Musings on Christianity 17

Musings on Christianity 17

What Is The Good News?

Have you heard the good news? If you’re like me someone has approached you and asked you that question. Maybe you rolled your eyes and said you weren’t interested (like I did). Maybe you said that you have, and it’s great (like I did). Maybe you said no (like I did) and got several different versions of that news (like I did). Maybe if you were that last person, that made you wonder what the good news really was.

I’m quite sure that the few people who gave me their good news truly believed it was the good news. I’m sure one of them gave me the actual good news, but the fact that I received different news led me to doubt any of them were right.

Naturally, if you’re reading this, you may doubt that I know the answer to this question. For the record, I don’t know anything. This has nothing to do with my knowledge and my wisdom. Those are terrible references. This good news comes not from me, but from the Word of God.

Here’s a quick outline:

1) Man was dead in sin (Genesis 3).

2) The price of sin had to be paid. That price is blood, and the sacrifice must be of one who is without blemish (Deuteronomy).

3) Jesus Christ came from Heaven to Earth and died to pay that price (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19).

4) Christ was raised from the dead, which broke the bonds of death and gave victory and justification for those who believe in Him (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20).

A brief tangent:

Notice how the good news takes us from the beginning of the Bible to the end. The Bible is the story of God and his work in the lives of humanity. To truly understand that work and understand God, one must read the whole thing.

That seems silly to have to say. If there was a movie out there one wanted to talk about, he’d watch the whole movie. If one wanted to talk about a book, they would see fit to read the book. Christianity (perhaps religion as a whole) is the only thing people seem to feel completely at liberty to discuss without actually understanding what it is. Why? I don’t have the answer. I have theories, but I honestly would like readers to look in themselves and ask, why am I so resistant to read this book before discussing it.

Now, there are those who say, “I’m not interested in reading it, and I don’t want to discuss it.”  As a mortal, rational thinker, I couldn’t really argue with you. If you aren’t interested, you aren’t. However, for those of you who find yourself saying, “Well I think this is who God is,” or, “To me, God is …,” I humbly request you spend some time with his own testimony about Himself. 

Tangent over.

I’ve actually already covered the first item on the list in great detail in Chapter 12. To review, a person may want to show they’re comparatively better than another mortal man, but compared to a perfect and Holy God, we fall short. We are not perfect. We have sinned. Our sin condemns us.

That’s not very good news. On its own, no. However, most of the best things happen in bad situations. To reword that, we feel the most joy when a situation turns out right when it looks like its could end at its worst. The good news starts with the fact that we needed salvation.

The second item on the list simply informs us of the price that must be paid to redeem one from sin. If none of us are perfect, none of us is able to pay the price. I discussed this in  Chapter 12 as well. The price had to be Christ. He had to endure all the pain and suffering we deserved in order for us to be redeemed.

That leads us to the good part of the good news. He did. Christ willingly came. God, because of his abounding love for us, sent His Son down to Earth to pay the price for our sins so that we could be saved. He died, and the price has been paid, once for all.

However, death, while the payment for sin, still isn’t quite as great as it could be. I mean, redemption from sin is the most important thing we could ever have, but like an old TV informercial, “Wait! There’s more!”

The resurrection of Christ is the defeat of death. This is how we can have faith that we will have perfect, bodily resurrection if we are indeed in Christ. His resurrection broke the bonds of death and guarantee our eternity when Christ returns. Again, our redemption is by grace and is wonderful in and of itself, but to be redeemed and guaranteed eternal life? That’s good news.

So why does the good news have to include these four elements? There are a few answers to this.

First, we have to understand how much we need Christ. According to a 2003 poll conducted by the Barna Research Group in Oxnard, California, two-thirds of Americans believe they will go to Heaven, implying they believe in such a place. Of that number, which, according to the survey holds from the previous decade, half of them believe they will go to Heaven because they can earn it by good deeds. 

This is why I needed Chapter 12. Without a clear understanding of why we needed salvation, we can’t possibly appreciate Christ’s glorious gift.

Second, these four things together complete the news. This is something I do know. I teach it for a living. Any news story has four essential elements: The who, the what, the when and the where. The why and how give us context. So any time we can get all six elements, we can be assured the audience has complete understanding.

If this were a story one of my students had to write, the good news would read something like: “Jesus Christ died on the cross in the First Century A.D. in Jerusalem to pay the price for the sins of humanity and was raised three days later for humanity’s justification.”

Where is the how element? I usually tell students to save that for what’s called the bridge of a news story: “Christ, the only perfect, blameless human in all of existence, was the only person able to pay for the sins of humanity as God’s own perfect passover lamb.”

This is basic news principles used to explain what the good news and why one needs it in its entirety to understand it.

The last reason the good news has to include these elements is that it gives us our hope and the assurance that our hope is possible. We hope in eternal life. To simply say that Christ was raised from the dead is cool, but I can name at least two people who never actually died (Elijah and Enoch). I can name another few who were raised from the dead (Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus).  There are more, but I can actually name those two. Jesus was also raised. However, only Christ died and lived again. He did so and never died a second time (Lazarus the Jairus’ daughter did).

This is significant because if Christ could die for all of our sins, then his resurrection is also ours if we believe in Him. Think about it. As our substitutionary sacrifice, he paid the price we couldn’t pay. So His resurrection, His eternal life, can also be ours.

To forget about Christ makes the equation invalid. Without Him, we don’t have the proper payment for our sin. Without Him, we only have at best a second batch of years until we die again.

The problem comes when people know Heaven exists, but they want to find other ways to get there. Here is where everything comes to simple binary logic. A person either believes they are perfect and they can impress a perfect and holy god with some perfunctory acts of service, or a person realizes they are not perfect and they can’t do a darn thing to impress a perfect and holy god.

We can dress that binary math up any way we want, but it all comes down to one of those thoughts. I’m obviously of the latter mindset. This book is my attempt at a reasonable way to express that. When I break it down to those two, it can seem cold, but sometimes people need to be confronted with the choice they’re making. For those who don’t believe in a Heaven, there’s no real point in debating how to get there.  So this chapter provides a foundational look at the doctrine of salvation.

Research data pulled from this article.

For our panel: If we decide to accept the good news, how do we move forward? In your experience, what causes people to resist accepting the good news? How should one respond to hearing other interpretations of that good news? Why are those other interpretations dangerous?

Sonnets For My Savior 32

Sonnets For My Savior 32

If He Wasn’t Raised

If He were not raised from the dead,

our faith would be in vain.

We would be guilty of the life we have led,

and our souls would know nothing more than judgement and pain.

I have tried to live a life for myself,

I received the praise of man, but joy eluded me.

It wasn’t until I looked to please God rather than myself,

that joy found me, and I finally felt free.

If Christ remained in the grave,

the only hope we would have is in this life.

But He arose and left the cave,

so our souls have indeed been freed from strife.

It’s so odd that after years of seeking happiness through freedom,

my heart was filled by accepting Christ’s salvation and serving God’s kingdom.


 

Constantly

When I am happy,

when I am sad,

if the hour is early,

if I lost all the time that I had,

When I have an abundance,

when I feel I have nothing,

if I have traveled a great distance,

If I have been gone, but now home is approaching,

When others have need,

when others are blessed,

if I have committed a misdeed,

if another has put my patience to the test.

It doesn’t matter the circumstance, place, or time of day.

The appropriate mindset is one seeking to pray.



Grow

An infinite number of sins piled high.

As far from God as any man can be.

The next day, one sin I forever deny,

but there is still so much growth left for me.

Study the scripture.

Change my ways.

Work to endure,

through trying days.

I’m so far from the sinner I was,

but I’m no closer to my God, who is perfect.

Still I can’t succumb to temptation because,

He washed me clean as His elect.

I’m a sinner; this I know,

but God is with me; the proof is the fruit I bear as I grow.


 

More Than I Can Handle

I can do nothing on my own,

so I need You for everything.

You softened my heart of stone.

I’ve submitted to You, my heavenly King.

In times of stress, I shall not rely on my own power,

and if I never struggled, history shows I’d turn from You.

Please let me rely on You every minute, every hour,

for Your wisdom can accomplish far more than I could hope to.

When I am sad, I can’t pull myself through.

When I am in need, I can’t provide for myself.

All I have, Lord, comes from you.

You grant me my shelter, my food, and my health.

Lest trials come to remind me how much I need You,

let me instead praise you no matter what I go through.


 

Joy

Joy doesn’t come from accolades or fame.

It doesn’t come from riches or gold.

It doesn’t come from winning a game.

It doesn’t come from living until you’re old.

The promise of joy isn’t a licence to do as you desire.

Do not mistake one for the other.

One will lead only to fire.

The other only comes from the presence of the Father.

Shaping God to fit your wants only leads to idolatry.

You live to serve Him, not He for you.

Those who chafe at God’s commands and seek to be free

don’t understand what a foolish thing that is to do.

There is no happiness that compares to the Joy of God’s presence;

neither is there a pain that compares to His absence.


 

Should We Really Follow Our Hearts?

The heart is deceitful above all things

and desperately sick.

Evil thoughts are what the heart brings,

On the candle of sin, the human heart’s desire is the wick.

Man is tempted by his own desire.

The intention of his heart is evil from his childhood.

Indeed if a man seeks his own path, he will only find fire,

for there is no one on Earth who is good.

Only God can make a man’s heart new

It is His way, not man’s that is right.

His way is true.

Those redeemed by Christ have a future that is bright.

Our hearts were broken by Adam’s sin,

but Christ’s sacrifice can change us from within.


 

A Sonnet of Praise

Please, oh Lord, accept my words of praise!

You are mighty; You are just.

Let us serve You all of our days.

Let use remember Your commands and do as we must.

God of love, You granted us salvation.

God of mercy, you sent Your Son to pay for our iniquity.

God of protection, You deliver us from temptation.

God of peace, You offer us tranquility.

All we have comes from You.

Let all we do be for You.

You’re faithful; all you say is True.

There is nothing our God can’t do.

Great is our glorious God.

Wonderful is our Holy God.

Sonnets For My Savior 30

Sonnets For My Savior 30

The Body

Where is the body you worked so hard to bury?

What happened to the guards you set to watch the grave?

Rejoice believers and be merry,

Look, there is no body in the cave!

Man has found the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Indeed the body John the Baptist lay in Syria.

But where is the body of the Son of Man?

The truth is those who would deny him lack the most basic criteria.

Some have claimed he was stolen in the night.

Doubters say the body was concealed.

Couldn’t Rome and the Pharisees find a body with all their power and might?

Instead the Faith grew with no body revealed.

If emperors and armies sought the body and could not see,

the only logical reason is that He is risen! He is risen indeed!


 

Lazarus

Lazarus sleeps while his sisters cry.

They send word, but the time has not come.

They fear Lazarus is doomed to die,

but this trail is for the will of God to be done.

Four days, Lazarus slept.

Jesus arrived, already knowing what had occurred.

He looked upon the sisters and wept,

but what happened next, would change all who saw and heard.

“Come out!” the Lord had said after they’d rolled the stone away,

and out Lazarus came, strips of linen around his hands and feet.

Many saw and believed that day,

From then on, the hypocrites plotted, blind in their conceit.

They never thought to ask themselves the meaning of the event,

that the world could look and see that Jesus was truly, truly God sent.


 

Reason For Suffering

True, some people suffer for the sins they commit.

The wickedness of the wicked is upon himself.

Relief is there for those who turn to Christ and submit,

but only death waits for those who relies on themself.

There are also those who suffer so that God may be glorified.

Observe Job and see how he endured.

Be patient and trust God will provide,

Do not turn to sin for comfort, but hear these words and be reassured.

Still those who are truly blessed are those who suffer simply for his sake.

Blessed are those who are persecuted and reviled!

For the Kingdom of Heaven awaits!

Rejoice, for your rewards have been gathered and piled!

For whatever reason one thinks he may suffer,

Seek Christ; trust in him and no other.


 

To Control Ourselves

Some seek to use the Word to lift themselves up.

They use scripture to justify their own goals.

They have no interest in drinking from their own cup.

In seeking to condemn others, they only risk their own souls.

Some seek to use the Word to do as they wish.

They only seek the words that validate their own desire.

They treat the word like some sort of buffet dish,

but this path only leads to fire.

The saints are called to judge each other.

God judges those outside.

But consider also before you call out your brother,

what sins of your own are you trying to hide?

When we pull our Bibles from the shelves,

we should use it first to control ourselves.


 

The Greatest

He who would be first should be last.

Those who would be greatest should serve.

Let man’s pride be left in the past.

For we’ve already received more than we deserve.

Seek to be the servant of all.

Welcome the little children in his name.

Listen to hear His glorious call,

rather than seek your own fame.

A servant is not greater than his master.

A messenger is not greater than the one who sent it.

To serve the self is the path to disaster.

But blessed are those who serve and submit.

Care for the children and welcome them;

those who do receive Christ and the Father who sent him.


 

The Greatest Power

There is only the one creator.

He who made all.

There are none who can do more,

And all power is His to call.

No burning star,

Can shine as bright.

No crashing wave

Can match His might.

Other powers desire

What tiny spark he gives

But none can match the fire

Of the eternal God for which we live.

No other power can compare

Against the Lord, our God, who made the sea, land, and air.


 

Hold Me

Hold me tightly, Lord, in your mighty hands.

I know none can take me from you.

Your might is greater than anyone understands.

Whatever comes, You can carry me through.

Grip me more tightly, Lord, that I might be nearer

Nearer to you every day.

As You carry me, my eyes become clearer.

As I am with You, I see a better way.

Hold me, Lord, and let me take my rest in Your grace

Because I have none of my own.

I have no hope if I plead my own case;

I am forgiven through Christ alone.

Hold me tightly, Lord, that I might feel you with me.

Your embrace is comfort; Your love sets me free.

Sonnets For My Savior 28

Sonnets For My Savior 28

You

When the world calls to me,

let me choose You.

When it asks me to turn from You or use You for money,

let me choose You.

When the world offers me power,

let me choose You.

If the world offers me all the food I could devour,

let me choose You.

You are the creator of all things;

let me worship you and not your creation.

Help my heart seek only the joy Your love brings;

Help me cast aside my desire for the material for the grace of salvation.

Should the world offer me glory or fortune or fame,

please, Lord, let me instead choose to honor Your holy Name.


 

Thirst, Come, Drink

The water of the earth can’t compare.

Any who drink of it, will be thirsty again.

To those who truly thirst, do not despair;

True living water exists for such men and women.

Come to Him, who can satisfy your thirst.

Seek Him, and you will find.

All who come to him, be they last or first,

will be provided for, for he is the Savior of mankind.

Drink deeply the water he gives.

Drink ,and you will be filled.

For he is the Savior who died and yet lives;

He is the Messiah, who did just as God willed.

Only believe in Him, who has come from the Father,

for those who believe, out of their hearts, will flow rivers of living water.


 

Forgiveness and Peace

Please rid my heart of this anger.

Forgive me for this sin.

Change my heart, oh Great Redeemer,

and purify me from within.

I feel slighted,

but vengeance is yours.

The fury in my heart has been ignited,

but judgement is all an angry heart procures.

Help me to turn my cheek.

Help me to give away my cloak.

Take my prideful heart and make it meek.

Grant me a heart that doesn’t provoke.

Help peace reign where anger lives.

O Heavenly Father, please great me a heart that forgives.


 

Whom He Chose

Let us prefer to be foolish

rather than regarded by this world as wise.

Let us think all earthly things rubbish

next to Heaven’s glorious prize.

Let us choose to be weak

rather then regarded as strong.

For it is written that Heaven belongs to the meek.

He who relies on his own strength will discover himself wrong.

Let us praise our God who raised up what is low

to make nothing things that are.

For those who worship God know,

His power is the greatest by far.

Let us not seek to meet any standards of this earth,

but instead let us seek to praise God, for what he gives is all that has worth.


 

What Must Change

This world is broken,

and I lack the power to fix it.

My pride demands I be outspoken;

It pulls me from Christ and won’t let me submit.

If I claim I know what should occur,

I place myself on the throne of perfection.

The world can’t run as I prefer,

if indeed I’ve given Christ all my affection.

If he is my ruler,

I can’t demand control.

If Christ is my ruler,

I must trust in him with all my soul.

It isn’t the world that should change to my whim;

rather it is I who much change, which is only possible through Him.


 

The Betrayer

Woe to he who would betray

Christ the Savior on that fateful day.

This deaf fool heard all Jesus had to say,

but could not bear to submit and obey.

Woe to he who accepted thirty pieces of silver

as a blood price for his terrible deed.

He thought he was a clever deceiver,

but Christ choose him that Jesus may do as God decreed.

Woe to he who tried to feign remorse,

for his actions showed his lie.

Rather than face the consequence of his chosen course,

he instead chose to die.

Woe to he who betrayed Jesus with scorn,

For it would be better for him if he had not been born.


 

Blind

They spoke the truth about what would happen.

They recognized what the sign would do.

Their hearts were hardened against what was done then,

for they refused to see what was plainly true.

Lazarus rose, and many believed.

Rather than rejoice, the leaders feared they’d lose their place.

In truth, they weren’t deceived.

Rather they wanted to avoid disgrace.

But God found a use even for the blind Caiaphas,

For the high priests’ lips spoke prophetic words.

It is better that Jesus died for us.
Indeed, the death of the Lamb saved the herd.

God used their blind and hardened hearts for our gain.

For Jesus died and rose again, just as the Father did preordain.

Sonnets For My Savior 23

Sonnets For My Savior 23

To Miss the Target

God’s will should be the prize,

the target one should aim for.

To ignore the target is sin and your demise,

To miss the target is a sin against the God we adore.

Aim for the target that is His will.

Discipline your body and mind.

Work and train so that you might hone the skill

to perform as you should; cast off any bad habits that you find.

However; none are without flaw,

we inevitably fail to hit the target.

For no mortal flesh can perfectly follow the law.

The temptation rises, and, no matter how disciplined, we forget.

Thanks be to God for Christ our advocate, our propitiation.

Thanks be to God through Christ, through whom we received our salvation.


 

Mercy

David chose to cut Saul’s robe

rather than his neck.

Saul had chased David across the globe,

yet David kept his anger in check.

David could have killed Saul where he slept,

but instead took Saul’s spear and water.

Saul’s jealously led him to anger, and David wept,

but still, David did not give in to the counsel’s advice to slaughter.

If David had his enemy at his feet,

how much more could God do to us as he wills?

Instead he sent his son to perform his redeeming feat,

for with his death our punishment Christ fulfills.

When all we deserve is death under God’s fury,

What fools would turn aside this chance at mercy?


 

How I Would Be Treated

Though they may treat me with anger,

let me act with love in all situations.

Though they my avoid me like a stranger.

Let me welcome them like my closest relations.

Though they may hate me, and perhaps justly so,

let me forgive as You have forgiven me.

Though they may make promises that their actions never show,

Let me act as I say I will and be as I say I’ll be.

Though they may fail to come when I need,

let me be steadfast, faithful, and reliable.

Though they may strike me and make me bleed,

let me hold my temper lest I prove myself despicable.

Let me be loving, honorable, and respectful of men,

for that is how I would be treated by them.


 

The Good News

He died on the cross for our sins;

as the Pslam says, “They have pierced My hands and feet.”

Isaiah said, “But He was wounded and crushed for our sins.”

Indeed it was prophesied, and now it is complete.

He was buried and raised on the third day;

as Isaiah said, “He was put in a rich man’s grave.”

But God would not let this death stay.

The Pslam said, “You brought me up from the grave.”

He appeared to appeared to Peter;

he appeared to the apostles and to 500;

He appeared to Saul, who then became a believer.

All those who accept this truth become kindred.

This is the gospel by which we are saved.

Through him we’re freed from sin, no longer enslaved.


 

The Empty Tomb

The stone was rolled away,

revealing the tomb was empty.

He had risen on the third day

as it was written at the beginning of history.

They did not see Jesus leave,

He had already gone.

Then the women came to grieve

just as the sun began to dawn.

They wouldn’t have known if the stone hadn’t moved.

Any could have argued he still slept.

But the barren tomb only proved,

he had risen as he said, and the women remembered and wept.

You see, the stone wasn’t moved to help Jesus leave;

it was rolled aside so others could see and then believe.


 

Reasons to Praise

How wondrous and mighty is He!

How merciful! How just!

He saved a sinner like me.

He soothed my anger and pulled me from my sinful lust.

How gracious and kind is He!

He heals our diseases! He gives us comfort when we’re in pain!

He helps the blind to see.

His might releases our strain.

How righteous and holy is He!

He is sovereign! He is perfect!

This universe came alive through his decree.

He sees every flaw; there is no transgression he will fail to detect.

Praise be to our God almighty.

All glory and honor belongs to Thee!


 

My Words

I say people should be kind and giving,

but I cling tight to my money when others have need.

I say people should let go and be forgiving,

but I hold grudges and never concede.

I say people should be helpful,

but when others cry out, I tell them I haven’t the time.

I say people should sacrifice,

but when asked to help, I hold fast to what I consider mine.

I make excuses for the the rules I say others should follow.

I rationalize the misdeeds I judge others for doing to me.

But I no longer want my words to be hollow.

I want to treat others as I wish to be treated, so my conscience can be free.

But I don’t have power or wisdom to do this on my own.

But by the help of Jesus, I can change. I have help. I am not alone.