Today is the third anniversary of the last episode of Lost. Evidence of how much I liked that show is revealed by the fact that I am writing about it three years after it left the air. Perhaps no other show has gripped my imagination, as well as other Losties, as J.J. Abrams’, Carlton Cuse’s and Damon Lindelof’s little tale of adventure on the Island.
There are, I think, two general thoughts that those who invested heavily into the show felt, and may still feel, when the show ended.
One is that the show left them flat. Every mystery was not answered. Some may have said, “I spent six years watching and it ended like that? “ They felt like they didn’t get the payoff they needed and deserved after following these characters through space and time. They watched 121 episodes of this show and felt it was an entire waste.
Others have a completely different take on it. They love that every mystery wasn’t solved. They continue to debate what the show meant and how it ended. They wonder exactly what happened and what the motivation of Jacob and the Man in Black was. The mystery helps it remain one of their most beloved shows of all time.
It’s kind of like that with our faith isn’t it? Some people have to have everything explained to them. Every minute detail must be able to be explained and proven. It must all be rationalized and made sense of. If they it can’t be seen, then it can’t be real.
Or the mystery is wrapped up in Jesus. What was hidden and pointed at in the pages of what we call the Old Testament is explained and revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The questions may be real, but the Answer is even more so because it is the person of Christ. Sure, it all seems like a mystery, but when it comes down to it, that mystery is more real than anything else in the world.
Enjoy the mysteries of life or even a TV show. They mystery that truly means something has been revealed to us in a way that we could never imagine.
Do you enjoy the mystery of Christ and the Gospel?
This week at Big Meadow Campground, I am finishing up the first chapter of Galatians.
Paul has spent his time so far in Galatians defending his ministry. His apostleship is under attack, so he started off defending the fact that the Lord called him as an apostle.
Next, he defended the Gospel, calling what the Judaizers who are bringing this attack a perversion of the true Gospel.
As we wrap up chapter 1, Paul now defends his ministry and shows us that the Gospel and his apostleship are so intertwined that to attack one is to attach the other.
First, he tells us that the Gospel he is preaching is not according to man. Obviously, this is a point of attack by his enemies in the Galatian churches. They are telling the churches that Paul is out on an island by himself and that they have the true gospel. Paul disputes this idea by saying that he neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. He goes beyond his salvation experience and says that not only was he saved through a supernatural revelation from Christ, but he learned the Gospel through the same means as well.
Paul gives further proof by reminding them of what kind of man he was before he came to Christ. He tells them that they have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God. Paul was growing and advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries.
God had other plans for him though. These weren’t plans that were new plans or spur of the moment plans. The Lord had set me apart even from my others womb and called me through His grace. Paul’s ministry of being an apostle and proclaiming the Gospel were decided by God, not man, before he was even born.
When God was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, something curious happened. We might have sought out a mentor or someone to disciple us. Paul didn’t . He did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me. Paul keeps hammering away that his Gospel is not from man, but from the Lord Himself.
He went to Arabia and then came back to Damascus. Then three years later, he finally made it to Jerusalem. It seems that he simply relied on the Lord. What did he do? Remember that Paul was on the path to becoming one of the major leaders of the Jews. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews and a Pharisee. He knew scripture. He must have spent time praying and meditating on that. With the Holy Spirit in his life, that scripture came alive for the first time. He must have seen how it all pointed to Christ.
Paul must have begun preaching and formulating the Gospel based on his new understanding of scripture and the revelation he was receiving from Christ Himself.
Finally, after three years of this, he went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas. He only stayed with him a hair over two weeks. The only other apostle that he saw was James, the Lord’s brother. And there is where Paul draws a line in the sand with the Judaizers. James was the leader of the Jerusalem church. The Judaizers would have come saying they were from James. Paul is in effect saying that James had no problem with me when I went to Jerusalem before. Why is he having a problem with me now?
Finally, he states that he went off proclaiming the Gospel in Syria and Cilicia. He was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea. However, he was knows by reputation. They heard that He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.
The result? They were glorifying God because of me.
We might read or hear this and say that’s nice, but what does it mean for me today? So what?
1. The revelation of God trumps the teaching of man.
You might say that the Lord has never given you a revelation. If you have a Bible, you have the revelation of God. Read it. Study it. Know it. Compare what preachers and teachers claiming to be from God with it.
2. What have you been set apart to do?
God had a plan for you. It might not be to be a preacher, but no matter what it is, it is to proclaim the Gospel in some way. Are you doing it?
3. Are people glorifying God because of you?
Are you living you life in such a way that people are giving praise and glory to God for you?
Last week I introduced Galatians to the folks that I met with in my campground ministry. This week we move further into the issue that Paul is facing as he writes to the churches he founded in the Galatian region.
In the first five verses, the main issue seemed to be the fact that someone is questioning Paul’s authority and apostleship. In verses 6-10, He takes up another aspect of the issue and, most likely to Paul, a more important one.
Paul states that he is amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him…for a different gospel. Someone or some group has traveled to these churches that Paul founded and loved. They are preaching some sort of gospel to them. There’s just one problem. It’s a different gospel than the one Paul preached. Something is different about it. It is close to the gospel that Paul preached, yet just different enough to not be the real thing. Paul is shocked that they are falling for it. He can’t believe it. He is in shock. And he is not going to just passively let it go. He is going to fight for the truth.
Paul also considers abandoning the gospel he preaches with deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ. This should probably give us a clue about the issue. Paul considers abandoning the true gospel to be abandoning God and Christ. Being one who persecuted those that followed the gospel before his conversion, Paul loves this gospel message that comes directly from the Lord. Quitting it is equivalent to quitting God.
Paul also gives us a hint at what the problem with this gospel is. The Galatian Christians have been called…by the grace of Christ. Paul already seems to be indicating that grace is not at the heart of this gospel that is being preached and taught. He is already laying down the direction he is going.
Paul even goes so far as to say that this gospel is really not another gospel. It is one that is disturbing the Galatians and Paul is upset about it. The people he loves are being affected by these people who want to distort the gospel of Christ.
Paul ups the ante on these false teacher as we look further at the scripture. He says that if anyone preaches a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you then they should be accursed. This is strong wording from Paul. The Greek word is anathema, which means to be cut off. So, Paul is saying that it doesn’t matter if it’s him or an angel, if a different gospel is preached then they should be separated completely from the Lord. It’s not enough that Paul says it once, but he says it again for emphasis. Paul is giving us a strong picture of how he really feels about what is going on in Galatia.
Paul finalizes in verse 1o what the motivation of these men is. He asks if he is seeking the favor of man, or of God? Is he striving to please men? Paul strongly denies this. He says that if he was doing so then he would not be a bond-servant of Christ. His motivation is to please Christ.
Paul indicates that these enemies and false teachers are really trying to please man rather than God. That is the heart of what Paul is telling the Galatians. He is saying that if you abandon the gospel you are abandoning God in an attempt to please man. Paul gives them and us a strong warning to not give up what we believe for something that will cause us ruin.
One of my favorite Twitter follows is Xianity. Whoever is behind this anonymous Twitter handle is a brilliant writer who mixes our faith and satire in 140 characters or less.
A few days ago this tweet was sent out: LOCAL: Area Sunday School teacher dismissed after refusing to use tried and true “bore the hell out of them” curriculum. As a former Sunday School teacher, this tiny statement resonated with me.
A pastor in one of my former churches would preach every Sunday. Each Sunday I would sit there bored out of my mind. I was hearing the most exciting news ever talked about in a way that would never appeal to me. There was no emotion in the dull, monotone monologues that were called sermons by some.
These sermons led to me to wonder if the man truly believed what he was saying. Interestingly, he even spoke against emotion coming into the church. It was almost that he was anti-emotion. Like he was trying to purposely downplay the Gospel and its effect on those who follow Christ.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not into emotionalism for the same of drawing a crowd. Many with some skill and training can learn to whip a congregation into frenzy.
However, there has to be more to it that simply delivering the news without any appearance of it affecting the emotions. Surely, you can’t just bore the hell out of people.
We have the most exciting Person that has ever walked this earth in our lives. His message is something that draws us to come to know Him and follow Him.
Let’s live like it.
Let’s live exciting lives in the name of Jesus. That doesn’t mean that you have to wave your hands or dance. I probably won’t. That’s doesn’t mean that the emotions that He gave me aren’t running high when I talk, sing or worship with my brothers and sister. I’m not going to stand there stone cold either.
Let’s not try to bore the hell out of people. Let’s proclaim Him in a manner worthy of the One we love and worship.
Have you ever been guilty of trying to bore the hell out of people? Does Christ and the Gospel excite you?
I’m excited to share a new series with you over the next few months. I have the privilege each summer to preach in a campground ministry. I will be sharing with you basically what my message will be each week.
Today I am preaching Galatians 1:1-5. In the way of introduction, Paul has a problem. The churches of Galatia that he has founded are being led astray by false teachers called Judaizers. They have entered these churches and added the Law to the Gospel. They are telling these people that grace is not enough, but works must be added to receive salvation. Word has gotten back to Paul and he writes this letter. Nothing less that the integrity of what he has proclaimed to them is at stake: the Gospel.
Paul immediately asserts his authority in the opening of this epistle. We can surmise that Paul himself has been called into question by these Judaizers. He states that he is an apostle. Most likely these false teachers have told the Galatians that Paul never witnessed Christ’s ministry or even knew him like the other apostles. You can almost hear them scream the question: What right does Paul have to be an apostle?
Paul contrasts himself and these teachers immediately. He says that his being an apostle has nothing to do with any other person on earth. He says that his apostleship is not from man, nor from any agency of man. Instead it is through Jesus Christ and God the Father. Paul is summarizing the fact that Christ appeared to him on the Damascus Road and appointed him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles at that point. The Judaizers, on the other hand, came stating that they were representatives of James and the apostles back in Jerusalem.
Paul gives a familiar greeting in verse 3. Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a typical greeting from Paul, but it seems to pack an even greater punch in the context of the issues he is facing with the Galatians. In essence, Paul tells the Galatians that the message he brought them, the Gospel he preaches is one of grace. The false teachers is one of Law. The Gospel brings peace into your life. The false Gospel brings turmoil.
Paul continues by summarizing the Gospel. He writes that Christ gave Himself for our sins. In five words, Paul reminds the Galatians that Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He wants the Galatians to understand that Christ died in their place so that they could have eternal life. He gets to the heart of the Gospel in that Christ did the work so that they could be right with God.
What is the result of Christ giving himself for their sins? He did this so that He might rescue us from this present evil age. The Judaizers brought a message that Christ, along with the Law, delivered the Galatians from their sinful state. Paul declares that Jesus, with no other help, does this Himself. He rescues us from the state they were in. He delivers them into the kingdom of God. Christ Himself with no help from the Galatians at all.
To further emphasize this, Paul states that Christ does this according to the will of our God and Father. All of the work that Christ has done. The Gospel that Paul preaches. The rescue of everyone that Paul describes. This is done according to the will of God. This is His plan. To alter it in any way to cross the Father Himself.
Finally, Paul states that the Gospel he preaches and the work of Christ is all done for the Father to whom be the glory forevermore. Paul is stating that his message of grace through the Gospel is one that glorifies God. The message that is leading the Galatians astray is one that cannot possibly do this because it includes the work of man in it. Paul’s sole aim in proclaiming the Gospel and founding the churches of Galatia was to glorify God. What is the aim of the Judaizers?
The question we must ask ourselves is so what? False teachers abound in today’s world. Paul’s message is relevant to us as well. We must keep the Gospel close to our hearts and minds in our lives. We must measure the words of anyone claiming to represent the Lord by the truths that Paul preached. Christ has delivered us from the present evil age as well. We cannot afford to be led astray by false teachers and doctrine. We must seek to glorify God in all we do.
A couple of days ago, my friend Jon Acuff had this blog post. I agree with him on what he says about communication here. We speak in so many ways besides our speech.
If you didn’t follow the link, Jon says that our communication makes its way to our audiences:
55% of our communication comes from visual cues.
38% comes from our tone.
7% comes from what we actually say.
Again, I agree with him, but I have a couple of things to add. These additions are specifically geared for the Church.
We have the Gospel and we have the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Think about that for a minute. When we present the Gospel we have the power of God on our side. This is the same power that raised Christ from the dead. It is the same power that makes us alive and new creatures. It’s the same power that God uses to communicate through us to others. It’s a power that speakers that do not follow Christ do not have.
We also have the Holy Spirit to empower our speech. Think about it. We follow Christ and are filled with the Spirit. We abide in Christ and walk in the Spirit. When this happens, our thoughts and words are prompted and inspired by the Spirit. They flow to others who follow Christ, are filled with the Spirit, abide in Christ and walk in the Spirit.
Should we pay attention to our non-verbal cues and our tone when we speak? Absolutely. But we should not simply depend on them when it comes to our speaking. We must depend on the Gospel and the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us the power needed when we communicate to others.
What do you depend on in you communication to others?
I know that we are just about past the time for posts like this, but please indulge me one last one. I promise that I won’t continue these beginning of the year type posts.
What kind of year do you want? Since most of you who grace me with coming to this blog follow Christ, I specifically mean what kind of year spiritually do you want.
Do you want your year to be worship centered?
How about fellowship centered?
What about prayer? Do you want prayer to be the center of your life this year?
Bible study? Reading the Bible through? Would that be the focus of the next few months?
All of these are wonderful ideas. I want all of these things to be part of it, but I want all of them to point to and derive their power from one thing.
I want the Gospel to be the center of my life this year.
Someone may want to get all over me about that. Perhaps they would challenge me and say that Christ should be the center.
I don’t disagree. I just happen to think that you can’t have a Gospel centered year without Christ being the center.
So this year, at the center of my life, I want the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be central to everything I do and think.
Will I succeed? The answer is in the future. I do know that If I don’t go fishing there is a good chance I won’t catch a fish. If I don’t make the effort there is a pretty good chance that I won’t succeed.
I want 2013 to be a gospel centered year.
What is going to be the center of 2013 for you?
Today I end this mini-series that asked the question, “Who are you?” Specifically the question is who are you in Christ.
On Monday, we explored that Paul described himself as a bondservant of Christ.
Yesterday, we saw that Paul was called as an apostle.
Today, we finish up Romans 1:1 as Paul says that he was set apart for the gospel of God.
First, Paul says that he was set apart. This is the same idea that the word holy comes from. So, in a sense, Paul is saying that he has been made holy for the gospel.
Often when we think of someone being holy we think of someone being a goody two-shoes. That is someone who is simply being good of their own volition. Perhaps they are being good for legalistic reasons. Their behavior is being driven because of what is expected of them.
Not Paul. His behavior is being driven for one reason. He is gospel focused. He is being set apart, or holy, because the gospel is driving his decisions, thoughts and actions.
How does Paul do this? We can see how this is accomplished throughout his epistles. He is filled with the Spirit. He walks in the Spirit. Whatever he does is done for the glory of God.
Paul is focused on Christ. He is focused on the Gospel.
Paul’s identity is tied up in Christ and the Gospel.
How about us? And by us, I mean first and foremost, me.
Are we driven by the Gospel?
Are we driven by Christ?
Do we make Gospel related decision regarding our family? Our finances? Our career?
Are we set apart for the gospel of God?
Who are you?
For over four years I have been on an incredible journey of preaching through the gospel of John at Big Meadow Campground in Townsend, Tennessee. Today that journey is over. I will soon preach my last message from this incredible experience that John shared with the world.
The first thing that John wants us to know in these last couple of verses is that he was a disciple of Jesus. He was one of the men who journeyed with Jesus for three years or so. He is testifying to what he saw during this experience. He wants us to know that it is true. In doing this, he gives us a good model of how to give our own testimony to others.
Notice he doesn’t go into detail about his life before Jesus. Maybe you have heard testimonies where there is so much detail about how bad someone’s life was before Christ. Sometimes they even seem to miss that life. John doesn’t do that. He just states that he was a disciple. What should we do? Just say that we were lost and we came to know Christ. Testify to what Christ has done in your life. Tell them the truth. Don’t downplay it. Don’t exaggerate it. Follow the Jack Webb method. Just the facts.
John then ends his Gospel with what I always think is an incredible statement. He says that there were many other things that Jesus did, so many, in fact, that if they were written in detail the world couldn’t contain all of the books that would be written.
What we got from John ( and the other Gospel writers) was kind of like a highlight show. John didn’t have the ability to write everything down. Under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote what he wrote. But it wasn’t everything that Jesus did. Do you find that as incredible as I do?
When I was a kid, it would be a treat to stay up occasionally and watch Monday Night Football. Inevitably, at some point during the game, Don Meredith would sing, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.” One team had clinched victory when Dandy Don would break out in song.
That’s where we are in John’s gospel. Christ has clinched victory. The game is over. Turn out the lights. The party’s starting.
For most of this summer, as in summers past, I battled fire ants. Several mounds of these pests from the bowels of the earth infiltrated my yard.
I did several things to battle these creatures. I bought a commercial product to spread near the mounds. This didn’t work. I spread rice around the mound in hope that they would eat and swell to death. No luck. Again, I bought a commercial product. Temporary at best, the ants and their mounds returned.
Finally, tired and concerned the mounds would multiply, I decided on a drastic course of action. I went to my outbuilding and sought my measure of last resort. I retrieved the only remedy of which I could think.
I grabbed my can and doused each mound with gasoline.
The mounds and ants are gone.
This was not the best method to rid myself of the ants. I have a few spots in my yard that are bare. Nothing will grow there for a while. I’m sure there are environmental risks.
The ants, though, were defeated.
You might want to know what that has to do with anything.
It has everything to do with everything.
You and I have sin in our life. We will do many things in an attempt to defeat sin in our lives. (Don’t get me wrong. Ultimately, if we are believers, sin is defeated by Christ on the cross. What I’m talking about are the sins that creep into the nooks and crannies of our lives.)
We try a variety of things to make ourselves holy. Or we don’t. Hopefully, we are all concerned with sin in our lives.
Some might call it the mortification of sin.
Sometimes it takes something radical to rid ourselves of sin.
Much like when Saul had disobeyed God and Samuel hacked Agag to death, it often takes extreme measures to rid ourselves of sin.
Here is the most extreme.
We need to love God more.
We need to fill up on the Holy Spirit more.
We need to put on Christ more.
In other words, God must be our aim.
Why does sin have a hold in our life? Why are our lives full of pride? Why do we lie or live lives of gluttony or lust or you (insert ) a sin here?
It’s because we aren’t doing the most radical thing that we can do. We aren’t chasing after God with all we have. We aren’t living our lives by reflecting on the gospel. We aren’t living our lives in the shadow of the cross.
How can I say that about you? Because that’s my problem. I’m just an ordinary guy. I’m nothing extraordinary. I’m just like you.
Do something radical today. Do something extreme in your pursuit of the Lord. Do whatever it takes to rid yourself of sin by gaining more of Him.
How do you rid your life of sin? Are you filling yourself up on the Lord?