Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wanna Save Your Marriage(Part 3), What is the Gospel?

I am including a post with this title in this series because I realized that in the last post and in posts to come I am using the word gospel as an adjective quite a bit.  Gospel obedience, gospel witness, etc.  The gospel first and foremost however, is a noun.  An eternal story of redemption for a lost and dying world.

So what does this mean.  I said in the last post, as my assessment of the gospel reflection through marriage in Ephesians Ch. 5 that Christ died for the church, and this is true, but it is incomplete and thus insufficient. Every unbeliever needs a complete picture of the gospel and every believer needs to be able to give a complete description of what the gospel is.  Ask yourself, could you do it?  Is your description of our need and God's solution to that need adequate?  Even if you think you know, I ask you the favor of giving ten minutes or less to read through this and consider how it relates to what you think you know.  You may find that you are fine, you may find that you are not.  Wouldn't you like to be sure?

These days if you ask people what the gospel is, it may come out as God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.  While this is true in a sense, our idea of wonderful and God's idea of wonderful are rarely the same.  More on that at another time.  Let it suffice to say that the "good news" which is what the word "Gospel" means is not that everything will be coming up roses if you follow Jesus.  We live in the world of the "already" and the "not yet".  We will not experience all the benefits of being a child of the King in their fullness until we are living fully in the Kingdom for all eternity where "the King 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."(Revelation 21:4) That is where all the promises come to their complete fruition.

The Gospel in a nutshell.
If we needed a quick summary of the gospel, it might go something like this. While I do not claim this to be a flawless statement by any means I think the gospel can pretty much be succinctly stated in this way, "We are all sinners, who are spiritually dead and damned to hell because of our rejection of God the Father. Because of His great love, He sent His Son to live perfectly and die on the cross, taking all the punishment and guilt for our sin and making his righteousness available to be placed on all who believe as a testimony of what He did.  Victory over sin was then demonstrated when God raised Christ from the dead and He ascended to heaven.  God then, by His grace and through the Holy Spirit, draws men unto himself whom He has already promised as a reward to Christ for His sacrifice. (John 6:37-40, 44, John 17:1-3) He then changes their hearts so that they can have faith to believe, repent from their sins. receive Christ's forgiveness through His shed blood, submit to Christ's Lordship and spread the good news of what Christ did to those whom do not know, here on earth.  This, until the last day, when Christ returns, completes Satan's destruction, and restores the earth to a sinless, perfect state where all who's names are written in the book of life will enjoy a perfect, sinless, happy life with no sorrow or suffering, and glorifying God for all eternity."(Revelation 20:7-15, 21:1-7)  The unbeliever, because of their willful disobedience and rejection of the truth,  will find their place in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death for those whose names were not written in the book of life. (Revelation 21:8) 

Something of this nature could be a really quick, basic rendition of the gospel if you only had a minute or two to explain it.  However, I truly think a more thorough fleshing out of this summary is good for us to think through in our day to day struggles with sin.

What we need to understand, learn to fully appreciate and strive to remember every day is that we cannot get to that glorious day without the gift of God's grace being poured out in our lives.  We need to remember who we were, before Christ, if we are saved; and we need to know who we are, without Christ, if we are not.  Though the same truth of the gospel is explained in many different ways throughout the New Testament, I will stay with the book of Ephesians primarily to flesh this out.

In Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul beautifully lays out our spiritual state before and after Christ, the means by which it came about, and the purpose for it.  I will strive to expose the truths and leave the reading of the entire passage to you.  If you have a bible, I encourage you to look it up.  I will address this, as to believers, as Paul did, but you must understand that, if you are not a follower of Christ, this is true of you RIGHT NOW!

We were dead! (Ephesians 2:1-4)
Paul explains that our transgressions and sins made us spiritually dead  We were servants of Satan.
Romans 5:12 states "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned."  Now, when you are dead, are you capable of anything on your own?  Of course not.  You are a stinking corpse.  There is no life in you. That was our state without Christ.

We were objects of wrath! (Ephesians 2:3)
Everything we did was done from a selfish motivation to satisfy the cravings of our sinful nature.  Because we rejected God, disobeying him  to serve our own purposes we were subject to having God's wrath poured upon us(Romans 1:18-20, 2:5-11).  His holiness, cannot tolerate our sinfulness.

What about all the good I've done?
I want to take a moment to address this question?  Romans 3:9-20 is the answer to that question and to those who might challenge the need to use the law to make people aware of their sin.  Romans 3:9-18 makes it plain that there is nothing good about us in the eyes of God.  There is absolutely nothing that we can do that will gain us favor in the eyes of God. Isaiah 64:6 states that "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags".  These righteous acts are actually self-righteous acts performed out of the motivation of our own feeling of goodness or for our own benefit. There is nothing we can do inherently, of ourselves, to be saved. No matter how many good deeds you have done in this life, without Christ's work on the cross, you will go to hell!  Vs. 20 plainly states that it is through the law that we become conscious of our sinfulness against God.

Good News!
I will start with Romans 3:21-26 which basically says that though we are all guilty of sin and thus fall short of God's glory, through Christ redemptive act we are freely justified by God's grace.  Christ lived the perfect, sinless life, then went to the cross and bore the weight of our sinfulness.  All of the Holy wrath that God has toward sin and sinners was poured out on Jesus so that those who will believe on Him should not perish but have everlasting life(John 3:16).  Christ's righteousness, is placed on the believer, not making them sinless, but removing the guilt of their sin forever.  This is the point at which sins are forgiven, through Christ's blood and by God's grace(Ephesians 1:7-8).

But you cant' do it!
Now to return to Ephesians 2:4-9.  In this passage Paul makes it clear that, because of God's love for those whom He chooses to save(Ephesians 1:4-6), HE makes us alive with Christ, even though we were dead.  Ephesians 2:8-9 is a quintessential verse in helping us understand this.  It says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, lest any man should boast.  Without God regenerating us.  Without God making us alive, by His grace, we are incapable of making a decision to have faith and believe.  You see, we must have faith to believe and confess Jesus Christ as Lord(Romans 10:8-13).  However, that faith, while essentially our first act of obedience, is also a gift of grace.

Good works.
Finally, in Ephesians 2:10, Paul makes it clear that we are not saved just to sit back and enjoy the good life. We have a job to do.  He states, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."   What do these works look like?  First and foremost they are confession of sin and repentance from sin.  Confession of sin leads to forgiveness(1 John 1:8-9).  Repentance is the obvious fruit of a changed heart.  Repentance is evidenced when our hearts desire is to turn from the things of this world that are offensive to God and do not bring him glory and begin pursuing obedience to His word.  This is a lifelong process but we will continue in it if we are truly saved
(Matthew 24:12-13, 2 Peter 1:5-11).

What does this have to do with marriage?
EVERYTHING!  In every aspect of our lives, we are supposed to walk out self-sacrificing love, sharing the Gospel with the world, making disciples, and teaching them all the things that Christ commanded(Matthew 18-20). Not only that, but we are supposed to do these things in our marriages.  Our spouses and children are the front line of missions if we are married.  We are to put each other first, being living examples of Christ's love and building each other up in the most holy faith as you do the same for yourselves(1 Thessalonians 5:11, Jude 1:20).

You are not alone!
But you cannot expect to do it by yourself.  You must remain aware of your need for God's grace to empower everything that you do.  This is what Paul means in Philippians 2:12-13 when he says, "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose".  He does not save you and then leave you to walk righteously under your own power.  He enables every act of obedience.  So when you are feeling weak, then pray.  Ask God for strength and wisdom.  He gives that freely to all who ask(James 1:5).

All of this is fleshed out so that when I refer to the Gospel as an adjective, describing the motivation of our actions, you will remember that is also a noun.  It is the redemptive story that is the power of God unto salvation(Romans 1:16).  Without understanding that, you will not be able to appropriately apply the rest.

I know some don't like what I have to say, think it is too long some times, etc.  I do not know the purpose for God laying this on my heart, or creating me to blog in the style that I do.  However,  I do know that if only one life is changed for all eternity, or one marriage is saved in this temporal life that we live in the here and now because of what I am writing in these posts, it will have been worth it.  I get nothing out of this except the satisfaction that I am obeying God in this moment and the hope that He uses it to glorify himself in the lives of others.  Even if you don't have time or the desire to read everything I write, please pray for marriages that are struggling and souls that are lost and look for opportunities to share the good news of the gospel with them, that God would make His love known to them.

Thank you for your time and prayers.



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