Gospel

Jesus’ Identity & Purpose (John 18:38-19:27)

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Jesus’ trial before Pilate oozes truth about Jesus’ true identity and His purpose on the earth.

“I find no guilt in him” (18:38) – Pilate said.

And yet, he released the real criminal, the sinner.

And so Barabbas walked free, a fore-runner of you and me!

Yet the innocent One was condemned – all of our gospel story.

Pilate had Jesus flogged by soldiers, they mocked Jesus mercilessly.

Jesus was silent just as had been prophesied (Isaiah 53:7)

Pilate then repeated same verdict two more times; “I find no guilt in him”! (vs4&6)

Dripping with irony, Jesus is accused of claiming to be exactly who He was – God! (vs7)

Pilate then questions Jesus again and lectures Jesus on authority!

Jesus replies; “You would have no authority over me unless it had been given to you from above.” (vs11)

Pilate shivers in his boots & tries to release Jesus again having found nothing wrong with Him, but the Jews revolt…

Pilate pronounces the truth about Jesus to those present, “Behold your King!” (vs14)

But Jesus is rejected by the Jews again, they don’t want Him as king they want him dead.

Pilate re-checks with those present, proclaiming truth as he does; “Shall I crucify your King?” (vs15)

Blasphemously they cry out; “We have no king but Caesar!” (vs15)

And so Jesus was condemned to die by crucifixion.

Pilate, God’s agent in the moment states the truth again as he inscribes on the cross; “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (vs19)

The Jewish officials try to get Pilate to change the wording to soften it’s meaning

Pilate would not budge; “What I have written, I have written.” (vs22)

Jesus, King of all kings, came to die in our place for our sin, the Lamb of God, the suffering servant, He the sinless One was bound so we could be freed, He was crushed for our iniquities and the punishment that God put on Him paid the way for us to be forgiven, His death and resurrection gave you and me life!  Behold your King!

Sharp Contrast (John 3:16-36)

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The Gospel explained in three verses.  Verses 16, 18 & 36 of chapter 3 of John’s gospel present a full and clear picture of the Gospel hope that we have in Jesus and the desperate situation of those who reject Jesus.

‘For God so loved the world(vs16)

The good news Jesus introduces here is news that would have been radical to the Jewish hearer – that God so loved, not just Israel but the whole world.   God had foretold of this widening of His blessing to encompass the whole world when He covenanted to bless Abraham and that Abraham in turn would bless all the familes of the earth.  The prophets had prophesied about this too like when Zechariah prophesied about the future incarnation of Christ and the impact this would have on the nations not just Israel;

Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord.  And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. (Zechariah 2:10-11)

‘that whoever believes in Him(vs16)

The offer is as wide as can be, it is to anyone, to whosoever.  But the offer is not without condition.  The condition for all people, whoever they are, is that they must believe.  They must have faith in or put their trust in Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

‘should not perish but have eternal life(vs16)

The result of believing in Jesus is that the believer can be assured that they will not be die/perish or be destroyed in the judgement to come but will enter into perpetual/eternal/everlasting/forever life!

‘Whoever believes in Him is not condemned(vs18)

All those who believe in Jesus are not and will not be condemned.  They will not be judged or damned by God the righteous judge.

‘but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God’ (vs18)

In sharp contrast is the current and future position anyone is in who does not believe in Jesus.  There is no nuetral ground here.  Our post-modern pluralistic world likes to make space for and validate every perspective but that is not the teaching of Scripture.  As inclusive as the ‘whoever’ is positively in vs16, that same ‘whoever’ is now inclusive of all who do not believe.

All who do not believe are at this very moment condemned by God!  They are in the most dangerous position imaginable right now and will be into eternity if there is no change.  They will be damned by God because they rejected God’s only Son whom God lovingly sent to save them from their sinful condition and consequences.

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.’ (vs36)

Re-iterating what He has already said, Jesus repeats the wide offer that anyone may believe in Him and that those who believe already have in this life entered into the eternal life only He can give us.   The Christ follower is not waiting for something that is only future but enters into real life now in this present age already.

However, again in sharp contrast whoever disbelieves/not believes/is disobedient/obeys not/is unbelieving will not experience this life that’s possible now or into eternity because their position is that the justifiable righeous indignation of the Holy One remains on them now and forever.

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All are invited to believe, all who believe will be forgiven and be given life eternal now and forevermore all because of Jesus’ life, death & resurrection, because of the love of Father God.  And yet not all will believe, and those who reject Jesus are right now in this present moment condemned already and have the wrath of God focussed on them.

May we who have already believed, tirelessly take this kind offer God’s made to ALL so that whoever believes will be forgiven, saved & will receive everlasting life now and forever.

What next? (Mark 16:14-20)

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Having died forsaken by all, and then having risen remarkably, showing Himself to a few and then to the whole group of His disciples Jesus then tells them what’s next. We know from other gospel accounts that Jesus told them about His imminent ascension.

But what next?
What were these followers of Jesus supposed to do now?
Go home? Go back to their old lives?
Is this the finish line or is it in fact the start line?

Jesus clearly commissions these ones who had given their lives to follow Him. Jesus tells them to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”.

There is no going back home, no retreat, this is not the finish-line or the end of the road! This is the start of the rest of the great adventure, the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ proclaiming what Jesus HAD DONE for anyone who believes in Him.

And whoever believes that message about Jesus will be saved, and those who are saved should be baptised. These believers (and all believers that were to follow) get equipped with authority over sickness and any demonic influence – to set people free so that they can believe in Jesus. They are promised the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues, they will do miraculous things in Jesus name… Jesus will empower them to do remarkable even miraculous things to confirm the message they carry about Him.

These last words are not just their mandate alone, but our mandate too. It is what the church of Jesus Christ is commissioned to do, what our individual lives ought to be taken up with (Jesus’ mandate to proclaim the good news about Him) and should be characterised by (demonstrations of kingdom power that authenticate the message).

Let’s live out this great adventure!
Believing in Jesus is just the start-line for us all, it’s not the end of the road, it’s the beginning of living the rest of our lives for Jesus and for His mission to reach the whole world.

Are you on-board?

[Theological Sidebar: Does this passage (vs16) teach that you must believe and be baptised to be saved? No. Note how although Jesus says whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, it goes on to only say that those who do not believe are condemned. Jesus does not say that those who do not believe and are not baptised are condemned. Baptism in water as a believer is a visible sign of the ]

Gospel Glimpses (Mark 15)

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Justification (vs3-5)

Jesus didn’t justify Himself, didn’t defend himself against His accusers, would’t speak in his own defence to Pilate’s amazement.  Why?  Jesus would not justify or defend Himself, in order that He could justify and defend from the accuser, those who trust in Him.

Substitution (vs6-15)

Jesus the sinless One was mocked, whipped, beaten and ultimately crucified in our place for our sin, while the sinner (Barabbas) walked free!  The One deserving of only praise substituted Himself and took the punishment that was only ours to bear.

Jesus saved us by not saving Himself (vs29-32)

Jesus was taunted; “save yourself!”  People thought Jesus’ death was a sign of Jesus’ lack of power, thought it was a moment of Jesus’ defeat and yet it was Jesus’ power and strength, His power of the will that kept Him there not a lack of power.  Jesus could have at any moment called upon a host of angels to save Himself from the cross and the mocking.  But Jesus endured the cross scorning its shame for the joy of what lay ahead if He did (Hebrews 12:2) – the joy of redeeming us and restoring us to a right relationship with Him.  Jesus didn’t save Himself so that He could save you and me.

Forsaken so we could be adopted (vs33-34)

In what I believe must be the most chilling, shocked words in all of Scripture, Jesus cries out to the Father; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus was forsaken, abandoned in that moment by the Father & the Spirit as the sin of the whole world rested on Him, so that those who put their trust in Him would never be forsaken by the Father ever.  Jesus was forsaken so that we who trust in Him could be adopted and would belong to the Father forever.

Access granted (vs37-39)

Jesus endured all of this, so that the way to God could be opened up forever.  Nothing remains between God and those Jesus has forgiven.  We are sons and daughters of the most High God, we belong in His presence, we have access, we have His heart and His attention.  We have no need of a sacrifice system or a priesthood, we have benefitted from the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus and we have one mediator between ourselves and God – Jesus Christ.

Praise Jesus!  There is no one like you Jesus.  None can compare.  Thank you for salvation, thank you for bearing everything that should have been ours and for giving us what we did not deserve.

Majoring in the Majors not the Minors (Mark 12:18-40)

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To love God fully & to love people sums up all the commandments.  We can easily make following Jesus overly complicated but Jesus makes God’s will exceedingly clear.

The Scribes and Pharisees were full of questions fixating on minor issues.  However in reality they were majoring on the minor and minoring in the momentous!

Jesus was and is God in the flesh in their midst.  Jesus had come to seek and save the lost, however most of these Pharisees and Scribes were not loving Him but rejecting Him.

As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states; “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  This is our purpose, to love, to honour, to glorify God in all we do.

And Jesus connects this with how we treat others.  If we truly love God, our hearts will be soft toward God and the Holy Spirit will lead us to love others as God has loved us.  This is the whole message of Galatians 5:16-24.

Loving God leads to loving people, being compassionate, merciful, forgiving as we have been forgiven.  That’s true godliness, true holiness.  That’s what we should be majoring in!

And the only way to get to a life that truly looks like that, is to have a life that is overtaken with love for God.  And the only way to love God more deeply is to see God more clearly, to see who He is and what He has done for us and to live out your whole life as a response.  #moreinawe

 

The Rich Young Ruler & Jesus (Mark 10:17-31)

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Consider for a moment the interaction between the young ruler and Jesus and what God is saying to you from it.

Who is Jesus?

The young man addressed Jesus as “Good Teacher” as he asked his question.  Jesus, however, resisted.  Wouldn’t let the man limit to his own ‘little box’ he’d made for Jesus.    Jesus is the majestic Lord of all, almighty God, ruler & creator of the universe, Lion of the Tribe of Judah…  You can’t just choose yourself who He is in your life.

You see, Either Jesus really is God or He is not.  If He is God then it follows that we MUST SURELY obey Him explicitly in ALL of life.  However, if He isn’t God then really don’t bother with anything about him ever again.

Good news not good advice

The young man’s question exposed that he didn’t understand the gospel, he was  legalistic and religious.  He wanted to know what more he could DO to inherit eternal life.  He was focussed on his moral performance thinking that was what God required from Him.  He was looking for GOOD ADVICE from Jesus, ‘what more can I DO to please God enough to earn eternal life?’.

Jesus’ response was designed to expose the futility in that thinking.  Go and keep all the commandments, and then give away everything you have to the poor!  With man this is impossible, Jesus said later on.  It is impossible to obey all the commandments fully and to have the right heart that God requires – no one can do it (Romans 3:10-12), no one.  That’s why Jesus came to earth, to do what we can’t do!

That’s why the gospel is GOOD NEWS not GOOD ADVICE.  It is not information about something we should DO, or something more we should DO (which is what the young man was asking).  The gospel is the GOOD NEWS of what Jesus has already DONE for us in our place because with us this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Thank you Jesus for the good news of the gospel!

Letting go to lay hold

Lastly from this passage we see that the young man sadly could not loosen his grasp on his possessions and money, couldn’t let go of what his security and pleasure was founded on and so went away – ‘disheartened’ (Mark 10:22).

You, can’t hold onto Jesus truly unless you let go of what you’re holding onto first!  We can’t simply add Jesus to the rest of our lives, following Jesus means laying down of everything in our lives at a heart level – giving it all up to lay hold of Jesus, trusting that Jesus is worthy of that level of devotion and trusting that Jesus is good and will reward those who do lay it all down for Him.

Why trumps what! (Mark 7:1-23)

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Why trumps what!  Why you do what you do, matters more to Jesus than just what you do.

The Pharisees and scribes are indignant! Jesus and his disciples are not adhering to the strict codes and traditions that had built up around God’s law that regulated every aspect of life in the attempt to keep ‘pure’.

These regulations legislated behaviour in everything, here Mark mentions the scenario of coming home from the market where one could have been defiled by contact with Gentiles and the need to wash hands, pots, plates & even couches!

Jesus’ disciples were being accused of not walking ‘according to the tradition of the elders’ (Mark 7:6). Jesus rebuffs their accusations, accusing them of caring more about their human traditions than about the original commands of God that the traditions were meant to encourage obedience to (Mark 7:8-13).

So what really matters? Jesus quotes the Old Testament to them (vs6-7) which reveals what God wants from every one of us. God wants our hearts not some external compliance that’s not rooted in love for God.

You see, why trumps what! Worship/godliness that’s only skin deep or behaviour that’s not emanating from a heart of worship is not worship at all.

God is after our hearts. What we do does matter, how we live does matter but its the motivation behind the external actions that God really cares about. It’s why we do what we do that matters to God.

This is the difference between religious legalism and the gospel! Tim Keller sums it up when he says;

‘“I obey therefore I am accepted by God” = Religion
“I am accepted by God because of Jesus, therefore I obey” = The Gospel

God freely accepts those who believe in Jesus and accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness for their sins. God then delights as those saved sons and daughters begin to obey His will for their lives, not because they must, not because they’re trying to be accepted but because they already are accepted by Him, because their hearts have been melted by His love and His mercy and His grace and transformed so that they beat now with a new desire – to please their Father who is in heaven! What results, is the motivation for all true godly behaviour. Why trumps what!

So, gaze again at Jesus!  Consider who He is and what He has done for you.  Be freshly impacted, amazed at Him and live your whole life as a response to His incredible love for you.  What will result is observable godliness rooted in worship, and that pleases God.

Good news not Good advice! (Mark 1:1-15)

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“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1) 

The Gospel of Mark is all about the good news about Jesus Christ.  As we read it together this month, that’s what we will discover, this short book is all about the good news, the truth about Jesus Christ.

The word ‘gospel’ means – good news, good message or announcement, and announcements and advice are quite different!

”Advice is counsel about something that hasn’t happened yet, but you can do something about it. News is a report about something that has happened which you can’t do anything about because it has been done for you and all you can do is to respond to it.” – Dr Martin Lloyd Jones

Advice wouldn’t have helped you and I we needed the announcement of good news.  Religion is all about; ADVICE – DO this, don’t DO that for fear of this or that as a consequence…  But advice doesn’t help, it doesn’t lift a finger to help.  And yet help is what we desperately need.

The good news about Jesus is what we need.  The gospel about Jesus is all about the GOOD NEWS of what has already been DONE for you/me by Jesus.  We can’t change it, we can’t do it again, it was DONE by Jesus through His life, death and resurrection and it was DONE for us.

All you can do is accept His offer, believe He has DONE it all for you and then live out your whole life as a response to His act of love towards you!

  1. Contemplate for while the differences between; GOOD NEWS and ADVICE and the GOSPEL and RELIGION.
  2. Pray now and thank Jesus for what He has DONE for you!

God is just (2 Thessalonians 1:1-12)

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Paul has been boasting about these Thessalonian believers to other churches.  He has been encouraged by their growing faith and love, and also by their steadfastness and faith in the midst of the persecution and the affliction they have had to endure because of their faith.

“Faith under fire becomes faith refined by the fire.”

But what comfort is there for those who are being treated unjustly, persecuted because of their faith in Christ?

“…indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven…” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7)

What comfort is there?  Scripture answers that God is just.  Implied here is that our Father God who is the righteous all-knowing judge of all sees everything that is done and that which is not done that ought to have been done.  God is just, because God will afflict those who have afflicted His children.

And so the knowledge that God is just gives relief/rest to one who has been unjustly treated or who has seen their loved ones unjustly treated.

We are often tempted to make premature assessments, in this life.  It can and does sometimes look like the unjust go unpunished, seemingly unaffected by their sin and seemingly free from consequences despite the despicable things they have inflicted on others.  Our systems of justice often let people down as the justice they deserve slips away into the cracks of our sin-broken societal systems of justice.

But for those who call God ‘Father’ there will be justice.  Our Father will act on our behalf and knowing this relieves us of any need to attempt to ‘repay evil with evil’ (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

Rather, we can and should forgive people.  As we do, we are stopping that thing they did from continuing to rob or hurt us into the future.  Forgiving people sets the forgiver free, and leaves the forgiven before the God of all the earth – who is just.

Ask Father God right now.  Is there anyone I need to forgive?

Choose now to set yourself free, choose now to stop allowing that thing from continuing to impact your life.  Thank your Father that He is just.

When though?  You might say, well I haven’t seen God being just yet!

I believe there are times when we do see the justice of God in this lifetime come upon people, but this passage is very clear that the time everyone will know that God is just is on the day when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with attending angels and flames of fire (vs7-8).

On that day God the righteous judge will ‘inflict vengeance/retribution’ (vs8) on those  who wronged his children (implied by the context) and specifically on those who rejected Jesus Christ.

Note how God is the active agent here, God the righteous just judge is the One inflicting retribution.  This clear teaching in Scripture confronts the unbiblical popular notion that the God of Scripture is some wishy washy dispenser of ‘love’ or that it is loving  to the victim to let the wicked go unpunished for the sin done to them!

And yet on this same day that Jesus comes back in all His glory, on this day when the unrighteous who rejected Christ will face the punishment for their sin (vs9) and will be shut out from the presence of God forever and ever, on that same day those of us who believed in Jesus will be glorying in Jesus, will be marvelling at Jesus in all His revealed splendour and majesty (vs10)!

May, you believe, may you ask Jesus Himself to forgive you of the wrong you’ve done before that Day.  May you and I reach out to EVERYONE we can while we still can with the good news that anyone can join that happy crowd (vs10) if they will only bow the knee now and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and ask Him to forgive them of their sin.

For if you do accept Jesus, God is just, and so will forgive you of your sin, you will not face any punishment for whatever you did, because God already punished that sin when Jesus died on the cross in your place for your sin, and so God will be just to save you and welcome you into a glorious eternity with Him.

Have you crossed the line of faith and put your faith in Jesus and asked Him to forgive you of all your sin?

Ask the Holy Spirit now to put people on your heart who don’t yet believe in Jesus, pray for them and DO ANYTHING the Holy Spirit leads you to do…

The ‘Yeast’ of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13-20)

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Paul, Silas & Timothy shared the Gospel in Thessalonica then had to leave the city after only a short time for fear of their lives. Would the believers who came to faith in Christ remain? Would the church that formed as a result of their Gospel sharing survive without their input and leadership?

We know that Paul believed that the Gospel is a powerful force because he says in Romans 1:16 that it is ‘the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes’. Here, having had to leave the brand new Thessalonian believers alone Paul had a confidence…WHY?

I love making bread. It often amazes me that only about 0,5% of yeast is needed in dough to make bread rise. The seemingly insignificant amount of yeast slowly begins to start working through the dough eventually transforming the whole batch of dough as it gets ready to become bread.

The Gospel is similar, it can just seem like some profound but seemingly insignificant or simple words like the yeast in over a two kilograms of flour and water. But the Gospel is the power of God!

And this I believe is Paul’s confidence, they shared so little with the Thessalonians but what they did share in those three weeks was the Gospel, the good news about Jesus, WHO He is and WHAT He has DONE for us. And that good news is ‘the word of God’ ‘which is at work in you believers’ (vs13). Like some yeast, the Gospel was at work, producing ongoing transformation in these believers who had to be left when Paul and his team fled for their lives.

The Gospel is not just how we enter the Kingdom of God, the gospel is the power of God to save and change us continually ever increasingly into the resemblance of God’s glory.

Back to yeast for a moment, as a baker apart from mixing the yeast into the ingredients there is nothing else you can do, no work required for the yeast to do its transformative work…

Similarly you and I can trust in the power of the Gospel to produce it’s transformative effect in our own lives and in the lives of others whom God has chosen. Whatever it is that needs transforming in your life, I am convinced that the Gospel is the power you need to bring about that transformation.

So I urge you to meditate continually on the fact that you are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than you dared to believe, yet at the very same time you are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than you ever dared hope (Tim Keller) – and let those truths melt your heart and guide your actions.

The Gospel came, was received & was passed on… (1 Thessalonians 1:5-10)

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1) The Gospel CAME to you… vs5

‘not just with words’

This means at least two things; firstly, it did come with words, words are important, we must share the good news about Jesus with our words as Christ followers, with our preaching as the church.

‘but also in power and in the Holy Spirit’

Secondly, words alone are not enough but need to be confirmed with God’s power which at least is God’s miraculous power at work through Holy Sprit in anyone who believes.  More than this it can also point to external miracles of healing etc that authenticate what is being spoken of about God/Jesus.

So when we share the good news we should pray for our words to come with Holy Spirit power and we should step out in faith allowing God to use us to authenticate His word with acts of power!

 ‘and with full conviction’

The Gospel was proclaimed as it is, the truth and so was proclaimed with confidence and or it was received with full conviction by those who heard it.

2) And you RECEIVED it…vs6

The Thessalonians received the good news about Jesus with joy that was given by the Holy Spirit in spite of much affliction from the surrounding culture (opposition/persecution) because they believed.

Do you remember that feeling of bubbling joy, the feeling that something was exceedingly right when you came to faith in Jesus?  

Coming to faith might mean much struggle, much that needs to change or even opposition… But nothing can rob one of the joy of knowing, sins are forgiven, future is secure, identity & belonging are resolved forever!

3) You were TRANSFORMED & you RESPONDED passing it on to others…vs8-10

The result of the Gospel in their lives was that they became an example for other believers.  The Gospel sounded out from them in the whole region, more than that their faith was reported way further….

The testimony that rung out from them was specifically how they had; ‘turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God’ and how you’re now waiting ‘for His Son from heaven’.

True Gospel transformation starts with the gospel coming to us, then us responding to it with faith and then our being transformed so that we become ‘speakers’ relaying the very same Gospel to others.

Meditate again on your salvation, the goodness of the Gospel message.

Meditate again thanking God for saving you, for convincing you, for giving you freedom and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Ask God to use YOU, to let the Gospel ring out from you, your lips, your life.

Gospel Transformation (1 Thess 1:1-5)

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The preaching of the Gospel always transforms! In Thessalonica the Gospel transformed people in the following ways;

  1. The Gospel formed relationships that had previously not existed. New relationships both within the church and also between those in the church and Paul’s apostolic team. Paul could write how they would regularly pray giving thanks to God for the Thessalonian believers and for what happened in the lives of those who believed there. (vs2)  They had previously not known each other, but now they were joined at a heart level.
  2. The Gospel resulted in inner-life transformation in the believers of Thessalonica.  Having believed the Gospel, they were described as those having faith, love & hope despite harsh opposition in their city. (vs3)  They were described as having faith, hope & love.  This triad (faith, hope, love) is used regularly in the New Testament to describe what the believer’s life becomes characterised by as a result of the Gospel’s transformative effect.
  3. The Gospel produced tangible external transformation.  Note how each of the three Gospel characteristics is paired with a practical observable outworking in their lives;
  • Faith results in work (action/deeds)
  • Love results in labour (toil/trouble/pains)
  • Hope results in steadfastness (cheerful endurance)

True faith in God is evidenced by actions that show that faith to be real.

True love received from God through the Gospel results in real committed love for others that’s robust.

True hope in Christ fortifies us in the midst of present trials and suffering enabling cheerful endurance.

When we believe the good news about Jesus, that truth doesn’t leave our lives unchanged but transforms our relationships, our experience, our thinking and our actions in very observable ways.

Gospel priority & power (Acts 17:1-9)

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In the month of October we are going to be reading through Paul’s letters to the believers he left behind in Thessalonica, the church that was formed through his  brief preaching in that city.

We start, today by looking at the record the book of Acts has of the genesis moment of this church in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9).

Having been beaten, imprisoned then miraculous released from prison in Philippi for preaching the good news about Jesus, Paul & Silas are ejected from Philippi and move on to Thessalonica and within days they are preaching the Gospel again in the synagogue at Thessalonica;

And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” (Acts 17:2-3)

Don’t miss this.  Paul and Silas have just miraculously been released from jail and having been beaten for the Gospel by the authorities in Philippi and they don’t go into their shell, they don’t back-off their God-given mission, not even for a moment.

The Gospel was their priority and preoccupation.  They had good news about Jesus that the world around them needed to hear.

Can you say that sharing the Gospel is a priority in your life?

What small changes can you make to change this if change is needed?
Amazingly it appears as though Paul & Silas were only in Thessalonica for about a month or so.  They proclaim the Gospel in the Synagogue for only three weeks and then hostile opposition forces them out of the city…

And yet during that time it’s recorded that Gospel seeds had been sown;

4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. (Acts 17:4)

When the Gospel is preached, it’s power is released and new communities of faith are formed.  This brand new church community began to form in response to the Gospel message.  A new community of faith was formed, made up of God-fearing Greeks, some of the Jewish people from the Synagogue and a number of leading women in that city.  Paul recounts in 1 Thessalonians 1:1-9 how they were saved when they ‘turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.’

And this is the church that Paul writes his letters of 1 & 2 Thessalonians to.  He had only preached there for a month or so, and yet the Gospel is so powerful that lives are transformed, people who were previously not connected become a community of faith that endures despite significant threat and opposition and becomes a church of Jesus Christ.

Are you convinced of the power of the Gospel to transform lives and form community?

When we share the good news about Jesus, always remember it is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16) and so you can be confident that it will bring about transformation in people’s lives.  So keep sowing Gospel seed everyday, wherever God sends you in your everyday life.

 

God’s love poured into our hearts (Romans 5:5)

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“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit

who has been given to us.”  (Romans 5:5)

How do you feel God’s love? (My Facebook post 17/06/2013)

We know God loves us, but do you feel it?  My kids know I love them but when I hug them they experience that knowledge tangibly.

Romans 5:6 says; “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Don’t you love the chosen adjective here? God’s love has been “poured” into our hearts, gushed into, spilled over into are the other potential translations…  The measure here is abundance not measured. God abundantly gives us an experience of his love by the Holy Spirit.

No wonder Paul encourages us to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) as this results in us knowing God loves me this I know for through the Holy Spirit I feel it so…

Jane Hampton (Facebook comment on my post 17/06/2013) That’s my prayer for those I love who are battling with His reality – that He would pour His love into their hearts by His Holy Spirit so they know His love and presence. But I don’t know how?

Oh, how I want answers to this pastoral question.  Now I know no Greek, but I am equipped with some resources to delve into the Greek and I am confident that Scripture is true, and therefore true for all people.

On reflection I felt drawn to the verb “poured” and it’s tenses and discovered that this verb is in the perfect, passive, indicative, 3rd person!  Feels like I have dipped my foot into a pool that’s way too deep for me…

But having read up on this my summary is that this verb “poured” used to describe God’s action towards us concerning His love this is what I have discovered;

It’s happened already!  God’s love was poured into our hearts.  The perfect tense describes a completed action, that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present.

It’s not up to us!  The verb poured is also in the passive and third person tenses.  What this means is that God is the active person, we are being acted upon; we are those who are receiving this love that is  poured out by God.  We don’t have to work for it, do anything for it.

It is real!  Finally the verb is also in the indicative tense which means that – according to the writer what is being described as happening is real, it is not just a feeling, it is actual not just possible.

Putting it all together now…  In what way has God’s love been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us?  Verse 6 gives us the answer – Jesus’ dying for us on the cross is how God’s love has been perfectly poured out by Him for us in a real way so that we really receive the actual love of God.

What must we do?  How do we feel this love?  Firstly let’s acknowledge that the word study here reveals that we can’t strive to have God’s love poured into our hearts!  It is His action that’s being described, an action, an event that has already happened, which is real (not just a feeling) and is not up to us at all.

So what can we do?  I believe that we are to meditate on the finished work of Christ on the cross which is the demonstration of God’s love for us.  We know God loves us, because the Holy Spirit tells us that God died for us in our place because He loved us enough to give Himself for us so that we could be with Him forever.  The cross is the epicenter of God’s love and when we feel His love tangibly now today, what we are feeling are the ongoing shockwaves of that real event that is at the centre of all history and the one on which we should centre our lives as well.