The Whole Gospel

For those of you who were wondering, blogging and reading my Bible is much more interesting than reading Othello. Just a little side note. Anyway…I’ve been wondering tonight.  Do we only pay attention to half of what Jesus says in His word?  I think we focus too much on the “God loves me” verses and not enough on “Stop loving yourself”verses.  It’s not hard for us to love those who love us, but what if God requires us to love those who don’t love us back? Well….he does.  And if we love God, we’re supposed to obey His commands, right? So why is it so hard to love that one person? Why is it so hard to sacrifice our time to people in need, whether it be physically, spiritually, or emotionally?  Why is it that we water down the gospel to fit our lifestyle?

I may or may not have mentioned this before, but for about 17 years, I couldn’t stand the thought of my father.  I’m ashamed to say that I hated him.  I went on for 17 years, listing, in my head, the things my father did and didn’t do for me and my mom.  And it grew to a point that I hated myself because I saw him in me.  I was angry. Angry and furious, I took out my rage on others, mostly my mother.  The problem was, my father didn’t know that.  He went on living his life.  I managed to tear mine apart, through my anger, my hatred, my need to be accepted.  I fell into a sin that enslaved me for six years, and still threatens.  I can’t even say I let my guard down. Heck…I didn’t have a guard to begin with.  It wasn’t until I started understanding God’s love that I turned away from the hate and forgave my father.  While our relationship still has a long way to go, I know that it was God in control during my parent’s divorce.  It was God in control while my mother raised me.  It was God who allowed me and my father to contact each other.  And it’s God who will guide both of us the rest of the way.  Whatever that entails…bring it on.  Because I know who the Creator is.

So, how does that relate to the Bible, to watering it down, to everything I said up top?  Basically…if we spend so much time hating other people, and not loving them, it hurts us…not them.  It tears us up.  The worst part about it is that we’re not any more lovable.  We are dirty, sinful human beings, and yet we think that we’re lovable.  Parts of us are, but as a whole, we are worthy of hell.  Yet God still loves us.  He cares and loves us, and sent His son to die on a cross for us.  I think that makes what He says worth listening to.  Matthew 6:44-45 says “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  Prayer for others should always come before prayer for ourselves, especially for the lost.  If we know Christ, we have nothing to fear.  We know where we’re going when our time on earth is up.  A lot of people don’t, and that may be the biggest understatement I’ve ever made.  Jesus talks about rain falling on both the righteous and the unrighteous.  Here’s a secret for Christian guys: Men that don’t know Christ pee the same way you do.  It’s that simple.  We’re all humans.  We’re all in the same boat, to be cliche.  As Christians, we just happen to have a life raft (to be even more cliche).  I once heard a pastor say “I can’t sleep with the thought of my friends dying and going to hell.”  Can you?  Can I?  Unfortunately I can.  I do, on a nightly basis.

One of the worst thoughts we can have as a Christian is that we have to fix ourselves before we can help others, or that we have to clean up ourselves before telling the gospel.  That’s a lie.  Flat out lie, straight from the mouth of Satan.  We will never be perfect.  That’s why Christ came.  We failed to obey God’s laws, and Christ came to fulfill that law, to take our sin, and to die on a cross.  We sin, probably on an everyday basis.  But we know the way.  And the way is Christ.  I don’t claim to be a “perfect” Christian. Or a “great” Christian.  Not even a “good” Christian.  I know Christ.  I’ve seen God move in ways that amaze me.  Everything about God amazes me.  I’ve seen Him bring me and my mom through a lot, and I’ve seen Him bring me through trials and temptation, through sin and everything else.  When I turn to God, when I lean on Jesus’ name, everything works out in the end.  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 that “I am the least of the apostles, and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

Paul got it.  He realized that there’s nothing we can do to change what we’ve done.  But when we come to Christ, we know who we are in Him.  And our mission should be to carry that message to others.  God is so awesome. When Christ came down, He didn’t come down expecting us to be able to do everything He told us to do perfectly.  That’s why we’ve been given the Holy Spirit.  But at the same time, we cannot continue to ignore His teachings.  Give time to the poor.  Sometimes spending time with someone means a lot more than throwing money their way.  Invest in people and spread the gospel.  Love everybody.  Give up everything to follow Jesus.  If Christ gave up everything for us, we should be willing to give up everything for Him.  Everything we own belongs to God.  So, as hard as it is, we must give it up when He asks for it.

I would be lying if I said I excel at any one of the things I just listed above.  See, our flesh desires the world.  Our hearts desire God.  Our mind…goes back and forth (mine does anyway).  But if we trust in God, and go where He leads, then we have the assurance that He is being glorified, and that’s what we’re here for.  Not for us, but for Him.  Going where God leads is tough.  I’m not completely sure what that looks like.  When opportunities come and go, when we see things happening around us, when we just know deep in our hearts…that’s God reminding us that He is with us.  No matter what, God is still God.

Isaiah 43:2-5 says “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.  When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.  Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you and people in exchange for your life.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.”

A wooden cross on a hill.  A bloodied Savior.  Nails keeping him hanging, for our sin.  The wrath of God poured out on Jesus.  All of that…because God, the Creator of the universe, loves us. He loves us.  He loves us.  He loves us.  He gave us 100%.  Are we giving him our best?  Or are we lukewarm?  Have we watered down the gospel, and taken away the importance of Christ, of the cross?  Will we be a new generation of Christians that are passionately seeking God?  With God, all things are possible.  Do we really believe that?  Or better yet, do we live our lives like we believe that?  Jesus paid the ultimate price for us, and asks us, in response to His love, to be ready to share His message, to live a life that honors the Lord.  How will we respond?

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