The Gospel.

I was listening to a sermon last Sunday night (Click here if you want to take a listen) and the speaker encouraged us to take some time to write down the gospel. Obviously that could take a lifetime – no amount of writing can truly express what God has done for us. But nevertheless I decided to give it a go. The result is below.

What is the gospel? That’s a big question. But briefly: God created us (Humanity, Adam and Eve) perfect and in perfect relationship with him. Then they (and by consequence all of humanity) sinned – they rebelled against God, and the consequence of that sin was that death and suffering entered the world. Since that point every human being has disobeyed God. Therefore since God is good, just, holy and perfect, since he cannot stand sin, we all deserve his punishment. That punishment is hell – God’s wrath against sin and rebellion toward him. Yet he chose a people (Israel), rescued them from Egypt and told them his law. He did this to show them that they cannot keep his requirements. We cannot save ourselves.

But in his mercy, grace, love, compassion and kindness God then sent his son – Jesus – into the world as a man. Fully God and fully man means that Jesus was perfect – he didn’t sin or disobey God. But he could also die. He could take our sins on himself since he hadn’t committed any and he could die the death and suffer the punishment that we deserved. We crucified him, spat on him, mocked him, and yet it is his death that opens the way for us to come back into relationship with God.

If we put our faith (trust) in Jesus as the only one who can save and if we repent of our sin and rebellion against him then we will be forgiven for all the sins we have committed (and will commit). They are entirely dealt with by Jesus on the cross when he suffered God’s wrath for us. When we put our faith in him and turn from our sins to follow him we are made new creations (2 Cor 5:17), we are moved from enemies of God to children of God (Romans 8), Objects of wrath to co-heirs with Christ. This is not because we in any way deserve it. We deserve only hell. But it is because in his amazing grace God saw fit to glorify himself not only by showing his justice, perfection and holiness in judging sin, but by also showing his mercy, love, kindness, grace and compassion.

In Jesus we see God’s justice and judgement against sin and his awesome and marvellous mercy and grace toward a people who don’t deserve it (that’s you and me if we are Christians).

The result? Jesus rose again – he dealt with sin and so the consequence of it – death – could not hold him. He proves that he paid the price in our place by his ressurection. And he also proves that all his promises are true. He rose again, and so shall we – all people, Christians and Non-christians, will rise again and sit before God in judgement. Those who have not accepted Jesus as their personal saviour and Lord will face God’s punishment for their sins – the punishment that every human being deserves (i.e. hell). Those who have turned to Christ have been forgiven. Our sin is removed – it was placed on Christ and he died for us, taking God’s wrath that we deserved in our place. Since we are forgiven and adopted as God’s children we will be accepted into heaven to be with God eternally, glorifying him and delighting in his presence and his character for all eternity.

Are you a Christian? Are you interested? There is a cost. If we are truly sorry for sinning against God then we will turn from it. We will work hard to obey God and live his way – not because that saves us, but because we are saved. We will give our whole lives to God, submitting to him as king and LORD of our lives. Not in the hopes that we can be good enough to make it to heaven but as a response to the complete and full forgiveness we have in Jesus, our love for him and our thankfulness. And that’s hard. We are also called to tell people – which makes sense, since it’s such a glorious and wonderful gospel. But the result of that will often be that we are mocked and persecuted.

Are you willing to give your whole life for Jesus?    

Psalm 43, Jesus and The Gospel.

I read Psalm 43 today as part of my bible reading and by God’s grace it occurred to me that Jesus is all through this Psalm – and it was so encouraging to see God’s faithfulness in completing his promises and to remember that he is sovereign and everything that happened in Jesus was his plan all along.

Verses 1-2

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
    against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
    deliver me!
For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
    why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?

These are words that David wrote about 1000 years about Jesus. And they are quite general – on one level they are simply David crying out to God for vindication and questioning why God seems absent from his sufferings.

Yet these are also words that the Holy Spirit inspired David to write (2 Peter 1:21), and thus we can trust that God had his perfect plan in them, and they point exactly to Jesus. Jesus was perfect and righteous, and therefore he alone deserved vindication from God (and that came when he rose again). He suffered and died at the hands of an unfaithful and rebellious nation – the Jews rejected him, their creator and God, preferring their self-righteousness and legalism. And likewise so did we, preferring our sin.

The words that specifically caught my attention are “Why have you forsaken me”, which are the same words Jesus cries out on the cross as he suffers the punishment that we deserved. When we put our faith in Jesus he takes our sins, and he takes God’s punishment for them, dying in our place when he died on the cross. He was rejected by God when it should have been us who were rejected by God (for we reject him and his way when we sin). He was forsaken by God so we could be adopted as God’s children. What a wonderful saviour!

Verses 3-4

Send out your light and your truth;
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
    and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.

These are actually the verses that caught my attention first up. Who is David’s light? Who is the truth? Who is the ultimate fulfilment of both of those images? Jesus! He is the light of the world (John 8:12), and in fact he was the one who created light on day 1 (Genesis 1, John 1). Likewise he is the way, the truth and the life – the only way we can be made right with God. He is the only one who can save us from God’s wrath against sin – only by faith in him and repentance can we be forgiven. (So have you put your faith in him? – 1 John 1:8-9)

In John 1 we learn that Jesus is the word, and God’s word is truth. God also spoke to bring creation into existence. And in Psalm 119:105 we learn that God’s word is a “lamp to [our] feet and a light to [our] path”. This then links into the second line of v3 – Jesus alone can lead us. He alone can lead us to God’s holy hill – to heaven. Because of our sin we deserve hell, God’s wrath. Yet Jesus saves! He lights the way, he is the truth, and if we follow him we have access to God! We will go to heaven to be with him (2 Corinthians 4:16-18*, forgiven for our sins (Acts 2:38) and adopted as God’s children (Galatians 3:26, Romans 8)! What a glorious gospel!

And so we have a resolution to the issue of Psalm 42 and 43. Why are you downcast O my soul? There’s no reason to be for we are forgiven! For even if the whole world falls apart. Even if the mountains fall into the sea (Psalm 46), we are forgiven and nothing can separate us (Christians) from the love of God (Romans 8).

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

 

Soli Deo Gloria.

Nath.

VOM Prayer Watch

IRAN: Update on Dual-National Detained for his Christian Activities

Saeed Abedini has been detained since 26 September 2012. In mid-March 2014 he was transferred to a hospital where he received limited medical care but his family were able to feed him, enabling him to gain some weight and regain strength.

On the morning of 20 May a number of intelligence officials arrived unannounced at the hospital. They violently removed Saeed from the hospital, beating him and reportedly giving him an electric shock. He was returned to Rajai Shahr Prison.

This incident follows similar mistreatment of Christian and other detainees within Iran’s prison system in recent weeks.

In 2009 Saeed had been warned about his involvement with house churches and so he had focused on humanitarian activities during subsequent visits to Iran. In 2012, while visiting his parents and conducting humanitarian aid, Saeed was detained and in January 2013 he was convicted on charges relating to anti-state activities (which were derived from his involvement with house fellowships) and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment. Saeed has joint Iranian-US citizenship; his wife Naghmeh and their two children are in the US.

Source: Middle East Concern

Prayer Points

  • Pray that Saeed will know the close presence of Jesus each day and that he will experience His healing touch and will receive due medical care.
  • Pray the Lord will give Saeed, his wife and their two children courage, patience and the ability to rely on the Lord’s good timing and perfect purposes.
  • Pray all officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him (Micah 6:8).

 

TANZANIA: Pray for Members of Area’s Only Church

A church in the predominantly Muslim area of Mafia, Tanzania, was burned down on Friday 9 May, just hours before a scheduled prayer meeting. Radicals had threatened the pastor, Ombeni Omari, and the church for the past two years.

Pastor Omari, a Christian convert from Islam, escaped to Dar es Salaam with his wife and three children after learning of the attack. He had founded the almost 60-member church, the only Christian church in the area, and nearly all of its members were converts from Islam.

Although the church building was destroyed, Pastor Omari said he will return to the area because the work he was called to is not yet finished.

Source: Voice of the Martyrs USA

Prayer Points

  • Thank the Lord for Pastor Omari’s faithfulness and eternal priorities.
  • Pray the congregation will continue to meet together to worship the Lord, fellowship with one another and learn from Scripture.
  • Pray the Lord will have mercy on the perpetrators and other Muslims in the area so they too may be drawn to the one true God and worship Him.

KAZAKHSTAN: New Laws Threaten Religious Freedom

New laws with tougher restrictions on religious freedom are currently awaiting approval in Kazakhstan. The laws, which are currently being reviewed with the parliament’s Senate, would usher in harsh new punishments that are raising concerns among human rights defenders and religious communities.

Restrictions include up to 60 days of imprisonment for leading religious meetings without state permission, or up to 45 days in jail for attending such an event. At present, these offences are only punishable with fines. It would also become illegal to build places of worship in prisons.

The reported deadline for adopting the new laws is 15 June, with the laws scheduled to come into force as of 1 January 2015.

Source: Forum 18 News Service

Prayer Points

  • Pray that the authorities in Kazakhstan will seek to uphold and respect religious freedom for all, and that these proposed harsh restrictions will be overturned.
  • Ask God to grant wisdom to the church leaders at this time as they navigate these possible changes.
  • Pray the Lord will use these apparent hindrances to further His greater purposes for the church as a whole in Kazakhstan.

A dilemma caused by pride.

I woke up this morning and got ready to go to our church’s prayer meeting. As I hopped in the car it occurred to me that my reasons for going were entirely wrong. I wanted to go to the prayer meeting to be noticed. I wanted to be seen as a young man who is trying to be godly – note the word Seen.

Obviously theres nothing wrong with being a young man and wanting to be godly. But the fact is that this wasn’t my desire. My desire was to be noticed. To be seen. To have people think “Oh, I love seeing Nat’s faith.” or “I love seeing how he comes to the prayer meetings every sunday morning”. In that moment I once again realised just how quickly and easily I let arrogance take root in my life. I don’t often notice it until it sprouts out and I take the time to look at my motives. But it’s there, and I need to battle it constantly.

And so immediately I had a dilemma. I wanted to go to the prayer meeting out of arrogance and self-centeredness – not out of a desire to glorify God, to pray to him and encourage his people. I had 3 options: I could go, put on my little facade of godliness and pretend like I hadn’t noticed my sinfulness and pride. I could not go, and then not have any chance of encouraging God’s people or spending that time in fellowship with them, or I could go and try to change my motives. 

It seemed to me that option 1 and 2 are both out of the question. If I am truly one of God’s people I can’t just ignore my sin. I need to throw it off and run the race with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1). And I can’t do option 2 because then my bad motives will prevent me from serving God (and I’ll undoubtedly get proud about being ‘humble’ and dealing with my pride in such an ‘effective’ way). The only option that was left then was to go and to deal with my pride.

So I went.

But my question was how can I change my motives? How can I effectively deal with my pride? What steps can I take to fight against it. And I’m almost constantly stumped by that question.

And in God’s gracious providence he reminded me during the sermon of a way to work on it. The sermon was on Matthew 18:1-5, where the disciples ask Jesus who will be the greatest. In God’s perfect timing it was the passage for today, and it touched on exactly what I’d been convicted of: Pride.

What I was reminded of is crucial to dealing with pride: realising our state before God. I am a sinner. A wretched sinner who can’t even change his own motives. I’m an arrogant and ignorant rebel who has rejected God. And yet in his mercy he saved me. Not because of anything good in me. Not because he needed to. Not because I was worth saving. Jesus died for me – not because I am amazing – but because he is amazing. Not because I am worthy of being saved, but because he is glorious and he alone is worthy of all praise, and he saw fit to redeem me from my sin so I could praise him.

With that in mind – theres no reason or excuse for pride. There’s nothing good in me that I can offer God. Nothing I could do to save myself.

The first crucial step in dealing with pride is honesty with yourself and seeing from God’s perspective. 

And from there our motives have to change – they need to be to honour God. We need to obey him out of love for him and thankfulness to him for all he’s done for us (which is a lot).

How are you going with pride? What motivates you to live a ‘godly’ life – is it a desire to be noticed by men, or a desire to honour God?