It All Adds Up

2 Peter 1

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities, you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:3–11 ESV)

We have great and precious promises that have been made that will enable us to become partakers of the divine nature! As Jesus put on a new nature in his resurrection from the dead, so shall we when through faith, we endure through life’s many challenges and inherit the promise of the coming Kingdom of God.

Hebrews 11:1 says that “…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” As we have faith that God will restore all things (Acts 3:21), upon our faith we must add virtue: meaning good quality of life or uprightness – not simply believing but living out our lives as something that reflects the nature of God’s goodness, justness, and righteousness. After believing and living a changed life, we are to add knowledge to that; we should always be striving to learn from God’s inspired word and learn from his spirit as it is active in us… And more than that, seek after his spirit that we might become more in line with his will and come to a greater understanding of its importance and how beneficial it is to us to walk in his ways.

Following the call to add knowledge, we encounter again the call to be self-controlled! It really does seem that much of what we read in scripture hinges on self-control and that circles back to our need to not stifle the spirit in our lives. If one of the elements that the fruit of the spirit brings forth in our lives is self-control, then we ought to do whatever it takes to drive away any behaviors that might cause God’s spirit to depart from us (Judges 16, 1 Samuel 16). Self-control allows us to endure – to stay on the course – as Paul might say, “to run the race”. We have to endure through all of the challenges and temptations that life throws at us, and we must allow the motivation of our hope, our uprightness, and the self-control that we are enabled to have through God’s spirit carry us through.

As we endure, we ought to have a reverential feeling or devotion to God, that’s what the Greek work translated godliness indicates. As we experience God’s goodness and see how His spirit works in us, we should feel more and more awe and reverence to our creator… After all, He put the plan into place that leads us into a life that transcends the brokenness that sin imparts on our lives – even though we sin and are affected by sin, God’s directives lead us onto a path that (through Jesus) casts that sin aside and draws us into community with him.

And as all these things are ingrained into our life, the part that affects others the most is the cherry on top… We are to have brotherly affection (love) as a defining characteristic in our lives! Love and care for one another as believers will lead us to speak into one another’s lives and help us when we hit rough patches. Even the most spiritually minded people hit dark periods in their lives (google the dark night of the soul). If we love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we will take the time to come alongside them, to care for them, to call them out, to admonish and encourage – brotherly affection means being intimately involved in the lives of our faith family – not being apathetic or half-hearted. We need to invest in each other as Christ has invested in us through his sacrifice (sometimes we must be self-sacrificial).

These qualities keep us from being ineffective witnesses and fruitless workers. We must be bearing the fruit of the word implanted in us (James 1) and strive to be effective ministers to the lives of those who are hurting and struggling. Peter says that whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind! Yikes… lacking these qualities as I read this means that we cannot see beyond ourselves, and that it a tremendous problem when one of our chief goals is to preach the gospel to all creation.

If we take these qualities to head and practice them diligently it says we confirm our election (or being chosen out) into beneficiaries of the grace of God. Also, it says if we practice these things we will never fall. So, practice these things so that you may have entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (v11).

-J.J. Fletcher

Reflection:

1. Think about how Jesus exemplified all these characteristics listed in verses 5-7. If he had not exemplified all these things, would he have had the wherewithal to endure through his father’s plan of salvation through him? How can we expect to live exemplary lives if we do not take these characteristics to heart.

2. Think about the first 6 items listed (faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, and godliness) and the final one: brotherly affection/love. What do the first 6 produce without the 7th? We’re designed (as individuals and as a church body) to be in community, how might we be rendered fruitless and ineffective if we excel at the 6, but lack the 7th?

An Even Better Story Coming

1 Thessalonians 4

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

I have always enjoyed reading the Chronicles of Narnia.  As I read them, I love to compare the story to what is written in the Bible.  Of all the books in the series, my favorite is The Last Battle.  I love seeing the old characters, the Pensieves, returning to the series.  1st Thessalonians 4 is describing the time when people come back into the story, just like the Pensieves coming back into the Chronicles of Narnia.


Verse 17 says, “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”  Can you imagine being able to see the dead in Christ?  There will be the reunions to loved ones and the meeting of the heroes of faith.  In The Last Battle, those who were still alive at the very end are excited to meet Lord Diggory and Lady Polly because they were in Narnia in the very beginning.  But, even more, they loved meeting their old relatives and friends.


While seeing the dead in Christ will be great, there is an even better promise in verse 17: “We shall always be with the Lord.”  We get to spend eternity with the Lord!  That is a great promise that we can look forward to the fulfillment of.  We know that when the kingdom comes, it will be a life beyond comparison.  A life that none of us will ever be able to even start to imagine.  


The Last Battle ends with these few sentences: “[T]he things that happened after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”


The lives of Peter, Edmund, and Lucy as they were written in the earlier books, with the amazing adventures in the land of Narnia, was nothing to compare with their life in the new Narnia.  They were beginning an even better book which no one on earth will ever read, where life just gets better and better.  We have this to look forward to where we also will have such amazing lives in the kingdom that they will be nothing to compare to this life.  There is an even better story coming that we can’t even begin to fathom!

-Kaitlyn Hamilton

Questions to Discuss and Reflect Upon

  1. What order of events does Paul relate to the Thessalonians in chapter 4 so that they will not be, “uninformed about those who sleep in death” (verse 13) ? Is this the same or different as what you hear at most Christian funerals? Could it be there are many today uninformed about those who sleep in death?
  2. What are you most looking forward to at the time of Jesus’ return? Remembering this, how will it change your day today?
  3. After telling the Thessalonians what they have to look forward to, Paul said to, “Encourage one another with these words” (vs 18). How can you do that today?

Not as Unwise but as Wise

Ephesians 5

Thursday, August 18, 2022

A few years ago the term YOLO became popular and used as a reason to partake in some very reckless behavior. If you’re not familiar with the acronym, it is an abbreviation for You Only Live Once. It drives me bananas when I observe others taking unnecessary risks because of this attitude.

I admit that I tend to be cautious. I’m not a huge risk-taker. I prefer to know possible outcomes before making a decision. I have the mindset that it’s because I only live once (this side of God’s Kingdom) that I want to be prudicious with my choices. 

As I approach the half-way mark of life, I am even more aware of how precious my time, energy, resources and relationships really are. Knowing and respecting my priorities helps me make decisions that align with the kind of life that I believe God is calling me to live. 

As we continue through the letter to the Ephesians, Paul is instructing the new believers in the local church to evaluate their life choices. The way that they used to live is no longer in alignment with a holy lifestyle. To live carelessly and without regard to the purpose for which they were saved is a waste of time. 

We too need to be self-controlled and alert. We need to know who we are in Christ and make decisions accordingly. Living in these times requires us to use our resources of time and energy wisely so that we can make an impact and a difference for the Kingdom of God. 

Sometimes, this way of living does mean that we will take risks and might look foolish to the world’s way of thinking. But if we are obedient to God, those risks will pay huge dividends because others will have an eternal benefit. 

So as you go about your day, your week, your month, and even the rest of this year, be strategic; be careful; be wise about how you live your life in Christ.

Once again, I’ll ask:

What should you continue doing?

What should you stop doing?

What should you start doing?

-Bethany Ligon


Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you consider yourself to be living life wisely? What adjustments might Paul suggest to you?
  2. What should you continue doing? What should you stop doing? What should you start doing?

A Deposit

Ephesians 1

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Living in Arizona, there is no shortage of Mexican restaurants. One of the best parts of eating at one is the delivery of warm crispy tortilla chips and moderately spicy salsa within minutes of being seated. Each restaurant’s chips and salsa are different and wonderfully delicious. You can get a hint of the caliber of your main entree by the quality of this appetizer. If the chips and salsa are especially tasty, I will fill up on that by the time my chicken chimichanga is brought to the table. 

As I read the first half of this first chapter in Ephesians, I am struck by this phrase in verse 14, “who (the Holy Spirit) is a deposit”. Wait…a DEPOSIT?!?! You mean there’s more to be expected? It’s a very crude comparison, but it’s almost like the chips and salsa…it’s so good all by itself. But I know that something even more wonderful is coming.  

I guess somewhere in my understanding, I have KNOWN that when the Kingdom is established on the earth, that it will be more than whatever it is that I can possibly imagine. But I hadn’t ever made the connection that the Holy Spirit is the deposit to my FULL inheritance in Christ.

Usually, a deposit is a fraction of the full amount in order to hold an item on your behalf. So if the Holy Spirit is a deposit to hold my spot in the Kingdom…how much more will the full experience of the Kingdom really be? 

Back in Acts 1, Jesus tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit will empower them to be witnesses. Likewise, as believers, we also are given the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can do great and mighty things for the coming Kingdom of God. This is the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms (Eph 1:20). 

Unlike eating chips and salsa, which I tend to not want to share, we are meant to do something for others with this deposit. We are meant to minister and serve. We are meant to teach and show hospitality. We are meant to impart compassion and discern wisdom. We are meant to pray for and encourage others. We are meant to give and sacrifice our time, energies, and resources. 

I recently wrote in my journal three questions. I’ll conclude by asking you the same as you consider this deposit of the Holy Spirit.

What should I continue doing?

What should I stop doing?

What should I start doing?

-Bethany Ligon

Application Questions

See above. 🙂

What to do with the Difficult Times

Ecclesiastes 3

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Whether you know it or not, you’re probably familiar with the first few verses of Ecclesiastes 3:

1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3  a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

4  a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5  a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6  a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7  a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8  a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

I like about half the things listed, and would rather not have the other half, but life just doesn’t work that way.  We have to take the bad with the good.

I was at a funeral last Saturday when these verses were read.  It seems like this passage is mostly referenced during difficult times – because we don’t need to be reminded about these things during happy times.  When someone is born, we don’t want to be reminded that they will eventually die.  But when someone dies, we need to be reminded that this world has both good and bad, and we can’t just pick and choose what happens in life.

Verse 11 goes on to say, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…”.  

Does this mean that death is beautiful?; that cancer is beautiful?; that problems are beautiful?  No, not in themselves.  But the rest of the verse goes on to say that God has set eternity in the hearts of men.  I think that means these experiences make us long for the time when these problems will be a thing of the past.  When there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain – in the Kingdom of God. 

We mentioned Romans 8:22-23 a couple of days ago, which says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”

In addition to pain and suffering being consequences of the Curse (Genesis 3) as a result of sin, I believe God uses these to help us long for His coming kingdom.  This longing helps us refocus our lives on following Him.  It also helps us not place too much importance on the temporary things this world has to offer.

James 1: 2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I believe this points out that difficulties we face in life can produce perseverance, helping us mature in our Christian walk, and helping us become more persistent in living for the Lord.  And if we finish strong – living our lives for the Lord – we will be in His kingdom, experiencing delight for eternity.  

So because difficulties can draw us closer to God, which will cause us to live more dedicated lives for Him, with the ultimate result of being in His kingdom, in this sense, everything works together for our ultimate good, and is therefore beautiful.  Even though it might seem like something stinks at the time, it can be beautiful – but only if it makes you long for the Kingdom of God and then live your life devoted to following Him.

If difficult times make us resent that God permitted these times, and if we reject God as a result of this, then we can look forward to Ecclesiastes 3:17 which says, “…God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked…”

I’d like to challenge you to let the difficult times draw you closer to God.  But it’s entirely up to you how you respond.

–Steve Mattison

Application Questions

  1. What difficult times have you been through? What good times have you enjoyed?
  2. What can be learned through the good times? What can be learned through the difficult days (and seasons)?
  3. Looking back on your own life (or the example of someone else) can you see times when the trials and hardships have prompted spiritual growth and perseverance and a re-focusing on what truly matters, including of course eternal life with God and Jesus in the coming Kingdom of God?

Trust

Proverbs 3

Sunday, July 17, 2022

There are so many great nuggets in Proverbs 3, each of which could have a devotion centered on it.  Some of these include:

  • Proverbs 3:3, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you…”
  • Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”
  • Proverbs 3:9, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops.”
  • Proverbs 3:11-12, “.. do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”
  • Proverbs 3:27, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.”
  • Proverbs 3:33, “The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous.”

Today, I’d like to focus on Proverbs 3:5-6.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

It’s easy to praise and thank God when things are going well.  And when life is sailing along smoothly, its hard to even think about having to trust in (rely on) God.  But when times get rough, that’s when the rubber meets the road for our faith.

So what does it mean to trust in God when you face financial hardships?  When you’ve lost a loved one?   When you face serious health problems?  When life seems to just stink? When you’re dying?

1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

I know from personal experience that it is easy to, “Cast my anxiety on Him” by crying out to God, telling him all my problems, asking Him to solve them, and asking Him to give me peace.  I also know it’s hard to not pick up those problems again and try to shoulder them myself.

In other words, this passage is easy to acknowledge as right, but very hard to really put into practice.

Jesus passed along some wisdom about how to accomplish this in Matthew 6:24-34.  This section starts with Jesus telling us not to worry about our lives, what we’re going to eat, or wear, or anything else.  And the reason he gave was:  God knows what you need, and will take care of you.  Instead, Jesus gave us something else to focus on in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

So the trick to not focusing on our problems is to instead focus on God’s promises.  In Revelation 21:4, we’re told that in the Kingdom of God, God himself ‘… will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Think about the Kingdom of God and the conditions there.  Obsess over it.  Long for it.  Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and then live your life in such a way as to be in God’s kingdom.

I have learned from personal experience that the closer we draw to God during our tough times, the more he seems to lift us up and help us through – in situations where it seems we couldn’t have gotten through on our own.

And while we’re talking about problems, have you ever thought that God may allow problems in our lives to help us focus more on Him and his kingdom?  Romans 8:22-23 says,” We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”

So, while you’re experiencing loss and pain, focus on God and on his kingdom.  Long for it.  Draw close to God.  In doing this, you will learn to trust in the Lord with all your heart.  And then He will direct your life.

–Steve Mattison

Application Questions

  1. How has God shown Himself to be trustworthy so far – in the Bible? In the lives of people you know? In your own life?
  2. How does remembering God’s promises help get you through tough times?
  3. What does it mean to you to not have to rely on your own understanding?
  4. Would you like to be known as a person who puts their trust in God? How can you work towards increasing your trust in God?

Even on My Hardest Day

Psalm 22

Friday, July 9, 2022

Ever have a bad day? Maybe there were relationship troubles. Maybe a conflict or difficult day at work. Maybe all the little things just added up to having a no fun day. I know I’ve had days like that. But, when I read Psalm 22, I realized maybe my days aren’t that bad.

I’ve never been poured out like water with all my bones out of joint. There have never been lions and bulls all around me. ALL the people that saw me didn’t mock me and hurl insults at me. I have never been encircled by a pack of villains that pieced my hands and feet. Now, granted, the lions and dogs and bulls are metaphors for the enemies, but I wouldn’t describe the boy in kindergarten who told me I couldn’t cut well, or the girl who pushed me on the playground, as bulls or lions.

According to the notes in my study Bible, this psalm is the most quoted psalm in the New Testament. And, it fits Jesus’ circumstances, hence Jesus quoting the first part of it while on the cross. He was tortured and tormented for things he didn’t deserve, and I’m sure it hurt more than rude kids on the playground.

This psalm goes on, with David mentioning many hardships, but he doesn’t just ask God to magically fix his circumstances instantly. Instead, the end of the psalm talks about praising the LORD. That’s pretty impressive, and I think it should be a goal of mine, to take hard situations and continue to praise God and tell others about Him.

I’m going to use this psalm as a reminder of the no pain, no hardships time of the Kingdom. And to go about my days, whether difficult or seemingly easy, praising God and knowing that it’ll just get better in the Kingdom, because of what Jesus did for us and the plan God has for us.

-Moriah Railton

Application Questions

  1. Looking at Psalm 22 what descriptions do you find of the pain and agony Jesus endured while carrying your sins to the cross? Why do you think God chose this way to draw you close to Him?
  2. Why do you think Jesus quoted this Psalm on the cross?
  3. How can you focus on praising God even on the hard days?

The Peoples Plot

Psalm 2

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

A desire for fame, power, or wealth has led numerous nations, peoples, kings, and rulers to disregard God’s word, and commit evil acts. These acts are questioned by the author of Psalm 2, likely David. He asks, “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?” (Psalm 2:1). Further, the “kings of the earth” and “rulers” are against not only God, but against “His anointed” as well (Psalm 2:2). Those that God anoints, ultimately and most significantly referring to Jesus, share a common desire and goal with God, so those that go against God’s anointed ones go against God Himself. 

David continues the Psalm by describing how pointless it is for the earthly rulers to act against God. Back in verse one he mentions how the plotting is in vain, so the people are constantly unsuccessful in overthrowing God’s plans. David suggests that God even laughs at them for trying (Psalm 2:4), as He is omnipotent and already had a plan for a new king. God’s plan involved David as King and his eventual descendants. He promised to David that “[his] house and [his] kingdom will endure forever before [God]; [his] throne will be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). David paraphrases this prophecy in verses 6-9 of Jesus coming as a descendant of David to rule over the world. There will be a time when evil is destroyed, and God and Jesus will reign forever in the Kingdom of God. 

Most of the rest of the chapter is a warning to kings, rulers, and leaders to follow God and those he anoints: specifically, Jesus, the Son of God. Following God requires dedicated service to God and His Son. David uses the phrase “Serve the LORD with fear” (Psalm 2:11), which could be interpreted as genuine service to God with knowledge of His amazing power, mercy, and grace, and not simply an action to check off a list. The idea of serving God is modified to include serving and following God’s Son who would come after David.

The chapter ends with a reflection of the beginning of Psalm 1. The book of Psalms begins by stating “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD and who meditates on His law day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). Psalm 2 questions the logic of the nations and kings that don’t follow God, but rewards those that do follow God by explaining that “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 2:12). 

Psalm 2 was written mainly as a reminder for the people in the time of David to follow God and “take refuge in Him” (Psalm 2:12), but it has many applications to other people. For example, in Acts 4, believers quoted the first two verses of Psalm 2 after Peter and John were told by the Sanhedrin to not “speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). They recognized that those in charge of the Sanhedrin were going against God’s word, and Peter and John decided to continue following God’s way. They, and all the believers with them, prayed for God to “consider their threats and enable [God’s] servants to speak [God’s] word with great boldness”, in addition to prayers for healing and miracles (Acts 4:29-30). God quickly responded to their prayer and “the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31). God gave them the courage and strength to continue serving Him, even with threats against them. 

In today’s society, there are some who “conspire”, “plot in vain”, “rise up”, and “band together against the LORD and against His anointed” (Psalm 2:1-2), but it is still possible to remain faithful to God. Prayer can help to develop a relationship with God and “take refuge in Him” (Psalm 2:12). Those that do will be blessed and the nations will be the inheritance received according to Psalm 2:8. Similar wording is used in Revelation 2:26-27 when Jesus states that, “To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’” (Revelation 2:26-27). Following God and Jesus throughout persecution while others are rebelling against God will result in a blessing in the Kingdom of God of eternal life ruling under God and Jesus after evil has been destroyed.  

-Josiah Railton

Reflection Questions

  1. At whom or what do you think God may currently be laughing – scoffing at their actions? (In other words, what in today’s world is evil, rising against God? And is God scared?)
  2. How will you serve the Lord with fear amongst those who rise up against the Lord?
  3. How will the story end?

A Scary Word

1 Corinthians 2

June 3

Here at the Oregon church we have really been focusing on evangelistic outreach. No other word puts quite the fear in the heart of a Christian like the world evangelism. There are many anxieties that come with the idea of evangelism: sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. There is the fear of rejection. There is the worry that you might look foolish. There is maybe a concern that you won’t say the right things. Maybe there’s a worry that you don’t know enough about the Bible and therefore you aren’t qualified to reach out to people about Jesus and the kingdom. There is just a lot of worry that goes into it.


A lot of the fear and anxiety that comes from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with people is that we can make it about us. Look above at what was said about the fear of sharing the gospel: every fear and anxiety that was mentioned about sharing the gospel is because we focus on how it affects us. We make it about our rejection, or our feelings or our knowledge. God has made the gospel so simple and yet we can be so afraid of it. And when I say we are afraid, I’m talking about me too. Just because I’m a pastor doesn’t mean that I don’t have fear and anxiety about sharing the gospel. You don’t need a PhD in theology to share the gospel with people. You don’t need to have a deep understanding of Levitical dietary laws, or a complete understanding of ancient Greek. The gospel was made understandable so that no matter who we talk to they can grasp it. We tend to make it more complicated than it has to be.


Paul makes this very point in 1 Corinthians 2. He says: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).


Paul was an extremely well educated man. He was well studied and well read. He knew the Hebrew Bible in profound detail. He was someone that could have really made the gospel presentation more complicated than it should have been. But instead of making a mess of things he says to the Corinthian church that he didn’t come with lofty speech or wisdom. He decided to know nothing besides Christ and him crucified. What Christ accomplished on the cross is of chief importance. Christ died as a substitute for you and me and he rose on the third day. He did this so that one day we can be in the kingdom of God forever. The components of the gospel are easy to remember this way: the kingdom, the cross and the resurrection. The other doctrines of the Bible are important but only believing the gospel is what saves us. The good news of the kingdom of God and our entrance being purchased by the death and resurrection of Jesus is what matters above all else.


Paul continues in the section by saying that we don’t use lofty wisdom and persuasive arguments in order that we aren’t relying on the wisdom of man. Wisdom is important, but ultimately the best and truest wisdom comes from God. The gospel is simple in order that we can fully rely on the power of God to work through us to share to those around us. God is saving the world through His gospel and we should want to be a part of that.


We don’t need to make the gospel more complicated than it is. The simple message of the death and resurrection of Jesus purchasing our gift of eternal life if we believe in him is as easy as it gets. Sharing the gospel doesn’t have to be scary either. It comes from the concern and urgency of wanting people to be in God’s kingdom. It comes from the outpour of our lives as a demonstration of the saving power of God working wondrously through us. Let’s choose to know nothing but Christ and him crucified and share that to a hurt and broken world. Let’s be the people that God works through to reconcile His creation back to Himself.

-Nathan Massie


Application:

  1. To remember that the gospel has been made simple so that we can share with everyone: the kingdom, the cross and the resurrection.
  2. To realize that God is the one who is working through us to share the gospel to the world. It’s His power and not our wisdom that makes the gospel effective.
  3. To realize that the gospel is the power of God and it is of chief importance since believing the gospel is what saves us.
  4. To pray about our anxieties and fears about sharing the gospel and to ask God to give us the strength to share even when we are afraid.
  5. To recognize that when we share the gospel we are making an eternal difference in the life of the hearer.

Watch Out!

Romans 16

June 1

One of the best ways to say “I love you” in the midwest without using those words specifically is to say, “Watch out for deer” when someone is leaving your house in the evening. This is a phrase that is so common, especially in the summer months when deer are more willing to wander further distances before there are plenty of crops to munch on. Ask anyone who has ever hit a deer: the damages to any vehicle can be severe. It is devastating. So, although it is obvious that it is not ideal to hit a deer, nor would anyone want that, we still remind one another to watch out for them. It’s a simple way to show concern to something that is an all too common experience.


The Apostle Paul does just this when he is closing out his letter to the Romans. In Romans 16 he says to the church, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites” (Romans 16:17-18). We all know instinctively that division is not a good thing. Division causes pain and strife in any family, but we see this specifically in the family of God. Just like in the summer months we ought to watch out for deer, so we need to be on guard against people whose goals are to cause divisions and create obstacles. This type of behavior is found in a person who is not interested in growing God’s kingdom by sharing the gospel. Rather, this type of person is interested in dividing God’s kingdom into different sections. Paul further explains the type of people who are always dividing: they are interested in serving themselves and not the Lord Jesus.


We live in a time where politics and culture are always in the forefront of people’s minds. It is hard to take in any form of media without having some type of political statement attached to it. The division that is caused by the polarizing view of politics is something that can be avoided in the church almost altogether. I say almost altogether because there are issues that Christians should vocally stand for such as being pro-life. A majority of political issues fall under the category of “opinion” however. I heard it said well recently that the Apostle Paul could have filled his letters with news concerning the Roman empire. But he didn’t. He spent his time and efforts sharing the good news of the kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus. We need to be on guard from anything that divides the body of Christ, and to seek unity in the body of Christ. Especially when the divisions are created over opinions, and not because of a dissent in sound doctrine. Division should be avoided as best as we can. We should never roll over because it is easier, nor should we have a church split because it would be easier. We should make every effort to keep the family of God in a unified stance. We are stronger and better together. The kingdom grows because of our common faith. Let’s grow God’s kingdom together and not divide it into smaller pieces.

-Nathan Massie


Application:

  1. Seek to build in unity with those around you and don’t become divided away from other people on the basis of opinions.
  2. Watch out for people who seek to make divisions in the church for their own gain.
  3. To remember Christ wants us to be unified in his body and to rejoice in the unity
    in faith that we all share.
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