Devotional - What Is It All About?

Discussion in 'Thoughts for Today' started by anthony wade, May 15, 2013.

  1. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. – Romans 1: 16 (NIV)

    What is this great experiment known as Christianity all about? What is it that turned the world upside down, led by simple people against great opposition? Why would people willing lay down their own lives for the sake of this fledgling religion, so many centuries ago? Willingly beheaded or crucified upside down on behalf of this obscure carpenter from Nazareth. In other religions we have to pursue God but in Christianity – God pursued us! In other religions we must achieve some standard of work but in Christianity it is all about the grace of God. Don’t fall for the lie Satan has planted in the hearts of men in this world that all paths lead to heaven – they do not. Don’t fall for the faux enlightenment that says “whatever works for everyone is fine.” That is not a courageous position but a cop out. What this is and always has been about is the fundamental belief that there has to be something more than this whisper of a life. There has to be something better than this existence. The truly Good News is that there is more. Some modern snake oil salesmen will try to sell you on this being your best life now but how sad if that were true. No beloved, our best life awaits us in eternity and that eternal hope is what this is all about:

    “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.– John 14: 1-3 (NIV)

    If the eternal hope of life everlasting is what this pursuit has always been about then what is the key to that hope? In Hinduism you have to navigate through a caste system of five levels of reincarnation, achieving some level of good works in each to advance but also being able to slip backwards if you are deemed “bad” enough. In Mormonism, if you kept all of the ordinances of the church you get to go to the top tier of heaven and rule over your own planet. In fact, in all other religions, they key to what this is all about lies within the individual. If they attain some malleable level of behavior and works – heaven awaits. Christianity is the only religion that says the key is not within us but within a God who forgives us. The key verse today reminds us of what this is really all about. Why we get up and go to church on Sunday. Why we serve in ministries. Why we strive to help others, turn the other cheek, and show the love of Christ in a world gone mad. When we boil it right down beloved, what this is really all about is the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. The key verse often is exposited to deal with not being ashamed of the Gospel, but for today, let’s look at what immediately follows the word “Gospel.” The Gospel is the power of God that brings salvation to all who believe! We complicate so much with our religiosity but the core remains all that is needed. In order to achieve the eternal promise all mankind has chased throughout the millennia we need to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is what it is all about.

    Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, - 1Corinthians 15: 1-4 (NIV)

    This is the Gospel in all of its glory and simplicity. Man makes things harder than they need be. Religion adds things to it that God never intended. Eternal life is all about the Gospel and the Gospel message is simply that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose on the third day. We can get into all sorts of deep theology off of this simplicity but this Gospel is what saves. This is where the true power of God lies. Note here in these verses from Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth that he acknowledges that we can believe in vain. We can set our beliefs in something other than the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know it is politically incorrect but Mormons do not believe in the true Gospel and thus have believed in vain. The same for Hindus. The same for Jehovah Witnesses, atheists, or anyone else who has taken their stand on a false Gospel. That includes some in the church beloved. Saying the name of Christ is not enough. Believing portions of the Gospel is not enough. It will not have the power to save then. Salad bar Christianity, where you pick what you like and discard what makes you uncomfortable does not have the power to save.

    You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. – James 2: 19 (NIV)

    If you only have a partial belief are you comfortable with a partial salvation? I know I wouldn’t be. A partial salvation is no salvation at all. Sitting in a church building every week is not assurance either. There is ample evidence that a great many churches are simply not preaching the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the only way to the Father. Modern secularism has infected the church and deceived a great many leaders into thinking that they control what only God controls. That they can compromise the key to salvation, the Gospel, in the alleged pursuit of “saving as many for Christ as possible.” It does not work that way. Reaching people with a compromised Gospel delivers unto them a compromised salvation, which is no salvation at all. Remember, the people on the last day who say “Lord Lord” only to be turned away by Christ are people who fancied themselves as Christians. The devil has convinced us that our sincerity, our intentions, or our heart is enough. Let me assure you it is not. You can be sincere and sincerely wrong. God does not care about our intentions but rather our obedience. King Saul was ordered by God to destroy the Amalekites and instead he saved the best of the plunder and spared their king. According to his defense, his intentions were to glorify God:

    Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”

    “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” – 1Samuel 15: 17-21 (NIV)

    Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings or in obedience? Our intentions and sincerity do not matter – only our obedience to the true Gospel. Our heart is wicked and deceitful above all things says the Bible.

    The further away the church gets from the Gospel, the more we see it relying upon carnal solutions and strategies. The smoothness of the speaker does not hold the power to save. The modern church is enamored with professional speakers, motivation and self help. These are lies. We cannot help ourselves – if we could we would not need a Savior. Likewise, we do not need a worldly strategy to deliver the Gospel. Recently I wrote about a mega church pastor who had written an article suggesting to pastors to not bring a Gospel message on Easter Sunday but rather a “more practical” message such as how to improve your marriage or feel more significant in the world. His rationale for this was that so many unsaved go to church on Easter Sunday that you want them to come back! NO! We should want them to go to heaven and have eternal life! The only way they are going to get there is if someone preaches to them the Gospel!

    And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. – 1Corinthians 2: 1-5 (NIV)

    So much of the modern church landscape is entirely about eloquence and human wisdom. It takes so much human wisdom to think that the people who need the Gospel the most should not hear it the one chance they get. What is Paul saying here? I resolved to know nothing – preach nothing – teach nothing – impart nothing – to you except what? The latest leadership schemes? The most popular motivational techniques? NO – Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The Gospel. All motivational speaking can accomplish is to send a more motivated person to hell. When motivational speaking inhabits the pulpit people will still be going to hell; they just may seem more enthusiastic about it.

    If it is not eloquence in speech craft, it is an over reliance on human wisdom as Paul states above. Churches with marketing strategies. Don’t preach about the blood! Don’t preach about the cross! Don’t preach about sin! Remember now, the key to everything we seek as people is imbedded solely in the Gospel message and that message is that Christ died for our sins and rose on the third day. You cannot remove the blood, the cross, and sin from that message because there will be nothing but an empty shell remaining. Unfortunately, that is what we are seeing across this country today. Gospel messages that are mere shells of what is needed to truly set people free. Messages about what God wants to do for you ignores what He has already done! Prosperity in this life ignores true prosperity – eternal life! Wait a minute preacher, can’t I have both?

    “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. – Matthew 6: 24 (NIV)

    You can prosper in this world beloved but you cannot pursue prosperity and God. There can be only one pursuit. There can be only one Master. Anything pursued ahead of God is by definition an idol. Marketing schemes within the seeker friendly and purpose driven models of church growth are designed to make the church seem relevant to the world. That is patently absurd and strictly unbiblical. We are supposed to be a shining city on a hill. We are supposed to stand out to the world. We are supposed to be different. To give them another choice in this world gone mad. Mixing the world’s culture into the church is the very leaven Christ warned us about. It is their culture that is sending them to hell – why in the world do we want to be relevant to it? I’ve heard these strategies defended by pastors and lay persons as a means to lure them into church. Lure them in? What are they squirrels and we are afraid if we make too sudden a movement we will frighten them away? Don’t say Jesus too much! Don’t want to scare them! There is no hell number two beloved. Their condition cannot get any worse. I find it eerie that Christian leaders think the best way to eventually get around to the freedom found in the Gospel is to first trap the person you wish to bring freedom to. Come hear our unsaved band! Come listen to our unsaved professionally trained singers. So often now I see the catch phrase – “relevant messages” used in church marketing materials. This is subtle code of course for avoiding the harder topics in Christianity. A new ten part series on improving your self esteem. We do not need to feel better about ourselves! We need to feel better about our God! But we do 20 community outreaches per year! Where is the Gospel? But we provide the best day care in the city! Where is the Gospel? But we put on the best plays and concerts! Where is the Gospel? But our pastor is on television! Where is the Gospel?

    Because only the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to save someone. I am not against skilled preaching and teaching. I am not against mighty orators – as long as they are orating the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am not against being strategic in operating a church but that strategy must be about spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am not against trying to draw people in but the Gospel is all the draw we need. I am not against motivation as long as we are motivating them to be saved. I am not against prosperity as long as they prosper by inheriting eternal life because there is nothing more valuable. The Gospel is just as sufficient today as it was all those years ago. God never changes. Jesus is coming back soon and we are too busy playing church to be the church. How do we be the church? Drop the fancy slogans and the shiny brochures. Lay down the human wisdom and carnal marketing schemes. Lay down anything that is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ and crucify it today. Because only the Gospel has the power to save. It has always been what it is all about. It still is today.

    Reverend Anthony Wade – May 15, 2013

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