The power only comes with the truth

Sometimes I think we promote the Gospel like advertising companies promote products. We select our target audience, do some research on what they want, and spin our narrative to match their perceived needs.

While this may be an effective marketing technique, it is entirely ineffective when it comes to the Gospel. Unlike the latest iPhone or breakfast cereal, the good news of Jesus Christ does not need to be adapted based on culture or context, for one key reason: it has the power of God within it.

I think often we forget this, as we look for fancy, eloquent words or clever coercive devices, twisting the message into the most relevantly palatable morsel we can. We forget that God, not us, defines His method of salvation. He has given and empowered ONE Gospel: That Jesus was crucified, according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that He was raised to life again for the forgiveness of sins.

We must be careful never to water down the truth, for it is only the true Gospel that has within it the ‘power of God unto Salvation.’

It is not the words, or the persuasiveness with which they are proclaimed, that saves people; it’s the power of God. So if you want to see results that last, preach the truth that has the power, not what elicits a feel-good or emotive response in the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christian, turn the cheek on Facebook

Today I woke to news of another terror attack, this time targeting Christians as they celebrated Palm Sunday in Egypt.

It is tragic and frightening and naturally created an emotional response in the Christian world.

We live in an unprecedented time in which a person’s opinions and responses can be publicly proclaimed through social media, and it makes me wonder… how are we using it?

I question sometimes, as I see Christians around the world taking to Facebook as a soapbox to remind the world of our rights, whether we’re getting it wrong.

I was reminded yesterday of Jesus’ command to ‘turn the other cheek;’ of the promise of persecution and of the cross we all vow to bear. What happened in Egypt is a human rights tragedy, but I wonder whether the response of Christians stems more from fear for their own future safety, than from a true understanding of what it is to live the Christian life.

Christians in Australia have experienced peace for generations, and we must admit that we have sometimes used our high and favoured position to look down at, and isolate others. Now, as the tables turn, we take to social media and condemn those who are against us. Maybe it’s time to turn the other cheek. Maybe it’s time to take up our cross with the meekness of our Saviour and use any words we have to preach His Gospel of salvation, even to those who persecute us, rather than asserting our rights.

Don’t have Jesus as your backup plan

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Do you realize you don’t have to do anything good to get to heaven?

I’m so blessed to go to a church that is very focused on the Gospel. We are constantly reminded that we are saved by grace, not by works, and the more I am reminded of this, the more I realize I need to hear it.

Because the Gospel of Grace is completely counter intuitive

I was sitting in church last night while a friend preached from Hebrews 11 about the righteous being justified by faith. He reminded us that when we die and come before a Holy God, we will have nothing to commend ourselves other than our faith in the righteousness of Christ and his ability to cover our sin.

I found, in that moment, sin in my heart.

You see, I kind of treat Jesus like my back up plan.

I do good things to gain approval with God, and entrance to heaven, and when I fall far short (which I inevitably will), Jesus covers the rest.

WRONG

Jesus covers it all.

It’s hard for me to accept, and may take a lifetime to grasp, but Jesus isn’t filling the gaps where we’re lacking, he’s doing it all. He’s taking the dead (both spiritually and literally) and bringing them back to life.

When I stand before God, I will have nothing to recommend myself, just faith in the fact that Jesus will speak for me.

He’s no backup plan. He’s all or nothing.

My faith is not my own

little-girl-in-amusement-park-free-photo_385-86I had my mind blown the other night as I was talking to a friend and wrestling with the question that many Christians ask themselves at some point in their lives: ‘How do I know that I have believed?’
Was it when I was 5 and prayed a prayer to ask Jesus into my heart?

Was it when I was 12 and cried out to God because I was afraid of hell?

Was it when I was 22 and saw deep into my heart and recognised its sinfulness?

 

See the thing is, I feel that my comprehension of the gospel is so much greater now and it makes me wonder how I ever could have understood enough to have saving faith at age 5. I mean, I’d never even heard words like propitiation or atonement, and I couldn’t fully comprehend death or resurrection or depravity or righteousness. So how did I believe in things I knew nothing of?

 

The penny dropped last night. My faith is not my own. It is a gift from God. My saving faith at age 5 was not incomplete. It was not reliant on further revelation or deeper knowledge. As God’s gift to me it contained within it the fullness of that which is required for salvation. It was all there. I just didn’t understand it all yet.

 

If faith and belief were reliant on full comprehension then none of us could ever attain it.

You Couldn’t Handle the Guilt.

Photo Credit: Mare-of-Night

Painting Credit: Mare-of-Night

Growing up in a Christian home meant that while I always knew I was a sinner, my ‘good little Christian girl’ behavior often made it hard for me to really see myself that way.

As I grew older, and my understanding of both myself and the gospel deepened, I came to understand that while I was good at avoiding the obvious, visible sins, in my heart, I was no better than anyone else. I understood this, but I often struggled to really feel it; instead of wrestling with guilt, I’ve wrestled with not feeling guilty enough.

I’ve prayed through this many times, grappling with the paradoxical desire to fully comprehend my sinfulness (which would hopefully enable me to more completely experience God’s graciousness) while at the same time recognizing that the cross has done away with my sin and I am clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

I was struggling with this once again on the weekend; struggling with my lack of guilt and my apathy towards my sinfulness, when I sensed the voice of God say to me ‘Sarah, you couldn’t handle the guilt.’

I know that I’m a sinner, and I know that I’ve trusted Jesus with my sin, so instead of wrestling with not feeling it enough, I need to rejoice in God’s grace. He knows that I could not stand under the weight of my own guilt, and He has not asked me to. Jesus paid for that too.

Jesus beside the Cross

torn-cross_21293264This weekend I visited the young adults’ camp for my church. While I was there our pastor spoke about having no confidence in the flesh or the law, but rather trusting fully in the person of Jesus Christ for both our salvation and sanctification. Even as he was speaking, I found myself wresting with my need to feel more repentant; to work harder to know Jesus, to somehow maneuver myself into the right frame of mind.

I closed my eyes and took my insecurities, fears and sins to the cross. But instead of laying them there and walking away, I wrestled with them. I wanted to do it right; I wanted to feel genuine; I wanted to know that I was truly repentant.

In my mind’s eye I saw the cross: empty, with blood running down across the muddy ground beneath my knees, and as I struggled with myself at the foot of the cross, I saw the face of Jesus, standing to the side. He looked on me in love and compassion, and gently reminded me ‘Sarah, it is finished.’

When people come to the cross, attempting by human effort to make some form of restitution for their own sins, they will not find Jesus hanging there. Instead He stands beside it, to remind them that ‘It is finished.’ There is nothing we can add to the cross. Jesus paid it all, and then it was finished, for now and forever.

When A Student Makes It All Worth It. (But it’s too small a thing)

Living with a chronic illness, and being a teacher are giant tasks in and of themselves, but combining them, for the last six years has been the challenge of my life.

higher-1_21205205Though I only teach part-time, there have been many times, weeks, even months on end, when the task has seemed insurmountable. But I push on, and one of the driving factors is that I work at a school where I’m allowed to share my faith with my students. I’ve often said that if I saw even one student in heaven, if even one got saved as a result of my ministry, it would make all these years of struggle and fight worth it.

Last year I had a stand-out student in my Religion class. She loved coming to class and she’d hang off every word, but she was broken. On several occasions she stayed after class to ask me questions, often crying. I shared Jesus with her, over and over, but she just couldn’t seem to grasp it. I prayed for her, and bought her a Bible. Still she struggled, and at one point she ended up in hospital as a result of severe depression. Not long after that she left the school. I worried for her and I prayed for her, but it was out of my hands.

Last week I attended our school’s musical. During the interval a young lady ran up to me and hugged me. It was the girl from my Religion class the year before. She looked so happy and vibrant and she said she was doing well. I asked her what she was planning on doing next year, when she’s finished school. With shining eyes she told me that she was going to Bible College! I could have fallen over! What?

As I asked her about it, she shared what has happened over the last year; that she’s at church all the time now; that she’s found God and He’s changed her life. Then she said some things that really impacted and humbled me. She told me that she has so much love for me; that I’m her inspiration. That it was those Religion lessons and chats that led her to God. I was lost for words. After six years. Finally, a life changed for eternity.

All credit and glory goes to God. He does the saving; He gave me the strength to get through days when I had nothing and he gave me the privilege of being used for His greatest purpose. Even more, He let me know. So often we hope that lives are changed or impacted in ways that we’ll never know about, but what a privilege and blessing to actually be told. To actually have that student chase you down and tell you they’ve been wanting to get in touch with you for months. It’s rare.

So, I’ve had my one. The one who was going to make it all worth it; but you know what? It’s not enough. I was reminded of the passage in Isaiah when God says that reaching the Jews was too small a thing, He was going to save the Gentiles too. This is my conviction: I’ve been privileged to be part of a divine miracle; a soul brought from death to life, but to rest at one? It’s too small a thing. I see hundreds of teenagers every day who need Jesus, so for as long as I’m in this job, as long as God gives me strength to do it, I’ll be sharing the gospel with any who are willing to hear it.

Why is the message of Christianity offensive?

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The message of Christianity is offensive because it’s exclusive.

One of the foundational premises of Christianity is that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ. He claimed to be the Way, the Truth and the Life and that ‘no one comes to the Father except through me.’ Acts also states that ‘…there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among menby which we must be saved.

Christianity claims to be the one true religion, reconciling people with the One True God. You can accept it or reject it, but you can’t mix it with other faiths or worldviews.

I’m sick of people ranting about how Christianity is all about tolerance and acceptance. I wonder if these people have ever read a Bible. While Christianity welcomes all people, irrespective of their sinfulness or their past, it demands total allegiance; the renouncing of all other paths and the acceptance of salvation through Jesus alone.

This can be hard to swallow, but there is one massive payoff: It’s the truth! As Paul said ‘… the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’

The Gospel message saves people! It offers hope, it transforms lives and it restores fellowship with God. It is the greatest miracle to have ever touched humanity.

It’s exclusive because it has to be; because it IS the only way. It’s a Jesus plus nothing message, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.