Christmas

The Shepherds’ Gospel

Originally published December 22, 2015

Shepherds' Gospel

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Luke 2:8-20

The Christmas story just wouldn’t be the same without the shepherds, would it? Just a bunch of blue collar guys out doing their jobs one night, when God stepped in and gave them a story they’d be telling for the rest of their lives. We don’t know their names or how many of them there were, but they’re more than just pieces of our nativity sets. They’re a picture of the gospel.

Called Out of Darkness Into Light

The shepherds had no idea God would reveal His Son to them that night. They were just going about their lives, day in and day out, oblivious, until God intervened and brought them the good news of Christ. In a similar way, the Bible says that we walk through life day after day, dead in our trespasses and sins, until that glorious moment when God draws us to Himself, opens our eyes to the gospel, and makes us alive in Christ.

The Clean for the Unclean

The nature of the job put shepherds frequently in contact with the remains of dead animals and insects, rendering them often, if not nearly perpetually, ceremonially unclean according to Mosaic law. While unclean, they were separated from fellowship with God. They were not allowed to enter the temple to worship until they had offered a lamb to atone for their sin. And God chose these unclean men – guilty under the law – to be the first to meet His perfectly clean and spotless Lamb who would offer Himself to make the final atoning sacrifice for their sin, and ours. Through Christ, we are no longer separated from God by our sin and guilt.

Given, Not Earned

Because the shepherds had no way of knowing Christ would suddenly be revealed to them, there was nothing they could do to prepare for His coming or make themselves worthy of Him. God met them right where they were – dirty, smelly, and lower class – and brought them to Christ. Not because they were good people or had earned this honor with commendable deeds, but for God’s own reasons and His own glory.

There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation either. None of us are righteous, all of our so called “good deeds” are like filthy rags, and it’s impossible for us to please God in any way before coming to faith in Christ. Jesus meets us right where we are – dirty, smelly, and in the middle of our sin – and saves us. Not because we’re worthy, but for God’s own reasons and His own glory.

Faithful Messengers for God’s Glory

The angel knew God personally and faithfully declared His word to the shepherds for God’s glory. Those of us who know Christ must faithfully proclaim the gospel, from the Word of God, to others. Proclaiming the good news of Christ brings glory to God.

Hear, Believe, Respond

When the shepherds heard the message of Christ, they immediately believed it and responded by coming to Him. In the same way, when we hear the good news of the gospel, Christ calls us to repent of our sin, believe unto salvation, and follow Him.

Do Tell

Once the shepherds had met Christ face to face, they couldn’t keep it to themselves. With great joy, they went out and told others about Him. Some must have believed them. Others, perhaps not. But the news they spread made an impact on everyone who heard it. If only we would share the good news of Christ far and wide as the shepherds did! Some will believe. Some won’t. But God’s word always impacts people and accomplishes His purposes.

O Worship the King

How could the shepherds help but worship, praising and glorifying God, for all they had seen and heard and all God had done for them? And how can we, after all we have seen and heard from God’s Word, and all He has done for us, help but worship, praise, and glorify our King?

Just a crew of rag tag shepherds tending the sheep that would be sacrificed in the temple. But not for long. A new Shepherd had been born. The Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.


This article was originally published at satisfaction through christ.
Basic Training, Salvation

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: The Gospel

Originally published February 3, 2017

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.bt-the-gospel

Let’s start at the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read, you begin with ABC
When you sing, you begin with Do, Re, Mi…¹

And when you talk Christianity, you begin with…

The gospel. It’s the foundation of the Christian faith. The thing all genuinely regenerated believers have in common. And it’s the ABC’s of our Basic Training series.

Without a right understanding of the gospel, none of the subsequent articles in this series will make much sense to you. In fact, you’ll find yourself standing in opposition to biblical teaching because the Bible says that only those who are born again and empowered by the Holy Spirit can embrace the things of God in their hearts:

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

But far more important than your reaction to this series of articles,

If you don’t have a clear understanding of,
and response to,
the gospel, you aren’t saved,
and you’ll spend eternity in Hell.

I know that sounds blunt, but that’s just the meat and potatoes of it, ladies. In the same way you can’t get a molecule of water unless you add exactly one atom of oxygen to exactly two atoms of hydrogen, believing whatever you feel like believing doesn’t produce a Christian. You have to “follow the recipe,” so to speak, to the letter. And that recipe is in the Bible. Let’s take a look at it.

♦ You are a sinner (you have transgressed God by breaking His law).

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— Romans 5:12

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; Romans 3:10

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23

♦ The penalty for your sin is an eternity in Hell.

For the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23a

but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. Romans 2:8

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15

♦ You can’t escape Hell by being a good person, having a good heart, or any other effort on your part.

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. Isaiah 64:6a

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12

he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5

♦ Salvation (being in good standing with God) is a result of God’s mercy and grace, not something you can earn. It is a gift.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. Romans 9:16

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

♦ The gift God offers you is that, on the cross, Christ took the punishment you deserve for your sin. He will take away your sin and give you His perfect standing before God in exchange.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, 1 Peter 3:18a

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. Romans 3:23-25a

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

♦ The way you receive that gift and have Christ’s righteousness “credited to your account” is to repent from (have the heart desire to turn away from and ask God’s forgiveness for) your sin and trust that Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection paid the penalty for your sin.

[Jesus said] “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, Acts 3:19

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, Ephesians 1:13

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

That’s it. That’s the gospel. Turn from your sin and trying to earn favor with God by your so-called good behavior and throw yourself on the mercy of God, trusting Christ’s finished work on the cross to forgive your sin and make you righteous in God’s eyes.

That’s what salvation – or becoming a Christian – is. Adding anything to the gospel or taking anything away from it is not salvation or biblical Christianity. It is a false gospel. Believing a false gospel will not forgive your sin, make you right with God, or take you to Heaven when you die. Unfortunately, many people believe a false gospel and there are many people who claim to be Christians, pastors, and Bible teachers who teach a false gospel.

What are some of those false gospels?

If you’re basically a good person, or your good deeds outweigh the bad, you’re OK with God, and you’ll go to Heaven when you die.

If you’ve been baptized at any point in your life and for any reason, you’re saved.

If you go to church regularly, you’re a Christian.

If you participate in communion or the Lord’s Supper, you’re a Christian.

The reason we come to Jesus is to have a better, more comfortable, or more successful life.

The reason we come to Jesus is to get healed from a medical condition, because He will make us wealthy, or because He will do cool supernatural signs and wonders in our lives.

Simply saying you’re a Christian, or believing that you are a Christian, makes you one.

If you were born in America and you’re not Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, or some other religion, you’re a Christian.

If you believe in God, you’re a Christian.

If you give mental assent to the facts about Jesus (without repenting and trusting Him), you’re saved.

If, at some point in your life you repeated the words of a “sinner’s prayer,” “accepted Jesus,” or “asked Jesus into your heart,” (even if you didn’t know what you were doing, and without true repentance and faith) you’ve been born again.

You can become a Christian without repenting from your sin.

You can believe in a “Jesus” of your own making, rather the one described in Scripture, and still be a Christian.

Are you a Christian? Have you ever felt the weight of your guilt before God and asked Him to cleanse you and make you right with Him? Do you believe and embrace that Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection satisfied God’s wrath against you for your sin?

The Bible says we should examine ourselves to discover whether or not we are truly in the faith. Take some quiet, undistracted time alone with God today and search your heart. What do you really believe? Is it the true gospel of Scripture, or something else? (If you need some help, this might be a useful tool.) Don’t put it off, it’s too important.

If you find that you’re not in Christ, talk to Him. Confess your sin and your need for Him to save you. Ask His forgiveness and declare your trust in Him.

Don’t wonder and guess any more about where you stand with God. Know.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:1-2


¹Do-Re-Mi. Rodgers and Hammerstein, The Sound of Music, 1959.

Christmas

The Shepherds’ Gospel

Originally published December 22, 2015

Shepherds' Gospel

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Luke 2:8-20

The Christmas story just wouldn’t be the same without the shepherds, would it? Just a bunch of blue collar guys out doing their jobs one night, when God stepped in and gave them a story they’d be telling for the rest of their lives. We don’t know their names or how many of them there were, but they’re more than just pieces of our nativity sets. They’re a picture of the gospel.

Called Out of Darkness Into Light

The shepherds had no idea God would reveal His Son to them that night. They were just going about their lives, day in and day out, oblivious, until God intervened and brought them the good news of Christ. In a similar way, the Bible says that we walk through life day after day, dead in our trespasses and sins, until that glorious moment when God draws us to Himself, opens our eyes to the gospel, and makes us alive in Christ.

The Clean for the Unclean

The nature of the job put shepherds frequently in contact with the remains of dead animals and insects, rendering them often, if not nearly perpetually, ceremonially unclean according to Mosaic law. While unclean, they were separated from fellowship with God. They were not allowed to enter the temple to worship until they had offered a lamb to atone for their sin. And God chose these unclean men – guilty under the law – to be the first to meet His perfectly clean and spotless Lamb who would offer Himself to make the final atoning sacrifice for their sin, and ours. Through Christ, we are no longer separated from God by our sin and guilt.

Given, Not Earned

Because the shepherds had no way of knowing Christ would suddenly be revealed to them, there was nothing they could do to prepare for His coming or make themselves worthy of Him. God met them right where they were – dirty, smelly, and lower class – and brought them to Christ. Not because they were good people or had earned this honor with commendable deeds, but for God’s own reasons and His own glory.

There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation either. None of us are righteous, all of our so called “good deeds” are like filthy rags, and it’s impossible for us to please God in any way before coming to faith in Christ. Jesus meets us right where we are – dirty, smelly, and in the middle of our sin – and saves us. Not because we’re worthy, but for God’s own reasons and His own glory.

Faithful Messengers for God’s Glory

The angel knew God personally and faithfully declared His word to the shepherds for God’s glory. Those of us who know Christ must faithfully proclaim the gospel, from the word of God, to others. Proclaiming the good news of Christ brings glory to God.

Hear, Believe, Respond

When the shepherds heard the message of Christ, they immediately believed it and responded by coming to Him. In the same way, when we hear the good news of the gospel, Christ calls us to repent of our sin, believe unto salvation, and follow Him.

Do Tell

Once the shepherds had met Christ face to face, they couldn’t keep it to themselves. With great joy, they went out and told others about Him. Some must have believed them. Others, perhaps not. But the news they spread made an impact on everyone who heard it. If only we would share the good news of Christ far and wide as the shepherds did! Some will believe. Some won’t. But God’s word always impacts people and accomplishes His purposes.

O Worship the King

How could the shepherds help but worship, praising and glorifying God, for all they had seen and heard and all God had done for them? And how can we, after all we have seen and heard from God’s word, and all He has done for us, help but worship, praise, and glorify our King?

Just a crew of rag tag shepherds tending the sheep that would be sacrificed in the temple. But not for long. A new Shepherd had been born. The Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.


This article was originally published at satisfaction through christ.
Biblical Womanhood Bible Study

Imperishable Beauty: Lesson 9- Beautiful Feet (Evangelism)

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Read These Selected Scriptures

Lesson 8 was all about obeying, and being “doers” of, God’s Word. Today, we’re taking a look at one way of “doing” the Word: having beautiful feet that take the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world.

Questions to Consider

1. What is evangelism? In your own words, give a brief definition of what evangelism involves and why we evangelize. Briefly review lessons 7-8 (links above). Describe how knowing and loving God’s Word (lesson 7) leads to obeying God’s Word (lesson 8), which leads to sharing the gospel with others.

2. If evangelism is sharing the gospel with others, we want to be certain we’re sharing the complete and true gospel. Briefly review my article: Basic Training: The Gospel and the Scriptures it contains.

3. Study the Matthew 28 passage. This passage of Scripture is often called The Great Commission. Break the passage down into three parts, and exposit each part:

The Preamble (18): Describe Jesus’ authority, motivation, and reasons for giving the instructions and promise that follow.

The Prescription (19-20a): What are the four verbs (action words) in this passage that Christ instructs us to do? Explain how Christians in general, and you personally, can carry out each of these actions.

The Promise (20b): What promise does Christ make to us as we carry out The Great Commission? What are some of the things He does not promise us? Explain why His promise to be with us is the perfect promise – the one we need the most – as we share the gospel with others.

4. Examine Acts 1:8 (and read verses 1-7 for context) and Romans 10:13-15. In your own words, set the scene for Jesus speaking the words in Acts 1:8. How is verse 8 an explanation of the word “go” in Jesus’ instructions to the disciples in The Great Commission? Who will empower them to carry out The Great Commission? Relate this empowerment to the authority Jesus spoke of in Matthew 28:18. How are they to make disciples? Think of a witness in a courtroom. How were the disciples witnesses of Christ? Where are they to “go therefore” to find these people to witness Christ to and make into disciples? How does Romans 10:13-15 also explain the “how to” of The Great Commission? Why are the feet of those who bring the gospel “beautiful”?

5. Look at a 1st century map containing Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. Think about what you know (or search a concordance) about the disciples’ relationship to each of these places. Was Jesus just naming random places for them to go preach the gospel? What was the meaning the disciples would have mentally attached to each of these places that told them about the people they would be reaching in each of these places? Explain the expanding geography of the gospel: Jerusalem→Judea→Samaria→ends of the earth.

How can you make application of both of these points (the meaning of each place and the expanding geography of the gospel) to your own life and to your church? How can you take the gospel to:

“Jerusalem”– The people and physical location closest to you: members of your own household, family, closest friends. Your neighborhood, community, town.

“Judea”– People who aren’t quite as close, literally or figuratively: acquaintances, co-workers, extended family, cashiers/bank tellers/service people/your child’s teacher. People who live in farther away areas of your state or country.

“Samaria”– Remember the Jews’ and Samaritans’ attitudes toward each other? Explain how The Great Commission involves going out of your way to take the gospel, not just to the people you like and have much in common with, but to our enemies, or to people who look, talk, and act differently than we do, and are from different backgrounds and cultures.

“The Ends of the Earth”– How can we reach “the ends of the earth”? Have you ever seriously considered working in full-time, vocational missions, either as a field missionary or on staff with a support organization? Give it some thought. But even if God has not called us to vocational missions, we can still “hold the rope” for those who go. What are some ways you and your church can support missionaries, missions organizations, Bible translators, indigenous pastor training programs, etc.?

6. Study the 2 Corinthians passage. What is the message Christ has entrusted to us? What does it mean that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation, that we are ambassadors for Christ, and that God makes His appeal through us?

7. “Put flesh on” The Great Commission by reading the story of Philip (Acts 8) and/or the story of the woman at the well (John 4, especially v. 28-30, 39-42). What catches your eye about the way s/he shared the good news of Jesus? In what way did s/he set a good example for Christians today of sharing the gospel? What was the effect on the person(s) being shared with? How do these two stories demonstrate that God can use our circumstances, skills, and personalities as tools for sharing the gospel?


Homework

Read one of the articles below, choose one of the resources or practical suggestions for sharing the gospel, and implement it this week.

10 Fun, Practically Effortless, and Free Ways to Do Missions and Evangelism

10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays

Share the Gospel Like a Twelve Year Old

Street Preaching: A Call to Arms


Suggested Memory Verse

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20

Evangelism

Evangelism Encouragement

Sometimes a witnessing encounter can leave us discouraged. We’ve experienced the unfathomable joy and peace of being set free from our sin, becoming new creatures in Christ, and resting assured of our eternity with Him, and all we want to do is share with others how they can have all of those riches, too! Occasionally, the fruit is ripe unto harvest, and the person we’re sharing the gospel with repents and trusts Christ as Savior on the spot. But more often than not, the person rejects the gospel, maybe even lambasting us in the process.

It’s no fun to be called names or insulted for the cause of Christ, but we can get used to that knowing what the Bible says about persecution and understanding that it’s to be expected from unbelievers. But how difficult it is to watch people walk away from Christ knowing the futility they’ll continue to live in and the eternity that awaits them.

If you base your success or encouragement in evangelism on whether or not someone immediately trusts Christ, you’ll spend a lot of time discouraged and thinking you’re a failure at sharing the gospel. Here are a few reminders to keep our focus in the right place and our evangelism mindset biblical so we can remain encouraged:

☙God loves and cares for that person infinitely more than you do, and He’s concerned about that person’s lostness far more than you could ever hope to be.

Acts 2:41 is the exception, not the rule. The apostles and other New Testament Christians were often severely persecuted and ridiculed for sharing the gospel. Even Jesus’ own “witnessing encounters” didn’t always result in someone immediately getting saved.

Jesus said the “gate [to eternal life] is narrow” and “those who find it are few” (emphasis mine). We should not be surprised when many reject Christ.

☙The outcome of a witnessing encounter is on the Holy Spirit, not you. You cannot convince, nag, or argue someone into genuine saving faith (and you shouldn’t try because it’ll probably produce a false convert). Only the Holy Spirit can do that work on a person’s heart in His own timing.

☙Your job is to present the gospel. If you’ve done that, you’ve successfully been faithful to what God has called you to do. What God chooses to do with your gospel presentation is up to Him, and you must trust Him to handle it.

☙You don’t know how God is working in that person’s heart. Just because he doesn’t trust Christ immediately doesn’t mean God won’t use the gospel you’ve presented to save him tomorrow or next year or in fifty years.

☙God’s word never returns to Him void. It always accomplishes the purpose for which HE sent it. Our purpose is always to see people saved, but God’s purpose for His Word in that moment might be to distinguish wheat from tare, or to allow the person to harden his heart. It is never a waste of time or a failed effort to faithfully proclaim God’s word.

Don’t base your encouragement or success in evangelism on the immediate results, but on whether or not you’ve been faithful to obey God by sharing the gospel.

What are some passages of Scripture or words of wisdom from godly friends that have helped you stay encouraged as you share the gospel with others?