The Mystery of the Gospel, Part 1

The mystery of the Gospel.

It’s strange because for the majority of my life, growing up in a Christian-saturated environment, the Gospel is a pretty “elementary” concept.

The Gospel

(1) Paraphrased from the “Three Circles” version, which can be accessed in video-form below.

-God made the world full of love, joy, and peace.

-But people sinned, and the sin drove them into brokenness.

-People try to get out of the brokenness with good and bad things in this world (ie. drugs, friends, religiousity, etc.), but all of these “things” only drive us back into the brokenness. We aren’t actually saved from the brokenness itself.

-But God knew this would happen, and so he sent Jesus down to the Earth to make a way, a doorway, out of the brokenness. Jesus died on the cross and rose again, cancelling the effects of sin, so that freedom from our brokenness could be possible.

-So then if we turn from our sin (repent) and choose to make Jesus “Lord of our life” (not ourselves), we will be saved (Romans 10:9-10).

-Now, we, as new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), leaving our past behind us, are able to experience the love of God, as God originally intended. We are now made whole.

I wrote a paraphrased version of this above.

(2) Another version from my own understanding of this profound mystery, –albeit maybe more “wordy” than some of those versions.

-People and God lived in harmony at the onset of creation. They had a beautiful relationship of peace, honesty, vulnerability, and love with each other, but most importantly: with their God.

-But people are bad. And in the event of temptation, they fell. People’s sin drove them away from harmony with God. A broken relationship with their God, and with each other.

-Many years later, people try to escape the brokenness they either consciously or unconsciously experience with “anything else under the sun” (Ecc. 1:14-15). But there is nothing in a sin-stained world that can save them from their sin. And so nothing saves us.

-That is, apart from Jesus. Jesus–who is fully God incarnate into the matter of man, walks a perfect life on earth, frought with temptation and trial, to eventually die on a cross, in the most gruesome, inhumane way possible.

-He did this out of love, because he wanted to repair that gap of sin that made us so irreconcilable to our Creator. Paul, in other words, called us “dead in our sin” (Eph. 2:1). Basically, things were completely hopeless for us, apart from a Saviour, we so desperately needed.

-So when Jesus died, he murdered sin. When he arose, he escaped the sin, once and for all–and with the potential for every human on earth to be saved from it, if they would choose to (1) believe this, (2) put their full trust-faith in Christ, and be (3) exclusively committed to following Jesus from here on out–giving forgiveness from Christ by turning from the wrong to right path, when we fail to follow as we should. It’s a learning experience. Aka: we are justified again–sinless like Christ–and to restore a bad relationship with our Creator and have our chronic illness of sin “voila!”–completely restored.

-So now, post-salvation, we enter into the journey of “sanctification.” A fancy word that is the Spirit’s full work within us (not our own) of transforming us more and more, day by day into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). YES, we’ll mess up, as the humans we are (albeit new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 3:18)), but we are measured more so in whether we are committed to returning back to God when we do mess up (highly recommend “Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking a Pauline Theme,” by Stephen Westerholm. He provides a better explanation to justification than I do here, as, in a nutshell, to justification as: “walking by faith” (Rom. 1:17, Eph. 2:8-9, Heb. 11:6). Ultimately: when we fall down–by the grace of God–are we willing to step back up to follow in Christ’s steps and guidance?

That second-last sentence is the “issue” I’ve been wrestling with. That concept itself is the heart of the mystery of the Gospel for myself. And I am still striving to wrap my curious brain-strands around it.

Issue: how can we, as new-creation-Christians, simultaneously have a (1) real identity of new creations (2 Cor. 5:17; John 1:12), completely forgiven, free, and redeemed from the effects of sin–as now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:15-18); AND (2) have a past of committing those heinous sins of our past, and likely of our future also (Eph. 2:1; Romans 7:14-25)?

How can these two identities or realities “co-exist” (for lack of a better term)?

The Wrestle

Apart from the pat-answer understanding I already have of “that’s just what the Bible says, so believe it:” I am lost.

The wrestle I have is this: I can understand just fine the “idea” of two identities in my brain on surface-value–but as a Jesus-obsessed individual, I want to thoroughly understand how I now shall live this reality out.

If I have a new identity in Christ, but do not live according to that identity–even if for a moment–is it really fair for me to identity with Christ? I ask this, because it is by the fruit of someone’s life that they are known; your identity comes from what you do (Luke 6:43-45). But if I do the evil things (though I hate that reality alongside Paul), then it seems logical that I should have an identity based on the bad that I do.

I will wrestle with this further over this next season.

The Why and Motivation

The “motivation” why I desire to reconcile this wrestling, is because I struggle with shame.

I have shame based on my past. Of past relationships. Of evil I have committed. And lately I have felt bogged down from that. Trapped. And I struggle to see how God still loves me despite all the wrong I have done. I struggle to see how it is in fact I am a new creation. Because if I was God, I would not forgive me. But I know the LORD is more kind and compassionate than the fullest glimpse of what I am or ever will be.

And so on one hand, I understand that I will never understand the LORD’s ways nor the full mystery of the Gospel (at least in this life), I still desire to know how my reality should therefore shape how I live. I still desire to know how I should “identify” myself, as a (1) sinful yet (2) new creation.

Again, this wrestling cannot be confined to a meager blog post, but will be the focus of this and further blog posts.

Thanks y’all for reading; and remember to stay curious out there folks 😉

Please don’t hesistate to respond or reach out if you have any further curiousities you’d like to bring to my attention. I’d love to hear from you!

June 28th Prayer

Dear God,

Today we want to thank you for your goodness, that you are always with us, and that you never give up on us. You are our refuge and strength, and you are always ready to help us in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). Today, with COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement and many other oppressed minority groups striving to make changes against the evil effects of racism and exclusion, we need your help, God. Lord we know You are close to us when we are brokenhearted and you save us when we are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). Please heal and transform us, both physically, emotionally, spiritually, completely.

In the places of our lives that the media doesn’t see, in our families, workplaces, friend groups, and everyday places of our lives, we pray for healing, breakthrough, provision, and redemption in every area, in Jesus’ name. This time of social distancing is an opportunity for us to turn to You, God, for your help and restoration in our lives. Please help us focus during this time on what really matters, and has always mattered – You. Please change our perspectives, change our minds from scattered, anxious, and complacent, to finding your goodness in every area of our lives.

Thank you God,

Amen

Power of the Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:1-5
  1. Jesus is the Word, He is the Life, He is the Light.

As Christians, we find our Life and Light in Jesus. There is power in Jesus, the Word; there is power in the Bible, the Words of Jesus.

2. As Christians, like John, we have a responsibility not to be the life and light to others on our own strength, but to point others to Jesus, who is the Life and Light of the world.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

John 1:6-8

It changes how we talk to others about Jesus if we realize it’s not dependent on us evangelizing to others, but rather understanding that we are simply bringing light to the fact that Jesus is the True Life and Light, we are only witnesses pointing to Jesus.

This is Good News indeed.

Hopeless and Confused

When Jesus rose from the grave, most of the world was still sad from His death not too long ago. And that’s where these two guys were at. They were moping along the Road to Emmaus when Jesus meets up with them and asks them what’s wrong. But they didn’t recognize that it was Jesus.

So, they’re like “Dude, don’t you know what’s up?” And so they explain to Him about the hope they had in Jesus, thinking that He was going the one to finally save them but now that Jesus was dead, and so everything was lost.

They were hopeless and confused.

Luke 24:25-27, “He [Jesus] said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

See in our lives, we find ourselves hopeless and confused too. Even though Jesus has saved us from our sins, even though He is watching over us and providing for our every need, there are still a lot of times where we think we should give up.

I’ve been wanting, and feeling called to be a pastor for the last three or four years now and I finally had this conversation that nobody could have orchestrated except Jesus Himself where I finally opened up about wanting to be a pastor. I had been scared to open up about this for a while, and when I finally had the opportunity and the truth rolled off my tongue, it was only a work of Jesus.

Jesus had saved the day.

In those times when we start to believe that we’re approaching a dead end doomed for hopelessness and confusion, stop yourself. If Jesus rose from the dead, He can get you out of your situation, He can give you an alternative, He will make a way, because He’s done it before and He will do it again. When He died on the cross, it wasn’t permanent and neither is that problem on your mind. God will get you through it. All you need to do is trust Him.

Because Jesus has saved the day. And He’ll be there to provide in your darkest hour too. He’s always claimed the victory when He rose out of the grave, it’s time you changed your perspective toward this victory too. Halleujah!

Luke 21:34-36

But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be countedworthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Jesus is warning here about being prepared for His return as the entire Bible talks about from the Old Testament to, especially, Revelation. In my search on BlueLetterBible to define some of the key words in this passage:

1) “watch” or “be careful” is defined as being sleepless, keeping awake, watching, to be circumspect, attentive, ready. I really like the terminology of “being sleepless” as a way to compare to how we should be alert to Jesus’s approaching return.

2) “pray” is defined as recognizing a lack, wanting, desiring, longing for, asking for, begging, make supplications for. I love this because prayer shouldn’t just be another thing we do in the mornings or evenings since we call ourselves “Christians,” but really something that is the CORE of our beings, something that we NEED to do, as we have problems, recognizing how much we need Jesus and constantly asking for His help, because we need it.

Okay, so we need to be careful and we need to pray.

Cool.

But then why is this so important? What’s the point?

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In Luke 21, leading up to these verses, Jesus talks about different events and themes that we can expect when things are leading up to His return. Famine, war, disesase, earthquakes, breakdown of morals, confusion, persecution, and division in families and between friends. Some of which we’ve already seen in our recent history with COVID-19, World War 1 and 11, the popularitiy of relative truth over the aboslute truth of God’s Word, etc.

So Jesus is coming, whether we’re prepared for it or not.

And if we’re not prepared, we will live an eternity apart from Jesus. So in order to avoid the pain, suffering, and eternal separation from God in Hell that will come to the Christians who are not prepared, we need to watch and pray during this time, in order to not get distracted; to stay focused on Jesus.

This is the reason why.

3) “escape” is defined as seeking safety in flight, flee out of, or flee away. I love the definition of “seeking safety in flight” because it reminds me that this world, this earth is not our home. As Christians, this world is temporary which points to the whole point of “in flight,” where we are moving towards Christ in the glimpses and encounters we receive of God, that we will one day be able to witness God in His entirity in Heaven.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Our peace is not attached to anything else except Jesus. No matter what our lives look like, no matter what’s going on, we can find peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7) in whatever circumstance, understanding that this is all temporary and that we have a responsibility as Christians to escape the distractions, temptations, and anything that fulls our attention away from God by watching and praying as Jesus says in this passage.

Acts 20:24

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

Last week I was so caught up in studying for my final exam that anything interfering with that, whether it be a loved one asking me to watch a movie or just wanting to chat with me, was a chore. I didn’t want to do anything but get just a little further in my studying and things needing to be done. And watching a movie or simply playing a board game was just painful. Not to say that working hard is not good, but I think my intentions were not in the right place. I was working more that I’d “look good” in my work than actually doing the work for others, or even God.

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The word “life” in Greek is psychē which refers to the physical life we humans experience on earth.

Last week I was clearly more focused on a very insignificant (though very real) part of life, which is work. But here Paul is saying that his earthly life is not worth much to him, instead his earthly life is dedicated all for Jesus. But it’s interesting that he still values his ministry, which the act of telling others about God and discipling them is still an “earthly work”. The difference is that Paul recognizes that his ministry is for God and not primarily for his self- glorification or for the churches he goes to help. He concludes that it is all for God, to “complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

So how can I change how I look at work?

  1. Instead of getting narrowminded in only seeing me and my work, I need to open my mind to see the bigger picture that God is on the throne (and I am not).
  2. Spending more time with God in gratitude (everything I do is a “thank you” back to Him) and recognizing that I need His help in everything I do

Romans 2:29

“No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.”

God cares more about who we are on the inside other than what others or even ourselves say we are.

So then why do I care so much what others think of me? Why do I struggle to find my identity when God has already adopted me and called me his daughter (Romans 8:14).

All that matters is Jesus. Just Him; no one else.

Matthew 8:2

“A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭8:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It may seem like a simple thing that the man with leprosy is doing: asking God for help, but how often do we actually ask God for help in our own problems?

What I mean to say is: do we actually humble ourselves before God acknowledging that we are not capable of doing or fixing something ourselves? I know for myself I prefer to assume God already knows my problems so I don’t need to tell Him. I don’t like being in a place where I’m stuck and where I’m not in control. I don’t want to acknowledge my “failure” of not having something perfect to God because then I think I’m a failure too.

But I’m slowly recognizing that I need God’s help. God already knows this but it’s I who needs to humble myself to fully recognize the reality that I’m an imperfect person in constant need of God’s perfect providence.

Then with the man with leprosy, I can say, “LORD, if you are willing, can you give me a hand.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
— ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭17:7-8‬‬

My trust needs to be in God first and foremost and only, no one else. Not in myself, my abilities, or in the close people around me.

Then and only then when I trust in God will I flourish. This is not saying I should ignore all the blessings God has given me, but I need to ask myself:

Where am I finding my security? Where am I depending and fully putting my weight upon, and is that platform (whether God, your abilities, a person) able to fully supported you?

Joshua 1:18

“Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!”

The line “be strong and and courageous” is repeated a lot throughout the bible usually next to “do not worry” or “do not fear”. It’s a reminder the Israelites needed to hear and one we should embrace too.

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No matter what the situation may look like, God has a plan. We need to trust him no matter what that He knows more than we do about what the future holds. We don’t have to worry or fear a thing because God’s got this. So instead we have the freedom to be strong and courageous as He commands us to.

Jeremiah 48:18

“Come down from your glory and sit on the parched ground, you inhabitants of Daughter Dibon, for the one who destroys Moab will come up against you and ruin your fortified cities.”

In other words, I think God is telling me through this passage that I need to get off my “high horse” of thinking that I am the next Christine Caine, Lysa Terkeurst, or some other famous Christian celebrity and actually just “sit on the parched ground” for a while.

I’m not as important as I think. Yes, it’s true.

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And it is God who deserves the glory, not me.

I’ve been noticing that this “pride” I have is not only in my future aspirations of wanting to be a pastor, but also in my close relationships. Sometimes I can get so full of myself that I literally cannot comprehend what I have done wrong. Which is probably super frustrating to my family and fiancé, as I am so convinced that I am just their perfect, God-honouring daughter, sister or partner to ever mess up.

I need to change my focus, not only so that God gets the glory (which is the main reason), but also for better connections with my family and my beloved fiancé.

There’s a lot at stake when we choose our “glory” over God’s and it’s often in the “sitting on the parched ground” when we finally realize how undeserving we really are of any “glory”. It’s here where we find the right perspective where humility is worth more than any illusion of perfection we might be blinded by.