Monday, April 25, 2016, 1:21 a.m. Last night, after I went to bed, and again this morning I had the song “Here I Go Again” running through my mind. So, I looked up the lyrics. Basically, the message of the song is from the perspective of someone who is afraid to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with a friend. He talks about everything with his friend other than about Jesus Christ. His conversations with his friend center on what has no eternal value whatsoever, while he avoids telling his friend the truth about his eternity and about Jesus Christ. What he realizes is that time is not his friend, and that this may be the last chance he has to tell his friend that Jesus loves him. And, so he prays to God, asking him for the words to speak to his friend. He knows that his friend’s only hope of salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone, and that the only way his friend will know this hope is if he has the courage to tell him the truth, and to live the truth before him, reflecting Jesus Christ by his life. And, then he says this: Here I Go Again / Mark Hall So maybe this time I'll speak the words of life With Your fire in my eyes But that old familiar fear is tearin' at my words What am I so afraid of? I was convinced the Lord Jesus had put these lyrics in my mind for a reason, so I inquired of him as to what he wanted me to do. I do believe we are nearing the Lord’s return and that time is running out, so time is not our friend. Every day we talk with people, and every one of those times could be our last chance to tell them about Jesus Christ and his gospel of salvation. So now, more than ever before, I sense an urgency to get the message of the gospel out to as many as possible before Jesus Christ returns. We don’t have time to waste talking about a lot of nothing while people are dying in their sins, and while the church at large is growing more and more apathetic, complacent and distant from their God and Lord. So, I believe that we who claim to be followers of Christ need to examine our own hearts before God, and we need to listen to our own conversations with people and see how much of them are about things that won’t live past today. I believe we also need to ask ourselves how much we avoid telling people about Jesus Christ, perhaps out of fear that they won’t like us. Many people make excuses for not sharing the gospel, convincing themselves that all we have to do is “love” people, but isn’t true love laying down our lives for our friends? Isn’t true love giving our friends what they truly need? – Throwing them a lifeline? Which one of us, if we saw one of our friends drowning in a pool or a lake, would just stand there and watch him or her drown, with no effort on our part to save them at all? Real friends tell each other the truth, and they care enough to tell the truth even if they get hated in return. The Gospel Message (Romans 1:16-17 ESV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” So, what is this gospel message? Well, first of all it is that God the Son, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – left his throne in heaven, came to earth, was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and was born as a baby to a young woman named Mary. When he walked the face of this earth, he was fully God yet fully man. He suffered like we suffer, and he was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. He went about doing good – healing the sick and afflicted, comforting the sorrowful, raising the dead, delivering from demons, and preaching repentance for forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God. He taught that if we want to come after him we must deny self, die daily to sin and self, and follow him in obedience to his will for our lives. He said that if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (if we are crucified with Christ in death to sin), we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25; cf. Eph. 4:17-24). The main reason Jesus Christ came to the earth and took on human form was that he might become our sacrificial Lamb to take away the sins of the world. Most of his own people, of his own race and belief in God, rejected him, persecuted him and finally put him to death on a cross, although he had done no wrong. The religious leaders in the temple of God were his strongest opponents, heaping abuse upon him on a regular basis, and/or they tried continually to trip him up so that they could discredit him. When that didn’t work, they arranged to have him killed, hoping that would put an end to his influence over the people. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he who knew no sin became sin for us. So, when he died, our sins died with him. When he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death. By his grace, through faith in him, we can be delivered out of the penalty of sin (eternal damnation), be set free from slavery to sin, be given the freedom to now become servants of righteousness, receive the gift of eternal life with God, and have the hope of heaven and eternity with God when we leave this earth. So, what does this faith look like? It is not an emotional decision we make at an altar, nor is it merely an intellectual assent to what Jesus Christ did in dying on the cross for our sins. It is also not words we repeat after someone, after which we are congratulated and told we now have the hope of heaven when we die. If we truly believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives, we are thus crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life (See: Romans 6), “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). The old has gone. The new has come. We forsake our former lives of living for sin and self, and we turn to walking in obedience to our Lord and God. Our lives are no longer our own, for we were bought with a price – the blood of Jesus Christ. The Bible says that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24); that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to our sinful flesh, but according to (in agreement with) the Spirit. If we walk (conduct our lives) according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14). God’s grace to us is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). Basically, Jesus did not die just so we could escape hell and have the hope of heaven when we die. He died so that we could die to sin and live to righteousness. He came to transform us; to make us new creations in Christ Jesus. So, when we share the gospel message, we, like Paul, are to open blinded eyes, turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ. We are to tell them the truth about salvation, that we are not just saved from the penalty of sin, but Jesus came to deliver us out of bondage to sin and to enslave us to his righteousness. This is true hope! This is true freedom! To no longer walk according to the flesh, but to conduct our lives according to the Spirit, in the power and working of the Spirit within us, as we yield to the Spirit’s control in our lives.