this is my Gospel

good news

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.  This is my Gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.  But God’s Word is not chained.  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:8-10).

I wonder if we have this very same perspective, or if we are too far removed (in both time and even belief) from the early church?  Are these our priorities?  Are these words as central to us as they were to the first century apostolic mission?

gospelAs the Apostle writes to his protégé Timothy, the sword that will fulfill his destiny can practically be heard as it is sharpened in the background (Paul, of course, is soon beheaded for his faith).  And so as with much of what we see from Paul’s pen, there is a great sense of urgency in what he seeks to communicate in this final letter to his dear friend.

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.  This is my Gospel.”

“This is my Gospel.”  Now that’s a significant statement!  Is it not?

The word Gospel is utilized 96 times in the New Testament.  All but 20 are found in Paul’s letters.  76 times the Apostle Paul pens the word.  “Euangelion.”  “Good News.”  “Gospel.”  And each and every time he does, his intention is the same.  For there is no other Gospel that is Gospel.

This is my Gospel: “Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.”

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to pursue these powerful statements from our friend the Apostle Paul found within 2 Timothy 2:8-10.

But I wanted to begin here in verse 8.  Because if our definition of Gospel is any different.  Then there’s really not much need in going any further.

Glory to God!

Jason

always before me

sadness“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me…” (Psalm 51:1-3).

King David.  The man “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22; cf. 1 Samuel 13:14).  The David of David and Goliath.  Confesses, “My sin is always before me.”

My sin is always before me.

My sin is always before me.

“I can’t get away from it.”  “It consumes me.”  “I am overwhelmed by it.”

And yet, over time and by God’s grace, he does get away from it.  And it ceases to consume him.  The burden is removed.  David becomes overwhelmed not by his sin but by God’s grace.  And finally, finally, he breathes a cleansing sigh of relief, as his sin is no longer always before him.

sadnessWhen we consider Psalm 51 in it’s entirety, we witness God doing for us that which we cannot accomplish for ourselves.  Taking away that which positions us in conflict with Him and with ourselves and with others.  And allowing us to not be defined by our sin, but rather, to be defined as men and women after His own heart.

“Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled.  O you who hear prayer, to you all humanity will come.  When we were overwhelmed by our sins, you forgave our transgressions” (Psalm 65:1-3).

“My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.”

Glory to God!

Jason

putting it all together

Little ChefTiersa is capable of composing something great out of seemingly nothing at all better than anyone I know.  “What’s for dinner,” I’ll ask her.  “Let me see what I’ve got,” she’ll say.  And she’ll take a bunch of things that to me don’t even appear to go in the same pantry, much less on the same plate, and she creates something incredibly wonderful (she would dominate on the Food Network shows Chopped and Iron Chef!).

At Creation, God creates something out of nothing.  He speaks life into existence.  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2).  The word translated “created” in Hebrew is “ex-nihilo.”  Literally it means, “out of nothing.”  Technically the text could read, “In the beginning, God, out of nothing, the heavens and the earth.”  Cool stuff!

groceriesAnd we believe it.  Right?  We believe that God speaks everything that is into existence.  Don’t we?  We believe that “ex-nihilo” God creates through His Word and breathes life through His Spirit.  Do we not?  Why then do we find it so difficult to believe that He can accomplish the same in and through us?

Very often, you and I, we look at our lives and all we see is what I see when I go the pantry the day before Tiersa goes to the grocery store.  We see nothing that’s good.  Nothing that is appealing.  Nothing that can be put together, or that can be salvaged, or that’s worthwhile.  But God sees you and I like Tiersa sees all of that stuff in the pantry, that to me looked like starvation.  For what it could be.  For what we could be.

God is in the putting it all together business.  He is an expert in stepping in and saving the day.  He continually creates something absolutely wonderful out of a complete mess.  Triumph out of defeat.  Beauty out of ashes.

View of Earth From SpaceLook to Scripture.  Look to the lives of fellow followers of Jesus today.  He’s still doing it!  “Ex-nihilo.”  God.  Out of nothing.  Faithful, strong, redeemed, alive, made new, made whole, focused, joyful, at peace – men and women of the Kingdom.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…” (Isaiah 61:1-2b; cf. Luke 4:18-19).

Glory to God!

Jason

here’s my heart

Loving the Word Worship Background

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing is one of my absolute favorite hymns.  Written in 1758 by Robert Robinson when he was only 23.  As the story goes Robinson’s father died when he was young.  His mother, barely able to make ends meet, worked most of the time and so Robinson was left to more or less raise himself.  By his late teens Robinson had a number of enemies and number of troubles.  However it was at this time in his life that he began to consider his own mortality and the person he was becoming.  He turned to seek Christ at the age of 20 and soon penned the words of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.  Within the words themselves, we sense the Robinson’s internal struggle, and perhaps our own….

Come Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace.  Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for song of loudest praise.  Teach me ever to adore Thee.  May I still Thy goodness prove. While the hope of endless glory fills my heart with joy and love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come.  And I hope by Thy good pleasure safely to arrive at home.  Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God.  He to rescue me from danger interposed His precious blood. 

O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be!  Let Thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to Thee.  Never let me wander from Thee.  Never leave the God I love.  Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.

We, like Robinson, struggle at times in our walk and in closeness to God.  And when that closeness isn’t there, we know that it’s not God who has distanced Himself from us.

The story continues that soon after writing Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robinson walked away from the Lord.  Fast forward 16 years.  He is now 39 years old.  He has spent the last years just getting by: gambling, drinking, living from one place to the next, no God, no faith, no purpose in life – no life – just existence.  Robinson steps onto a stage in England.  Half hung-over, depressed, a shell of the man he once was.  A woman in the stagecoach with him recognizes how down he is.  The story goes that she says to him, “There is a song that we sing at church from time to time that gives me great hope and cheers me up, might I share the words with you?”  And after Robinson concedes to allow the woman to share, she begins to sing him Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing….

After the woman stops singing, Robinson, tears in his eyes, replies, “Madam, I am the poor, unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds to feel now what I felt then.”  The moment served as a defining one, a turning point in Robinson’s life, in which he recommitted himself once again to God.

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.

Glory to God!

Jason

power made perfect

“But the Lord said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:8b-10

Glory to God!

Jason

down to where we are

“I remember sitting outside a Buddhist temple in Indonesia.  Men and women filled the elaborate, colorful temple grounds, where they daily performed their religious rituals.  Meanwhile, I was engaged in a conversation with a Buddhist leader and a Muslim leader in this particular community.  They were discussing how all religions are fundamentally the same only superficially different.  ‘We may have different views about small issues,’ one of them said, ‘but when it comes to essential issues, each of our religions is the same.’

I listened for a while, and then they asked me what I thought.  I said, ‘It sounds as though you both picture God (or whatever you call god) at the top of a mountain.  It seems as if you believe that we are all at the bottom of the mountain, and that I may take one route up the mountain, you may take another, and in the end we will all end up in the same place.’

They smiled as I spoke.  Happily they replied, ‘Exactly!  You understand!’

Then I leaned in and said, ‘Now let me ask you a question.  What would you think if I told you that the God at the top of the mountain actually came down to where we are?  What would you think if I told you that God doesn’t wait for people to find their way to Him, but instead He comes to us?’

They thought for a moment and then responded, ‘That would be great!’

I replied, ‘Let me introduce you to Jesus….'” – David Platt, Radical

Glory to God!

Jason

I heard Platt last week at D6.  His message was powerful and convicting. 

Our Tuesday morning men’s group is working through Radical a chapter at a time.  Phenomenal….

for those who preach….

“In the front pews the older ladies turn up their hearing aids, and a young lady slips her six year old daughter a Lifesaver and a Magic Marker.  A college sophomore home for vacation, who is there because he was dragged there, slumps forward with his chin in his hand.  The vice president of a bank who twice that week has seriously contemplated suicide places a hymnal in the rack.  A pregnant girl feels the life stir inside her.  A high school math teacher, who for twenty years has managed to keep his homosexuality a secret for the most part even from himself, creases his order of service down the center and tucks it under his knee.  The preacher pulls the little cord that turns on the lectern light and deals out his note cards like a riverboat gambler.  The stakes have never been higher.” – Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth

Glory to God!

Jason

a vicious cycle

“Jesus doesn’t want you to be a good person.  When He calls you to follow Him, He isn’t asking you to become nice and do your best at helping others.  He didn’t die so you could feel good about the things you’ve messed up or so you could carry a sentimental hope of being reunited beyond the grave with the people you love but who have died.

His call is a command for you to comprehensively and absolutely walk away from the way you do life now so you can follow Him down an exclusive path through the narrow gate that leads to the kingdom of heaven.

The first thing you have to let go of is the illusion that following Jesus is about becoming a good person.  Otherwise, you’re just trying to make yourself good by following a list of Sunday school rules that are self-righteous attempts to enter the kingdom of heaven on your own power, somewhere separate and away from the Jesus gate.

This simply sets you up on a cycle of failure and condemnation, where you keep thinking you have to try harder and do better to please God.  By following your list, you think you’re doing well, but then you stumble.  So you try harder and you actually do better, but then you fail again, and feel condemned for your failure.  So you try harder and do better, but then you fail again.

It is a vicious cycle that we so easily slip into when we fail to grasp the grace of God or, like the Galatians, fail to remain living in His grace.  We exhaust ourselves trying to follow a list of rules related to Christian conduct – what it looks like to be good – without realizing those very rules, no matter how well intentioned, will take us further away from God rather than bringing us under the shadow of His wings (Psalms 17:8).” – Costly Grace (p35-6), Jon Walker

Glory to God!

Jason

relentless pursuit

For all of its immenseness (yes it’s a word – all I had to do was hit “ignore” on spell-check!) the Bible, although a lifetime of study only scratches the surface, entails an extremely simple story.

God creates humanity.  Humanity rejects God.  God relentlessly pursues humanity.

The overarching story of Scripture is the redemptive work of a God who would not let us go. 

Whatever the expanse between us and God, He will traverse the gap.  

Our God is a pursuing God.

He pursues us with His grace, with His mercy, with His love. 

The Gospel message itself is of a God who relentlessly pursues us through Jesus.

Glory to God!

Jason