What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert

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I live in an area known as the Bible Belt.  The majority of the population identifies as Christian and has some exposure to basic Bible principles (regardless of church attendance or religious practices).

However, some Christian leaders fear this may work in a negative way.  People are comfortable with their limited knowledge and never truly seek to understand the gospel message.

I was talking with a friend about such issues and he recommend this book.  It’s just over a hundred pages and easy to read.  However, it is full of useful information and puts the gospel message in a whole new light.

There are four main aspects to the gospel (God, man, Christ, response).

God – God is the creator of all things, he is righteous and just, he will not tolerate sin, and will punish the guilty

Man – All of us are guilty.  Sin isn’t just something we do, it is who we are, it is are very nature.  Because of our sin nature, we will be held accountable to God.

Christ – Christ provides hope for mankind.  He was both fully God and fully man, so he is the only one capable of paying the penalty for our sins.  The author sums it up by saying, “He died for me.  They were my transgressions, but his wounds.  My iniquities, but his chastisement.  My sin, his sorrow,  And his punishment bought my peace.  His stripes won my healing.  His grief, my joy.  His death, my life.”

Response – The gospel tells us that faith (reliance) on Christ is required for salvation.  We are also called to repent (ask forgiveness and turn away) of our sins.  Perfection isn’t possible, so repentance is demonstrated by our attitude toward sin.  We can no longer live in peace with our sin.

If you desire to gain a better understanding of the Bible and the gospel message, I highly recommend this book.

 

Take Up Your Cross

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When reading this verse, it’s easy for us to overlook the significance of what Jesus said to his disciples.  Today a cross is a religious symbol that is often used as a decoration or as jewelry.

However, to the disciples a cross was a symbol of death, torture, pain, suffering, fear, and humiliation.  A cross was used to execute people.  It resulted in a slow and gruesome death.

Jesus is making an extremely difficult request for all those who would follow him.  To complete this task, a person would need perseverance and dedication.

Faith in the Love of Jesus

The other day, I was reading Matthew 15:21-28.

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyreand Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (ESV)

I started thinking about the Jewish society of that time.  It was extremely prejudicial, and a person’s worth or cleanliness was largely based on race and ethnic origin.  As a Canaanite and a woman, she would have been viewed with disdain.  Also, the statement made by Jesus echoes that sentiment.

However, the woman trusted Jesus.  She believed him to be fair and loving.  She trusted him to not judge her based on superficial things.  Her trust in the love of Jesus was not misplaced.  Jesus healed her daughter and commented on her great faith.

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Biblical Advice for Dealing with Anxiety

I suffer from an anxiety disorder and panic attacks, which can be debilitating at times.  I was reading Matthew 6:25-34, and I noticed three main points that can help me deal with my anxiety.

 1.  How can you overcome an anxiety attack once it happens?  

Matthew 6:26, 28-29

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. (ESV)

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (ESV)

I reviewed these verses several times.  I realized this is practical advice, and this is advice that requires action.  When I go out to a field and look at the flowers and watch the birds or listen to them sing, I feel more at peace.  If I take the time to pray and meditate on the scriptures, I start to defeat the anxiety attack that is plaguing me.

2.  Anxiety will not help you solve any of your problems.  Anxiety only increases your problems.

Matthew 6:27,34

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (ESV)

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (ESV)

Dealing with the root cause of my anxiety problems and learning to overcome it will help me solve the problems I face today.  It will also allow me to live a happier life, because I will not feel anxious over the past or the future.

3.  Pay attention to your priorities if you want to decrease your anxiety.  

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (ESV)

When my spiritual life becomes a priority, I am better prepared to deal with the issues I face in life.

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Matthew 6:25-34, has a lot of great advice for dealing with anxiety and I found it to be beneficial in my own life.

 

Become the Greatest of All

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In Matthew 20:26-28, Jesus was telling his disciples how to be great in His kingdom.  Jesus defines greatness and leadership in a way that is contrary to what we normally see in the world.

According to Jesus, having power or privilege is not what makes you great.  Being able to force others to obey you and serve you, does not make you great.

What makes a person great in the Kingdom of God?  Jesus tells us that to be great, to be a leader in His Kingdom, we must be willing to serve.  We must also have an attitude of humility.

It’s our willingness to humble ourselves and serve others that will make us great people and great leaders in this world and in the Kingdom of God.

 

Forgiveness Brings Healing

In Matthew 18:15-35, Jesus teaches his followers about forgiveness.  When I was reading this passage I thought of Dylan Roof.

The family members of those murdered by Dylan Roof, spoke of their hurt and the pain he caused by taking away their loved ones.  However, they also offered forgiveness.

This is a great example of how forgiveness works in the real world.  Dylan Roof was forgiven, but he will still pay for his crimes.  He still owes a debt to society and will be punished.

Dylan Roof may never feel remorse for his actions, but the willingness to forgive still benefits the family members.  It allows them to let go of the hate and anger they feel inside of them.  The family members are free to heal, because of their willingness to forgive.

Forgiveness can be difficult, but it can also bring healing.