Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Gospel, No Strings Attached!

So I'm sitting at my computer, thinking about blog topics, when I get this phone call. Right off, I knew what kind of call this might be because my caller ID said "unknown," and there was no immediate voice on the other end when I picked up. A voice-recording urged me "Don't hang up!" and then happily announced that I was the "first-place winner of a free luxury cruise" and that I should press 9 on my phone to receive my prize!

Now, obviously, this was some company trying to sell a cruise to a gullible consumer (I hope I spelled gullible right, since it's not in my dictionary!) But it got me thinking...there are many who view the Gospel this way! They think that God's offer of salvation is too good to be true or that it has some sort of strings attached. Then I thought, what would I say to someone who viewed the Gospel in this way? How should I give a ready answer to the hope within me, done of course with gentleness and reverence? Here is what I came up with:

1. The Gospel is authoritative. The reason I doubted this call from the start was the lack of phone number on my caller ID. There was not even a name listed! The Gospel, on the other hand, is a promise made by the Creator of the universe, the One who has all power and all authority. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." Acts 3:22-23 says, "For Moses truly said to the fathers, 'The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.'"

2. The Gospel is accessible. Without a name or phone number, I had no way of reaching the callers should I desire to speak with them further. The caller did not reveal the name of their company nor where they were located. But Acts 17:27 says God's revelation is "so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being." Jeremiah 29:13 says, "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." Romans 10:17-21 says, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: 'Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.' But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: 'I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.' But Isaiah is very bold and says: 'I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.' But to Israel he says: 'All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people.'"

3. The Gospel is personal. The caller on the phone was not a real person but an automatic voice message. I was also not addressed by my own name. But the Gospel is different. John 1:14 says, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." John 20:21 says, "So Jesus said to them again, 'Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.'" Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

4. The Gospel is well-meant. I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but this is a true difference. I got the feeling that the company calling was not hoping that I would have a wonderful time on a cruise. More than likely, they knew that there were gullible folks out there who would bring them some cash. But Ezekiel 33:11 says, "Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'" 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God."

5. The Gospel is straight-forward. The prospect of a free cruise often has strings attached. It is a way to scam people out of their money. They claim it is free, but it really isn't. But the Gospel comes from Christ, who Himself is the Truth (John 14:6). Jesus says in John 8:32, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Those who preach the Gospel are to be upfront about it: yes, it is by grace through faith and not of ourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). And yet the Christian life is one of taking up our cross daily and denial of self (Luke 9:23).

6. The Gospel is simple. If I had listened to the whole spiel, I imagine there would have been much talk of service charges and mandatory fees and travel regulations and various other stipulations. But thankfully, the Gospel is simple. Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." The answer given to the Philippian jailer as to how he could be saved was "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:30-31).

7. The Gospel is gracious. The caller probably had a long list of do's and don'ts for me to follow, and I would have to sign a bunch of forms and do a lot of work for the company to be pleased enough to give me my "free" vacation. But what about the Gospel? As mentioned before, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10). Romans 3:21-26, "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

8. The Gospel is exclusive. There are many places I could go to buy a cruise. I don't need to risk falling prey to a scam. I could always go somewhere else, to one of many travel agencies or to an online site like Expedia. But not so with Jesus! This has already been alluded to in several passages. John 14:6, "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'" Acts 3:23, "'And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.'" Acts 4:12, "'Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.'"

9. The Gospel is satisfying. Whether through phone or television or email, people are trying to sell you the thing that will bring you happiness or comfort or satisfaction. Whether it is a fitter body or longer life or a fuller wallet, there are promises galore. But how many of these promises prove to be genuine? On one website, I saw that one company's "free cruise" was a one-day trip from one Florida port to another. Even if the cruise was a nice one, it only lasts so long and then all you gain is some pictures, mementos, memories that will fade away, and a few more pounds. But Jesus promises in John 6:35, "'I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.'" He says in Matthew 11:28, "'Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'" And Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:20, "For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us."

10. The Gospel is life-changing. As fun as a cruise would be, I doubt it would be life-changing. The type of cruise this company wanted to give me in and of itself would have no consequences for me spiritually and probably not even here in this life. But the Gospel has consequences for both our life here and throughout eternity! Titus 2:11-14 says, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works." John 11:25 says, "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.'"

11. The Gospel is reputable. In my Google search of phone calls pertaining to free cruises, I have yet to find one satisfied customer. Where are the testimonies of people having a great time on a cruise set up by the company that called me? And yet the Gospel has ample testimony! In 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, Paul says that "He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time." Not only this, but the Old Testament prophets testify to Christ as well: "'These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me'" (Luke 24:44); "Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days" (Acts 3:24).

12. The Gospel is indestructible. I highly doubt that the people who own and work at these companies would risk their lives for what they do. If someone threatened them with monetary fines or prison or death, I think they'd close up shop pretty quickly. But those who love and declare the Gospel are eager, yes compelled and even required, to count their lives as nothing for the sake of Christ and His Gospel. Acts 4:18-20 says, "So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.'" 1 Corinthians 9:16, "For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" Matthew 16:18, "and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Revelation 12:10-11 says, "Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, 'Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.'"




2 Comments:

At October 30, 2008 at 12:09 AM , Blogger Jade said...

Marie wrote:
They think that God's offer of salvation is too good to be true or that it has some sort of strings attached.


I had to chuckle when I read that, because the very first time someone shared the Gospel with me, that's the exact question I asked -- "Are there any strings attached to this offer?" You've got to understand, I was brought up a Catholic. :o) You don't get something that good for free! As the Catholics would say, "you've got to do some penance". But it really is the truth ... the Lord Jesus did the penance on my behalf! And even more than that, He continues to intercede on my behalf as He sits at the right hand of God the Father. Even now, it continues to astound me and I'm truly grateful.

From one of my favorite hymns:

Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”
The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child;
I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

 
At November 1, 2008 at 9:54 PM , Blogger MarieP said...

Jade,

Thank you for sharing that part of your testimony! "Arise, my soul" is one of my favorite hymns too! I am so glad we have such a great high Priest who has made perfect for all time those who are sanctified!

 

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