We should want to be used as God’s instruments because Jesus came for us

Jesus’ sacrifice and His cross work should be something we want to share with everyone.

Jesus didn’t have to come. Jesus could have left us in our sins. But Jesus didn’t. Jesus had compassion on us. He cared for us. He loved us. His love drove Him to come and die so that we might have life and our relationship with the Father would be reconciled.

We should want to go, not because it is easier and we know God’s will will be done, but because we want to share the love of Jesus with others. Because we want to share what Jesus has done for us.

“When [our] heart is gripped by the love of God poured out in the cross, and when [we] see the extent of that love in the propitiation by which Christ became the sacrifice for [our] sin, bearing wrath and entering hell for [us], and when [we] are convinced that this Christ offers Himself in redeeming love to others who do not yet know Him, a passion will be lit in [our] heart to pursue a God-centered life, [to pursue people on mission for God.]”

James Denney in Jonah by Colin Smith, 48.

When God comes to us and asks us to do something that is difficult — and if He hasn’t done so already, He certainly will — when He does, we should go. We should answer His call, so that others might experience the same joy, peace, comfort, love, and salvation as we do.

When God calls us to go, we should go for the sake of others and their eternal destiny.

The things of the world are rubbish when compared to Jesus.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil3:8)

To know Christ is the greatest thing in the world. There is nothing better or more joyful than to have a relationship with Jesus. A saving relationship. One that redeems us from God’s wrath.

It is Jesus who makes us righteous. When we believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, His righteous life is credited to our account. As well as His payment of death redeems us from the demands of the law, which is death for our sin. The law can’t provide us righteousness because it demands what we can’t give — perfection. The law for us restrains and points. It restrains sin by providing guardrails in which we are to operate. It also points forward to the need for a Savior because we can’t save ourselves.

Paul knew the value of a relationship with Jesus, which is why he counted everything else as rubbish, as garbage, as not worthy of keeping. A relationship with Jesus is penultimate and the only relationship worth keeping and continuing to pursue.

The things of the world are rubbish when compared to Jesus. Chase after Jesus. Pursue Jesus. Count everything else you could gain as loss in comparison to Jesus.

Christian, seek to shine as a light for Christ by loving others

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,” (Phil 2:14-15)

Christians, we are lights shining hope into a dark world. Hope the world desperately needs, especially during this time of division in our country. What we need to be about right now is the gospel of Jesus, not political arguments or armed battle. We should live as blameless and innocent children of God without blemish.

We can shine as lights in the world by “holding fast to the word of life” (Phil 2:16). It is God’s Word that should provide our marching orders, not a politician or political party. It is God’s Word to which we should look for guidance and how to live in this difficult time in the life of our country. God’s Word tells us that we should love one another and seek unity, not division.

It is our love for one another, even those who are on the other side of the political aisle, that allows us to shine as lights. Loving your enemy is not easy. It is an upside down way to approach the world. But approaching the world in that upside down way is exactly what allows us to push back the darkness.

Christian seek to shine as a light for Christ by loving others.

Remember, we are fighting a spiritual war.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12)

We are living in a time of political upheaval. Tempers are charged on either side of the aisle. Everyone feels they have been wronged. Both sides are fighting back, protecting, vouching for, and propelling their candidate to the front.

Let me encourage you not to put your trust in a candidate, political party, or policy. While politics are important, they are not the end all be all. Paul reminds us that we are not fighting against flesh and blood. Instead the battle we are fighting is a spiritual battle. Therefore, we must prepare ourselves for a spiritual war by taking up spiritual armor.

Spiritual wars are not fought with sticks, clubs, swords, or guns. They are fought by following and adhering to God’s Word. Jesus told His disciples to put their swords away. We should put our swords away as well. Attacks, riots, mob violent will not solve the problems we face in our country. Only the gospel and God’s Word will bring the change for which we desperately hope.

Remember, we aren’t fighting against flesh and blood, instead we are fighting a spiritual war, which requires spiritual armor.

God Works Through Others to Refine Us

God not only works through circumstances, but He also works through others to get our attention.

I distinctly remember one time when this happened in my life. It was when I was in college. When I moved off to the University of Georgia, I got involved in the party scene. One night in particular I was sitting at the bar with a friend and we were talking about religion. He was an atheist, so I was telling him why he should believe in Jesus. In the course of conversation, I remember him looking at me and saying,

“You know, you’re telling me about Jesus. How He is supposed to change your life and all, but I don’t see a difference between you and I. We pretty much do the same thing, live the same life.”

While I’d like to tell you things changed that night, I can’t. But what I can tell you is that God did get my attention with that conversation and it was the catalyst for future change in my life.

God may be speaking to you through someone else right now.

It might be a friend, it might be a spouse, it might be a church member or someone in the community.
God will use a number of different people to speak into our lives. We need others to speak into our lives. We need everyday relationships with other church members who can hold us accountable and are willing to speak to the truth of God’s Word into our life.

Listen when others speak

When others speak, we need to be willing to listen and then do the hard work of assessing whether what they are saying is right or not, and then make the necessary changes if it is.

When you are assessing whether the person is right or not, don’t do it in the moment of that conversation. Our first reaction to others confronting us with something we are doing against God’s will or loving more than God is almost always to be defensive, so don’t assess right then, unless you are convicted. Instead, assess later when you are out of the moment. Spend some time afterward in personal reflection and prayer. Maybe even ask others you know if they see that in you as well.

God will use others along with circumstances to convict and teach us.

A Gospel-Centered Church Preaches the True Gospel, Resulting in True Conversions

What does it mean to be gospel-centered?

When I talk about us being a gospel-centered church, I mean that we are a church that is centered on the good news that Jesus came to save sinners like you and I. We are centered on the gospel, allowing it to drive how we operate as a church.

Centering on the gospel frees us to place our identity in Jesus and as well as it frees us to believe in, trust in, and rest in the good news, the gospel — that Jesus came to save sinners. Those who center on the gospel realize there is nothing they can do to save themselves. No amount of church work, right living, or giving can provide salvation or sanctification.

Sanctification is just a fancy word for growing to be more like Jesus. Sanctification occurs through the gospel, not through trying harder or by following a set of legalistic rules. We grow as we understand more and more about the grace of God in Jesus. As we grow in our understanding of the gospel, which includes God’s plan highlighted and worked out in Scripture, we should grow in thankfulness for what God has done for us. Our gratitude should propel us to know God more, to understand how He wants us to live, and to actually live in a way that matches God’s desire for our life as a way to glorify Him. If we want to grow as Christians, we must reflect on the gospel, viewing it from different angles like a diamond, and allowing it to do a work in our hearts so as to bring about change.

The only way we experience salvation and sanctification is by believing in, trusting in, and resting in the good news, the gospel — that Jesus saves sinners. That is wonderfully freeing news because it means:

  • We don’t have to keep striving to maintain a self-image that is broken.
  • We can rest from self-salvation and the worry of — have I don’t enough.
  • We can love God for who He is and not for what He gives.

Opposite of the Prosperity Gospel

Being gospel-centered, then, is the opposite of the Prosperity Gospel. The prosperity gospel centers on health, wealth, and material possessions. The end all be all of the prosperity gospel is prosperity, it’s not Jesus and the salvation He offers. Jesus is just a tool to get prosperity.

But prosperity isn’t salvation. It doesn’t provide the identity for which we long. Prosperity just leaves us empty, wanting more. While there is nothing wrong with being prosperous, it can’t hold the center. Only Jesus can. Only He provides us with a true identity and true salvation.

More than Social Justice

Being gospel-centered also involves more than fighting for social justice. The social justice gospel centers on social issues. Those who do social justice seek to end unjust action, treatment, and systems. You’ll find a social justice warrior fighting against all kinds of social issues including systemic racism. That is good and right. We should seek to end unjust action, treatment, and systems. We should fight against systemic racism.

But these actions can’t be the end all be all of our ministries. The good news, the gospel, is not solely centered on justice. To be sure, justice is part of the gospel. A desire for justice will flow out of the gospel, but it is not the gospel. The gospel centers on Jesus’ work on our behalf.

Not Progressive/Liberal

Being gospel-centered also involves rejecting a Progressive/Liberal gospel. Many in the progressive or liberal gospel movement deny the inerrancy or truthfulness of Scripture. As well as they teach that Christianity is just one of many ways to experience salvation.

But again, the gospel centers on Jesus’ death on our behalf. It teaches us that there is only one way to God, not multiple ways. Those who center on the true gospel don’t seek to progress into new ways of understanding. Instead, they camp out on God’s way of understanding the world, which is found in His word.

In contrast to the prosperity gospel, the social justice gospel, and a progressive/liberal gospel, a gospel-centered church urges its members and those who attend to believe in, trust in, and rest in Jesus’ work on their behalf. They do that by faithfully pointing their people away from sin and towards Jesus by preaching the true gospel, which results in true conversion.

The result of preaching the true gospel is true conversion.

In verse 12, Paul writes,

“giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

(Col 1:12–14)

The true gospel tells us that we are sinners who have rebelled against God. Because of our rebellion we deserve God’s wrath. But God in His grace and Mercy comes on a rescue mission for us, truly saving us.

Every time I read this verse I can’t help but think of a group of Naval Seals sneaking behind enemy lines to rescue a prisoner of war. That image comes to mind because that is what Jesus does. He comes. He breaks into the kingdom of darkness and draws us to Himself. In doing so, He literally transfers us out of one kingdom and into another.

In God’s rescue mission, Jesus is the actor. He is the One who comes. He is the One seeks. He is the One who draws us to Himself and out of the domain of darkness. In Jesus, we are redeemed from God’s wrath. We are forgiven. We are released from the bondage of sin and death. For the first time, we can actually follow Jesus. Not just follow Him out of self will or to gain the approval of others, but we follow Jesus because we desire Him.

Once Jesus draws us to Himself. Once He rescues us out of the kingdom of darkness and transfers us into His kingdom, our affections are changed and we actually want what He wants. Our desires change so that we no longer desire the things of the world but the things of God. We are no longer self-centered but God-centered.

The only way a church’s attendees and members will see true change is if the church centers on the true gospel, preaching it so that those who hear it experience true conversion, and then true change as they learn about and live out their newfound identity in Christ.