On my last post I shared some basics on writing your personal testimony and pointed out that the key to an effective testimony is the gospel. It is a word that we Christians use a lot and with a lot of different meanings. I would like to clarify some of the confusion about what the “Gospel of Christ” really is.
There are a lot of gospel messages going around today. I even saw one that was titled the gospel of the mechanic. We need to identify what gospel we are addressing. When we address the gospel of the Bible we are talking about the good news of Jesus Christ. This is not the good news of the sports world or financial possibilities, but is specifically about what is the good news about Jesus Christ. The word Gospel means “Good News”, so it begs the question, “What is that good news?” To be the gospel about Jesus Christ it must be good, that is personally beneficial; and second it must be news, that is current. Sometimes I hear the definition of the gospel as, the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However great and wonderful that story is, yet it is not the gospel, but history. Yet it is not to be dismissed either because it is the foundation of the Gospel of Christ. Without it the gospel would never have been possible. So we come back again, What is the gospel of Christ? It can be summed up in two words, New Life.
It is not a life patched up, it is not a life of doing better, or trying harder. It is altogether a new kind of existence. It is the life described in II Cor. 5:17 (the new creation of God). What was utterly impossible before is now possible when we live our lives by faith in Jesus as Lord of our lives. I could never live up to the demands of the law but I can follow Jesus by faith in His ability to deliver me spotless and blameless to the Father. God’s requirement is no longer for me to meet the demands of the law because Jesus has met all those requirements. God’s requirements for me now is to accept Jesus by faith. He is the provision for the laws requirement and He will then deliver us spotless and without blemish. (Eph 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.)
Provision for a sinner like me has been established that I might be presented spotless to God is indeed, Good News!
In today’s Sunday School class we studied the apostle Paul’s personal testimony and we closed the class with the challenge that if you haven’t written out your personal testimony, then you should. It is one of the most powerful tools you have as a Christian to share the Gospel with others. They may disagree with it but they cannot deny it. Like the song goes, “I was there when it happened, so I guess I ought to know.”
There are three essential elements that go into an effective testimony. The first element is what were you before you were saved. You are not trying to tell all of the stories of your life, just enough to validate that you were on the wrong track. Essentially, it will boil down to I was trying to go through life without Jesus to forgive, love and guide me.
The second essential element is What Happened? What occurred that caused you to see that you were on the wrong road and how did you discover the right road? The circumstances will probably be unique and different but the outcome will wind up as a personal experience with the one who died in your place and is now alive and you now know who He is, Jesus. If this had never happened to you then you still don’t know for sure. If it has, then it caused a life changing direction in your life and you are now dependent upon and a follower of, Jesus, who is the Christ. (Jn 7:17)
The third essential element is What changes has this experience made in your life? If there has been no changes and you are living just as you were before this experience then there is a problem with your testimony. It could be that you did not meet the Lord but were dependent upon an experience or something other than the Lord. If you meet him then there will be a change. It may take a while for you to learn to listen to His voice or to know when He is guiding you but change will certainly happen. If there is no change then it is worth finding out why. It could also be because you have some doctrine (teachings) that you hold that contradict with the Bible. If you truly want to know then read you bible and He will show you the error. It may be painful to discover that what you always thought was so was really tradition or even superstition. Another possibility is that you have been deceived in some manner and you need a trustworthy source that will aid you in your search.
You should write it out then review it. Then see if you can improve it. Then use it and then go over it some more so that you have the document that accurately relays your story. It is one of your most effective means of sharing the gospel.
The prison in discussion for today is COVETOUSNESS or greed. Covetousness is the desire to posses, whether it be things, land or wealth. It is the desire to take ownership when the reality is that all things belong to God. The closest we can come to ownership is really stewardship, that is to manage it for a time, for the owner. When a person dies he leaves everything behind and it doesn’t matter how much or how little he had, it is all left behind :His ownership is temporary at best.
The problem with having possessions is that it is a short step before the pride of wealth possesses you. 1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. This verse does not say the money is the root of all evil but it does say the the “love of money” is the root of all kinds of evil. Wealth is not evil but the love of it is. Once the love of money takes control, it demands more and more. When Howard Hughes was asked how much wealth it would take to satisfy him he answered, “just a little more.” Wealth becomes the warden and the person becomes the prisoner. The demand for more drives one to compromise himself and to do almost anything to get more.
As wealth is increased, so also is the demand upon that wealth. Ec 5:11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes? Not only are the demands of its use increased but also the care it takes to protect it. It is an awful taskmaster and knows no limits in its cruelty.
When a rich man asked Jesus what must I do to inherit eternal life, Jesus answered him, “go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me” Matthew 19:21 I don’t know of a better answer to how to be free from the grip of wealth than that plan. The next verse says he went away grieved; for he had great possessions. In other words, his faith was in his riches and not in Christ. He could have been free but it was his choice to remain a prisoner. You must hold possessions loosely for the Lord’s use or the possessions will hold you.
In preparing the SS lesson for today on the sanctity of life, I became burdened for the vast majority of all people who are prisoners of one type or another. I will be expanding on this theme in the next several days.
When Jesus began his ministry, he quoted Isaiah. 61:1 which is repeated in Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, It is this message that the gospel focuses on. As you know, the word gospel means good news. The greatest news to those who are captives and are bruised would be deliverance. Jesus said in Joh 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
I have identified a number of such prisons that hold people prisoner and keep people from living the abundant life that Christ intended. I will address several of these in the next few post. So what makes something a prison? I am thinking of a poem written by Richard Lovelace in 1642 to Althea, from Prison “… Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage:” The reverse is also true, If it controls, it is a prison even if there is not walls or bars.
The first prison I will address is traditions. Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Also, in Mark 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. Traditions offer a sense of security that sometimes blinds us to truth. It may be very difficult to break a wrong teaching if it has been held it for a long time. It makes it even harder if there is some seeming justification for it. It is much easier to go along with it even if you see that it is wrong. You can be sure that if you rock the boat, there will be some push back reaction. So you are faced with the choice to reject the error and receive the consequences or to just go along and become its prisoner. I have no way of knowing how many lives have endured the consequence of going along with what they knew was wrong but I believe that there are many who have wrecked their own lives as well as being a hindrance to others who were affected by the error.
The gospel will set men free from such a prison. Jesus said in John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. In dealing with traditions it is important to deal with issues not personalities. Establish facts, not feelings. Allow the other(s) to disagree with you if they so choose. You are not trying to change them but you are trying to establish your own way. Ask them to allow you the same freedom you give them in not making them a prisoner to your thoughts. A tradition can be good when it is founded upon truth and does not take prisoners. The good news is that a person is set free in Christ.