Tag Archives: righteousness

ZEAL WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE


ZEAL WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE

“Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they might be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Romans 10:1-4.

How dangerous is zeal without knowledge and sincerity without truth!

Look what those who are zealous for their religious beliefs are doing to those who do not believe as they do. Look what the apostle Paul did to believers in Jesus before he came face to face with Jesus and learned the truth about Him. Look at what Hitler did to the Jews because of his zeal and the zeal of those he brainwashed into believing that they were vermin and needed to be exterminated.

According to Paul, the Jews themselves believed they could achieve righteousness by observing the law. In their zeal, they tried to bulldoze out of existence everyone who believed that Jesus was the way and followed Him as the way to God. In their sincere conviction that they were right, they became guilty of breaking the very law they were trying to uphold.

How could they justify hatred and murder as God’s way of dealing with those who did not believe as they did? Just as Jesus said, they were manifesting the very characteristics of their father the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning.

Whatever the outward circumstances might be, behind every national and international conflict lies the battle between religion and truth. People will kill and people will die for what they believe, whether it be lies or truth. Take the ongoing conflict between Muslim and Jew in the Middle East, or the battle between moderate and radical factions of this religion or that religion. Take the laws that are passed in parliament to wrest the freedom from people to practise their faith according to their conscience. Who or what is the source of all this animosity; this hatred; this belief that you are my enemy if you do not believe as I do?

If we watch Jesus for a moment, we will notice that, in all His dealings with people, be they religious fanatic or weeping sinner, He spoke the truth and honoured their freedom to make their own decision regarding what He had said. Never did He put pressure on anyone to believe His word by force or emotion. Again and again, He brought people back to God’s word as the foundation for what He told them.

“It is written,” was His “slogan”. He used it to silence the devil in the wilderness when he tried to lure Him into acting independently of His Father. He used it to pull the religious opposition back to the true foundation of their beliefs and behaviour. He dismissed their accusations with contempt because they were based on prejudice, not on truth. The words He spoke were an echo of His Father’s words, faithfully spoken in obedience to Him.

This was His way of dealing with unbelievers: “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn him at the last day.” John 12:47, 48.

On every occasion He spoke the truth and gave His hearers the opportunity to believe or reject what He said. Upon them rested the responsibility and consequences of their choices.

How important is the knowledge of the truth as the foundation for what we believe! For the Jews, zeal without knowledge led them away from God and into condemnation instead of the righteousness they worked so hard to achieve. For those who trust in Jesus for His gift of righteousness as God has promised, they are fully accepted, declared not guilty and restored to the family as dearly loved sons and daughters of God.

This is God’s way; it is the truth upon which we can base our lives with all the zeal in the world and, with a good conscience, we can invite others into His family as well.

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

13 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF WISDOM

13 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF WISDOM

WISDOM ACCORDING TO THE OLD COVENANT

The next topic we will explore is the kingdom power of wisdom which is an intricate study with many facets.

From the beginning, God wanted a family of sons and daughters who would live together with Him in love and harmony in a beautiful and perfect environment. His verdict on everything He created was “very good”.

All was perfect for a while until sin entered the world through His first son and marred His plan. Instead of love, peace and harmony, Adam’s decision to be his own god brought chaos into the world and produced a dysfunctional family of enemies alienated from God and one another through selfishness and greed.

God set in motion a remedy which would reverse the effects of Adam’s rebellion on the whole human family and eventually restore His creation to its original state. This intricate plan was the product of divine wisdom to get mankind back to living with Him as a loving and harmonious family.

He chose a couple to start a family and a nation  that would be the prototype of His restored relationship with mankind. He made a covenant with them, the legal framework within which He would be free to have fellowship with them.

This covenant showed them God’s holiness, righteousness and truth. If they kept His covenant, He would bless and prosper them; if not, He would banish them from their inheritance, the land He gave them, His blessing and His presence.

In the Old Covenant, righteousness, or doing the right thing was tied to obedience to the law. The children of Israel, in the main, failed to keep the covenant, rebelled and were exiled to Babylon for 70 years.

However, Job, who lived in the time of the Patriarchs, is an example of a person whom God judged to be righteous because of what he did. Job believed the philosophy of his day that God’s blessing was the reward for living a righteous life. Yet God put him through a severe test.

Job, in the intensity of his suffering, searched for the meaning of what he was enduring. He never mentioned the devil in his quest for understanding. Instead, he saw God as responsible for his pain but could make no sense of his suffering since he considered himself to be righteous. Why was he being punished for what he had not done?

“But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?  No mortal comprehends its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living…  Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell?  God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells,… And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” Job 28:12-13, 20, 23, 28 NIV

It is wise to live according to God’s requirements because right living makes for a harmonious family.

Solomon reached the same conclusion at the end of his quest for the meaning of life…

“That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.” Ecclesiastes 12:13 NLT

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10 NIV

This was God’s prescribed way for people to return to His original plan for His human family. If people lived in the fear of the Lord, they would live the right way by doing what God required. However, Israel’s failure to live by God’s law reveals two things about human nature:

  1. Since we are born with a sinful nature, no amount of right living now cancels out the sins of our past.
  1. It is impossible for a sinful person to live a righteous life.

Let’s examine “the fear of the Lord” in the context of the Old Covenant.

What is the fear of the Lord? This is also a huge subject. My definition of the fear of the Lord is very simple. TAKING GOD SERIOUSLY.

Wisdom and folly are often contrasted in the Old Testament, particularly in the book of Proverbs. It is wise to do the right thing because it works. It is folly to do the wrong thing because it does not work, i.e. it does or does not satisfy God’s requirement for a righteous life.

The significance of folly is that the fool does the wrong thing out of rebellion, not ignorance. Although he knows what is right, he doesn’t do it, and it ends in disaster.

“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.  The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.  All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Psalms 14:1-3 NIV

“Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.” Romans 1:21-22 NLT

In the Old Covenant, therefore, God set the standard for wisdom… to live in the fear of the Lord… but showed us how impossible it us for human beings to live up to His standard because  our old nature is in rebellion and at enmity against God….

THE POWER OF WISDOM IN THE NEW COVENANT

God’s revelation of His holy requirements in the Old Covenant was a preparation for His wisdom to be revealed in all its glory in the New Covenant.

Proverbs 8 gives us a hint in poetic language, that God’s wisdom was personified in someone called Wisdom who was with Him from the beginning, was involved in the creation of the universe, and was in joyful fellowship with Him.

“I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment. All who fear the Lord will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech…. I walk in righteousness, in paths of justice. Proverbs 8:12-13, 20 NLT

“I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,  when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,  when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. 

Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence,  rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.  Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.  For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord .” Proverbs 8:27-31, 34-35 NIV

John, in his gospel, clarifies this thought that it was Jesus, THE WORD, who was with God in the beginning and was the agent of creation. God spoke and the Word did what God said.

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.”John 1:1-3 NLT

When we join together what Proverbs 8 says about Wisdom and what John says about the Word, we have the beginning of God’s amazing plan to recover and restore what was ruined at the Fall.

God’s plan was to do the right thing by sending His Son to earth as a human being to live a perfectly righteous life and die as a sacrifice and substitute for all sinners, and it worked!

“So, the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” John 1:14 NLT

To ensure that there would be no mistake about the identity and character of the one He would send, God, through His prophets, painted a word picture of His Redeemer in the Old Covenant writings.

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord —  and he will delight in the fear of the Lord… ” Isaiah 11:1-3 NIV

“Though the Lord is very great and lives in heaven, he will make Jerusalem his home of justice and righteousness. In that day he will be your sure foundation, providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. The fear of the Lord will be your treasure.” Isaiah 33:5-6 NLT

So, Jesus is all of God’s wisdom in one person.

“Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:21-24 NLT

“God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit, God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.” 1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT

Jesus did everything necessary, through His perfect life, sacrificial death and powerful resurrection, to reconcile us to the Father, restore us to God’s family, recreate us in His image and set us apart from sin to God.

“I want them (all believers) to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3 NLT

How can we apply this wisdom to our daily struggles so that we participate in God’s plan rather than unwittingly fight against it?

James gives us a clue.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.

Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” James 1:2-8 NLT

Let me paraphrase.

When we face trials and tests, God is putting into action His plan to conform us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29). He wants sons, not brats, in His family, those who submit to His discipline and training. When we don’t understand what’s going on, instead of floundering in our faith and resisting God’s discipline (Heb. 12:8-11) we can ask God for wisdom to respond and act in the right way so that we learn from and not waste our hardships.

So, the wisdom God revealed in Jesus and shows us how to live is a powerful kingdom tool to help us navigate and gain the most out of our struggles and hardships. In this way, we learn to co-operate with rather than fight against the ups and downs of life. We are learning to be sons and daughters in God’s forever family.

“If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12:8-11 NLT

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

All Scripture quotations in this series

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

11 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

11 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

“How can righteousness be a power?” you may ask.

Righteousness is both a powerful motivation to do the right thing and a shield against the accusation and condemnation the devil uses to muddy our fellowship with God.

We have already considered righteousness as our permanent standing with God because we have been justified by faith in Jesus.

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.” Romans 5:1 NLT

When we commit sin, Satan attacks on two fronts. He accuses us… “Now look what you’ve done!” and he condemns us, “Now you’ve blown it! You’re finished. God won’t have anything more to do with you.”

Jesus said that, when the Holy Spirit comes, He will convince the believer of righteousness.

“But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.  And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.  The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.  Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more.  Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.” John 16:7-11 NLT

The Holy Spirit convicts (or convinces) on three fronts. He convinces unbelievers of sin; He convinces believers of righteousness; He convinces the devil of judgment.

Can you see how important it is to us that the Holy Spirit tells us how good we are and not how bad we are? There is no value in kicking us down when we are down already. A far more powerful motivation to move away from sin is to remind us of who we are in Christ.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV

When we came to faith in Jesus, we became a new creation. Everything that belonged to the old life was gone. God gave us a new beginning. Sin is no longer a way of life since we have been given a new nature, the nature of Jesus.

“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” 1 John 3:9 NIV

However, this does not mean that we will never sin again. We still have remnants of our old nature which trip us up from time to time. Sin does not alienate us from God. It spoils our fellowship with Him. When we take responsibility for our sin and agree with God that we have done is wrong, He forgives and restores our peace.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9 NIV

God’s remedy for sin is the same for the believer as for those who repent and believe in Jesus for salvation.

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2 NIV

Sin does not cancel our righteous standing with God. It spoils our fellowship with Him in the same way as a child who does naughty things does not cease to be a son or daughter but cannot face the parent because he/she feels guilty.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7 NIV

Paul included righteousness in his arsenal of protective armour against the devil’s attempts to drive a wedge between us and God.

“Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…”Ephesians 6:11, 14 NIV

Why did Paul see righteousness as a breastplate?

The Roman soldier’s breastplate covered his chest, protecting the most vital of his internal organs, his heart and lungs. We can live without some of our internal organs but not without heart and lungs.

The heart symbolises everything within us that makes us who we are and how we function. When we received Christ Jesus into our hearts, they became His throne and dwelling place. He came to indwell us by His Spirit, imparting to us His own righteousness so that we are no longer alienated from the Father.

The Holy Spirit, reminding us of our righteousness in Christ, draws us back from sin and motivates us to live out what is already at work in us. He empowers us to become who we are, sons and daughters of the living God.

Righteousness, then, is the heart of our relationship and fellowship with God. However, the power of righteousness only becomes effective to protect us from the accusation and condemnation of the devil when we activate it by trusting God’s Word that we are righteous.

By faith, we apply the truth of our righteousness when we are tempted to do wrong either by intention or neglect. When we have sinned, our righteousness in Jesus draws us back into fellowship with Him through confession and forgiveness.

It is through this power that we protect and maintain our fellowship with the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit who permanently lives in us.

Righteousness in us is like two sides of a coin. God has given us the righteousness of His Son which puts us in right standing with Him. We respond by living out in our lives the righteousness He has given us. This is the lifestyle of righteous, walking in the Word in the power of the Spirit.

How do we know how to respond and act in righteousness in our everyday lives? God has given us the answer in His Word.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalms 119:105 NLT

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” Romans 8:14 NLT

Once again, the Spirit and the Word together are absolutely central to our walk in righteousness in an evil world. We display the righteousness of Jesus in us by living according to the correction and instruction of the Word through the Spirit who administers God’s grace to us.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

All Scripture quotations in this series

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

10 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL

10 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17 NIV

Paul’s declaration puts the gospel in the centre of all the kingdom powers at our disposal to overcome the world. Everything we have in Jesus Christ is made available to us because of the gospel.

Two words in Paul’s statement above form the foundation of this good news that reverse everything that came on mankind because of Adam. These two concepts are righteousness and faith.

RIGHTEOUSNESS

The gospel is about God’s righteousness. He did everything right to restore us to Himself. It’s also about our righteousness without which we have no access to Him.

“For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.” Romans 3:25-26 NLT

Since God did the right thing by punishing a righteous man on behalf of the unrighteous, He is able to forgive our sin, declare us “not guilty” and give us the righteousness that allows us to approach Him without fear or guilt.

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19-22 NIV

FAITH

Faith in what God has done through Jesus to reconcile us to Himself is the only way we can receive the gift of forgiveness and the righteousness He freely offers us. Faith receives what God supplies.

Anything we try to add to this free gift immediately cancels the gift and puts us under obligation to please God by our own righteousness. However, since God has already declared our rightoueness inadequate to satisfy His perfect standard, if we try to go it alone, the only alternative is to face His wrath and judgment.

“We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” Isaiah 64:6 NLT

Can you understand, then, how powerful the gospel of Jesus’s death and resurrection is to change our lives and our destiny?  Nothing else can do what faith in the blood of Jesus has done.

The problem arises when we try to add, subtract or change the gospel to make it more palatable to ourselves or other people. Satan will do everything he can to distort the gospel and rob it of its power. Anything that takes away from the cross and the death and resurrection of Jesus weakens the gospel and makes it ineffective to save people from their sin.

It makes sense, then, that Jesus entrusted His message to the men who would receive the power of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Through the Spirit who would lead them into all truth, they would accurately interpret His death and resurrection and open the kingdom to those who believe.

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be  loosed in heaven.”  From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Matthew 16:19, 21 NIV

The keys Jesus was to give them were the truths about His sacrifice that would set believers free from the bondage of wrong beliefs (loosed on earth) by binding on them the truths of the gospel (bound on earth).

Before we examine some of the issues that detract from the centrality of the cross, let’s look at the gospel message Paul preached.

“Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.

He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 NLT

What did Paul battle in his defenSe if the gospel?

  1. Another gospel

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” Gal. 1:8-9 NIV

In Paul’s day, some of the Jewish believers, especially the Jewish religious leaders, were trying to convince Gentile believers that, to be Christians, they had to become Jews first by being circumcised and obeying the Law, . Paul called this a substitute gospel.

The result, for Paul, was frightening.

“Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.” Galatians 5:2, 4 NLT

Jesus plus anything else cancels grace.

  1. Foolishness to the unbeliever

Outside of grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel makes no sense to the unbeliever. It takes the power of God’s Spirit and the faith He gives, to receive the message about Jesus in its simplicity.

“Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:21-24 NLT

  1. Unbelief keeps people in darkness

Unbelievers are held captive to the devil by the lies they believe. Only through the work of the Spirit can they recognise the truth of the gospel.

“If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God… For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, 6 NLT

  1. Clever preaching and eloquence that robs the cross of its power

The power of the gospel lies in the simplicity of truth, not in the eloquence of the preacher.

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:17-18 NIV

“When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan.  For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 NLT

  1. Some preach out of impure motives

This is a relevant issue today. In Paul’s day, some preached the gospel to increase Paul’s suffering.

“It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me.” Philippians 1:15-17 NLT

Paul’s motive, on the other hand, was to bring people to know Christ through the power of the gospel.

“We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.” 2 Corinthians 4:2 NLT

  1. Some preach for personal profit

Money is a powerful motive for people in the ministry today. Preachers are some of the wealthiest people on earth. Their excuse is that money is their reward for what they do. They extort money from vulnerable believers through guilt by preaching the “faith” message.

They drive huge charity programmes with other people’s money while they live lavish lifestyles on the money that they get from people  by promising great return on their “seed”.

Paul’s response is simple.

“You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.” 2 Corinthians 2:17 NLT

  1. Some use a variety of methods

All kinds of methods are used to create a ” seeker friendly” environment instead of trusting God’s way of reaching unbelievers.

“Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.” 1 Cor. 1:21 NLT

How, then, will anyone ever come to salvation through faith in Jesus and the message about His death and resurrection? Why does God not need our help to get anyone saved?

“But faith’s way of getting right with God says, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven?’ (to bring Christ down to earth). And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead?’ (to bring Christ back to life again).”

In fact, it says, “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.” And that message is the very message about faith that we preach:

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.

As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”…

For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:6-11, 13 NLT

For the Apostle Paul, the power of the cross was the centrality of his message and his life.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”Galatians 6:14 NIV

This is the simple message that looses us from every yoke that is based on lies and binds us to the yoke of Jesus which sets us free from sin and empowers us to live in His kingdom as true sons and daughters of God.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

All Scripture quotations in this series

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BOOK OF ACTS – WORDS TO LIVE BY

WORDS TO LIVE BY

“‘I’ve never, as you so well know, had any taste for wealth or fashion. With these bare hands I took care of my own basic needs and those who worked with me. In everything I’ve done, I have demonstrated to you how necessary it is to work on behalf of the weak and not exploit them. You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting.’

“Then Paul went down on his knees, all of them kneeling with him, and prayed. And then a river of tears! Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go! They knew they would never see him again — he had told them quite plainly. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship.” Acts 20:33-38 (The Message).

We are privileged to eavesdrop on a poignant moment in Paul’s life — saying goodbye to very dear friends and colleagues, knowing that they would not meet again on this side of eternity. What does one say, at a time like this? What would one’s parting words be that would ring in their ears long after he was gone?

Although his words may seem of no consequence, he actually encapsulated, in the Master’s own words, the heart of the Father — generosity. “Generous” is an adjective but we can attach it to everything that God is: generous in love; generous in mercy; generous in grace; generous in compassion; generous in kindness; generous in forgiveness; generous in provision; generous in protection; generous in favour; and on and on!

We only need to look around us to see God’s generosity everywhere. Why did He put hundreds of seeds inside a pumpkin when just a few would do to propagate the species?

But He is not only generous in doing. He is also generous in being. He doesn’t judge or beat us when we fall. He tenderly picks us up, dusts us off, wipes away our tears and whispers, ‘It’s okay. I have already forgiven you. Now keep going. I’m with you and you’ll make it home to me.’

“Generosity” is an interesting word in Hebrew. The root word “tsidaq” is translated “righteousness” in English which is an abstract concept and difficult to define. The Hebrew language leans towards action rather than abstract — understanding life from the point of view of the senses. To understand righteousness, i.e., doing the right thing, they added the letter “h” which, in Paleo Hebrew (the original picture Hebrew), was a picture of an open window and came to mean “revelation”. “Tsidaq” became “tsidaqah” — “righteousness revealed”, translated “generosity.”

Hundreds of times in the Old Testament, righteousness and generosity are coupled together in the same verse or adjacent verses. Consider just one example: “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.” Psalm 37:21(NIV).

The essence of our old human nature is selfishness. Adam lost his God-awareness when he chose his own way, and became pathologically self-aware and self-absorbed. Is it any wonder, then, that the world is obsessed with money, driven by money and greedy for money?

One of the clearest evidences of the transformation that Jesus works in the life of a believer is his attitude to money and possessions. When Zaccheus had an encounter with Jesus, his first reaction was to restore what he had stolen and share his bounty with the poor. Jesus concluded, “‘Today salvation has come to this house…'” Luke 19:9a (NIV).

True happiness is the by-product of a generous heart, generous in attitude as well as in sharing the good things God has entrusted to us. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”