Tag Archives: Gospel

Jesus Comes for Sinners

Ragamuffin Gospel“Here is revelation bright as the evening star: Jesus comes for sinners, for those as outcast as tax collectors and for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams. He comes for corporate executives, street people, superstars, farmers, hookers, addicts, IRS agents, AIDS victims, and even used-car salesmen. Jesus not only talks with these people but dines with them—fully aware that His table fellowship with sinners will raise the eyebrows of religious bureaucrats who hold up the robes and insignia of their authority to justify their condemnation of the truth and their rejection of the gospel of grace.”

~ Excerpted from The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2013. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Brennan Manning, Christ, Christianity, God, Gospel, Grace, Sin

Are we still in awe of the Gospel?

The following article by Eric Geiger challenged me.

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For years, I have heard church leaders bemoan the reality that the majority of Christians never or rarely share their faith with unbelievers. Though declaring the good new of Jesus to others is the responsibility of every Christ-follower, few people in our churches embrace the holy assignment. Why?

CL_why_your_people_are_not_sharing_their_faith_320620438In his book, Contagious, author and professor, Jonathan Berger, writes about how thinking and social influence spread, or “why things catch on.” In one chapter, he shares insights from a study that sought to discover why some online articles are shared more than other articles.

Several insights were gleaned, but the strongest discovery was that articles that drove a sense of awe into readers were 30 times more likely to make the list of “most shared articles.” Readers are much more likely to share articles that evoke a sense of awe.

Quite simply, we can’t help but spread news that we find amazing.

Though the book is on every marketing professional’s shelf, the chapter was convicting for me as a believer in Jesus Christ.

According to the research, if I am not sharing the gospel, it is because I have lost my sense of awe and appreciation for it.

The reason the majority of the people in our churches don’t share the gospel is not because they haven’t been through a course. Nor is it because they failed to participate in a training seminar.

Not sharing the gospel reveals a loss of awe about the depths to which He plunged to rescue us. Not sharing the faith with others reveals a loss of amazement that He gave us His righteousness for our sin.

If we are still in awe that the holy and eternal God of the universe would pursue us in our sinfulness, humble Himself and suffer in our place, become the curse for our sin, and absorb our punishment to give us His peace, then we can’t help but share this news. If we are convinced that the news about Jesus is truly good news, we can’t help but spread it.

When the religious leaders asked Peter and John, two of Jesus’ disciples, to stop speaking about Jesus, they replied, “We are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Their hearts were filled with awe for Jesus and His work for them; thus, there was no way they could be silent.

When Jeremiah considered not speaking for the Lord, he realized he could not hold the message inside without exploding: “If I say, ‘I won’t mention Him or speak any longer in His name,” His message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. I become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail” (Jeremiah 20:9).

Whatever we find amazing, we share. We spread what we are in awe of.

If a church leader is frustrated with a lack of personal evangelism among the people in the congregation, the wisest move is to continually remind the people of God’s amazing grace.

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Are we still in awe of the Gospel?

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2013. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Evangelism, God, Gospel, influence with the world, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, Wonder

What did Jesus think of religion?

Jesus had an uncanny ability to infuriate people!

No_20Religion_20for_20siteOn several occasions Jesus went toe-to-toe with the religious leaders and one of their “hot buttons” was what constituted work on the Sabbath. (Mk 2:23-28; 3:1-6)

Jesus used the Sabbath to heal and bless others which, while keeping with God’s original intent, angered the religious elite because it violated their rules. What we see in these encounters is Jesus putting on display two radically different spiritual paradigms. A paradigm is simply a particular way of viewing or approaching something.

One paradigm is religion, which is merely a person’s efforts to follow advice about how to secure God’s favor. It take’s many forms but all boils down to this: I receive from God what I work for or earn.

The other paradigm is the Gospel, which begins and ends with news. Something truly amazing has been done for us and we simply need to embrace it.

It’s sort of like this…

Suppose you had a loved one who needed a heart transplant to live and I possessed a heart that doctors could use to save them.

If I said: “If you do everything I tell you to do and do it well enough to earn my favor then I will allow you this heart to save your loved one.” That’s religion.

If I said: “Here is a heart for your loved one. I want you to have it as a gift. In fact, I’ve allowed my own son to die so that your loved one could live.”  That’s the Gospel.

The Gospel is so much better than religion but the Pharisees couldn’t handle it. After one such encounter “the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” (Mk 3:6) This is staggering because the Pharisees and Herodians were arch enemies!

The Pharisees fought to preserve the integrity and purity of God’s word while the Herodians were Jews who compromised in order to get along with King Herod – the Roman ruler. Their approaches to life and God were polar opposites! Tim Keller in Jesus the King sums it up well.

The “traditional values” approach to life is moral conformity—the approach taken by the Pharisees. It is that you must lead a very, very good life. The progressive approach, embodied in the Herodians, is self-discovery—you have to decide what is right or wrong for you. And according to the Bible, both of these are ways of being your own savior and lord. Both are hostile to the message of Jesus. And not only that, both lead to self-righteousness. The moralist says, “The good people are in and the bad people are out—and of course we’re the good ones.” The self-discovery person says, “Oh, no, the progressive, open-minded people are in and the judgmental bigots are out—and of course we’re the open-minded ones.”

Do these two approaches to life and God sound familiar? They should! They are how most people do life today. But Keller goes on to describe how the Gospel is different.

The gospel does not say, “the good are in and the bad are out,” nor “the open-minded are in and the judgmental are out.” The gospel says the humble are in and the proud are out. The gospel says the people who know they’re not better, not more open-minded, not more moral than anyone else, are in, and the people who think they’re on the right side of the divide are most in danger.

Which of the following are you putting your trust in?

  • The keeping of certain moral standards… (Pharisees)
  • The right to determine your own moral standards… (Herodians), or
  • The Gospel… that we are all sinners (truth) in need of God’s forgiveness (grace) made available through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection!

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2013. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, God, Grace, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, Truth

God’s love invites us to be real

Reading is one of my primary venues for connecting with God; and every once in a while I come across something that speaks to the deepest parts of my soul in a fresh and life-giving way; such as the following by Brennan Manning.

Thomas Merton‘s notion of sin focuses not primarily on individual sinful acts but on a fundamental option for a life of pretense. Living out of the false self creates a compulsive desire to present a perfect image to the public so that everybody will admire us and nobody will know us. “There can only be two basic loves,” wrote Augustine, “the love of God unto the forgetfulness of self, or the love of self unto the forgetfulness of God.” (Emphasis mine)

Merton said that a life devoted to the shadow is a life of sin. I have sinned in my cowardly refusal – out of fear of rejection – to think, feel, act, respond, and live from my authentic self. We even refuse to be our true self with God – and then wonder why we lack intimacy with Him.

Accepting the reality of our sinfulness means accepting our authentic self. When we accept the truth of what we really are and surrender it to Jesus Christ, we are enveloped in peace, whether or not we feel ourselves to be at peace. By that I mean the peace that passes understanding is not a subjective sensation of peace; if we are in Christ, we are in peace even when we feel no peace.

The Master says to us: “Burn the old tapes spinning ’round in your head that bind you up and lock you into a self-centered stereotype. Listen to the new song of salvation written for those who know they are poor. Let go of your fear of the Father and your dislike of yourself. The father of lies twists the truth and distorts reality. He is the author of cynicism and skepticism, mistrust and despair, sick thinking and self-hatred. I am the Son of Compassion. You belong to me and no one will tear you from My hand.”

Jesus discloses God’s true feelings toward us. As we turn the pages of the Gospels, we discover that the people Jesus encounters there are you and me. The understanding and compassion He offers them, He also offers you and me.
~ From The Rabbi’s Heartbeat by Brennan Manning, p. 31-32

“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” ~ 1 John 4:15-16

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Filed under Authenticity, Children of God, Christianity, Grace, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Love of God

“I am not a fan of Jesus”

It’s not often that I recommend a resource before I’ve actually read or watched it but that’s how sure I am of Kyle Idleman’s new book – Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus. I’ve heard Kyle preach/teach on numerous occasions and he is not only one of the most gifted communicators I know but also one of the most authentic. The following is from his website.

Are you a follower of Jesus?

Don’t answer too quickly.

In fact, you may want to read the book before you answer at all. Consider it a “Define the Relationship” conversation to determine exactly where you stand.

fan: an enthusiastic admirer.

In the Gospels, Jesus never seemed too interested in fans.

Is that how you define your relationship with Him? An “enthusiastic admirer”? Close enough to Jesus to get the benefits but not so close to require sacrifice?

He was looking for followers. Not just any follower though, but a…

completely. committed. follower.

How would things change if we lived as Jesus lived, and loved the way He loved?

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Filed under Christianity, Commitment, Discipleship, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Loving God, Surrender

What is your day centered on?

We humans are creatures of habit, aren’t we? And our habits reflect our true selves – we all build our daily lives around our priorities and passions…I’m sure you have your own daily rituals. Reading the sports page of the Washington Post each day became one of mine. To this very moment, I count it a good day when I can sit down, read my favorite columns, and get the latest scores and stats.

Add eating chocolate to the routine and it becomes a very good day!

We make time for what we truly value. We build habits and routines around the things that really matter to us. This is an important principle to understand as we seek to build our lives around the gospel. Do you want a cross centered life?

A cross centered life is made up of cross centered days.
— Excerpted from Living The Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney

I hate it when God smacks me between the eyes with a virtual 2×4 but that’s what I needed and this author is absolutely right – we do make time for what we consider to be most important.

What part of your daily routine keeps you centered on the cross and Jesus as Lord of life?

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Filed under intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Life in General, Loving God

What’s in a name?

Jesus

Image via Wikipedia

I don’t know about you but I like those movies that start with a BANG! From the very first scene they have you on the edge of your seat with nail-biting excitement. A car chase; a fight scene; something exploding…

That’s what comes to mind when I read the first chapter of John’s Gospel. In the very first chapter he uses no less than 7 names or titles for Jesus!

  1. The Word – 1:1-3, 14
  2. The Light – 1:4-13
  3. The Son of God – 1:15-28, 49
  4. The Lamb of God – 1:29-34
  5. The Messiah – 1:35-42
  6. The King of Israel – 1:43-49
  7. The Son of Man – 1:50-51

John wrote his account later than the other three Gospels, probably sometime between 70 – 100 A.D. Why does John use such powerful imagery with all these names for Jesus? Because he’s on a singular mission.

But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. ~ John 20:31 (NIV)

The early followers of Jesus were undergoing some intense persecution and were perhaps wavering in their faith; so John writes to encourage them by reminding them that Jesus was indeed God’s chosen Messiah – the giver of life.

Take a few moments to reflect on how John speaks of Jesus.

  • The Word – God’s creative power at work in the universe and in us.
  • The Light – That which illuminates the way to God and real life.
  • The Son of God – the one and only, equal with the Father and the Spirit.
  • The Lamb of God – the One who sacrificed his very life to pay our sin debt.
  • The Messiah – the anointed one, set aside for a special purpose.
  • The King of Israel – the rightful ruler of life, our Lord.
  • The Son of Man – fully God and fully man, able to identify with our struggles.

Which of these descriptions of Jesus and how He relates to us is most meaningful to you today? Identify it, thank God and enjoy Jesus!

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Filed under Gratitude, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus