D.’s thoughts so that we can be as effective as possible in reaching the people all around us who stand condemned unless the gospel penetrates their heart. Click here

DUCK DYNASTY and THE GOSPEL

If you are thankful that the A&E hit show Duck Dynasty is a clean family television show, you can be even more thankful that the cast members have a clear testimony of faith in Christ.

Phil Robertson, who is the patriarch of this Duck Dynasty clan, shares his testimony in this video. It is simple, somewhat homespun and very clear.

As we prepare for Easter week you might consider sharing this video with someone you know who has not yet trusted in Christ. At the same time consider how you can share your simple. yet powerful story of how God delivered you from condemnation to life eternal.

RESOLVED

Today is the official day for starting your New Year’s resolutions. Or is it tomorrow, since today is a holiday and no resolutions start on a holiday – especially if our resolution is dietary or has something to do with getting up earlier.

Here is a New Year’s resolution that is worth starting even today:

I will not let a day go by without thanking God for Christ and His gospel which saved me

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.10.12

Compelled By the Gospel    Luke 14:16-24

The Bible often uses the picture of a great feast to portray eternity with Him. It tells us that His kingdom will be filled with His goodness and our contentment

In Jesus parable, those invited failed to show up

It was not an outright rejection, they simply didn’t value the invitation

They all had reasons, but these were just excuses

Excuses are close at hand and easy to find – in fact, they find us!  

We may not think we are rejecting God, but the pursuit of our own agenda pushes Him aside

Any response to God that is not yes, is a rejection of Him

For God is our Creator, Lord and Judge, we are accountable to Him

Just thinking we can come to God on our own terms is a form of rejecting Him

This parable makes it clear that the Master was angry, and v24 tells us there are consequences

More amazing than our rejection of the feast, is that the feast was not been cancelled!

God will have his house “filled” for the celebration of eternity (v23)

This brings up this question, ‘Who will be there?’ We find the answer in John 3:36

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him

We have been sent out to invite anyone we can to the feast of God’s Kingdom

Our Lord has told us to go where ever we can find people (vs 21-23)

We must go into our communities with the gospel

We must reach out to each generation, even if it is not always comfortable

We must reach out to those who are a mess, knowing the Holy Spirit will flow through us

Since we are blessed, we have a responsible to go far into other parts of the world

But people don’t naturally want to respond, because their focus is on other things

v23 We need to “compel” them to come; not by force, but through conviction

How do we “compel” those we want to reach?

1.  First we must be “compelled” by the gospel

If love for Christ and his gospel is not compelling us, why would it compel those who know us?

What motivates and draws you?  If as a Christian it is not the gospel – why not?!

Before we can compel others, we must be compelled  

2.  We compel people with the power of a clear gospel message (Romans 1:16 and 10:17)

There is no means outside of Christ to be saved (Acts 4:12)

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved

This truth is under attack, even by church leaders who equivocate in public when asked if faith in Jesus alone will save us

Be confident that God’s word is sufficient for every situation (including yours)

If we want to be compelling with the gospel we need to be clear with the gospel

**To improve in this area, I highly recommend the book “What is the gospel?” by Greg Gilbert

3.  We compel people through the work of the Holy Spirit

No one comes to Christ without conviction and rebirth by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8)

If the Holy Spirit’s involvement is necessary, what are implications?

Live in a way that honors the Holy Spirit: obey his voice by embracing His conviction and leading

Live as an instrument of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-38)

Persistently plead with the Spirit to work in and through you

4.  We compel people by living compelling lives

Steadfast love is very compelling

Patience and graciousness are very compelling

Someone who pays attention and listens is very compelling

A serving life is very compelling

Wholeness of life is very compelling

Consistent joy is very compelling

Imagine if our entire church lived this way – it would be extraordinarily compelling!