Friday, September 17, 2010

The Rest of the Gospel

For the most part, when we came to Christ, we came because of the realization that we were sinners and that we needed a savior.  We recognized that we were sinners and deserved eternal judgment for the sin in our lives.  Through the working of the Holy Spirit, we learned of Jesus and that his death was payment for our sins and his resurrection was the foundation of the promise of eternal life.   We accepted that free gift of salvation and now live in the knowledge that our penalty has been paid and that we have eternal life in Christ.  Tragically, for too many Christians, that is the end of the story.  Some think the Gospel is merely an escape from Hell.  I want to tell you today that the Gospel is so much more! 

When we come to Jesus, we are not just forgiven.  We are changed. 
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV
We are not just changed, but we are an entirely new creation!  Yes, we are still the same person.  We do not become someone else, we become something else.  We go from spiritual death to spiritual life.  We go from selfish ambitions to selfless considerations.  We go from desiring to do works for our own gain to doing works for the Kingdom of God.  We have a promise from God to give us the desires of our hearts, but the new heart given to us by God desires more of a relationship with Jesus.   In other words, we are promised our hearts desires but with the new heart God has given us we have new and better desires.  As a new creation, our eyes are focused passed the hardships of this world to the glorious hope of eternity with Jesus.  The new creation we are ultimately transforms our personality from its fallen sinful state to becoming more and more like Jesus. 
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV
Being more and more like Jesus, we desire to be with Jesus more and more.  We desire that close intimate relationship with Jesus as it becomes more and more the desire of our hearts.  And in desiring that relationship with us, Jesus is all the more happy to reciprocate by establishing that eternal bond with us as his bride.  Jesus loves us and we love Jesus and that relationship forged through His blood becomes the source of great joy in our lives. 
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:6-9 NKJV
Our love for Jesus as a result of what He has done for us and the relationship He forged with us is the source of our joy.  And I speak not of temporal joy as though something nice may have happened to us, but a complete consuming joy at the knowledge of our salvation.  And just to make sure we can trust that our joy is based on something real, God gives those who come to Him the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. 
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.  Ephesians 1:13-14 NKJV
Think about that for a minute.  As a Christian, God dwells inside you.  Your body is the temple of God.  You never have to find God because God dwells within you.  That is the seal of your promise of salvation.  God wants you to know so much you are His beloved and that you have eternal life, that He dwells in your heart as a constant reminder.  And not only that, but through the ministry of His Holy Spirit, we are adopted by God as His children.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.  Romans 8:14-17 NKJV
As we are filled with the Spirit of God, we are led by the Spirit of God.  As we are led by the Spirit of God, we are adopted as children of God. Not just children in some grandiose theological sense, but literally as his children.  We do not just call Him Lord or God or even Yahweh, but we call him Dad.  We call him Father.  And being a child of God, we are heirs of God.  And being heirs of God, we are co-heirs with Christ.  And being co-heirs with Christ, we will be glorified with Christ.  As Christians, we have the promise of not just salvation, but glorification.  And as His children, we have the right to petition the Lord.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16 NKJV
By virtue of us being children of God though the blood of our savior Jesus Christ, we can go boldly to the throne of grace.  No one else can do that.  The unredeemed have no right to boldly approach God for anything.  They may try and sometimes in His mercy, God may hear their petitions, but God certainly is under no obligation to listen to them.  Only us and only through the blood of Jesus can we approach God, our Father.  And what can we approach His throne for?  We can approach for mercy for the mistakes we make and even more we can ask for help in the time of need.  We have the right to ask God for help.  In fact, God even asks us to cast our burdens on Him!  
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:6-7 NKJV
That is how much God cares.  We are not only allowed to cast our cares upon Him, but God wants us to.  And not only can we cast those cares and concerns upon Him, but He promises to answer our prayers as well.
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.  1 John 5:14-15 NKJV
What an amazing promise!  God promises to answer our prayers.  Now we may not always like the answer, but we have faith that as our Father, God answers in accord with what is best for us.  No one other than God's children have that promise.  No one other than those in Christ have that right.  And if we seek after God as we do in prayer, He will not only answer our prayer, but He will take care of our needs. 
"Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. " Matthew 6:31-33 NKJV
As His children, we are His dependents.  If our earthly fathers care for our needs, how must more our Heavenly Father?  God yearns for that relationship with us so much that He wants us to just seek after Him and not our daily needs. It is quite a bargain for us where we get a deeper relationship with God and God provides the means for which we are to survive on earth.  In order to seek after Him, we have to know Him, and in order to know Him, we need to know Jesus.  From that we see that only those of us who know the Lord are under this promise. 

So what is the rest of the Gospel?  If the entirety of the Gospel were just an escape from Hell or just the forgiveness of our sins, God can leave us right here on earth and just the way that we are. Earth is an escape from Hell.  God has so much more for us though.  Coming to Christ is just our birth, God wants to raise us up as His children.  The rest of the Gospel is the abundant life here and hereafter. 
"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." John 10:10 NKJV
This abundant life is not an abundance of things, but an abundance of God.  It is the abundance that grows from a growing, deepening relationship with our Father in Heaven.  It is the eternal that our new heart yearns for, not the temporary that our flesh strives for.  That this wonderfully abundant life in God is available to all who call upon the name of the Lord, but there is a catch.  You have to put away that old dead man and realize the new man with a new heart and new desires that you have become.  You have to allow God to clear out the muck and mire in your heart so you can realize that desire inside you for a deeper relationship with Jesus and follow that calling of the Holy Spirit within you.  Following the Holy Spirit will lead you to the realization that you are the adopted child of God.  Being a child of God, you must act as though He were your Father. Go to Him in prayer, expect Him to answer and have the faith to trust that His answer is the best answer.  You also need to rely on God as you Father, seek after Him, trust Him to meet your needs. 

The Gospel is so much more than "Jesus saves."   Lifeguards save, but once they drag you back to the beach you are on your own.  Surgeons save, but once you are discharged from the hospital, you are on your own.  They do not adopt you are their children, meet your daily needs, give you a new and abundant life, create new and better desires within you, and they can not answer your prayers.  God has so much more for you than just saving you.  He saved you in order to have a relationship with you.  He saved you to make you His child.  He saved you to bless you.  He saved you not because it is His job, but because He loves you.  Don't cheat yourself out of the rest of the Gospel, allow God to do that amazing work He has for you!  And now you know the rest of the Gospel.
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:14-21 NKJV

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