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The 21 Word Gospel

The 21-Word Gospel

If you want to share the Gospel in the quickest, most succinct manner, start with Romans 6:23. It may be the clearest single verse in the Bible to encapsulate the truth of the Gospel, a beautiful and hard-hitting summation of the whole of Scripture in 21 words (ESV):

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

For: When you see the word “for” or “therefore,” find out what it’s there for. It is building on a previous thought. In this case, the verse follows Paul’s explanation of the differing “fruit,” or results, of pursuing a life of either sin or righteousness. This verse condenses his description.

the wages of: Result of, or in this case, the penalty for … We typically think of wages as money received or paid for work performed, but it is better thought of as the result of something. We understand that an activity has a cost, whether it is time or money or something else. Have you ever heard someone say a particular activity took an “emotional toll” on them? That is a cost.

sin: wrongdoing or missing the mark … The Bible is clear that every human being is born in, and with, sin. It is part of our nature since the fall of Adam and Eve. It also envelopes our behavior from the first breath. When we don’t get what we want, we cry, throw a tantrum or get angry. As we grow, we create more inventive (selfish? diabolical?) ways to get our way. All of it breaks the law or misses the mark of God’s standard, the Ten Commandments.

is death: This covers spiritual death, which is separation from God now and forever, and also eternal torment in the lake of fire that results from rejecting Christ for salvation (Rev. 20:11-15). Both outcomes are exercises in misery. Sin causes this, because God is holy, pure and righteous. He can have no sin in His presence.

but: perhaps our favorite word in all of the Bible … It means there is something more, something better to come, than a death sentence.

the free gift: a benefit that costs a person nothing to receive … This is an easy concept to understand. A free gift is not a payment for services. On your birthday, you don’t receive presents after handing $20 bills to the givers. They don’t call you a week ahead to get your credit card number so they can buy your gifts. They give out of their love and kindness. It costs them, but it is free to you. In the same way, God gives out of His perfect love and kindness, and a sinner does nothing to earn it. There is one more facet to a gift: It is useless unless received, opened and enjoyed by the recipient.

of God: the giver of the free gift … Human beings cannot earn it, pay for it or do anything to be worthy of it, the Bible says. It comes solely from the hand of God, out of His goodness, grace, mercy and justice.

is eternal life: never ending … If spiritual death is separation from God, spiritual life is spent in His presence. For undeserving sinners—every one of us—this is too good to be true. Yet it is true. God has made a way for us to be with Him for eternity. That place is marked only by joy, peace, kindness, goodness, worship and all things pertaining to His holiness. Noticeably gone is any vestige of the plagues of this world.

in Christ Jesus: union with the author of eternal life … John Piper lists 13 profound truths from Scripture on what it this means, such as being chosen by God before creation, redeemed, justified, given His righteousness, become a new creation and a son of God, seated in the heavenly places, made holy, supplied with all needs, receive the peace of God, and made alive at Christ’s coming. Piper marvels: “Union with Christ is the ground of everlasting joy, and it is free.”

our Lord: exalted to the place of master of believers’ lives … To those who believe, we willingly surrender to Christ out of love and gratefulness for the salvation He secured, and place His desires above our own. Therefore, our lives are marked by obedience to His commands with the goal of bringing glory to Him in all that we do, think and say. This results in true joy, peace and purpose. This life is not our own, we’ve been bought with a price.

Romans 6:23 brings a truth so profound, we cannot exhaust the riches of its meaning. All praise to Him for His sure promises.

 – Randy Franz

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The Rejection of Jesus is Marvelous!

 Have you not read this Scripture:

        “‘The stone that the builders rejected

                  has become the cornerstone;

         this was the Lord’s doing,

                and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

In Mark 12:10-11, we read Jesus quoting Psalms 118 in pronouncing judgment against the religious leaders who not only questioned Jesus’ authority, but rejected His ministry, message, His Messiahship.

Knowing that they would reject him Jesus told them a parable of the (about a group of) “Wicked Tenants” who rose up against the owner of the vineyard they were responsible to work and protect.  In rebellion they severely mistreated the owner’s servants beating some and killing others.  Eventually, the owner sent his son thinking this would bring reconciliation, but the tenants killed the son hoping to gain the vineyard for themselves.

In response, the owner exercising his rights would “come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.”  You could imagine that while listening to this parable the religious leaders were indignant at the actions of the tenants towards the owner.  The religious leaders would have joined with the crowd crying for justice to be done to the owner. They would have been appalled at the actions of the wicked tenants. All of this stopped when they suddenly realized that Jesus was accusing them of being the wicked tenants!

In verse 12, Mark records that the religious leaders “were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.”

Theologian and pastor R.T. France writes that this parable is a “pictorial account of God’s dealings with Israel through the prophets culminating in the sending of his son” who is also rejected and killed.  This parable is one of judgement against the leaders of Israel.  Jesus taught this parable to confront the chief priests and elders in order to reveal their hypocritical character.

Yet, what strikes me about this passage is the phrase “this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”  The “doing” is the rejection of Jesus.  How can the rejection of Jesus be marvelous?

This rejection of Jesus might come from the hearts of the religious, political, and military leaders, but ultimately it was God’s plan.  In one great sermon found in Acts 4:27-28, the Apostle Peter preaches, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”

The rejection of Jesus is marvelous because it opened the door for Gentiles to become sons and daughters of God. 

Paul writes in Romans 11:11, “So I ask, did they stumble [Israel] in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.

 The stone that was discarded becomes the cornerstone of the Church, the Body of Christ.  Jesus the rejected Messiah becomes the Last High Priest, the Great Prophet, and the Final King.  This Jesus who the religious leaders hate and seek to put to death has been highly exalted by God and given a name “that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2”9-11)

 In the same way that God called out Israel, He has called out a new people and established the Church.  In Matthew 21:23, Jesus tells the religious leaders that, “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.”  Let us be about our Father’s business, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  (Ephesians 2:10)

Let us marvel at the One who was rejected so that we might be accepted.

Rob Curington, Pastor

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Adorning the Doctrine of God

Imagine that you live in a country in which Christianity is a minority religion. Most people you meet have never heard of it, or know very very little about it. Most people believe in a whole host of gods and goddesses. Imagine that the President doesn’t understand Christianity and has no way to learn about it. In fact, he thinks it’s a cannibalistic, atheistic, incestuous religion and because of this he, and everyone else, are extremely hostile towards Christians.

 

What would your faith look like?

 

How would you evangelize?

 

How would you invite people to join a publicly hated religion?

 

How would you explain salvation to a people that have never heard the name of Jesus?

 

You may have guessed it already, but the world that I have been describing was the situation of the church for the first 300 years it existed, and especially during the time of the New Testament. When the apostle Paul was alive and writing the church was overwhelmed with persecution, hostility, misunderstanding, and false teachers. These false teachers were deceiving many to leave the faith and live lives of sin. Great damage to the church was being done.

 

This was the situation of the churches in Crete, and the Apostle Paul knew he had to do something, so he writes to his dear friend Titus who is overseeing the churches there. In this letter, Paul says many things, but one idea has stood out to me recently and its this:

 

The way you live either attracts people to Jesus, or pushes them away (Titus 2:10; 2:5 respectively).

 

            In other words, when the culture is hostile to Christianity (or even when it’s not) the way we live is what people will see, long before they ever understand what we teach, preach and believe. Think about it. Our beliefs need to be true. We must proclaim the gospel to all peoples (Matthew 28:18-20). But if our life doesn’t make it attractive to people than why would they be interested?

 

This is not to say that we need to live perfectly. We won’t. It is to say that we need to live true to what we say we believe, and live true to who we say Jesus is. A person who is truly in Christ should be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).

 

In Titus 2:10 Paul gives a great picture of what this looks like. He says that the way we live should, “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Our lives should make our theology beautiful. It should make Jesus attractive to people. The truths of our faith which we proclaim to people should be decorated by the way we live our lives. In other words, the way you live will either attract people to Jesus or push them away.

 

Think about it like a Christmas tree. When you walk through the lot to pick a tree, they just look like trees. The real magic doesn’t happen until you take it home, stand it up, and carefully decorate it with all of your favorite ornaments and lights. You step back, plug it in, and enjoy. Its beautiful. In the same way, a lot of people see Christianity as just another belief system, another world religion which is just like all the others. But when its decorated with the faithful, godly lives of its people who are empowered by the Spirit of the Living God, its attractive and striking to people.

 

It stands out.

 

People take notice.

 

The famous 16th century theologian, Martin Luther understood this. He said, “Because the [unbeliever] cannot see our faith, they ought to see our works, then hear our doctrine, and then be converted.”

 

This is not a call to sell everything you have. This is not a call to tattoo Jesus across your forehead. This is not a call “preach the gospel at all times, and use words when necessary.” This is a call to humbly do everything in our lives with our eyes focused on Jesus, being aware that the way we live speaks volumes. It’s a call to take our lives, our sin, seriously. It is a call to be faithful disciples of our King Jesus in every area of life. Let us proclaim the gospel boldly, and let us be zealous for good works.

 

Sound hard? Maybe even scary? It does to me. Which is why I love how Paul starts the next verse, “For the grace of God has appeared…” (Titus 2:11). In all of this let us, lean on God’s grace, his enabling grace, his saving grace, his amazing grace. Let us adorn our doctrine with our lives.

 

Take the Bible literally, yes or no?

A church in Brea didn’t try to hide its position recently. In fact, it displayed a message for all to see in bold, black lettering on a marquee board facing busy Imperial Highway.

“TAKING THE BIBLE SERIOUSLY, BUT NOT LITERALLY.” Read more

God, what are you thinking?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”Isaiah 55:8-9

This is one of those passages that we often misunderstand. It’s one of those passages that we take completely out of context and apply whenever it’s convenient. Read more

Sainthood?

What do you think of when you hear the word “saint?” The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox have applied this title to many throughout the centuries who have been officially admitted into some-type of extra holy “Christian Hall of Fame” (i.e. St. Augustine, St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, etc.). There are many qualifications for how one gets to be a saint, such as performing verifiable miracles, and these saints are even prayed to. How do you measure up? Read more