Tag Archives: Salvation

The Gospel transforms

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16–17).

Quoted above is the paragraph that Paul used to set up his theological magnum opus (we call it Romans). Its final phrase launched the Reformation in the heart of Martin Luther, and makes the heart of every Gospel-believer sing. Amidst its awesome virtues nestles this great insight – we can no more change ourselves than save ourselves. Fortunately, the righteousness of God is by faith from beginning to end, which declares a Gospel as able to change us as to save us. The same dynamics of grace and faith that save are those that transform.

Before pursuing our opening line of thought, three matters are best borne in mind regarding Christians and their behaviour. Firstly, Christians are not under Law, but they are also not lawless. Under grace, they belong to Christ, and are under His governance. As such, our actions should rather obviously bear appropriate witness to our faith. None of us can represent Christ perfectly, but licentious or lawless living is simply not concomitant with those who are His.

Secondly, although Christians have a new nature and are indwelt by the Spirit, personal transformation towards godliness is not automatic. If that were so, then the New Testament would carry no instruction on behaviour appropriate to the faith, and no discipleship would be necessary in the church. While new nature and indwelling Spirit inevitably work towards Christlikeness, the flesh (the remnant of our in-Adam-ness) leans towards sin. Christians are left with choices to make and allegiances to decide, and should be encouraged and instructed in order to facilitate their choosing wisely.

Thirdly, the most common error regarding behaviour and personal change is for believers to come to the conclusion that it is all up to them. The Galatian churches had fallen into this by-our-own-efforts trap. Having started in the Spirit, they were continuing in the flesh. This migration from grace to law has remained a perennial problem amongst believers throughout church history, and is strongly in evidence in the twenty-first century church also. Programmes proliferate, be it in the name of vision, growth or change. Meanwhile, the saints become busier and busier, and more and more tired. This continues despite the fact that the whole treadmill of self-effort is doomed to fail. Yet many believers blindly forge on, trying harder and doing more, until they grind to a disillusioned, burnt out halt. The lesson in it all: we cannot change ourselves, and we cannot change others.

It’s the Gospel that is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. This salvation, Biblically speaking, is a broad, all-encompassing notion. It certainly includes salvation from sin, but also includes healing, deliverance and provision. It is even used in reference to resurrection on occasion. In other words, any kind of saving we could ever possibly need is part and parcel of our salvation, including the wherewithal to save us from ourselves. In it is all of the grace we could possibly need for personal transformation. There is grace to forgive the unforgivable, love the unlovable, and endure the unendurable. In the Gospel is the answer to every dilemma, strength for every weakness, wisdom for every occasion, and freedom from all bondage. The Gospel is the power of God for freedom and fullness in Christ. Period!

All God’s promises are “yes” in Christ Jesus (in Christ we qualify), and it is through these that we receive that which God has provided for us through the cross. As the Gospel produces faith in us, so that faith unlocks the deluge of God’s goodness, already stored up and just waiting for us to receive. As we believe, in rushes the Lord, Word and Spirit, to do in us and for us, just as He said He would. Here’s the key! The Gospel is not only the news of salvation, but by the Holy Spirit’s power, it is the power of God that works that salvation in us. The news believed is its benefits received. This is how God has decreed it to be; the Spirit and Word are inextricably linked. Creation demonstrated this magnificently – God (Father) willed, and the Spirit wrought as the Word (Jesus) spoke the world into being. In the same way, the Spirit and the Gospel are inextricably linked. It was the Spirit who revealed Christ to us when we first heard the Good News. It was the Spirit who immersed us in Christ when we believed, and who made us alive in Him. Everything else that the Gospel does is accomplished in this same way. It is all by the Spirit. Christians are therefore by definition spiritual people – of the Spirit, indwelt by the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit and led by the Spirit.

Word and Spirit working in tandem transform us from glory to glory. Finding this counterintuitive, our greatest temptation remains reverting to our own efforts, earnestly seeking the Spirit’s enabling on those. Obedience to the Scriptures, Christlikeness in all things, and a lifestyle marked by the disciplines of the faith – these are virtuous notions all – but pursuing them carries the danger of attempting to transform ourselves. The dynamic is entirely different when we put our focus on the perfect, finished work of Christ, and unleash its power to work within us. From His work within emerge obedience, Christlikeness, and disciplined living. These things might sound similar, but they could not be more different.

Repentance is how the Bible describes our aligning of our thoughts with the Gospel. A lifestyle of so doing equates to the renewal of the mind. As we repent (change our minds) and align our thinking (belief-systems) with the Gospel, the Gospel effects transformation from within. The obedience of faith is a fruit of the Gospel, and not its precursor, or its requirement. Scripture consistently distinguishes between our own efforts and Christ’s work. Salvation is by the latter; self-righteousness, disillusionment and bondage by the former. These are lessons well relearned in our day, for too many church activities are focused on what we should do, and too few celebrate what Christ has done. If we gave the focus to celebrating Him, so much more would be accomplished, for it is His working we need, and not our own. There are no limitations in the equation from God’s side. The restrictions are with us. We are finite, temporal creatures, independent of will, and of limited capacity. Imagine for a moment a vast ocean and a tiny bucket. Toss the bucket into the ocean and it is instantly surrounded and filled. That’s us and God. We are in Him and He in us. And our hope is in the ocean, not in the bucket.

It is this that the Scriptures seek to convey through what have become somewhat clichéd phrases. “Fix your eyes on Jesus.” “Put Jesus first.” “Seek first the kingdom.” “Fix your eyes on things above.” We’re people of the Spirit, so let’s live by the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, be filled with the Spirit, sing in the Spirit, pray in the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit, and live one-with-another in the unity of the Spirit. This is the way of salvation; the way of righteousness that is by faith from beginning to end.

This is one of a series of posts adapted from the e-book “Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever!” by Gavin Cox. Go to the first post in the series by clicking here.

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The Gospel includes

Nothing could be more revolutionary than that which is done to you in the moment that you first put your confidence in Christ. The Gospel believed is the Gospel received, and in that instant of faith, the greatest exchange imaginable is effected – Christ’s life for yours!

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:1–9).

goodbyeoldhellonewThe transformation that occurs is literally out of this world, as in a moment you go from being “in Adam” to being “in Christ”. All of the major metaphors of Scripture apply in that instant – death to life; darkness to light; satan to God, condemned to justified, slave to freeman; enemy to friend – on and on it goes. Many books would be necessary to do justice to the many wonderful facets of this single glorious truth – inclusion in Christ. And that’s the big idea. Believing includes us in Christ. This is not just some sort of transfer of allegiance; it is the all-encompassing transformation of a life. The phrase “in Christ” is ubiquitous in Paul’s letters, for it describes the essence of salvation. “In Christ”; “in Him”; “in Christ Jesus”. Those of us who preach and teach these truths will often refer to this as the believer’s position, placement, status or standing. In Christ!

Christians are saved, but they did not save themselves. They are in Christ, but they did not put themselves there. It is not even their faith that saved them. In the moment that they believed, it was the Holy Spirit who went to work as per the Father’s decree, transferring them from in Adam to in Christ. This was all of grace, and is something that God does to all who believe.

in-christThe enormity of what happens is not faith-sized, but grace-sized. It’s not as if those who have great faith receive a great salvation, and those with less faith receive a lesser salvation. Those with less faith may well appropriate less of the salvation given to them, but a lesser faith does not lessen the work of Christ on our behalf. To think thus is absurdity, for those who believe have not just seen, heard or tasted, but have entered into salvation by the power of God. Tentative faith (a mustard seed’s worth) does not unleash a tentative reaction from heaven. Salvation is a one-size-fits-all proposition – Jesus! Rather, believing thrusts us into the white-water of the new birth, and those who have put their confidence in Christ have been carried along by the power of God, away from the old and right into the new.

It is simply not possible to be a half-Christian or a bad Christian. It is not we, ourselves, who make ourselves Christians. It is a work of God, and all that He does He does well. There is only one kind of Christian on the planet, and that is the perfect kind, for we are of His making. Some of us do live poorly representing our in-Christ-ness, thanks to paucity of faith, or to misbeliefs of one kind or another. But that does not mean that we are lesser Christians, for we are all Christians by the same work of the same Spirit. Understanding this is life-changing. In Christ, is in Christ, is in Christ! We’ve received a faith of equal standing before God, writes the apostle Peter. We might have different gifts and callings, and some might fellowship more intimately with God than others do, but we’ve all received equal access to God, with equal rights and privileges. It is all of grace alone, and all because of Christ alone. We have all received the highest title and the richest commendation imaginable, for in Christ we are all God’s beloved children, in whom Father is well pleased. That is who we are. That is our identity.

inchristlogoIn the moment of faith His story became our story. That’s the Gospel. In an instant, the Holy Spirit united us with Christ, in His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. We were raised to new life in Him, and are now seated with Him in heavenly places. We are the saved; He is the Saviour. Our salvation has come through our literal immersion into Him, and into His substitutionary, atoning work. Christians have been baptised (immersed) into Christ. It is this to which believers’ baptism testifies most graphically.

The gift of salvation is not extraneous to our person. It is not like an item of clothing or jewelry, or even like any other experience we might have. It is not something that can be received, explored, enjoyed, kept, exploited or discarded. It cannot be lost or misplaced. It is defining. It’s not so much something we possess, as something that possesses us. Being in Christ is far more a matter of Christ having us than our having Him. Those who have believed have been engulfed in Saviour and salvation just as surely as Jonah was swallowed by the big fish. The difference is that we were not ingested, but en-wombed. We were re-created; born again; re-made. Nicodemus puzzled over this because he could not imagine how he would ever get back into his mother’s womb. He understood the point, just not the means, for the womb into which the Spirit thrusts us is the work of Christ, from which we re-emerge altogether new.

col-3-3-hidden-in-christWe would better speak of believing into Jesus, even if it is grammatically awkward. Coming to faith is literally believing into Christ, which is what faith ultimately accomplishes as grace is appropriated by the Spirit. It is also why the whole experience is irrevocable. If we were saved by our faith, then our salvation could well be on-again, off-again. But we are not saved by faith; we are saved through faith. Believing opens the door to the tsunami of God’s power, and that which was wrought for us on the cross, is applied to us by the Holy Spirit. It is a leap forward from which there is no way back. In a moment, we are included in something altogether other, immeasurably bigger than ourselves. We are welcomed into a kingdom, a family, a fellowship, a union. We enter by literal re-creation. The Gospel believed is salvation received; the Gospel believed is inclusion in Christ.

This is one of a series of posts adapted from the e-book “Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever!” by Gavin Cox. Go to the first post in the series by clicking here.

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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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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!


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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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The Gospel (by Ross Penniall)

The Gospel is more than just scandalous. It’s an offense to almost every culture, and will continue to be so for many centuries to come. But say what you must, it is incredibly good news to the people who have come to the end of themselves.

John wrote what is arguably the most famous verse in the Bible: John 3:16. It is so because it captures the heart of the Author, and His love letter, in one easy-to-understand sentence. It doesn’t need a professor to interpret it or a scholar to to unpack its truth. It’s simple: God loved. Jesus came. Men believe. Eternal life is given. John expresses the ease with which one is rescued from eternal condemnation: Believe in God’s one and only Son.

But that should cause one to stop and ask: What does it mean to believe in Jesus? What exactly are we to believe about Jesus that will grant the gift of eternal life to the one who believes?

Allow me to answer these all-important questions for you …

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GOD

Many don’t like the idea, But God is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-present. He gives and sustains life,  and without Him nothing would exist. He is righteous and holy, perfect in every way. He exists outside of time. He sees all, and knows everything about everyone. Like it or not, He is Lord of all, including us.

MAN

We are unholy. We are unable to save ourselves, even though many don’t even believe there is an actual afterlife. We are rebels to the core. We are lost in our sins. We are worshipers of ourselves and live to please ourselves. We are unable to please Him or know Him. We don’t desire Him on any level. We are lost. Our destination is damnation. And truth is, that’s a just sentence, and we are in desperate need of a savior.

Side note: A good doctor doesn’t just give a sick man medicine. A good doctor whips out the x-rays. He displays pictures of the disease. He doesn’t hold back. He calls a spade a spade and gives the sick man a blunt, open and honest diagnosis of how bad it really is, to the point that the sick man is virtually begging for the remedy. One of the reasons why men don’t desire God’s remedy (Jesus) is because they aren’t aware of how sick they really are.

REMEDY

Jesus is God’s remedy for a sick and dying world. He came to seek and save the lost. Jesus paid the penalty for every lost man’s sin, and this for all time. He died for me and He died for you! He took the full brunt of God’s wrath at sin upon Himself. He reconciled God to the world. On the cross, He who knew no sin became sin, so that through Him many would become righteousness. He is the only way to God. He is the only remedy for a lost and dying world.

RESPONSE

God is holy. I am unholy. I need saving. Jesus made it possible for me to be saved. That’s the message. The invitation is simple: BELIEVE! Church attendance is not a prerequisite. Neither is obeying the commandments or praying every day. “Quit smoking!” “Stop using foul language!” “Stop watching Internet porn!” “All good advice, but not the Good News. Jesus is the Good News. He lived the life we couldn’t live. He died the death we all deserved to die. He then gives us a salvation we could never earn. Grace is given to those who don’t deserve it. That’s you and me, my friend! And so, man’s response is so simple: just believe. Unwrap the gift and say thanks.

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That’s why the Gospel is an affront to just about every culture. Lost men don’t like to be told they are sustained by a loving Creator even if they don’t know or acknowledge it. Lost men don’t like the idea of being told that they are not good enough, no matter how hard they try. Lost men don’t like the idea of being told that they need help. Even those who believe in a God up there somewhere don’t always like the idea that Jesus is the only way to Him. And having crossed that bridge, the thought that we owe no debt or payment in return is scandal all the more. It sounds too good to be true. But it is so good because it is true!

I will never stop enjoying these truths. In fact, we’ve only scratched the surface in understanding how glorious the Gospel really is.


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A guest post for SMGN by Ross Penniall – lover of Jesus, lover of life, and lover of SoMuchGoodNews.

 

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SMGN guest post by Ross Penniall

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Enjoy this modern-day parable by Ross Penniall, lover of Jesus, lover of life, and lover of SoMuchGoodNews.

The Kingdom of Heaven is Good News. There are a number of parables in the Gospels where Jesus taught on the kingdom. Most notably, regarding this kingdom parables, He said, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Funny how He never went into great depth trying to explain His parables. Those who were hungry for truth got it. Those who never really listened heard only a story. A parable is a story with an underlying message that explains God, His heart, and His kingdom. Those who are searching for one of those, if not all, hear the hidden code. Below is a modern kingdom parable with no explanation. My hope is that you’re hungry.

The kingdom of heaven is like a father and his two sons. The father gave his sons a two bed-roomed home to live in. It was fully furnished. It had a tennis court and a pool. He gave each child R10 million and said, “Go start a business. Invest in property. Buy land and build. Employ people. Build brands. Do whatever you like, but use this start up money and make as much as you can”. The father left them for three years. At the end of the three years, he returned to the city of his sons. He found the home run down, the pool empty, and the tennis court vandalized. Inside he found both boys passed out in the lounge with beer and spirits bottles strewn all over the floor. There was graffiti all over the walls, The carpets were alcohol stained and some of the furniture was even missing. He woke his boys only to be told by them that they squandered their R10 million. Not one investment, no business, and no property. The food and alcohol they were now living on was bought by money made selling their furniture.

The father was disappointed at this wastage by his sons. But he was a father who loved his sons more than anything else. So he said to them, “My dear sons, I love you both very much, and I desire for us to be a family and to live under one roof. I forgive you for your waste and squander. I choose not to hold this against you. I want to give you another chance, except this time I want us to do this together. Come and live with me in a brand new home. It has 20 bedrooms, a cinema, three pools, two tennis courts and an amphitheater. Each of you can work with me in my business. I will pay you each of you R50 000 a month. Let’s be a family together. Let us live our lives together. Let us change the world together!”

His one son fell on his face and asked his father to forgive him for his unappreciative behavior, and for not doing more with what he had been given. He repented of the way he had treated his father with utter disrespect, and thanked him for another chance. Going with His father, and living with Him, was what he desired. They embraced and reconciled. The other son shook his head and blamed his father for not doing more for them. He believed that his Father should have left them more money and with better opportunities for making a success of their lives. He wasn’t interested in having his Father involved in his life. He wanted a second chance, but without His father in the equation.

The Father left with the repentant son. His heart was glad that his son desired Him and accepted the new chance as offered. At the same time, his heart was sad that his other son refused Him. As he drove out the driveway, he told the son staying behind that He was only a phone call way, and that if he ever had a change in heart and wanted to reconsider, his arms were open to receive him.

imgHe who has ears, let him hear.

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Wrestler, runner, soldier all

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When Paul the apostle reflected on his life, he did so using three metaphors. “I have fought the good fight”, he said. “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. (II Timothy 4:7). Wrestler, runner, soldier – so helpful to us as we seek to live well.

We all wrestle with something. Perhaps it’s because some flaw, fault or weakness runs through our person. Or perhaps because a bit of shrapnel from an earlier skirmish remains lodged within, and has the propensity to fester again and again. Whatever the case, we all experience the enemy’s intrusion into our internal world, probing for purchase, at least to distract, and at best to destroy. His agenda is never benign, and establishing ourselves in the victories of Christ in the private enclaves of heart and mind is at least as essential as triumphing in other arenas. Paul mentions the private and personal first, and tells us that there he fought a good fight. Let’s be clear that a good fight is a fight won! A word to the wise – although these battles are by definition in the all-alone, a close confidant who is kept aware can be helpful is establishing oneself in consistent victory.

We also all have a race to run. This is of gifts and callings, of meaning and purpose; of destiny. It refers to endeavors unique to us; the good works prepared in advance for us to do. Our race is God-appointed and each of us is perfectly equipped to run it, for the grace of God is upon us to do so, no matter what twists, turns or obstacles we may encounter along the way. It’s our race, and no one else can run it for us, but this metaphor reveals the intriguing way in which Christianity is both an individual and corporate pursuit all at once.Those around us can watch our progress and urge us on, as can we them, and together we can draw strength from the great cloud of witnesses who preceded us all, ran well, and now cheer us on in the spirit-realm. Like Paul, let’s be single minded and run to win, doing all to encourage others, all the while drawing encouragement from them as we stride towards the line.

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Then there’s the soldiering. None of us have much to offer in this department when we stand alone, but together with all brothers and sisters down through the ages, we take our place in the great army of God. Together we steward the glorious truths of the Gospel as entrusted by the Lord to His church for the redemption of His world. Together we occupy, and little by little Heaven colonises earth, glory to glory, until all of His enemies have been manifestly subdued beneath Christ’s feet.


Wrestler, runner, soldier all –
Triumphing in victories
Christ-won at the cross.
Wrestler, runner, soldier all –
Living well, living full,
For the grave is empty

Our champion lives!
Wrestler, runner, soldier all –
For the sake of the Gospel,

And the glory of our Lord.


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Living life well

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The Gospel ushers us into condemnation-free living. In right-standing with God, and the rich promises of Scripture ours, there is every reason for living life well. These few modern-day parables will help establish you in the good of the New Covenant. It is God’s will for you to live there with confidence and ease.

Life is walking the high-wire, with Christ our safety net. We might slip and fall in the day-to-day, but we remain safely suspended in the lofty context of His victory. When we lose our footing, there is no inevitable devastating plunge to destruction. All there is to do is regain our equilibrium and get walking again. Consequently, we walk the tightrope confidently, without anxiety or fear, no matter how tetchy things might get on a wind-buffeted high-wire from time to time.

Life is an innings at the crease with an umpire who will never give us out. The bales scatter; we’re not out. Caught playing the shot; not out. Plumb LBW; a shake of the head from the umpire. We can’t even be run out. That’s because every ball that life or the devil bowls at us in the cricket game of life has been rendered a no-ball by the cross. Every one remains a scoring opportunity, but none can take our wicket.

Life is a ride on an up-escalator. The inexorable upward momentum of the life of Christ makes it well-nigh impossible for us to lose ground. Serious regression takes concerted, sustained effort, for He wills and works for our salvation at all times. We all stumble from time to time, but as we do, the escalator of His loving-kindness continues to carry us into our preferable future. In all things, He works for our good, even if the things themselves are not of Him, and not good. We can rest in Christ and enjoy the blessings and privileges that are ours by unmerited favour.

Ours is the privileged life of the adopted child. The fact is that we are His four times over – He created us; He redeemed (purchased) us; We are born again of Him; and He adopted us. The adoption aspect of it all was transacted by grace in the moment of faith, and it means that we and all of our stuff are His! We have a new name, and it’s His. And so, on the giant school playground of life on earth, who’s your Daddy? No need to submit to the bullies of anxiety, fear, guilt, condemnation and shame, and no need to inflict them on others. Rather, we live secure in the family to which we’ve been added – the community of Father, Son, Holy Spirit and saints.

I want to live for Jesus. I want to live life well. You do too, or else you wouldn’t bother reading this kind of post. Only those who have received the gift of His perfect righteousness can do that, because everything else falls short. But in Christ, that which we do in response to His love, is done in partnership with His perfection and under its banner. The result is ordinary men and women living lives to the glory of God, and doing so in the mundane of the daily, and at times doing extraordinary exploits.

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Water works

waterSevere drought has spawned innumerable initiatives for collecting and delivering water to those most acutely impacted. The challenge presented by dusty reservoirs and dry pipes is being addressed by compassionate people unleashing mercy-filled synergy as together with like-minded others they tap the potential of their interpersonal networks. Their initiatives are organic, practical and flexible, and everyone whose heart is moved can participate. Any container will do. For our household, that means that no plastic container (typically bottle) is discarded, but makes its way to a collection point. No fuss, and for each one who gives, according to their means and circumstance.

What an excellent parable of how the living water of the Gospel should reach every community under the sun. A team effort, unlocked and enriched through interpersonal connections of all kinds, with every believer participating according to their own gifts and callings. Simple, fluid, dynamic, cost effective and compassionate; not over-thought, over-planned or over-engineered. This is surely the recipe for the whole Gospel to go to the whole world in our generation. Let’s simply encourage all believers to get on with it, from the heart, and the Holy Spirit will ensure that there is nothing lacking at the end. Energy- and resource-sapping human organisation and control will give way to breathtaking divine choreography. All that’s needed is a paradigm shift in the hearts and minds of the many.

There’s a second lesson here also, at least as profound as the first. Imagine for a moment that you’re one of those delivering water to drought-stricken Smithfield or Aliwal North. The four trucks pull into the dusty urban township and the residents come flocking. They surround the convoy and cheers and whistles fill the dusty air. Despite the spontaneous nature of it all, these are desperate times, and an orderliness soon prevails. There is something for everyone, and offloading and distributing the liquid gold will be done in a jiffy. But suddenly, and most unexpectedly, things take a rather strange turn. Water that has been donated freely for anyone who has need will only be given to those who qualify for it. The selection criteria are all a bit vague, but those in charge of the particular convoy get to decide who qualifies and who doesn’t.

Such a proposition is outrageous. But does it not approximate the preposterous way in which we Christians at times behave. Salvation is a free gift, fully provided by God, for the whosoever will. Yet depending on our particular church affiliation (convoy), the Gospel is all too easily prejudicially dispensed in accordance with our norms. The love of God is for everyone, we say, but by which we can mean everyone who is repentant enough, serious enough, grateful enough, upright enough, or otherwise deserving enough in our eyes. But the truth is that the Gospel is not just for us, or for people like us, or for the people in a church like ours. It is to be equally lavished upon everyone, for it is intended for all. Indiscriminately, unconditionally, and continually.  All the more, given that Living Water is never in short supply, no matter how dry and sin-ridden the land!

 

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Light preceded darkness

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Humankind lives in the shadow of the fall. This is a sadly inescapable fact. Much more important, though, is that we live in the light of the cross also! Both influence our lives, but they are not equal influences.

Light and darkness are not the two great opposing forces jostling for dominance; neither are good and evil cosmic realities locked in battle for supremacy. This might be a popular notion, but nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that the cross of Christ was already blazing brightly by the time God said, “Let there be light”. This claim can be made with confidence because the cross was the manifestation of the Eternal Covenant agreed upon in the Godhead before creation commenced.

The implications are immense. The Lord took full responsibility for saving us before ever creating us. Father, Son and Holy Spirit knew that should first Adam be created with free moral agency, a second Adam would be necessary. They also knew all that would be required of that second Adam, were He to be redemptive of first Adam and his progeny. In ways too lofty for us even to imagine, each member of the Trinity committed themselves to the redemption-plan and their respective role in it. Nothing was left to chance. No one was put at risk. God Himself, unilaterally, guaranteed the redemption of everything redeemable!

Light outshines darkness for it is more powerful than darkness. This is no coincidence. Light overpowers darkness for it preceded it! Our eternal security lies in these foreordaining truths. In a physical sense light came out of darkness, but in a spiritual and ultimate sense, Light is before darkness ever was!

You and I are saved because of an agreement the Father, Son and Holy Spirit entered into before the beginning. The crucifixion had its date and time, as did the moment in which we believed. These two events make our salvation factual, anchoring it in history. This is good. Even better is that history itself has an anchor in that which predates it – our Triune God. History, correctly understood, will therefore always be His Story!

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