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The Good News is more than you think. It’s not just about the forgiveness of sins. It’s not just about going to heaven (i.e. the cool place) and avoiding hell (i.e. the hot place). It’s about the transformation of all creation someday and the beginning of a better life today. It’s the total comprehensive solution to a problem that is bigger than what most of us could understand.
Let me explain.
The apostle Paul wrote the book of Romans to prepare the believers there for his arrival and to also give them a preview of his understanding of the Gospel, which he believes is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). He summarizes the Gospel in the beginning of this book. Listen to what he says,
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. 6 And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1-6)
So, first of all, the Gospel is about Jesus Christ. That by itself says a lot. But who He is and what He has done has profound implications for all reality. He has changed everything. Salvation has come and is now available. But what does it mean?
In Romans 1:18-32, the apostle Paul outlines the greatest problem of all — sin and all its penalty, power, and products (effects). In summary, he sandwiches it with two statements:
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness…
32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
In other words, we all have a big problem: we are all under and suffering from the penalty, power, and products (effects) of sin (Romans 3:9). Because of sin, we are separated from God and under His wrath. But sin also controls everything and produces all sorts of “deadly” consequences. We just don’t die at the end of our lives (which is already a big problem), we die everyday because of sinful choices and actions. The world is a mess because of sin. Relationships are broken and our souls are disintegrated. We are less than human because of sin. Paul describes it differently but the meaning is the same.
“…or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
But under the same breadth, he adds…
“…all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24)
In other words, a very big problem requires a very big solution. Jesus Christ has to come to earth, die on the cross, rise again from the dead, and return once more, in order to solve man’s problem, which is alienation, disintegration, and ultimately destruction caused by sin. Redemption or, in other words, salvation has to be comprehensive enough to solve all our problems.
In chapters four and five, Paul explains what Jesus Christ has done. He has reconciled sinners with God through His death on the cross. As a result, they can now be justified or put right before God. This blessing is by grace. It is not by our own efforts, or, as Paul puts it, by obeying the law. Jesus’ reconciles us with God by His death and resurrection, and, as a result, we have peace with God. This is Good News indeed! Reconciliation trumps alienation! But wait, there’s more.
In chapters six and seven, Paul explains that the Good News does not end with forgiveness of sins. Jesus Christ did not just offer His life for us, He also shared His life with us.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:5-7)
In other words, the supernatural life of Christ is now in us through His Holy Spirit. We can now become whole again! We can be healed.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-25)
This is why, in chapter 8, Paul assures us of the blessing of being free from the power and control of sin, in order to live a new kind of life in union with Christ. Our healing begins!
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
The disintegration of our souls, which is the root cause of all our alienation with God and with one another, can now be resolved through the life of Christ in us! But this does not happen automatically, according to Paul.
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:12-13)
So our continuing salvation, which involves the healing of our souls, requires our cooperation. This may be a struggle, but victory is assured as we trust in the Lord. In the end, God will triumph and His purposes will be revealed. Our alienation, disintegration and destruction will be totally reversed in and through Christ, for He will bring about our complete salvation in the end. This salvation, or, as Paul calls it, our redemption, is not just about us but about the whole creation.
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:18-21)
He also adds,
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:22-23)
So live with this kind of hope, that through the Gospel, all creation will be transformed and our lives can be better starting today. God will bring reconciliation, healing, and ultimately salvation from all effects of sin — starting with people and then with all creation until a new heavens and a new earth is re-created through Christ. We will be resurrected to live in a new kind of world. Praise be to God! In the mean time we are assured of this promise.
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)
To God be the glory!
What does it mean to follow Jesus today? Many people misunderstand this to mean simply praying the “sinner’s prayer.” It’s tantamount to just having a simple transaction (i.e. a prayer) with God wherein we say, basically, “God, I’m a sinner. Please forgive me. I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Lord, I invite you into my heart. Amen.” If there’s someone who led you into this kind of prayer, he or she will then say to you, “Praise God! Now you are saved. You will go to heaven when you die. You have crossed from death to life. Start attending our church, read your Bible, pray everyday, etc.” In other words, a transaction has already been made. That’s all there is to it. There’s nothing else to add or worry about. Anything else will be called “works righteousness.” Salvation is all by grace from beginning to end.
I’m all for grace, but is this really what it means to follow Christ today according to the Bible?
When Jesus called his first disciples, this is what happened.
16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. (Mark 1:16-18)
In other words, following Jesus is not a mere transaction or a prayer. It’s a decision to follow Jesus in order to learn from him and eventually become like him, a fisher of men. To follow Jesus is to become his disciple for life. It’s not just about believing everything about Jesus the first time around, even though that would be important eventually and over time. It’s all about believing enough about Jesus, to begin with, in order to start a new journey of learning with Him. It’s a life of discovery! This is exactly what happened among the first disciples.
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” (John 1:35-39)
So to follow Jesus is to begin a new relationship with Him, a relationship that is best described as a learning relationship — a relationship between a Teacher and a student. Everyday is class time!
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Salvation is not just about being forgiven of one’s sins, although that is of course very important. It is the foundation, the starting point of our relationship with Jesus. But to see it as the totality of what it means to be saved is to miss it entirely. Paul, for example, after declaring the spiritual blessings of forgiveness and justification through Christ (i.e. their initial salvation, Eph 1:3-14), prays that the Ephesians will be able to know more about Christ and grow in their relationship with him (i.e. their continuing salvation) over time.
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you,remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Ephesians 1:15-17)
In other words, God does not merely want to forgive us; He wants to transform us and save us completely. Trust me, there’s a lot to save in us and about us. This is the reason why Paul had to use eleven chapters just to explain the full breadth and extent of the Gospel to the Romans (Romans 1-11) before he can challenge them to apply it in their lives (Romans 12-16). Following Christ is not merely a one-time transaction. It’s akin to getting married. You don’t get married for one day; you get married for life! So following Jesus is all about learning from him day-by-day, as he leads you and guides you through a new life, together with others, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. You must learn how to live with him and in him, even as he lives with you and in you. This is the reason why Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. Follow Jesus today and everyday of your life. It’s the best decision you’ll ever make.
Jesus lived a redemptive lifestyle. He was always seeking the lost (Luke 19:10). Even when he had already chosen the Twelve, he never stopped going to different places to find new people that he can minister to. This is the kind of lifestyle that we must emulate and teach others to do. Once we stop doing this, we also stop co-laboring with the Lord for His kingdom purpose (Matt 28:19-20). This is also the reason why we tend to feel bored in our Christian lives — we end up only living for ourselves rather than for other people as well. More importantly, we become distracted with less important things that do not matter in eternity. Consequently, we become unproductive in our daily lives (2 Peter 1:3-11).
How do we generate New Contacts?
The key is to first know what New Contact looks like. You need to know how to find them.
A New Contact is someone who is…
- NEW – You probably have contacts now, i.e. people you interact with, visit with, etc., on a regular basis. They are not New Contacts; they are Old Contacts. New Contacts are people you just met recently (or even just today). You do not know them before you met them. The people you already know are called “oikos” in Greek. These are the people in your “circles of influence” right now. Of course, they are important in God’s eyes, but we’re not talking about them when we use the term “New Contacts.”
- NOT CLOSED – These people are not closed in the sense that they are not hostile or indifferent toward you or Christians in general. They open themselves up to you and are willing to pursue a relationship with you, if given the opportunity. Some people would refer to them as “persons of peace” (Luke 10:6). In other words, a New Contact is someone that you can possibly influence given the proper time and circumstances. Of course, it depends on both of you if you will pursue the relationship or if God would allow you to do so.
- NEEDS YOUR HELP – A New Contact has needs that you or someone else you know can meet. Now everyone has needs, and you cannot meet everyone’s needs. But when you meet a person whom you think you can help, or someone else you know can help, you’ve just found a New Contact. That person may not realize it yet, but the Holy Spirit may reveal to you that he or she has needs that you or someone you know can help (e.g. Acts 8:29).
Now that you know what a New Contact looks like, it’s time for you to understand how you can find them. To find New Contacts, you need to establish Contact Points. Contact Points are simply places, activities or events where you can meet New Contacts. Places may be actual places (e.g. your work place, school, etc., places with a physical address) or virtual places (e.g. Facebook groups or pages, or websites). Activities or events may be one-time or repeated. They may also be natural or intentional. Natural contact points simply happen in the natural course of your life. Intentional contact points are those that you actually organize or pursue.
An excellent example of an “intentional” Contact Point is a Share Group. A Share Group is simply a small group that meets regularly in a certain place at a certain time which is open to anybody who wishes to join. A Share Group, as the name suggests, is a group that meets to share praise items, personal insights from the Lord, and prayer requests.
Other forms of intentional Contact Points are worship services, dental missions, Jesus film showings, concerts, etc.
When you evaluate your lifestyle, ask yourself a simple question, “Do I have Contact Points in my life?” Maybe the reason why we don’t have New Contacts is because we do not intentionally seek them. We need more people who are willing to GO and create Intentional Contact Points.
How is your present lifestyle? Are you intentionally looking for New Contacts? Do you have Intentional Contacts Points? If yes, then praise the Lord. You will most likely meet New Contacts regularly. If not, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your lifestyle. Pray and ask God to give you creative ideas on how to create Intentional Contact Points.
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Are you feeling frustrated lately? Is your life on a standstill? Have you been working with nothing to show for it? Are you struggling to make things work in your life, studies, work, courtship or marriage but still no visible results? Maybe you are violating one of the Seven Laws of the Harvest. Listen to this sermon and see which of these Laws you need to recognize and work with in order to experience breakthroughs in your life. The Lord is the Lord of the Harvest and He knows how you can experience a good harvest in your life.