Friday, December 14, 2012

What is the Gospel?

To answer this question it is imperative to remember that "gospel" means "good news."  
So when we hear evangelists preaching the gospel we expect to be hearing them announcing or explaining good news.  
That is a given, surely.

I guess that's why we see the gospel described in the Scriptures as "the gospel of the grace of God" and "the gospel of Jesus Christ" and "the gospel of the kingdom of God" and "the gospel of peace" and "the gospel of the glory of Christ."

I can't find anywhere anything like "the gospel of the wrath of God" or "the gospel of everlasting torment."  

How absurd to suggest that either of these could be associated with the word "gospel."
Yet how many times do we hear wrath and everlasting torment masquerading as gospel preaching in our churches and on our television screens?

How different is this from Paul's statement in Romans 10:15 ?

As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”  [NKJV]

The gospel is glad tidings of good things.
It is the good news that through Jesus God has reconciled us to himself - he is at peace with us.

God loves us and is on our side.
God holds nothing against us - any of us - whether we know it or not, whether we believe it or not, whether we appreciate it or not.
What God has done through Jesus does not depend on us in any way.

It is totally his decision, his work.

Now that's good news; that's the gospel; that's what God calls us to preach.
And the Christmas season is a great time to preach it - to explain to people the mission of the babe in the manger.

Blessings, Barry

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Keeping the Right Focus

Several conversations I have had in the last few days have centred around judgement, hell, the lake of fire, punishment, etc.
My conversation partners were so focussed on these topics that they completely missed God's ultimate purpose to reconcile all people to himself.

God made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
[Eph 1 : 9 - 10]

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
[Col 1 : 19 - 20]
When we focus on the judgement, punishment topics, isolated from God's purpose, and isolated from God's love and sovereignty, we quickly get back to the position that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross completely failed for the majority of God's creation, and man's will has usurped God's.

But when we focus first on God's love, will and sovereignty, we can easily see God's judgements and punishments as the correction of a loving Father, in control of his family, moulding his children to become the people he has designed them to be, in the likeness of his begotten Son, Jesus.

We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
[1 John 3 : 2b]
If we saw a parent smacking a child and knew nothing of that parent's love for the child or desire to improve the behaviour of the child for its own well-being we might have a distorted view of that parent and his/her character.
Equally, of course, if we saw a parent belting and belting and belting a child, for whatever reason, we would be horrified and would question that parent's love for the child and the motivation for the punishment.
Unfortunately, many people view God like this, as an angry, incessant "belter" of his wayward children, because they don't know his heart and purpose.

Let's focus on God's character and purpose first and then we will see how easily the punishment verses, correctly translated, complete the picture.

Blessings, Barry

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Progress Report on Finding a Local Church

It's a month since I last posted about this, so I should keep you up to date.  
(Actually it's a month since I posted about anything.  But I warned you that the rest of this year would be pretty thin pickings ..... )

We have been attending the church I mentioned for six or seven weeks now and getting to know a growing number of the congregation. 
The church is warm and friendly and we have been made very welcome.
One box ticked.

Within the church there is a wide range of views and opinions - moral, social and theological - but nobody seems to be side-lined because of the differences.  

I feel that we could say whatever we think about almost anything without being ostracised or asked to shut up. 
This is so refreshing, and suits me really well.  Mature, unemotional discussion of different views on Biblical topics is not encouraged in many churches, especially in those that were "established" to promote or defend a particular doctrinal position or practice.  

Indeed if all churches were like this one in this regard we wouldn't need a new church or a new denomination for every different thought or opinion that exists or emerges.
As you know "churchianity" is not my game, so I am pretty fussy when it comes to finding a group of Christians (a church) with whom I can worship and serve God comfortably and freely, and who will accept people who hold different points of view (that can be substantiated from Scripture).
Another box ticked.

I caught up with the minister for a chat at the church manse yesterday.
He is a very different person to me.  Indeed, I have not served with another quite like him nor been pastored by one like him. 
He announced to the church last Sunday that he was a universalist (and no-one seemed to blink) and that the "coming of Jesus" is more a series of comings of Jesus, some past, some present, some future. 
So as different as we are, we are clearly on the same page in many things.
He is a wonderful man of God who will stretch me in new areas and wrestle with me in old ones.
Another box ticked.

The church is also very different to any we have been associated with previously. 
It's a liturgical church, bases its corporate life on a common lectionary which celebrates the "standard" church seasons, and has a strong 'social justice' emphasis and a multitude of active connections with the local community.
Those who know our Christian and church history will be wondering how we ever came to be even considering a church like this, led by a minister such as this, but we are sensing that God is moving us into a church family that will love us and teach and challenge us in fresh ways that will round out our preparation for service in the kingdom.
Another box ticked.

Will post again in a week or so when we take the final step and "apply" to belong.
Blessings, Barry