Gospel

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.