Reflections on the Recent FLOOD

Our community has experienced the gamut of emotions over the past week and a half as the South Platte River flood swept through our area leaving a wake of damage. Many people lost homes, others lost valuable property, others farmland, and most of us had to go an entire week with a “no flush” ordinance. I want to extend a very hearty THANK YOU to all of our local leaders who worked feverishly to help out in this very difficult time—from our city manager and his staff, to the director of public works and his staff, to the Logan County Sheriff’s Dept., Sterling Police Dept., Colorado State Patrol, all our Firefighters and EMT’s, the Office of Emergency Management, as well as the Red Cross and Salvation Army and a whole host of others I have probably failed to mention. We truly appreciate all the hard work and effort you have put forth in alleviating the stress of this flood and its aftermath.

 

As we reflect on the events of these past two weeks, I want to draw your attention to Isaiah 43:1-3 which states, “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

 

This verse poignantly hits home as we have been through the waters and the rivers. Notice that the text says “When”, not “If” you pass through the waters. Our sovereign God never promises us that we will have a life free from trials and tribulations and even out of control “tributaries” (I had to add that one in for pastoral alliteration!) God does in fact promise us that He will be with us THROUGH the waters. We can trust in His presence in our lives. Let us be thankful as a community that God in His grace and mercy spared us what happened in the city of Lyons or in the areas surrounding Greeley. In reality, it could have been much worse here in Logan County than it actually was. The entire town of Sterling could have been flooded and we would be “wading” in 2 feet of floodwater just to get to the “port-o-potties”! So as a community, let us be thankful that God in His grace spared us an even major catastrophe.

 

Paul encourages us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 with these words: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

 

I was amazed to see the outpouring of generosity in our community in people willing to share their homes for showers, laundry, and meals! As I observe this gracious hospitality, I am thankful to our Savior.

 

But yet in the midst of all this, there is a looming question that plagues me. What will be the economic impact and ripple effect of this flood? My heart goes out to all those who went an entire week without a paycheck–those in the service industry who work at restaurants, hotels, and in our school system and others.

 

13% of Logan County lives below the poverty line.[1] Back in May, the Colorado Children’s Campaign released its 2013 “Kids County in Colorado” report, which indicated that Logan County’s child poverty rates continue to grow. It states 21.4 percent of the children in Logan County live in poverty.[2]

 

How will this flood affect our already increasing amount of poverty in Logan County—especially among children? How will our churches rise to the occasion and be generous to those who are poor? The Bible speaks a great deal about how we as God’s people are to treat the poor. Will those in our community who have the resources be willing to donate more to the Cooperating Ministry? I beg us as God’s people to pray for wisdom in the days to come in how we can truly meet needs in Christ’s name to those who are hurting financially and have been negatively impacted by this flood.

 

As we reflect upon the inconveniences of not being able to flush and having our property affected and maybe even lost and not being able to work, it is appropriate to grieve and be concerned. Our hearts go out to you and Emmanuel Baptist Church wants to be a safe haven for you to experience the love of Christ. Yet in all of this, let us not ever forget that the greatest pain and loss and sorrow that any human ever felt was when the infinite God-Man, Jesus Christ, hung suspended on the cross bearing the full weight of our sin and God’s justice against our rebellion.  Jesus endured the “flood” of God’s righteous anger against our sin as our Substitute so we would not have to endure that for eternity in hell. If you have not repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus Christ alone for salvation as a free gift of grace, then what better time than now than to surrender your life to Him!

Again, we say “Thank You” to those leaders in our community who served us well during this time of crisis and may we as a Logan County residents praise our gracious Savior for sparing us what could have been a whole lot worse. And may this be an opportunity for us to evaluate our spiritual lives and bow before Jesus in repentance and faith for His wonderful gift of the cross

 

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The Crucial Importance of the True Gospel

Martin Luther in his commentary on Galatians urges us to be intimately familiar with the gospel and to beat it into our heads continually! We need daily reminders of the gospel. Without the gospel, we would either veer into the ditch of inflated pride and legalism or the ditch of deflated guilt and condemnation. Milton Vincent in his book “A Gospel Primer for Christians” writes these very encouraging words: “There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my conscience, the condemning of my heart, and the lies of the world and the devil than to overwhelm such things with daily rehearsings of the gospel.”

What exactly is the true gospel? And is there such a thing as false gospels? Paul addresses this issue very poignantly in the first chapter of Galatians. He gives what I call the “gospel in a nutshell’ in 1:4-5 which states, “… the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

        The gospel tells us first and foremost that we are helpless and hopeless sinners under God’s condemnation who need to be delivered or rescued. The gospel is absolutely not the message that we are all children of God and that God accepts us no matter what we do and that we are all okay. The gospel begins with the terrible news that we are lost, depraved, and condemned and in desperate need of rescuing.  

Founders of other religions came to teach people how to live, not to rescue them from sin. That is what sets the gospel of Christ apart from all other systems. Every other non-Christians belief system assumes that we are all inherently good and just need to be taught how to love God or to live a good life. They don’t come with the fallen condition of humans as helpless, hopeless, and lost who need the substitutionary death of Christ.

Paul also says that Jesus voluntarily gave himself up for our sins. There is power in that little word “for” which means “in the place of” or “on behalf of”. In essence, Jesus died the death we should have died by absorbing the full weight of God’s wrath against our sin. He paid the penalty for our sin in his body on the cross.  At the heart of the gospel is the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ for helpless and lost sinners who stand not only separated from God because of our sin, but also under His just condemnation. Without the death of Christ, all of us would get what we deserve—hell.

        Paul also tells us that this gospel was according to the will of God for the glory of God. We in our sinful and rebellious state did not initiate this rescue from Jesus. We bring nothing to the table. There is nothing within us that merits God’s choice to save us. This is the very definition of grace. The gospel is not the “feel good” message that everybody is a child of God and they just need to understand that God already accepts them. The gospel tells us that we are an enemy of God and he does not accept us because of our sin and we desperately need the death of Christ on the cross to forgive us of our sins and to pay the debt we eternally owe an infinitely holy God.

And yet as Paul continues in Galatians, he gives a stark warning to those who are in the process of deserting Jesus and turning to a “different” gospel—as if there is another gospel!  Here is where it gets scary. If you turn to a different gospel you are damning yourself to hell and showing that you have abandoned Jesus.  Listen to Paul in Galatians 1:8-9: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

The word “accursed” means to be eternally damned to hell. Denying and/or distorting the gospel are serious issues of eternal life or death.  What Paul is saying is that there is direct correlation to what you believe about the gospel and your personal relationship with Christ. To abandon gospel theology is to abandon Christ personally. People who claim that they are Christians and yet distort the gospel show the penetrating reality that they do not actually know Christ personally.

Paul is “astonished” that these Galatians are so quickly deserting Jesus and turning to a different gospel.  Any other gospel that does not adhere to the absolute sinfulness of humans who are under God’s wrath, to those who need rescuing from sin through the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross, to God’s wrath against sin being appeased by Christ, is not a gospel at all and is in fact damning.  Dear readers, don’t so easily embrace or accept “false gospels” that are so prevalent in our culture. Don’t accept any gospel that downplays the reality of sin, the reality of God’s wrath against sin, the reality of the cross of Christ, and the reality that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. If anyone preaches a gospel contrary to that, he or she is to be eternally damned to hell. These are stark words, but not my words. These are the loving warnings from the pages of Scripture to those who are in danger of flirting with false gospels and whose very eternity is on the line! Embrace the one and only true gospel today!