Tag Archives: gospel

It Goes Without Saying

Gospel PaintingWhen the Partners for the Gospel was started, it was meant to be a helpful and encouraging tool for us and others in the ministry.  As I read the articles posted each week by my Christian brothers, I would call this a great success for which I am grateful to be a part.  Since we are all believers, our sharing of the Gospel especially to each other often goes without saying.  But in the last few weeks, I have felt under conviction because of exactly that…it has gone without saying.  There are believers and non-believers alike that visit our site, and every single one of us need to hear the Gospel message daily.

Jesus’ commission to the disciples after the resurrection was simple, and non-discriminate.  Matthew 28: 19 commands, Go ye therefore, and teach all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  Mark 16: 15 says, And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.  Luke 24: 46,47 tells us, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:  And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  And in John 21: 17, Jesus is speaking to Peter.  He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou me?  Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?  And he said unto Him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.  Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

I sometimes forget that any Scriptural advice or Biblical teaching I may offer without the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is little more than a twelve step program the world could find in any number of places.  2 Timothy 3:16 says, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.  All Scripture is profitable because all Scripture, from the Old Testament stories to the New Testament parables, point to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection.

Isn’t it amazing that the one thing about Christianity that seems the most unbelievable to the world is the only thing that gives us credibility in the world.  

Christ paid the price for our sins when He went to the cross.  He wasn’t dragged or forced you know, He went willingly and obediently so you and I can be perfect and righteous in the sight of God.  That is what the world needs to hear and I am thankful to Patrick, Michael, Bryan and the others for “preaching and teaching all nations.”  We don’t have to be eloquent or educated to be obedient.  Jesus did the work and provided the message…He told us to “Go.”

Article by C.S. Depew

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Postmortem for a Dream – Part Two

In February 2011, I wrote a series of blog posts for ChurchWorks Network about what has been by far the most acutely painful time of my ministry life. Though nearly two years have passed, I remember everything like it happened yesterday.   See Part 1.

praying-in-church-300x168A few months in, it became clear what I had: a decaying facility, and ten older white people who didn’t want to change. The battle on both fronts punished me and my family for the first three years.

When I think about that building, I laugh just to keep from crying. The boarded window spaces were only accentuated by the peeling paint on the outside, and mold was growing on the walls of the nursery inside. I distinctly remember arriving one Sunday morning to find that a raccoon urine had soaked through the dropped ceiling and formed a puddle directly on top of my hymnal. We spent thousands of dollars just dealing with issues, then we put the property on the market almost on the day that the real estate bubble burst, leading to three years of tire-kicking and paying for insurance on a building we couldn’t use.

When I think about the people, I mostly just cry. Nine months into my pastorate, a group had formed, discussed my leadership style and direction, boiled down their concerns into six bullet points, and appointed a spokesman to ask me for a meeting. At that meeting, deacons’ wives made it clear that they couldn’t ask their husbands about church issues (despite the instructions of Scripture) because their husbands were too dumb to answer their questions. They made this statement with no irony, as they sat on the other side of the room from the aforementioned husbands. One gentleman interrupted my speaking at a random point to yell “We’ll never change!” five times in a row.

So I fought these battles for about three years. At the end of that period, the people had mostly moved on to other churches, having stopped giving to the church for six months prior: and, after a year of Sunday mornings in a veterans support meeting space, we found ourselves meeting in our home, three times a week.

And during this whole time, God’s mission continued to move forward.

We saw people come to Jesus from a long ways away, and the relational style of ministry that God had put in my heart was bearing some beautiful fruit. We changed the name of our church as a means of embracing a new identity and identifying with the community we were placed in. Meeting in our home meant that we were less formal almost by default, and this gave people the space to engage a gospel lifestyle at the point where they actually were. Teens and young adults learned that children aren’t nuisances by being forced into close proximity with my children and others. Sunday nights were beautiful expressions of Christian community, as we prepared and shared meals together, laughed and cried together, and wrestled with what it looked like for us to follow Jesus.

I’d been forced into something beautiful, even as I now realize it wasn’t sustainable.

Article by Mike Rowell

@redhedrev

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Stuck?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a 1-day conference in Middle Tennessee at GVBC called ‘Stuck.’  This was not their first rodeo and you could tell.  They knew how to encourage pastors and church ministry leaders.  It was well-worth the 400 miles!  Kudos to Pastor Locke, the staff, worship team, and the church ladies who took care of the eats!  I feel compelled to pass on what I got out of the keynote session called

Top Reasons Churches Get
-[& Stay]- STUCK:

1. The lead pastor is not growing.  He is a catalyst for growth.  Everything rises and falls on -you guessed it- leadership! (-Lee Roberson)

“I’m not dying without trying.” (-GL)

2. No clearly-defined DNA.  If you can’t write down your church’s mission / vision on your palm – it’s too bulky and people will never remember it.  Not even your best people!  The church needs to know who you are and why you exist.

3. An aversion to technology and cultural advancement.  The website is the new front door of your church (more).  The hot-word today is contextualization.  Preach like they did in the past – but apply it to the days of the present!

4. An unwillingness to ask people to leave.  Some people are not part of the team.  They are not on board with your DNA and never will be.  Trying to keep them involved only deepens the problem (and your discouragement as a leader).  It’s not worth it!

New converts are never the ones who complain about the paint, the drum, etc.  It’s always the ‘transfers’ who are the most petty!

5. It’s structured for control rather than growth.  BR Lakin said: Beware of the church with two last names.  Some churches are run by a select few (a key family, the deacon board) and will never grow beyond those who dictate it.  It’s possible to have too many voices speaking into the vision of the church.  If you can’t trust your leadership, then you’ve got the wrong team!

6. Operating totally out of context.  Know your demographic.  You have an era – serve your “generation.”  You have an area – serve your “nation.”  Has your ‘target‘ audience been identified?  Do you really mean it when you say: Everyone Welcome!?  Really?  What about addicts, the homeless, hookers, the deaf, the bi-polar?  Are you ready to help them?

People want to hear your heart, but they are tired of hearing your head.

7. A lack of faith to operate out of the box – but by the book.  Zeal is the forgotten virtue, replaced by knowledge.  Look at the Old Testament prophets (Jeremiah, Hosea, etc.).  They totally destroyed the box of ‘How-to-Do-Ministry.’

8. An understanding of the gospel is merely assumed (especially in the Bible-belt / South).  Lost people are filling churches and, with their votes, controlling them.  Jesus gave no concessions for people claiming Christ who are not involved in church.

In Addition, Pastor Locke Gave 5 Pieces of Advice of Getting Unstuck…

1. Don’t pastor from a bitter heart or with a point to prove (spite and anger are terrible motivators).
2. Don’t allow the church to become to dependent on your personality as pastor – build a team of leaders.
3. Don’t build the church your critics want – build the church your community needs!
4. Don’t allow angry church people to make you an angry family man (leave that junk in the office).
5. Don’t read the Bible for material – develop the discipline of personal, private meditation for your own soul.

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

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Be Evangelistic this Christmas

A story I read tells about a little boy and girl singing their favorite Christmas carol in church the Sunday before Christmas. The boy concluded Silent Night with the words, “Sleep in heavenly beans.” “No,” his sister corrected him, “peas, not beans.”

This little bit of humor reminded me that sometimes people don’t understand our message as well as we believe they do. The Bible tells us that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14), and that this Word was and is Jesus (John 1:1-18). Christmas is about the coming of Jesus, God’s “Word,” and what better time to talk about it than during the holidays?

The Christmas season is always a busy time of year for a lot of folks but it also serves to remind us we have a mission to accomplish. We have been commanded to testify of the coming of Christ and share with others what Jesus has done for us. Christmas provides at least three opportunities for aiding in this command:

First, people are generally more charitable during the holidays. The Salvation Army begins to take up residence on every busy street corner and store front during this time of year because they know that people like to give during the holidays. In Christian theology charity has been understood as “the friendship of man for God.” Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Christmas is a great time of year to share with others the charity and goodwill of God the Father who gave up His Son that we may have eternal life.

Second, people are generally more open to religion during the holidays. In spite of the recent “war on Christmas” that has reduced Christmas to holiday trees and merry greetings, what other time of year will you hear songs of the incarnation in retail stores and shopping markets? Even people that aren’t professing Christians tend to “get a little religious” around the holidays. Christmas provides a great opportunity to talk about the purpose for the coming of Christ with regular acquaintances.

Third, people are generally more available during the holidays. One of my favorite aspects of the holidays is gathering and spending time with family that I just don’t get to see very often. Whether we’re sitting around the table together, watching television after having eaten a large meal or just enjoying passing conversation over coffee and tea, Christmas provides doors of opportunity for conversation between friends and relatives.

This Christmas season as you go about your busy schedule of planning meals, buying gifts and visiting loved ones, remember the reason for the season and tell someone about the charity of God, the visit of His Son and the hope of eternal life in Christ. “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

Article by Michael Waits

@michaelwaits

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Gospel-Oriented Prayer

I hear the words echoing in my mind: Prayer is asking and receiving. Though that statement contains truth, I can’t help asking if it paints a very full picture.

Both Tim Keller & Jack Miller talk about the difference between “maintenance prayer” and “frontline” prayer meetings.

If I understand them correctly, maintenance prayer meetings are characteristically mechanical, primarily focused on physical needs, and relatively short. But frontline prayer meetings have three basic traits:

  • People ask God for grace to confess sins and humble themselves
  • There is an expression of compassion and zeal for the church’s advancement
  • There is a tangible yearning to know God, to see his face, and to see his glory.

So just to recap, people get real, get filled with hope, and get focused on God’s glory!

Why is the distinction between “maintenance” & “frontline” prayer so important? Because these authors believe that frontline prayer is always connected to real revival.

Keller says:

Biblically and historically, the one non-negotiable, universal ingredient in times of spiritual renewal (read revival) is corporate, prevailing, intensive and kingdom-centered prayer. 

He sites Acts 4, Exodus 33, and Nehemiah 1 as examples. Our attention is drawn to the disciples in Acts 4 who don’t pray for safety in a time of peril but only asked God for the courage to keep preaching.

I would say that these types of prayer gatherings are a right and natural response to the gospel itself. When we begin to grasp God’s grace, we become focused on Jesus and find freedom from building our own image in the eyes of other broken men. Honesty and repentance are enabled and we can begin to get real. This will be reflected in the way we pray with others.

Are you overly concerned with how much your brothers may find out about you as you pray with them? Take another look at the gospel.

Do you “hedge your bets” when you pray, or do you find yourself asking God to show up in God-sized ways? If you pray small prayers, take another look at what God has already done for you in the gospel.

Do you find yourself coming up dry or pretending when you know you should be praising, worshiping, and seeing God’s glory? Take another look at the gospel. Look at Jesus—in Him we will find & see the fullness of the Godhead!

What do our prayer meetings look like? Maintenance or frontline? Defense or offense? Dead orthodoxy or passionate spiritual renewal?

So is prayer asking and receiving? Yeah, but one of the gospel’s effects in our lives should be to change what we ask for!

Article by Brian Norris

@BrianNorris

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Joy Story

If you were to ask me to stop and recall one of my happiest times as a child, I would have to bring up the Toy Story era. Now before you laugh, whenToy Story came out it was well ahead of its time, not because it was the first successful computer generated movie, but because it solidified what all little kids were thinking: MY TOYS CAN TALK!

As an adult, life is little more complicated now isn’t it? It almost seems that the older you get, the more grumpy and sour you become. Why? Because simply put, life can suck the JOY right out of you. Remember when you actually enjoyed your job? How long has it been since you enjoyed your marriage? Being pointed, remember when you ENJOYED coming to church and seeing everyone?

We are foolish to think that God planned for your life to just putter along in misery. Thankfully, through Paul writing to the Philippians, we can truly find our JOY STORY and get back to loving life again!

Paul, under Holy Ghost inspiration, is careful to send a strong message to this first European congregation in Philippi. Depending on how you look at it, 16 times some derivative of JOY is pumped into this congregation. One of those words, REJOICE, is the ACTION of the emotion of joy. Throughout the book of Philippians, Paul gives us 5 FACTS to help us find our JOY STORY! (This post was from a message I preached recently, if you would like to watch it, click HERE)

What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:18)

1. Take JOY in the FACT the Gospel Is Preached

A few verses earlier, Paul was saying that the Gospel was being preached FOR THE WRONG REASON (envy, strife, etc.) and because of the POWER that it had he still rejoiced in that fact! No doubt there is coming day that the glorious Gospel WILL NOT be able to be preached; let us be busy and find joy in the fact that it still can.

Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. (Philippians 2:16)

2. Take JOY in The FACT that Your “Race” is Not in Vain

If there is anything that makes a Christ follower want to bail out on “Christianity” it is the question of, “IS IT WORTH IT”. We sacrifice, we struggle, we seemingly tread water … but it IS for a purpose. The situations we face are all specifically for our benefit, but the payoff (at times) takes FOREVER to be manifested. Paul goes so far as to say, “I’m content and have JOY in the fact that my suffering will make sense when I see Jesus!”

I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. (Philippians 2:28)

3. Take JOY in the FACT that Your “Race” is Not Run Alone

As was mentioned earlier, the reasoning behind some of our circumstances may not be understood until we reach Heaven. With that being the case, God has given us “co-laborers” that are in the fight as well. We should REJOICE, Paul tells us, simply because we do not have to carry our burdens alone.

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord…  (Philippians 3:1)

4. Take JOY in the FACT of Who God IS

If there was no other reason to have joy, we should rejoice simply in who God is! He is your creator, sustainer, deliverer, redeemer, and FRIEND! Through Christ’s sacrifice your are ACCEPTED before God; take joy in that fact — Why wouldn’t you?

In Philippians 4:1, Paul starts off by saying, “Therefore” — (or in other words, because of everything that was just said) — we should take steps to insure that the fifth fact in intact:

I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:2-4)

5. Take JOY in the FACT of Strength in a UNIFIED Body

We need to understand that quarrels and strife have no place in the Body of Christ. There is nothing that steals joy and destroys churches more than disunity. When everyone is on the same page, a unified assembly of Christ followers can truly change the world!

 

Article by Kevin Crozier

@kevcrozier

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Getting to the Point

There are a lot of things to debate and dissect in the Christian life today.  There are multiple denominations, Bible versions and doctrines.  Everyone from scholars and theologians to new Christians have different views and interpretations of Scripture.

Some argue these things because they truly believe their views are correct and they do not want fellow believers to be deceived.  Others use these things to create trouble, or to set themselves apart from everyone else.  I too have gotten caught up in debates over Scripture for any or all of these reasons until I read Titus 3:9; But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

I felt very convicted about how I had lived my Christian life – I had spent most of it spouting out views and opinions to prove how unwavering my faith was.  But if we are to spread the good news of the Gospel to the world and lead people to Christ, does it make sense to debate with other Christians the things that Paul called unprofitable and vain?  I could just imagine God looking down saying, “You spent so much time arguing this thing and you both missed the point.”

 I want to take as many people with me to Heaven as I can.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  The study of God’s word is a wonderful and necessary pursuit.  To read Scripture with a humble heart is exactly what Proverbs 27:17 means when it says, Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.  But Revelation 22:13,14 says I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.  Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

At some point, we will pass out of time into eternity.  Time will not stop.  It will cease to exist.  With no other plans to make, bills to pay, things to fix or schedule to keep, I will bow down at the feet of my God and Creator.  I will hold the hand of my Lord and Savior.  And I will hug my Father with the joy of a child and say, “I love you.”  And to be honest, I want to bring as many people with me as I can.  I want them to experience eternity being washed in the blood of Jesus Christ.  I would keep writing, but I don’t know how much time I have…

Article by C.S. Depew

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Oh, Glorious Day!

It’s been said by many before that as Christians,we should be careful not to get our theology from songs. Very true statement — there are plenty of songs out there that take scriptural principles way out of context and by singing them, the listener THINKS that it is Biblical. While there are certainly some bad songs out there, some of them are VERY good!

On June 28th of 2012, I celebrated 14 years of salvation. I will never forget the Sunday night that I pulled my father aside as a 12-year-old boy and explained to him that I was in need of a Savior. Lovingly, he knelt down with me at his bed and shared with me the blessing of Christ! As I reflect back on that day, one song (with great scriptural meat) flooded my mind.

In 1910, a preacher by the name of John Wilbur Chapman penned the words to a song that in my opinion, portrays the full scope of the finished work of Christ: Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me). Granted, Casting Crowns rendition is a little more catchy, but they use the exact same words:

Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;
Buried, He carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified freely forever:
One day He’s coming—O glorious day!

What a chorus! To full understand the depth of what is being said, I want to compare those lyrics with a famous passage of scripture that is often misread. In Romans 6, we receive from Paul the significance of the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of our Lord with the assurance of ETERNAL SECURITY as a bonus!

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: (Romans 6:3-5)

First off, let’s understand that just because you see the word “Baptism”, it doesn’t mean that it is referring to water (Baptism of Fire, Spirit, Suffering, etc). What baptism DOES equal is IDENTIFICATION or ONENESS. For example, remember in 1 Corinthians 10, that Israel was “baptized” or identified unto Moses.  With that being said, let’s again look at Romans and the first line of the chorus:

… dying, He saved me;

that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

To be saved, you must be IDENTIFIED with and be ONE with Christ’s death. It is essential that we understand that Jesus had ZERO sin to die for, and that HIS death was what WE deserved.

Buried, He carried my sins far away;

… Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death:

To comprehend the magnitude of that statement! After the crucifixion, the body of Christ, LADEN WITH THE SINS OF THE WORLD, was buried. Our sin was buried WITH HIM! But the best part is the next phrase:

Rising, He justified freely forever:

… that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9  Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10  For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. (Romans 6:8-10)

WOW! Realize that Jesus died ONCE for sin — He is not dying again. If you are identified with His death, that means YOU DIE ONCE! If you are ONE with Christ, YOU will be raised from the dead to live with Him forever. What an assurance!

Article by Kevin Crozier

@kevcrozier

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Meet the Skeptic [Book Review]

Here’s a book we’ve been needing–”Meet The Skeptic” by Bill Foster. So many of us witness by routine with a rote presentation with no regard if the person we witness to can make any sense out of a word we say. Or perhaps we use theological words, though great to us, which can no longer be understood in our Biblically illiterate world. Mr. Foster talks us through this problem, reminds us that it is people we are after, and guides to better methods and word choices.

For example, “salvation” would in no way mean to a guy with no church background what it would to those of us who have grown up in church. To ask “if you died today, would you go to Heaven” wouldn’t mean much to a lady who doesn’t believe there is a Heaven. To only quote the Bible might have little impact if that person has been indoctrinated to believe the Bible is full of errors. I believe the Bible has the answer, but how can I turn the conversation in a direction that would make Biblical truth something that must reckon with?

That’s where this book comes in. Mr. Foster does a masterful job reorienting us. He introduces many insights that I honestly had never thought of before. What makes his presentation so powerful is his uncanny ability to let us know how others think, how they’ve come to think it, and how we might finally get through with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

He explains the 4 main types of skepticism you may meet: spiritual skepticism, moral skepticism, scientific skepticism, and biblical skepticism (not believing the Bible is trustworthy). He describes the root idea behind the skepticism and offers probing questions to get them thinking. There’s even a quick reference chart at the end of the book designed to help you grasp what is fully brought out in text.

It’s not a gimmick; this book talks sense. I’ll keep mine handy for reference. Mr. Foster clearly admits that not everyone will turn to Christ with his approach. But wouldn’t you feel better knowing they rejected what they understood instead of what you ineptly explained?

Article by Jimmy Reagan

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Hell – What a Concept!

Did you know that more people believe in heaven than hell? Even if they do not believe in the actual existence of the place, almost everyone has their own concept. Some people believe it’s where all the “cool people” go, and that only fuddy-duddies go to heaven. They laugh and joke about the wild parties that take place, and that the “real” party won’t start until once they arrive. Others believe we are living in hell now and that our only escape is by death into heaven. Still others believe that hell is just an exaggerated expression that people use to curse with but that it is not an actual place.

My earliest concept of hell probably came from the things I saw and read. Similar to the perception many people have, comic book and cartoon artists have also described it as dark, cave-like and fiery place where bad people go or spirits reside. Could it be that similar representations of hell have desensitized the general public so much that it no longer has the same impact on the modern world? The Bible describes hell as being much more terrible. You will find it described as a place of “disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2), where there will be only “torment and agony” (Luke 16:23-24), an “eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41), that “is not quenched” (Mark 9:44), an “eternal destruction” (1 Thessalonians 1:9), and where the unrighteous will be “tormented day and night, forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). Not so good, right?
Several Christians today have grown so comfortable with hell being an expression that they no longer take it as seriously as the Bible says they should. Many prefer not to talk about hell because of the “negative connotations” it often carries. In an interview with Larry King, the author, motivational speaker and pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Joel Osteen, said, “I know there is condemnation, but I don’t feel that’s my place [to talk about it].”
But if Christians don’t talk about hell, what makes the good news of the gospel so good? In fact, during Jesus’ ministry on earth, he spoke about hell as much, if not more than, heaven! (Luke 16:19-31, Matthew 23:33; 25:31-55). The Bible clearly teaches that the punishment of sin and lawlessness is an infinite and eternal death that each person has earned (Romans 3:23; 6:23). It is only after understanding this that the good news is actually “good.”
The good news of the gospel is this: Jesus Christ came to this earth and lived a perfect and sinless life. He shed his blood and died on the cross to to pay for sin by taking God’s wrath upon himself. He was buried in a tomb and on the third day rose again to defeat sin and death once and for all. To be reconciled to God one must trust in the Savior, Jesus Christ, and repent (turn away) from sin. Jesus said, “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
Christian, why don’t you share this with others? The bad news is only offensive if you don’t follow it up with the good news. Share Christ with love. Because without the good news, the truth of the bad news would be the end for all.

Article by Michael Waits

@michaelwaits

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