The Gospel Change

Bulletin 2

The Bible teaches that believers in Christ are actually an altogether new creation.  That is what the bible says.   2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  That means those who have placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and have been justified (declared righteous) by faith in Him are living in a new sphere of life.  Old things have passed away; all things have become new because of this new position in Christ.

Let me say it this way.  There was a time in each and every one of our lives we lived in the womb of our mother.  That was the sphere of our life.  It was a very necessary sphere, but it was limited and narrow.  But now, things have changed.  We are no longer in the womb but are now living in this world.  Our natural birth has brought about an enormous change in our lifestyle.  In fact, we have changed so much, none of us even remember that way of life.  It is foreign to us now.

In the same manner, those that are in Christ have been born again.  There has been this spiritual rebirth and our spiritual rebirth has changed our lives completely and absolutely; once and for all.  Things will never be the same.  We have been made new and, at the same time, are being made new.  We are in Christ.  He covers us and consumes us; so now we live, and move and have our being in Christ.  He eclipses everything this world has to offer.  We have seen His glory and we are now changed.  He has made us new and our lives reflect that transformation.

However, this is where we must be careful.  We must recognize what happens when pledging our faith in Christ.  When embracing faith, the gospel of Jesus Christ changes us.  Therefore, we begin to do different, because we are different.  Our spiritual birth has awakened us to a brand new way of life.  Yet, sometimes it comes off as this religious pressure to perform, when in reality our responsibility in living a Christ centered life has everything to do with the awareness that Christ is changing us.

In essence, our dreams and desires change.  Our passions and priorities change.  Our wants and our wishes change.  We are motivated to do different and to be different because we are different.  We are made new and are being made new.  So then, we are not transitioning in life by implementing change, we are transforming in life evidenced by the change.  Therefore, our doing is not some mechanical prescription to do better, our doing is God’s supernatural power that is making us new.  This is the gospel change and it changes everything about us.

Does it Matter What You Do with Your Life?

reActionSIntroduction

Saul was a chosen vessel.  On the road to Damascus to persecute Christians, Christ confronted Saul and revealed Himself.  It was this authentic revelation of Jesus in Saul’s life that caused an immediate revolution in Saul’s heart.  Saul saw the light.  He was forever changed.  The old things had instantly passed away, and everything became new.  Saul was delivered and God had determined to use this man to be the instrument that would, in effect, change the world.

Saul’s previous life had prepared him for this moment.  He was born into a Roman family and thereby a citizen of the most powerful nation of its time.  The Roman Empire was noted for its commerce and trade over land and sea, it provided the best schools and learning institutions of its day and the privileges of society were unmatched and only offered to its citizens.

Specifically, Saul was born into a Jewish family of the Diaspora.  In other words, as a Jew, Paul was familiar and in touch with secular society.  He knew the Greek language, identified Greek logic and understood the influence of Greek culture upon the lives of men.  Saul had a clear perspective of the world.

Being a Jew, Saul had a number of insights into the lifestyle of God’s people.  Saul was brought up in the synagogue.  He had a working knowledge of the Scriptures.  For as long as Saul could remember, he had been taught the traditions of old.  Even though he had a Greek intellect, he had the training of a rabbi and was inducted into the elite Jewish ruling counsel known as the Sanhedrin.

Now everything was different.  Everything was new.  Yet God would use all of these personal experiences of Saul to fulfill His sovereign plan.  Clearly, Saul was chosen by God to do an extraordinary work of ministry.

Much could be said about this man Saul.  I could identify his character and his conduct in order to learn from his example.  Excluding Christ, one could argue that there has been no better man to ever walk this earth than Saul.  Saul has an amazing story; Saul the murderer of the faithful becomes a miracle of faith.  This man that purposely persecuted the church prior to his conversion eventually would proclaim the hope of Christ in like passion.  God ultimately elevated Saul well beyond his own comprehension to a place of legendary status within church history.  Humanly speaking, Saul would author half the New Testament writings.  Therefore, it can be said that no man would make any greater contribution, have any greater influence or be of any greater value to the world than this man Saul.

Clearly Saul was someone special which had something special, but what about the rest of us?  Those of us that will never be center on the world’s stage, do we have anything substantive to offer?  Does it really matter what we do with our life?

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Remedy: Receiving the Gospel Cure

RemedySeveral hundred years ago, a great nemesis arose against the church in an attempt to silence the gospel witness of Christ. This adversary’s hatred of Christians was hot and his disdain for the church was strong. This formidable foe was unrelenting in invoking fear and trepidation upon Christian believers tempting them to compromise their faithfulness and quiet their visible response to Christ.

This opponent of the church was no back ally thug that crept about in dark shadows, rather this man was prominently positioned within the ruling class. He was extremely intelligent and highly educated. He had connections to high ranking officials. He had clout among those with authority and power. With his own drive, determination and ambition, he ultimately had a capacity to inflict great harm upon the followers of Jesus.

Therefore, he was bold in his action, daring in his vices and he made no effort to hide his destructive agenda to eliminate the church from this world. Therefore, much blood was shed and he tasted it in broad daylight for all to see. This man was not just a menace; this man was a monster that attempted to exterminate the church from the face of the earth!

Some people are pliable and easily molded, but not this man. His personality was cut from hard stone and iron. He would not bow to the established party line; he was inflexible and adamant regarding his own perspectives and religious positions. Therefore, his will was an unbridled force of destruction that no one could tame. So no one dared to stand in his way.

The whole idea that Jesus came to die on a cross was preposterous notion to him. The thought that Calvary was the answer to man’s problems (the remedy) was ludicrous. To believe that God would die on a tree was ridiculous blasphemy and anyone that suggested such was a heretic and they needed to die.

However, on one particular blistering hot day on a mission to put more Christian believers to death, Saul (better known to us today as the Apostle Paul, Saul once the greatest rival of the church), got saved.

Every conversion to faith in Christ is a miracle. When someone who is born in sin, shaped in iniquity, blind to truth, deaf to the gospel, dead to Christ and determined to go his own way comes face to face with the Risen Lord and enthrones Him as his personal Savior it is a miracle. However, when someone so antagonistic to the gospel comes to faith, it seems as if it is a miracle of a different degree.

Humanly speaking, everything was against Paul being converted. He was saved in spite of his heartless personality, in spite of the violence he perpetrated and in spite of the vindictive response to the message of the church. He was saved although he could not be reached with reason. He was saved though he was driven by burning hatred. Although he was “set in his ways” and possibly the last person we would ever think could be reached, Paul was saved.

The good news of Jesus changed everything and when Paul received the gospel cure he discovered the remedy. Jesus is the answer to all that ails you in life.  That is how Paul could boldly declare in the first chapter of Romans, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.” (Romans 1:16)

More than Words

more than words_tMany times it seems as if we know all the words to say.  It is as if we know what is expected of us so we tend to put on the proper face, we pose and we begin to re-iterate all those “appropriate” things we have heard before; whether we believe them or not.  We go through the motions, but our words come off as empty rhetoric. 

You know what I am talking about.  We all do it.  Our society is well versed in this discipline.  For example when life hits hard we learn to grin and bear it.  We put on a smile and regurgitate all those wonderful worldly platitudes like how every cloud has a silver lining or when life gives lemons make lemonade.  Or how about this, it is always darkest before the dawn.  (Have you ever used that one or has someone used that one on you?)  Usually, in that moment, the one offering such a sentiment in time of your trouble is feeling pretty clever and proud for offering that nugget of wisdom, but the one on the receiving end of such insight is probably thinking, “I’m going to hurt you.” 

That is the worldly way.  When the world runs up against hardship, trial or struggle, they tend to break out into proverbial show tunes and dream of better days.  But in the end, these overused expressions (and countless more like them) are only words.  However, we can’t be too critical of the world for the church has a tendency to do the same.

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How We Stole Christmas

How_We_Stole_Christmas_std_tDid you know that during the early days of Christianity, different parts of the world celebrated the birth of Christ on different dates?  The Bible does not reveal the exact date of the Lord’s birth and the earliest believers did not have a fixed time for observing it.  However, that did not stop many from trying to figure out the day Jesus was born.  So, as a result of scholarly consideration, multiple dates have been suggested to commemorate the Lord’s birth:  January 6, April 18, April 19 and May 20.  According to Hippolytus, a 3rd century theologian that lived from the year 170 to 236 A.D., Christ was born on Wednesday, December 25, in the 42 year of the reign of Augustus. (which is 2 B.C.)   

Therefore, if you traveled widely in the Roman world, you could conceivably enjoy 5 or even six different celebrations of the Savior’s birth in the span of a single year.  However, it was Pope Julius I in the mid-fourth century who appointed a monk named Dionysius to set up a calendar standardizing a universal date.  December 25 officially became the recognized date and on that day a special mass was celebrated, hence the word Christmas (meaning a Christ mass).  This date was primarily selected because it coincided with the pagan festivals celebrating Saturnalia and the winter solstice.[1]  In other words, we stole Christmas. 

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The Confession of a King

Sermon image“You’re the man!”  In our culture, when we hear these words we may initially think someone is intending to show admiration to another.  When we hear someone say, “You’re the man” we may think that a friend scored the game winning RBI or perhaps scored tickets to the big game.  In those cases it is not uncommon for these words to be followed by a chest bump, a victory dance or high five’s all around for this expression is often articulated to celebrate or congratulate achievement.  However, when David heard these words they were purposely hurled at him as an indictment as if he was just fingered in a police lineup.  Scripture paints a vivid picture of the prophet Nathan boldly pulling back the ragged and repugnant veil David used to cover up an adulterous affair and a calculated murder.  Those words, “you are the man” were meant to confront David’s reprehensible sin and expose his life of hypocrisy.  (II Samuel 12)

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Where Do I Find Life, Liberty and Happiness?

sure_foundations_std_t_nvHave you ever stopped long enough to consider how most Americans find happiness?  By that I am not just referring to the short moments of pleasure, but real satisfaction and joy in life.  In other words, how do most Americans find wholeness in our society?  What goals do they believe are worth pursuing?  What do most Americans live for?

A quick look around are nation can be quite telling.  I believe most Americans think happiness comes by achieving material wealth.  I can still remember my guidance counselor in my public high school “guiding” me my senior year to choose a career that would provide the greatest income.  Identifying my dreams, pursuing my personal interests or communicating societal needs was not even a consideration.  I was led to choose a field of study solely on the merit of a large paycheck. 

We live in a culture that equates happiness with money and/or material gain.  Although, we have heard how money cannot buy happiness, it is evident that money can wield power, influence and prestige.  I fear that many confuse these things with happiness.  No doubt we have all considered how different life would be if we had unlimited financial resource, but money is not the answer to an unhappy life for money cannot buy love, peace or joy.

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