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Saturday, January 14, 2012

The World Longs to See the Gospel

Salvation is more than saying a prayer and getting dunked in water.

Many parents bring their children to me so that they can receive salvation. I don't give salvation. I don't have it to give. I lead them to give their lives to Christ. The initial acts are generally saying a prayer of commitment and being baptized. The parents are happy that their children are now going to heaven. We may not see them in church for months. I wonder what they thought salvation is.

Salvation is a changed life. It stands when it is much easier to fall. It lives when peer pressure seeks to kill it. It remains alone when there are no others who will join in. It is order while the rest of life is chaos. It is faithful when it is much easier to join the crowds of those who play with the lures of the world. It is true when all others are calling it a lie.

I preach the message of the gospel each week. There are those that think that the gospel is only the story of Jesus death on the cross but they are wrong. The gospel is also the story of believers taking up their crosses to die to themselves and become totally different persons. They will never be considered part of the mainstream of humanity again. They seek to be transformed into the likeness of Christ so that people will know the presence of Christ when they come into the believers' presence.

There will be some in the world who will severely criticize those who seek this constant living for Christ. They will claim that the committed believer is superstitious or is merely putting on a show but time proves the faith of those who are living their faith.

And in reality the world is seeking someone to believe in. They follow politicians and find all of them lacking. They seek after heroes on the battlefield or the football field. They find some whose atheletic prowess or courage  admirable but often also find that their heroes are lacking in character. They have been disappointed so many times.

But when the world actually finds a Mother Teresa or a Billy Graham the world is full of admiration. Many people cannot deny the faith that these people have preached by the way they have lived. They see the gospel rather than hear it alone.

Yes, the world longs to see the gospel. They have only heard it from so many of us.

1 Thessalonians 1:6-8 (NIV) 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia--your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it,


Anthony Chia said...

Ps Prentis is absolutely right - the World NOT only should hear the Gospel, they should be able to see the Gospel. If we are truly in Christ Jesus, people should be able to see Christ in us.

When we are in Christ Jesus, He liveth through us. When we are in Christ Jesus, we live a life like His (or Christ-like). When we are in Christ Jesus, we love God like He (Jesus) does. When we love God like Jesus does, God's protection (Ps 91), wisdom and favor will be upon us (Jesus, when he lived on earth, he too, needed to grow in wisdom, and favor with God, even as His stature grew). When we love God, we love our fellow men. When we are in Christ Jesus, we do the works of the Kingdom, and the grace and resources of Heaven are accessible by us, just as they were, for Jesus, back at the time Jesus was walking on the earth.

No, "in Christ Jesus" is NOT JUST "I have accepted Christ Jesus as my Saviour"; it is that we have to CONTINUALLY be identified with His death and also His resurrection. Yes, it begins with that entry into salvation, but our continual faith necessitates the continual identification with His death and resurrection, NOT even JUST his resurrection, but both, death and resurrection.

While it was by the resurrection that we know that the demand of holiness had been satisfied, and so, the Father God resurrected Christ Jesus, and that Christ Jesus (and us) has victory, the Word of God is clear that we have to be identified with the death, which included His suffering, and then we can identify with His resurrection; and in the time to come (after we have passed on), we share in Christ's glory.

Today, the Gospel has been reduced to just the resurrection power and victory; the suffering and death of Jesus are being reduced to “you need only think of it once, when you enter into salvation”. In fact, often, so much concentration is put on just the resurrection power and victory, that after a while, even suffering and death become seen by these believers as sign of failure on the part of the person to identify himself with the resurrection power and victory. So, if you fail in your business and suffer, what is wrong? You did NOT identify enough with the resurrection power of God? Or affliction (marriage breakdown, natural calamities, etc) hit you (but some others escape them), it is you failed to identify enough with the resurrection power of God? Or you are unable to pray with any visible success for a matter, you failed for the same reason? Unless you do NOT believe that a believer needs to be refined, starting from his entry into salvation, refinement by God cannot be in an environment devoid of troubles, difficult situations, and even suffering and persecutions. God does NOT tempt us, but it does NOT mean we cannot be found in situation of being tempted. Where does it say in Scripture, Jesus Christ suffered (faced with temptations, trials and testing, being slandered, abused, beaten up, tortured, humiliated, etc) and died for us, so that we do NOT need to face any suffering, or be tempted by the Satan or his minions, or by whatever snares they devised or put in place?

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Anthony Chia said...

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Easy-believism does NOT help people, only snares people, and so, concentrating on such preaching does NOT present a balance and full view of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And when one subscribes to that only; one only portrays a partial Gospel. If you are materially and financially successful, and so, you are freed from certain related problems, and you attribute it to the grace of God, it is NOT incorrect (generally), but you should be careful NOT to ascribe it as the only result of identification with Christ Jesus. To identify with Jesus is to identify, more importantly, with His attitude even as He faced all the things the world threw at Him. Jesus stayed faithful and steadfast to what Father God had intended Him to do. Jesus kept insisting this, “I come to finish the work God wants done.” Despite setbacks and so on, and so forth, Jesus demonstrated longsuffering, perseverance, and faithfulness, and was willing to go all the way with God, even unto death by crucifixion.

While it is NOT wrong be a little “low-key” in telling the whole world that you are facing “this problem and that struggle”, etc, to avoid dampening people’s faith in the Lord, one does NOT necessarily need to be silent about what one is undergoing, so long as one is facing the situation in a godly manner. If you don’t tell and you don’t let the people see how you are handling your situation in a godly manner, and hide in the “hermit shell”, how is the world going to see the Gospel?

It is wrong to suggest to believers that they should share their lives only when they are doing fine, and stigmatize those who are facing troubles or afflictions in lives. People, especially pastors, must distinguish between “dirty linen” and troubles and afflictions of life; they are NOT the same. The Apostles did NOT pretend to see no troubles or the afflictions of the early believers or early church. That was how the team of 7 (deacons), which included people like Stephen, were formed. Don’t pretend that your church members are NOT having troubles or afflictions, and encourage them to be silent about their problems; be careful what your motives are? Is it “People who become members of my church have no problems”? Or is it, “See, everyone here, is rich and successful”? “We should NOT shame people” is more for the case of “dirty linen”. Are we NOT behaving more like the world than the ways of God when we want to project only the right statistics! The world says, “Tell the listeners, what they like hear, let them see what they want to see; the “NOT so proud” side, they (the listeners or the “outside” people) do NOT need to hear or see! Only tell and only let them see success stories?” We should NOT be encouraging believers to be sly the same way the world is telling people. We have nothing to hide, and we do NOT need to pretend we have no troubles or afflictions.

You, ultimately, as one having come into salvation, need to stay having the faith continually; pretending does NOT help, for eventually the person will experience the reality of life, and we still live in the world, where Jesus said that there will still be troubles, but we should fear NOT, for Christ Jesus had overcome the world. Christians are supposed to live in the truth, and so the right thing to do is still to be real and authentic; and when pre-believers see you (when you don’t hide it) in your troubles, and how you faced them, and come out of them victorious, or even stayed in them with a godly attitude still, until the end, they are encouraged, and such testimonies help build authentic faith that can withstand the test of time and troubles. In addition, by encouraging openness, the church becomes the starting place for believers to learn to love fellow men, their brothers and sisters in Christ.

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Anthony Chia said...

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Having said that we are to be real and authentic, still there will be times when we are rejected by people. Even so, this should NOT surprise us, for even in Jesus’ case when He walked the earth, NOT everyone accepted Jesus and what He exemplified. Some of us even get “persecuted” for being Christ-like. If you suffer for being Christ-like, you are partaking in His suffering, and the Word of God said that you will also share in His glory, in the future.

In short, I believe I am right to exhort fellow believers to let the Gospel be seen in them even while they are in trouble. Furthermore, if you wait until you are trouble-free before you will serve Him, when will that be? One of Jesus’ parting words to His disciples was this:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The Apostle Peter sounded this serious warning for all the false prophets and teachers (believers should take heed that we do NOT want to be included here):

17 These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” (2 Pet 2:17-22).

Ps Prentis is right in saying that “Salvation is a changed life”. That is why in the above text of Peter, it talked about a “returning”; one has gone from one kind of life to another kind of life - you are NOT to go back to the old ways. Obviously, it is possible to return, otherwise, the Apostle Peter would NOT have sounded the alarm! One has to weigh the teaching of those who teach that if you have accepted Jesus as your Saviour, you can NEVER lose your salvation, is correct or NOT.