We showed this video Sunday, seeking to apply the main message in the Book of Job. In the end, the Book of Job asks the question: Do you worship God because of all that he has done for you or do you worship Him simply because He is God? Matt and Janna Shuford share the powerful story of how they discovered the answer to this question in one of the clearest explanations of the Gospel I’ve ever heard. Hit the link below:
When Paul wrote his letter to the churches in Galatia, it was in response to one stark reality: the Gospel was in danger. Church leaders need to take a cue from Paul. He was frustrated and furious with anyone who would try to add to or take away from the Gospel of free grace. This Gospel is in danger again in our day. For most people in America, Christianity has become a form of “moralistic therapeutic Deism”. It’s “moralistic”, in that Christianity provides an avenue for moral living. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not the Gospel. It’s “therapeutic”, in that it feels good to live a moral life, in adherence to biblical principles. Again, this is not a bad thing, it’s just not the Gospel. And it’s clearly a form of “Deism”, in that God is certainly in the mix, though not the central focus much of the time. More often, the focus is on our works for God, not His work for us, and on our preferences as oppose to His. The Gospel that Paul defended is in danger and Christ (His heart, His mission, His Person) has been lost in a religion that bears His name.
We must join Paul and confront any altering of the Gospel in any way. He distinguishes between the Law and the Gospel. The Law tells us what God expects from us, the Gospel tells us what God has done for us. The Law is about what we do, the Gospel is about what Christ has done. The Law provides the diagnosis, the Gospel provides the cure. In order to defend the Gospel, we must be clear about what the Gospel is. Herein lies our problem. So, what is the Gospel?
The Absolute Gospel:
1. Christ lived the perfect life, fulfilling the requirements of the law. Just as central to our salvation is Christ’s death on the cross is the fact that He lived the perfect life. This is significant for two reasons: First, He could not have provided the perfect, “once and for all” sacrifice if He had not lived a sinless life. Secondly, He has done for us what we could not do ourselves. We cannot and now- need not- live the perfect life. The Gospel is one-way, descending love. We bring nothing to the Gospel expect our sin that makes it necessary. James reminds us how desperate we are. “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10). Jesus did not come to “abolish” the Law but to fulfill the righteous demands of the Law and in so doing, we are set free from the demands of the Law placed on us.
2. He died for us on the cross, paying the price for our sins. We are justified before our Holy God because Christ, who lived the perfect life for us, took our sin upon the cross. The due penalty of our unrighteousness was placed upon Him and we have been set free from the judgment that comes upon sin. Through the Law God makes the demands for holiness and in Christ He fulfills them. Then miraculously, Christ takes on our sin and completely forgives us, “so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). His perfect life was imputed to us and therefore, God’s wrath was taken away from us. Only God acting on our part brings salvation.
3. He rose again, conquering death and hell. By overcoming death, Christ leads all of creation into a triumphant procession into eternity. And all people who receive His amazing grace through faith, join Him in this victorious life. This life begins in the here and now and continues in eternity.
4. He is coming again, to restore all things. The work of Christ and the purposes of God are bigger than our salvation. God does not make mistakes and nothing surprises Him. His purposes do not fail; He always wins. Though all of creation has been effected by the sin of mankind, all things will be restored to God’s original intent. God’s restorative agenda is in effect and will be completed as He comes again to make all things right. Ultimately, He will “make all things new” and a redeemed people will worship God on a redeemed “New Earth” for eternity.
It’s important to remember that the Gospel of the early church, of Paul, of the evangelists, was this: All of the promises of the Jewish Scriptures has come true in the Resurrection of Jesus. And this is the Gospel that we preach, teach, defend, and live out in our day. This is the Gospel.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
We call it “Good Friday”. But like so many things in the Kingdom of God, it was good for us, but bad for Him. What we call “Good” was terrible for our Lord Jesus. As you go about your day today, consider these facts: Early on that Friday morning, after no sleep the night before, Jesus was taken to Pilate’s prison. He was beaten by professional torturers who knew their craft all too well. He was then presented to the crowd who chose the notorious prisoner over the very Son of God. Throughout the day Jesus was silent and, ironically, directing every move that took place. He was taken into the courtyard (called the Praetorium) and the entire company of soldiers surrounded Him. They stripped Him, put a crown of thorns on His head, a staff in His hand, and knelt down before Him in mockery. They spat on Him and punched Him many times, as hard as they could. Later that morning, exhausted and famished, He carried His own cross to Golgotha and was nailed to it at about noon. Darkness came over the earth from noon until 3:00 p.m. Not much later that afternoon, Jesus cried out “It is finished!” and He died. Around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. the women came to prepare His body for burial and they placed it in the tomb. The massive stone was rolled into place as the sun went down on the saddest day in history. And the angels were silent as all creation watched to see what would happen next.
As you go throughout the day today, be in a constant state of remembering what happened to our Lord Jesus. Think about each event as though it was all happening today. Consider the horrific emotional strain of knowing you are about to be killed, and greater still, the anticipation of the very wrath of God upon sin that would come upon you. And remember, He did all of this for one reason: you. Remember also that it’s Friday, the saddest day in history, but… Sunday’s coming…
Pray: Lord, today I will walk with You through Your sufferings. I will meditate on every phase of Your sacrifice for me. My heart breaks over my sin that put You on the cross.
“A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:8-9
At first glance this looks like the biggest celebration Jerusalem had ever seen. No doubt, it was an incredible day, enough to cause quite a stir among the enemies of Jesus. But think about it. What the people desired was a mock procession of a conquering king. Philip Yancey, in The Jesus I Never Knew, imagines a Roman soldier riding up to check out the disturbance. He had seen processions done right. The conquering general sits in a chariot of gold, with stallions straining at the reins and wheel spikes flashing in the sunlight. Following him would be officers in polished armor displaying the banners from the vanquished armies. Following that was often a procession of captured slaves and prisoners in chains, showing just what Rome does to those who are against her.
The soldier peers through the crowd to catch the object of the crowd’s attention. He can hardly believe his eyes. He sees a solitary, forlorn figure, weeping, riding on no stallion or chariot, but on the back of a baby donkey with a borrowed blanket across its back. There may have been a bit of triumph in the air on Palm Sunday, but nothing that would have impressed Rome. Not for long anyway. This same crowd would be shouting, “Crucify Him!” just a few days later. And yet, this solitary man seems to be directing the entire process of events…
“…but made Himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”
Pray: Lord, I humble myself before You. You could have come as a conquering king and held on to all the rights and privileges that were Yours as God. But You humbled Yourself and took on the form of a servant and died for me. I will do the same for You today.
Growing up I didn’t know anything about Lent. I only knew Lent as a strange “Catholic” practice. I’ve gained a broader picture of the Body of Christ through the study of Church history and I’ve been able to experience a deeper expression of prayer and worship as a result. I want to help you do the same. Most Protestants think of Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season as a “Catholic thing” while, in reality it was part of the early church’s consistent pattern of worship. Our earliest known reference is that of Ireneus (who died in 202 A.D.). What I’ve sought to do is strip the Lenten season of anything that is not biblical but maintain a simple and clear focus of prayer, repentance, and personal sacrifice. I’ve heard many sermons on Christ’s instructions to pray when He says, “When you pray…” pray like this… But He also says, “When you fast…” fast like this… He didn’t say “if” you fast, but “when”. Jesus expected His followers to pray, and at times, fast as a regular part of our spiritual pattern of worship. Could it be that we (in the U.S. in particular) could learn a few things about giving up so much of what we want and dying to our selfish needs for more? I am certain that prayer and fasting is greatly needed among believers- particularly in the affluent West.
What many have written off as “weird” (ashes on the forehead, giving up certain foods, etc.) I’ve sought to recapture in its purest biblical sense. It is true that Ash Wednesday or “Lent” are not in the Bible (of course, neither are Christmas Eve services, Good Friday services, Advent, and so much of what others of us would call “normal”). You don’t see “Easter Sunday” in the Bible either (because every Sunday is Easter Sunday- or better, Resurrection Sunday for the believer.
“Lent” may not be in the Bible but focused seasons of sacrifice, confession, and repentance clearly are. In the church I grew up in we rushed to Easter Sunday without any preparation of the heart before God. I’ve learned much from the larger Body of Christ as it relates to the spiritual disciplines solitude, prayer, and fasting. “Lent” of comes from the Middle English word “Lenten” which means “Spring”. The Lenten or Easter Season is a focused time of confession and repentance from “Ash Wednesday” to Easter Sunday. Forty Days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday (minus the Sundays leading up to Easter- because the early believers would not fast on Sundays). Later many would go from Ash Wednesday to Maundy Thursday (forty days later). Maundy comes from “mandatum”, meaning “mandate” or “command”. Jesus said, “A new commandment” (mandatum nuevum) I give to you.” So the Lenten season is a period of focused prayer and fasting (with a focus on confession, sacrifice, and repentance). Why forty Days? Forty days shows up throughout the Bible. Moses, Elijah, and Jesus (Luke 4:1-2) all fasted for forty days.
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19
The ashes are to remind you of your mortality and of the need to repent of sin in your life. It was common for Jews and early believers to mourn the loss of a loved one with “sackcloth and ashes”. Ashes were also a sign of brokenness and repentance of sin. Confession of sin is a private thing between you and God. It is not something to be paraded around and seen by everyone but a private moment between you and your Savior.
Fasting is the act of the will through which the follower of Jesus puts forth spiritual control over the flesh (through sacrifice- i.e. not eating, or some other form of self-denial) with a view to a more personal and powerful experience with God in prayer. Fasting involves giving up but is much more about receiving. You give up in order to receive. You die in order to live.
Types of fasts:
- Total fast (be careful and receive guidance)
- Water only Prepare your body for it. Hunger pangs will go away- first 2 days hardest.
- Liquid only Juices- not milkshakes! (When you don’t eat, more time for prayer)
- Eliminate certain foods No deserts, no caffeine, no junk food- “Daniel fast”- healthy
- Media fast NO television, NO movies, NO paper, NO internet, NO video games, etc.
- Multiple possibilities Be creative and specific-but a sacrifice- must cost you something.
During a fast, when your earthly desires kick in, you turn to the Lord and you are reminded that He is more than enough to meet your every need. It is a wonderful way to be drawn to the Lord and to overcome the desires of the flesh in many areas of your life.
“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” Psalm 66:18-19 What is David saying here? I cannot harbor unconfessed sin or unresolved sin in my life. Any Christian who desires to fully serve God and follow Him must attack sin from all fronts. We cannot hold on to sin but release it and the first step is to confess it- to God first and then, to others.
“For me, to live is Christ and die is gain.” Philippians 1:21
To be alive to Christ and to live for Him means I must die to myself, my needs, my wants- continually. “In the body” is where dying of Jesus is seen through my life and revealed to others. It is, at the same time, the place where this life (the resurrection life) of Jesus is seen. In the same passage he says, “so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in my body.” My life then becomes a presentation of a Story- the Story of the passion of Christ. I die to myself in order to reveal His life in my. You see, you are called not only to tell the story of the Passion, but to LIVE it, experience it. How? By dying to self.
But the language used by Paul is a continual dying- the process of dying- you are continually dying. To remind you of your mortality- your body is dying and to get you focused and busy on the eternal that does not die. You see, death for Jesus was not the end- He lives. So, how can we position ourselves to move to this dying of self? How can I be touched by God to go to deeper levels? By confessing my sin to Him, by showing Him that He is all I want- all I need. Fasting is that spiritual discipline that helps us live that out in unique ways. It’s why Jesus says, “When you fast…” (Matthew 6:16)- it was an expected practice of the believer. It’s a way to deny yourself of earthly things in order to focus on heavenly things.
“My food” Jesus said, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.” John 4:34 During a fast He is your food. The will of God becomes your sustenance.
May you walk to the cross with the Lord Jesus this Easter season as never before.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
On New Year’s Eve, you may have heard Cee Lo Green’s rendition of John Lennon’s, “Imagine” (which apparently has become a tradition just prior to the ball being dropped at Times Square). But this year, instead of listening Lennon’s version of the song, they had Cee Lo sing it. He created a big stir by changing the words- instead of singing, “imagine no religion too”, he sang, “and all religions true”. People debate and ask the question- is there really only one way to God? The classic presentation of this argument ends up with the idea that “all roads lead to heaven”, “all paths lead to the same God”.
But is this true? I’ve changed the way I approach this question. The truth is (and read carefully) there are many roads to God- all roads lead to God but there is ONLY ONE WAY to eternal life with Him- there’s only ONE Way to LIFE and it is through Jesus Christ.
It is true that everyone will end up before God.
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Hebrews 9:27
Though we may get through different paths, everyone will stand before God some day. But the idea that all religions are true is not even logical, simply because not all religions teach the same thing- by a long shot. In fact, in many ways, Christianity cannot even be compared to other religions. It is the anti-religion- it’s not a religion (that is, a way to achieve some standing before God through good works, following a certain set of moralistic standards, or follow set of rules). That’s not Christianity. Jesus taught us that we could never achieve God’s approval apart from His grace. If this were not true there would be no reason for the cross- which stands at the center of our faith.
No, all religions DO NOT teach the same thing and not all roads lead to a right relationship with God. And you don’t even have to go to the Bible to see this. Simple Aristotelian logic would say that two contradictory truths cannot be equally valid. It’s “The Law of Non-Contradiction”. This is a basic, fundamental Law of Logic. It states that two contradictory statements cannot both be true at the same time; one is true and one is false. Formulaically, it’s presented as, “A equals B and A does not equal B are mutually exclusive statements”. Now, every child knows this, but in America we have become so open-minded our brains have fallen out.
Some people say, “Well, Christianity is so exclusive. How can someone be so prideful as to think that ONE religion has all truth? I’ve talked to people who say, “My approach is to choose the best from all religions. That’s a better way to come to truth.” Really? Let me ask you then, “How do you determine what to chose from each religion that you’re going to then put together as your chosen collective religion?” YOU are going to choose? You’ve just made yourself your own God! You have just formed the religion of YOU; and you are, in the end, worshipping yourself. You have the final word on all things. And think about this: Isn’t it more logical to believe that ONE religion would have the truth within itself? A collective, united, comprehensive and cohesive body of truth- within one religion makes a lot more sense (again, if we want to bring logic into the equation). But alas, logic doesn’t seem to be in the mix when it comes to spiritual conversations these days. Let’s bring it back into the conversation.
All roads lead to God and then judgment based on what we have done with Jesus.
Thank you to my friend Emily Davidson (in our youth ministry) for using her amazing gift of voice to worship her Savior!
This fall at PCBC we walked through a series of messages asking the question, “How much is enough?” “When is enough, enough?” “How much is enough to give?” “How much is enough to keep?”
Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Liberating Truths That Lead to a Life of Generosity
1. God owns everything.
“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” Psalm 24:1-2
“‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:8 God owns any and all kinds of currency and wealth.
“You have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:20 God owns all of us.
2. We are stewards. We are managers of all that is His.
“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” I Corinthians 4: 1-2
3. What we sow determines what we reap. (vs. 6) Whatever you put in the ground is what’s coming up later. This natural law is spiritual law as well.
4. God wants us to be generous and cheerful givers. (vs. 7) The amount of the blessing of your harvest is determined by how much you sow. The question is not, “How much should I sow?” The question is, “How much do I want to be blessed?”
5. We are blessed to be a blessing. (vs. 8-11) We’re “enriched in every way SO THAT you can be generous on every occasion.” The moment we hang on to the blessings of God, His blessing stops.
6. God prospers us, not to raise our standard of living, but to raise our standard of giving. (vs. 10-11) The way we excel in giving is when we determine to cap our lifestyle.
7. How we spend our money reveals our hearts and exposes our priorities. (vs. 11)
8. God multiplies our giving into transformed lives. (vs.12-14) Only God can do that.
9. Our giving is an act of worship. (vs. 15) Oswald Chambers defined worship as “Giving back to God the very best He has given me.”
The Generosity Challenge: “Test me in this” Malachi 3:10
• Start giving
• Become a percentage giver
• Give the tithe
• Give beyond the tithe
God issues the challenge to us all. He dares us to believe in Him, to trust that He will be faithful. At the start of this Christmas season, determine to be a giver. This will be the greatest Christmas you’ve ever known if you will simply practice the simple truth of Jesus: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
An elderly Jewish man had been praying at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem for Arabs and Jews to stop their fighting. Someone asked him, “How long have you been praying?” “50 years” “How do you feel, praying for that long and the fighting continues?” “Like I’m talking to a brick wall.”
Have you ever felt like that guy? Let’s all just get real honest- we’ve all struggled with prayer. We’ve all felt guilty for not praying enough, we’ve all doubted the reality of prayer and we’ve all wondered if God really answers prayer. We’ve all walked through seasons of prayerlessness and the truth be known many of us pray very little.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8
In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus teaches us that the main reason for unanswered prayer is prayerlessness.
In his classic work, With Christ in the School of Prayer, Andrew Murray writes, “Moses gave neither command nor regulation with regard to prayer: even the prophets say little directly of the duty of prayer. It is Christ who teaches us to pray.”
What is prayer? Prayer is communication and communion with God. Again, only in Christ do you find a relationship, a friendship, communion with God.
Why pray? The purpose of prayer is to develop my relationship and intimacy with Christ and align my life up to His will.
I’ve thought about my relationship with Stacy (think about anyone you love)- my relationship with her has very little to do with asking her to do things for me. It’s really all about expressing my love for her, just being with her, getting to know her, and asking, “How can I love you more?” This is the kind of intimacy our Lord Jesus seeks with us:
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20
Why don’t we pray? The main reason we do not pray is our own self-sufficiency. We think we do not need our Lord’s help.
Common Misconceptions of Prayer:
1. Prayer doesn’t work.
That’s another way of saying that God doesn’t answer my prayers. What happens is some of us have prayed and we think God hasn’t answered our prayers so we assume that He must not answer anyone’s prayers. We hear testimony of answered prayers and we think, “That didn’t happen. That was just a coincidence.” Well, for those who have discovered the adventure of prayer, we know that it’s sure interesting how many coincidences start happening when we pray.
“I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer.” Psalm 17:6 It’s been said, “When we work, WE work, when we pray, GOD works.”
2. Prayer is breaking down the reluctance of God.
Prayer is not getting beyond God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of His highest willingness.
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11
3. Prayer is not necessary. Again, prayer is the essence of the Christian life because the Christian life is all about a passionate pursuit of intimacy of relationship with Christ. It’s the ONE thing you’ve been called and the ONE thing you must devote your attention to.
4. Prayer is about asking God for what I want.
Johnny had been misbehaving and was sent to his room. After a while he emerged and informed his mother that he had thought it over and then said a prayer. “Fine,” said the pleased mother. “If you ask God to help you not misbehave, He will help you.” “Oh, I didn’t ask Him to help me not misbehave,” said Johnny. “I asked Him to help you to able to put up with me.” We need to move from selfish prayers. We struggle with our needs vs. our wants.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:3
5. Prayer must be eloquent.
The most common prayer in the Bible is the simple prayer. A quick study of the prayers in the Bible reveals raw, heartfelt, and desperate prayers are the most common.
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Matthew 6:7
One night Will’s parents overheard this prayer. “Now I lay me down to rest, and hope to pass tomorrow’s test, if I should die before I wake, that’s one less test I have to take.” Raw, heartfelt, honest prayer is the prayer of a child of God. All of these misconceptions are hindrances to prayer but:
6. The most common hindrance to unanswered prayer: Prayerlessness.
“…you do not have, because you do not ask God.” James 4:2
When we pray, according to His will, His character, His “name”, God answers our prayers- 100% of the time.
“I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:23-24