Tag Archives: Jesus

My story, generically told

Life happens, and it’s happened enough to have messed me up a bit. Fortunately, I met Jesus. It was not finding faith or getting religion. I met Jesus. I knew that He was real, that He loved me, and that He cleansed people. I knew that I knew. Embracing His love and cleansing was amazing.

Being a Christian, I quite naturally hung out with other Christians. My biggest misunderstanding of my life came from them. They taught me that God was the God of the second chance. With Jesus having given me a second chance, they made it my responsibility to make good use of this new start. I didn’t. because I couldn’t. It resulted in my feeling an utter failure, and trying harder. And the harder I tried, the more I failed.

They were wrong in what they taught me. Jesus does exist, and He loves us, and cleanses us. But He loves us so much that He cleanses us by making us new. Christians are born again. We are new creations, righteous with His righteousness, and un-dirty-able.

I was on very young when I first met Jesus. I was on my way to fifty before I discovered that my new start was really a new life. All I have to do is believe it. When I do, He lives His life through me. This has radically transformed me. Instead of condemnation and failure, my life is now marked by gratitude and rest. My innards are healthy, and as time goes by, I’m definitely much less messed up. Amazingly, I also find myself reacting a little more like Jesus would from time to time, and its great.

My plan is to spend the rest of my days helping as many other people understand this as what I can. It’s really big deal. It’s the Gospel!

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Our Braveheart

Who can forget Mel Gibson’s epic performance in Braveheart? The 1995 blockbuster tells the tale of legendary thirteenth century Scottish hero William Wallace, who rallied the Scottish against the English monarch and Edward I.

Movies in this genre will always be popular because our hearts will always be moved by courageous leaders who rally common men like us to live and die for great and noble causes. And there is nothing amiss with the sentiments evoked, for they have been programmed into us by our Creator. This is how our hearts should be, making leadership a first-order issue of immense importance, no matter the context.

That said, recognising, rallying around, adoring and following our True Braveheart, Jesus, will go a long way towards injecting a greater level of health into the church. Following Him is something we all do together in the church, leaders and congregation alike. There are most certainly differences in gifts and callings, anointings and authority, roles and placements within the church. Yet we must remain emphatic regarding our all having received a faith of equal standing. It is Jesus who is our Braveheart, and only Jesus.

Thank God for every hero of the faith, ancient and modern, in whom Jesus resonates. The louder the echo of His greatness the better. Let’s be inspired and encouraged; even grateful. But let’s never be confused. It’s all about Jesus!

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The Gospel attracts

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Him.” (Luke 15:1)

Jesus is attractive! And Jesus is the Gospel, remember. He is God’s message. In this our Lord has been grossly misrepresented. He is wrongfully portrayed, frowning disapprovingly, the holy God who hates sin. That much is true – He does hate sin. But He is not the God of the frown. He is the God of the warm, open-hearted, beckoning smile, for He has dealt with sin. He did so, once for all, through the cross of Christ. When He looks at His world, He does so to save, not counting humanity’s sins against them. These were credited to Jesus’ account.

c0qcsmwIt’s also good continually to remind ourselves that this world is His world, and He loves it. He created it, and He is its Redeemer. The Lord does not labour under the same sacred-secular divide we do. He loves all men, and does good to all. He sends rain on the righteous and on sinners. All good gifts come from Him, and He does not limit them to His children. God is good to all, for God is good. So it was that the grace of God, which saved us, touched our lives long before we ever placed our confidence in Jesus. We’ve all observed the way in which children exhibit profound, unfettered faith. You and I were once that child. Like most others, you and I in all probability were educated out of that faith, this through the influence of others and the messy business of just living. Yet, again and again along the way, we were also the beneficiaries of the prevenient (going ahead of) grace of God.

Coming to faith in Christ is a personal journey. While there is most often a clear moment of believing, there is also almost always process involved. For some the journey is shorter and sharper, the Gospel heard and believed, but for others it is a long and protracted one. The very idea of being born again helps us to understand this, for spiritual realities are reflected in the natural realm for the benefit of our insight. When the proud parents announce that their baby was born at 05h15 in the morning, they are not implying that everything took place in a moment. We know that the moment of birth was the culmination of many months, starting with conception, through gestation, and finally the rigours of labour.

j8rxvtJesus is the way to the Father. The Gospel – good news about good God and what He has done – is empowered by the Spirit to unfurl this attractiveness to men and women the world over, no matter who they are, or what their circumstance might be. Jesus is a suitor who woos His bride. Be sure, the Jesus-way is a narrow road, for it is an exclusive one – no one comes to the Father but by Him – yet at the same time it is the broadest highway imaginable, for our Heavenly Father desires that all men be saved. It is a road without condemnation, disapproval, rejection or demand. No toll fees to be paid. No strings attached. No obstacles to be overcome. It is the easiest thing imaginable to come to faith in Christ, for God has made it so. Were it at all difficult, then many, if not most, would be excluded. Rather than difficult and obstacle-ridden, the way to the Father is by grace alone through faith alone. It’s Good News Boulevard, a highly incentivised pathway, for along it can be found provision, healing, deliverance, acceptance, restoration, opportunity, mercy, loving-kindness, and much, much more besides. These are there for the taking, for Christ has given all, and He asks nothing in return. The mystery is how, in so doing, we are won heart and soul, and will give anything back to Him in return.

It is therefore not ours somehow to make Jesus attractive or appealing by the way we do church or share the Gospel. Neither is it ours to make Him relevant in any way. He is attractive and He is relevant. Our challenge is not to distort the unconditional beauty of Perfect God, who is Love itself, in our bearing witness to Him.

One of the surest signs that we’ve moved away from the Gospel is that we are no longer attractive to sinners. It happens all too easily. Our Christianity inadvertently becomes about ourselves, and more about what we’re doing, than about Jesus and what He has done. It’s a subtle shift, from Jesus to Jesus plus – Jesus plus prayer; Jesus plus worship; Jesus plus evangelism, revival, holiness, our church, or some other vision – good things all, but before long, religiosity begins to rear its ugly head.

Jesus plus can be very popular with some Christians. At times they’ll flock in droves, even travelling great distances for it. Not that there is anything inherently amiss in events that are by Christians for Christians about secondary matters. It’s just that these should not be the dominant norm. They should not define, let alone consume us.

farfalle-notturne-4561Surely it is obvious, to the point of being self-evident, that Christians and churches should be like Jesus – magnets to sinners and repellent of Pharisaic self-righteousness. Sinners can sniff out a fake a mile off. Being attractive to sinners is not something you do, it’s something you are! The Gospel is more than something you believe; it is something you embody. You do not as much have it as it has you. If the Gospel has you, ministry flows, to believer and unbeliever equally generously. None of us has anything better to offer another than Christ and His perfect work. Embattled saint or rebellious sinner – both find hope and life in Jesus. Any local church that gets to grips with this will have no problem filling their building. Their gatherings will be condemnation-free zones, and their singing, preaching and prophesying all about what Jesus has done. These gatherings will likely be a bit messy, pleasingly reminiscent of the crowds around Jesus. To fix this is to lose it. To love unconditionally is to partner with God in the bringing to salvation those for whom He died. New Covenant discipleship is teaching people to love and trust Jesus. As we shall see, it is He who transforms lives.

Like moths to a flame. This is the Gospel!

Adapted from the e-book “Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever!” by Gavin Cox

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The Gospel informs

tragic-jesus-crucifixion-pamela-johnsonThe first thing that the Gospel does is inform. It tells people who Jesus is, what He did, and why He did it. It conveys the facts.

“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14)

As it does so, it addresses any number of things that folk are confused about. Given the amount of trouble in our world, people are surprisingly ignorant of the fact that the mess we’re in is not God’s fault. As we share the Gospel with them, they discover that He is good, and that His intentions towards us are good. They also learn of His plan of salvation, and they learn that it is a free gift already given to them, no strings attached.

imagesAccurately conveyed, the Gospel has been appropriately described as the greatest story ever told. The ability to communicate it precisely, creatively and skilfully, is within reach of everybody. This is thanks to the fact that the Jesus story is a story that the Holy Spirit just loves to help tell. It’s also all been couched in picture-language and story-form, remember. And besides, every good gift, random kindness, or incident of unmerited favour speaks of it. When you understand this, luck and coincidence cease, and are replaced by a serendipity whose architect is Grace.

Right at the centre of it all is Jesus, last Adam, who identified with our humanity in any and every way. Consider the following: Jesus was conceived out of wedlock, and so was effectively born to a single mom. He was adopted and raised by his step-father. His birth was to a relatively poor family, and in a stable. He spent a part of his early childhood in exile, for His were a subjugated and oppressed people. During His relatively short life He experienced significant loss (His cousin John was unjustly executed), and He was consistently misunderstood. He was also misused, the needy extracting from Him without thanks or concern for His well-being. Then, having done nought but good, He was wrongfully accused, unjustly condemned, and brutally executed even though clearly innocent. Alongside injustice of every kind, He endured frenzied and seething hatred, riotousness, imprisonment, mocking, horrific beatings, public humiliation, betrayal, abandonment, deprivation, loneliness, fear and shame. He died destitute, and even tasted separation from God as He became a sin offering.

cross-211989_640During His lifetime Jesus consistently embraced the marginalised, aided the poor, delivered the bound, and healed the sick. He touched lepers, engaged prostitutes and adulteresses, and dined with tax collectors and sinners of all kinds. He held and blessed babies, stepped over cultural divides, and even had time to engage the thief crucified alongside Him.

The five major metaphors of salvation underline all the more the degree to which Jesus identified with humanity in all of its frailty. In the law courts of heaven those who were once guilty are justified; in Christ they are declared not guilty. Through the cross of Christ those who were enslaved to satan, sin and flesh find their freedom. Those once imprisoned are redeemed, ransomed, set free. Jesus was tempted and tested by the devil. Enticed and opposed, He triumphed. The serpent (satan) bruised His heel (the crucifixion), but Jesus crushed his head (total defeat on every front). Christ is the victor in whom any embattled man or woman can find victory. The cross breached every divide. In Christ, God and sinner are reconciled, and because of this reconciliation, every other divide becomes reconcilable. Thanks to the cross even the worst of our enemies might yet be our friends. Furthermore, Jesus taught us that meaning in life is found in the will of God. For this we were created, and to this we are saved. Everyone has purpose, for accidental pregnancies are a reality, but accidental children are not. All of us are the work of His hands.

electrifying-jesus-crucifixion-pamela-johnsonThe oft-overlooked crux of the matter is well illustrated using a sci-fi analogy. Should we finally discover life on another planet – let’s call it Zork – then the best way by far to establish relationships with the Zorkians would be to travel to Zork as a Zorkian. Jesus laid aside the glories of Heaven and became another Adam. Just like us, He came to us, and so we can understand Him, for He understands us. His identification with us even enables us to understand the ways in which He is different from us, for example, His sinlessness and righteousness, because they are in direct contrast with us and ours. And, thanks to His identification with us, He is well able to explain the things of Heaven to us in ways we can understand.

Anything and everything provides a starting point for sharing the Good News of the Gospel. The good things, that reflect His grace, and the bad things, which attract His compassion and mercy. At every point of celebration, we joyfully give thanks to God, from whom all good gifts come. He is willing and able to bless, and not so only for the deserving. A baby born or promotion earned; reason both for words of gratitude or a prayer of thanks. And no matter the adversity, we can sensitively tell of our God, who understands. He is able to comfort, for He identifies.

Herewith something of a postscript thought of exceptional consequence in this day and age: When God tells us that He hates divorce, He makes the statement as a divorcee. The Scriptures are clear that He issued unfaithful, wayward Israel a certificate of divorce, and that He has bound Himself to the bride of Christ, a second wife if you will. His heart towards divorcees is compassion, not judgement; He knows their pain.

cross-666948_960_720The facts about Jesus – who He is, what He did, and why He did it – inform life on earth of the realities of Heaven, no matter the circumstance at the time. The Gospel reveals Jesus. Simple as that!

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The power of the Gospel

The Gospel is the power of God for salvation!

“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.’” (Romans 1:16–17)

1This glorious Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection is not passive, but active. It works. It does stuff; it accomplishes things. It’s also not just that the Gospel can be powerful when put to appropriate use, for example by powerful preaching or testimony, or when accompanied by confirming signs and wonders. The Gospel is powerful all on its own without any of these very good things attending it. Stand-alone, the Gospel is powerful! It is the power of God for salvation. It’s glorious to partner with, and it certainly makes good use of our gifts and callings, but the Gospel all on its own is able to save, for saving is its purpose, and save it does.

EarthGlobeAfrica.tif.746x600_q85The creation account helps us to understand. God the Father decreed; He spoke by the Living Word, Jesus; Holy Spirit did the work. Will, Word and Works, and there you have it – the Trinity in glorious synergy bringing something out of nothing. Into the dark, formless void that was, Father decreed, and that which was Spoken was accomplished by the Spirit, who was to be found brooding over the project to do all that was willed. In exactly the same way, salvation in Father’s will, through and in Jesus, and by the Spirit. When the Gospel is proclaimed, the Good News and the Spirit work together in creative synergy – Will, Word and Works – their sublime redemptive poetry, joyfully engulfing, loving, and saving, just as choreographed to do before time began.

GerminationJesus Himself made the same point very simply when He described the Gospel as a seed. Fertile seeds are powerful things, containing everything necessary for maturity, including life, thanks to their ingenuity in design. The whole oak is in the acorn. In the same way, the freedom and fullness secured for us in Christ is in the Gospel. Jesus crucified, died, buried and raised – such a tiny seed – yet therein lies every provision and every victory, sufficient for everyone who believes, and in an abundance befitting eternity. Just as fertile seeds can lie dormant for decades before conducive conditions facilitate germination, in the same way the Gospel shared can patiently await its appointed time. Like any seed, harvest depends upon the soil into which it’s sown, but scant harvest on occasion in no way reflects upon the perfection of this seed. On the contrary, just as we’ve witnessed plants of all kinds breaking through paving or rock, the Gospel produces exceedingly abundantly above expectation, again and again, even in the most adverse of circumstances.

Both Jesus and Paul demonstrated their confidence in the power inherent in the Good News in a rather noteworthy way. Both encountered self-appointed ministries whose motives were questionable, and neither sought to put a stop to them. Both knew that the Gospel was well able to look after itself. Good motive or bad, the power of the seed remained unchanged.

picture1This blog post sets up a series of a further ten posts, each expanding on what the Gospel does. It works wonders; awesome wonders. The Gospel bears fruit; plentiful, abundant, lasting fruit. The Gospel does all that the Lord designed it to do. It is ever so worth our while teasing out the richness of the Gospel’s power, so as to better to understand, admire, appropriate and communicate it. The beauty is that the Gospel doesn’t justify or redeem or reconcile or …; it justifies and redeems and reconciles…. Where one stops and another starts is of little consequence, for the colours, flavours and facets (pick the metaphor you most prefer) work off and into one another in magnificent, enriching, enhancing and compounding splendour.

downloadContemplating the Gospel in this way is comparable to gazing into the night sky. It will always be breathtaking, and there will always be more to see. This is the nature of the infinite. Describe what you see in terms of planets, stars or galaxies, whichever you prefer, for magnificent remains magnificent, even when perspective shifts. My prayer is that this exercise in Gospel-gazing will whet your appetite for a lifetime of exploration. Together we will forage on the fringes of the inexhaustible, exploring the limitless bounds of the revelation of our Lord that will keep us captivated for all eternity.

Adapted from the e-book Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever! by Gavin Cox

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Preach the New Covenant

“Preach the New Covenant”, said Jesus. This one-liner reverberated through my being with absolute authority and audible-voice clarity, answering what had been the cry of my heart for many months.

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It was a one-liner I didn’t see coming. I knew that I had to open the windows and doors of the church to the many, but what I didn’t know was that I was in for Extreme Makeover: Belief System Edition. (For the backstory in more detail, click here).

What followed was as extended period under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit in a special and unusual way. It sounds arrogant to claim as Paul did that I received the Gospel from the Lord, but that’s exactly what happened. Amidst very difficult times in ministry and local church, the Spirit opened the Scriptures to me in a fresh way, and it was as if I was “born again” again. The parallel discovery was the degree to which my belief system had been a mixture of Old and New Covenants, of Law and Grace.

1345804-inlineMy Extreme Makeover: Belief System Edition can be likened to a theological world tour, with numerous significant stopovers. I spent time in Romans 8:1, discovering that every aspect of my life was condemnation-ridden. My self-speak, my marriage, parenting, relationships, preaching and ministry all oozed condemnation, disqualification, and the demand for increased effort. From there it was across to Hebrews 4 and the discovery that salvation is rest from one’s own work and complete reliance on the work of another. This was quite a revelation for a permanently exhausted individual living and laboring in a burnout-conducive culture. Then came the visit to Security, where I discovered that most of us Christians are desperately and unnecessarily insecure. There were also notable stopovers in Peace and Joy, which are gifts accompanying salvation. Time was also well spent in New Nature (just like Jesus), in Holy Spirit (an indwelling Helper who will never leave us, and is an enabler in righteousness), and in Bible (an account of seven covenants, only one of which applies). Through it all I discovered that Jesus is God’s message (and perfect theology), that God is Good (and only good), and that God has made up His mind about us in Christ. If I had to identify a single highlight, it would have to be what I now regard as my favourite passage of Scripture: “For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14 ESV). Our justification is absolute, and we who are in Christ are therefore irrevocably righteous!

the-gospel-changes-everythingYears on, I continue to grow in the revelation and application of the New Covenant, but it is no exaggeration to say that everything has changed: My understanding of the Lord, salvation, myself, others, our world and His church. Every Sunday, I now enjoy the privilege of proclaiming a salvation that is by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. This puts salvation within reach of everyone, and recognises that the grace that saves is the grace that sustains, empowers, and sanctifies. What was a Churchianity has become Christianity. It really is all about Him after all!

Following on has been progressively unfolding revelation of what it means to serve, lead and govern the local church from within New Covenant paradigms. Again, the Gospel has changed everything. What was at times a manipulative, controlling, stressful and exhausting environment has become one of peace, joy, freedom and fullness. The New Covenant is literally so much Good News as to be out of this world. Day by day we enter into greater measures of the benefits of this New Covenant, in which we have been included in Christ Jesus. And to top it all, no one is excluded. The windows and doors of the house are open, and the beauty of the local church accessible to all. The Gospel is for the whosoever will, and so it is with His church. What grace. What mercy. What goodness. What kindness. What love. Praise be to our God!

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Good News

downloadThe Gospel is news. It’s news about Jesus – about who He is, what He did, and why He did it.

His story goes right back to before the beginning, when He partnered with the other members of the Godhead in formulating their creative and redemptive plans, agreeing on their respective roles. He was then so successful in His mission that its impact is comprehensively retroactive and will be never-ending. The cross spans time and space, for by it God was reconciling all things to Himself – things on earth, and things in heaven.

Throughout the ages, this story has been told by those who saw, heard and experienced it unfold and develop. It is so well attested to all along the way that it comes to us as eye-witness news, with many of those witnesses having been martyred for their unwillingness to waver in testimony. Yet, in contemplating its enormous scope, let’s not imagine that the Gospel story is a complicated one, for this is not so. The poignant facts are all to be found condensed within the life of a single individual, Jesus Christ. The Gospel is short and simple, easily remembered, and easily told. Even little children can understand it.

imagesWhen this news – Jesus crucified, died, buried and raised – first broke on the streets of Jerusalem on Pentecost morning a little more than two millennia ago, it did so empowered by the Spirit, and immediately went viral. The believing community of a hundred and twenty soon gained three thousand more, and from there it snowballed. Confirmed by miracles, signs and wonders through the centuries, today the worldwide community of believers numbers hundreds of millions, and the forward momentum of this message gives no indication whatsoever of slowing down.

Wherever the news about Jesus has gone, it’s been just as controversial as Jesus Himself was. This has been a good thing, for it means that this news has been interrogated and tested every step of the way. The first major think-tank – and there have been many since – took place as the key role-players in the believing community gathered at what we today refer to as the Council of Jerusalem. This was necessary because the news was leaping across ethnic divides, and they wanted to make sure that everyone was getting the facts, and not some culturally distorted version of the facts. This Council was presided over by James, the half-brother of Jesus. Like him, many of those present had seen first-hand what Jesus had done, and heard what Jesus had said with their own ears. This gathering therefore constituted the ideal forum for crystallising the Gospel, paring it down to its essentials. What was then viral is now global, and those early leaders served us well, as did many others through the years. Much has happened, but the facts remain, and today the Gospel is as clear as it has ever been. What we learn through it all is that truth remains true, and ceaseless attention simply polishes the diamond all the more. The news, as proclaimed by Peter on the streets of Jerusalem, is the news we herald today.

download (1)Jesus lived the sinless life no descendant of Adam could. Every one of Adam’s line is a sinner, due sin’s wages, but sinless Jesus received these on our behalf. He died for our sins. Three days later, God raised Him from the dead, thereby vindicating His claims, and establishing His vicarious death as redemption for sinners for all time. All who believe this, in so doing appropriate His substitution personally, and thereby enter into a glorious exchange – their sin for His righteousness. All of it, for all of it! He received what sinners deserve, and in believing, sinners become saints as they enter into all that He deserves. The Gospel believed is salvation received, and it is by faith alone that men and women are put right with God. The Holy Spirit makes them alive and anew. In the moment of faith, those who believe are instantly transported from darkness to light, from death to life, and from being in first Adam to being in Christ (last Adam). God Himself, who made this possible for them, does it to them. We believe; He works! This is the Gospel!


Best News Ever 3D

From Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever! Available for download from a broad selection of e-book platforms. Click on the image to go to the book’s page and select the version that best suits you.

 

 

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Loving Jesus well

imagesJesus loved us well. He laid down His life for us. In His death we find our redemption and our true value; no one pays that high a price for junk.

Loving us with unconditional extravagance includes not treating us as our sins deserve. This is an extraordinary notion, for everywhere else, at least in measure, the converse is true. The Scriptures reassure us of this – we will reap what we sow. This universal law is less than comforting in a fallen world where sin, weakness, carnality and lawlessness are interwoven into the fabric of life. What it means is that on a macro level what goes around comes around, and that we all experience an unintended proliferation of weeds come harvest time.

Not so with the Lord. Thanks to the cross, we are the recipients of unmerited favour. We do good; we get good from God; we do bad, we still get good from God. The mystery of grace is that this transforms us. We love because we are loved. We love Him because He first loved us. Little by little we are moved from living for ourselves to for living for Him. Little by little we move towards that place where the deepest desire of our hearts is to lay down our lives for Him; to live for the proverbial audience of One. This was how Jesus lived; this is how Jesus would have us live; this is how Jesus helps us to live; and living this way is how we find meaning in life.

Living surrendered to the Lord Jesus is not complicated or difficult. It’s not something that we figure out or strategise for. It’s not about obeying laws, fulfilling demands or meeting requirements. Neither is it grandiose, elitist or only for the super-spiritual. It’s not even of necessity unpleasant, even though it is a way of life defined by sacrifice, because it is after all for another, and inevitably for the benefit of others. It is life in the moment, naturally supernatural, and extraordinary in the ordinary. It’s a cocktail of kindness, mercy, generosity, encouragement, embrace, joy, peace, miracles, signs, wonders and gratitude. In it all the universal law of sowing and reaping – which in the lives of sinful men and women must inevitably present as the law of sin and death – elevates to giving and receiving, which is the law of Spirit and life. To live for the Lord is to live by grace; not by just desserts, but by unmerited favour, and of doing unto others what Jesus has done to us.

Music_WorshipThe saints you and I most admire are inevitably only doing what Jesus tells them to. They’re following the Spirit, walking in the grace they’ve been given. This was true of the heroes of the faith whose stories pulsate on the Bible’s pages, and it is true of those who provoke us to love Jesus more by the way they lead their lives alongside us day by day. Let’s join them today, walking in the grace that is ours in Christ Jesus, and simply doing what He tells us – no more; no less. This is worship in it’s truest sense. This is loving Him well.

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SMGN guest post by Christopher Probert

ChrisChristopher is a friend to and encourager of SoMuchGoodNews. He resides in the UK, is husband to Helen, and dad to Michael and Daniel. A vet by profession, Chris enjoys the outdoors and revels in the Gospel.

He recently shared these thoughts. Enjoy!


What is true happiness? When are you truly happy? And when are you least happy? I believe happiness is freedom from guilt and shame.

Young children are happier than adults, because they are carefree and have no sense of shame and little sense of regret. Have you seen the little kid playing and running stark naked, laughing all the way. I think that deep down we all want to be like that kid.

To do so would mean getting rid of guilt and shame. I see only two conclusions that a logical mind can reach when considering the solution to guilt and shame. One is to remove the source of it by abolishing rules, laws and God; thereby freeing ourselves from ever contravening anything. Everything becomes relative. No right or wrong. No good or bad. Just innumerable shades of grey. No one to answer to. No responsibility. Become a free agent. Encourage free thought. Don’t allow anyone to judge you. A very popular course taken by many.

However, even in a secular world, it’s clear that there are some rules. And the most secular will often be the most vocal when seeking justice or reparations for wrongs done to them. We all want the rules to apply to everyone else! And then there’s the nagging thought, deep down that even the staunchest atheist has. That twinkling doubt: “What if there really is a God?” So some will turn to religion, to try and answer that doubt. However, religion makes a very poor substitute for the true Good News. Religion is not Good News at all. And, instead of relieving it, it adds to our sense of guilt and shame. Thus many reject religion, having found that rather than solve the problem, it is compounded and they become even more unhappy.

Some might believe that those are the only choices before us. A choice between Atheism and Religion. If those were the only options then I too would choose Atheism to live free from guilt and shame. But, I have some really Good News. A path to true and lasting happiness. This is the only other logical conclusion. To receive God’s perfect sacrifice (the ultimate punishment suffered by Jesus on the cross – the death penalty) as full payment for all of our transgressions in perpetuity. Past, present and future. An incredible exchange that’s almost too good to be true. All our sin for all His Righteousness. Not by our own efforts, but by His. When received, the result is freedom from condemnation, guilt and shame. Freedom to live within the rules, and not fear the consequences when we don’t. Ultimate security and hope. True happiness.

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SMGN guest post by Ros Otte

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Enjoy this guest post by Ros Otte. She was recently seen lurking on the fringes of a writer’s group, and once this indomitable encourager had been identified as a possible aspiring author, her rubber arm was easily twisted for a contribution. Here Ros muses, from the perspective of a parent, on the superiority of grace over law.


 

It has been said that the role of a parent is to prepare a child for the next level of life, and that is true. The means by which we do this include imposing rules and regulations, instituting boundaries, and ensuring that there are consequences for non-compliance.

Some parents, in doing so, are tyrannical and brook no opposition. Other so-called “helicopter” parents hover protectively over their children and monitor each and every move. For many children, acceptance is based on performance rather than on love. Other parents simply throw in the towel at the first hint of opposition or rebellion. The result is often a deep seated sense of insecurity in the child. This is the essence of Law. It sets rigid boundaries, and in its consequences for obedience or disobedience, it can be both tyrannical and “helicopter”. Behaviour is either right or wrong. Choices are limited and obedience is mandatory. Sadly, those under it develop few coping mechanisms, little sense of worth, and often a minimal sense of self control. Then, if there is rebellion, law has no means of recovering the rebel.

Grace, on the other hand, is at once fluid and constant. It operates within a framework of love and acceptance; it allows for getting it wrong; it never lets go, even in the face of rebellion; it sets free and permits individual choice; it unties the apron strings without letting go; it encourages and picks up the pieces when there is failure and brokenness; it enables progression from the tentative, tottering steps of a toddler, to the confident stride of a long distance runner. It says, “Come as you are”, not “clean up your act first”. Grace provides the ultimate security.

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I have the privilege of living in a home with a magnificent river view. There are three fish eagles that live in the surrounding cliffs. It is a joy to watch them and the amazing thing is that I have never seen them flap their wings. They glide effortlessly, reaching great heights or almost skimming the river. They find and catch the thermals, whether the wind is howling or it is completely still, yet have no fear of falling or sense of abandonment. That’s what grace does. It is by grace that we catch the wind of the Spirit, Who keeps us secure whether there is a gale blowing or it is quiet and still. It is by grace that we walk thorough life with confidence; it is by grace that we can make choices, knowing that we are firmly placed in the thermal of the love of God. It is by grace that we are set free from the fear of failure or abandonment. It is by grace that we are loved and accepted for who we are, and not by what we achieve or how well we perform. Grace enables us to be the best we can be because it is never disapproving or judgmental. If we had to read 1 Corinthians 13:4ff – the matchless passage on love – and substituted “Grace” for “Love” nothing would change in terms of the heart of what was written. That is because grace has a name, and that name is Jesus.

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