The Fruit-Bearing GOSPEL

Many times when we think of the gospel, we only think of it as the information a lost person needs in order to be saved. We see it as the entry requirements for the Christian life.  Instead, the gospel is not just the diving board that gets us into Christ, but it is the entire pool itself.  As believers, we need to hear the gospel preached every week to us on the Lord’s Day. We also need to remind ourselves of it every day.

In Colossians 1:3–6 Paul writes, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.”

Interestingly, Paul is writing to those who are already Christians and yet reminds them that the gospel is bearing fruit and increasing in their lives. Does the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus still enthrall you? Are you bored with the gospel? Is the word of truth bearing fruit in your life?

A great book by the Puritans called “Valley of Vision” contains powerful, deep, and very moving prayers that encourage us to stay focused on Christ.  Listen to one of the prayers: “Holy Trinity, continue to teach me that Christ’s righteousness satisfies justice and evidences your love; help me to make use of it by faith as the ground of my peace and of your favor and acceptance of me, so that I may live always near the cross.”

Is that your prayer? To always live near the cross by faith so that the gospel permeates your thinking and it affects every aspect of your life. Do you pray for the gospel to increase in your heart?

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.”

That’s what we need. A daily rehearsing of the gospel in our hearts and minds. We need to be saturated in the gospel so that we can overwhelm the temptations of this world with the glory and majesty of Christ.

Jesus was very concerned that we would bear fruit as He tells us in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Are you growing in your understanding of God’s grace? Is the gospel bearing fruit in your life? Are you abiding in Christ through reading His Word and prayer? Has the good news that Jesus rescued you from the penalty and power of sin through His death on the cross become stale? Has the wonder of the empty tomb become so common place? Do you still weep at the glory of having all your sins forgiven by a holy God who was not obligated to save you?

Do you still stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene and wonder how he could love you, a sinner, condemned, unclean? How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be: How marvelous! How wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!

Pray that the gospel would bear fruit and increase in your life as you abide in Christ!

 

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The Glory of the Resurrection

Today we celebrate the victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave and his exaltation as the King of kings. The resurrection of our Lord is one of the most important truths of Christianity. Without the resurrection, there is no hope of salvation. And yet, throughout the centuries, this vital historical reality has been disputed and attacked.

There have been three major objections to the resurrection. The first attack on this precious doctrine is called the “falsehood” theory. In this idea, the disciples snuck past the Roman guards, rolled the stone away, stole Jesus’ body, and then went around telling everyone He had risen. Matthew’s gospel tells us that Pilate ordered the tomb to be secured and set guards in front of it (Matthew 27:62-66). These Roman soldiers would have lost their jobs or gotten severely reprimanded for not guarding the post, so this theory breaks down.

In addition, why would the disciples die as martyrs for a belief that was simply a lie? Peter was crucified upside down. Paul was beheaded. James the brother of John was beheaded. Philip was scourged, beaten and crucified. James the leader of the church in Jerusalem was beaten, stoned, and was bludgeoned to death with a bat. Andrew the brother of Peter was crucified. Mark was dragged to death. Jude was crucified. Thomas was killed by being speared to death. Luke was hanged on an olive tree.

The second attack on the resurrection is called the “swoon theory”. Proponents of this argument say that Jesus did not really die on the cross, but simply fainted. The spear in his side didn’t kill him. The cat of nine tails didn’t rip his flesh apart, nor did the torture of crucifixion. He simply fainted. Even though Jesus was in there for three days with no food and water, he somehow had enough strength to roll the stone away from the inside, physically overcome an armed Roman guard while walking on pierced and bloody feet and then strolled into Jerusalem. If you read Matthew 27:27-50, you will find all of the physical brutalities Jesus’ endured that clearly indicate that He was truly dead when they put Him in the tomb.

The third attack on the resurrection is called the “vision theory”.  Those who adhere to this theory claim that the disciples in their excited states of mind were thinking so much about Jesus and the possibility of His return that they hallucinated and had visions of seeing him and thought he had actually risen and then circulated this story to get as many people as they could to believe them.

The problem with all three of these theories is that there is an overwhelming amount of historical facts to substantiate the literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The greatest Scripture that gives credence to the factual and historical truth of the resurrection is found in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-7. Paul writes, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

There were over 500 people who were direct eye-witnesses of the resurrection. In addition, Jesus also appeared in His resurrected body to His disciples on numerous occasions before He ascended back into heaven. The witness of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) is clear historical evidence that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead.

But even if one does not give credence to the Scriptural testimony, there is another testimony from secular history. In his history book called “The Antiquities”, Josephus, a secular, non-Christian Jewish historian wrote this: “On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him.”  The resurrection of Jesus Christ was validated by someone who had no reason to defend Him nor who even believed in Him as Savior and Lord.

As we celebrate the resurrection, let us hold fast the confidence we have in the historical reality of a resurrected Savior. Let us joyfully and thankfully receive the words that the angels announced to those women who saw the empty tomb. In Matthew 28:5-7 we find these words: “But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead.’”

He is RISEN!! He is RISEN INDEED!! This is ultimate hope!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

John 3:16–The Bible in Miniature

Martin Luther has called John 3:16the Bible in miniature.” In other words, this one passage of Scripture sums up the entire theme and story and centrality of the Bible. This is THE most popular verses in all the Bible and sometimes we can be so familiar with it that we repeat almost like a mantra without really understanding the full weight of what it means and how it fits into the Gospel of John. John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

From this very famous passage of Scripture, we see FIVE absolute essentials of what you need to know about salvation. First of all, we see the SOURCE of our salvation. For GOD SO LOVED…. Salvation does not begin with us but flows directly from God’s love for us as sinners. The word “so loved” is emphatic in the Greek. The way it’s worded conveys the intensity of God’s love. The verb used “agapeo” in the Gospel of John implies more than just a feeling of love, but a conscious choice to love in action.

Second, we see the SCOPE of our salvation. For God so loved THE WORLD… When we think of the word “world” don’t think in terms of the “bigness of the world” but the “badness of the world.” The amazing thing is not that God loves a world that is so big, but a world that is so bad.  We must never think that God loved us because we were somehow worthy or merited or deserved His love. The text nowhere says that God was somehow moved to save us because He saw something in use that would deserve that love. Why would God stoop so low to show ill-deserving sinners love. We don’t deserve love. We deserve God’s wrath. All of us stand opposed to our Creator in rebellion, treason, and major sin.

Third, we see the SACRIFICE of our salvation. For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son… Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” The Father gave Jesus willingly for undeserving sinners, but Jesus also went willingly to the cross for our salvation.

Sometimes we get confused with the word “begotten” and it is probably not the best translation. The word in the original language means “unique” or one of a kind. Jesus is the unique, sinless, powerful Son of God. But He is not only the Son of God, He is God the Son. Jesus is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. He is the Great I AM.

Fourth, we see the SURETY of our salvation. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever BELIEVES in him will have ETERNAL LIFE. Why do I use the word surety? It means assurance. That we are certain. It means that we have come to that point where we personally put all of our hope and trust and faith in Christ alone to save us because we are convinced He is the Son of God. We are sure He is the Savior. We are certain He is who He says He is. We translate this verse with “whosever” but in reality, the structure of the sentence in the original language says that it is “all the believing ones”—all those who come to Christ in repentance and faith have the surety of eternal life.

Fifth, we see the SENTENCE of suffering. The word “PERISH” means to suffer eternal conscious torment in hell. It means that there is a dire sentence pronounced on all who do not believe in Jesus and that sentence involves eternal suffering. The beauty of the gospel is that God sent Jesus on a rescue mission to save us out of condemnation as the ONLY WAY we could be saved from guilt.

There is no middle ground in Jesus’ words. You either believe and have eternal life or… You don’t believe and have eternal punishment. You are either saved from your sins or…You stand condemned in your sins. Which side describes you? Do you truly believe in Jesus? God has given the greatest gift of all time in His extravagant love by sending Jesus to die on the cross and rise again so that by believing in Him we can be saved from the judgment of hell and have eternal life in heaven.