Power of the Gospel

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.Romans 1:16

Crucifixion was a most shameful to die. The condemned individual was stripped of both clothing and dignity, nailed to a wooden cross, and left there to die slowly over the course of hours or days. It was an execution reserved for only the very worst of criminals.

With all this in mind, you might expect the early Christians to have been ashamed or even embarrassed about what had happened to Jesus. Instead, from the very beginning, the message of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross has been at the heart and core of Christianity.

As he addresses a group of Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul even calls Jesus’ suffering and death “the gospel,” which means “good news!” He writes, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”

How could Paul and other Christians be so positive about the shameful death of Jesus? The answer is that by Jesus’ death, God was accomplishing something wonderful for all people.

The prophet Isaiah put it like this: “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” The reason Jesus died that shameful death on the cross was to take away all our sins—our lust, pride, selfishness and greed…every cruel word we have said to hurt other people…every wicked action for which we are ashamed and wish we could take back. All these sins, for which we deserve to be punished, were placed on Jesus and he took the punishment in our place.

Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross means that we are saved from God’s punishment for our sins. It means that relying on Jesus as our Savior we can look forward to eternal life in heaven that our Savior has prepared for us.

Thank God for the message of the gospel, “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Powerful enough to wash away our sins. Powerful enough to bring us home to heaven one day. Powerful enough, and important enough, for us to rely on Jesus alone for salvation.

Human Wisdom versus the Gospel

The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom. – 1 Corinthians 1:25

Author David Platt, in his book, Radical, tells the story of what happened when he was standing outside of a Buddhist temple in Indonesia.  As he stood there, he got into a conversation with two people—a Buddhist leader and a Muslim leader. Both of them embraced what seemed to be very reasonable belief.  They believed that, while there were superficial differences among the major religions, all of them basically taught the same thing.  Then they asked David Platt what he thought.

He said, “It sounds as though you both picture God…at the top of a mountain.  It seems as if you believe that we are all at the bottom of the mountain, and I may take one route up the mountain, you may take another, and in the end we will all end up in the same place.”

To this the Buddhist and the Muslim said, “Exactly! You understand!”

But then he leaned in and said, “Now let me ask you a question.  What would you think if I told you that the God at the top of the mountain actually came down to where we are?  What would you think if I told you that God doesn’t wait for people to find their way to him, but instead he comes to us?”

They both thought for a moment and then responded, “That would be great!”

David Platt then replied, “Let me introduce you to Jesus.”

Current human wisdom believes that all forms of spirituality are essentially the same.  Such a belief seems logical.  Without question it’s very convenient.  And it’s dead wrong.

Never forget how radical the message of the Gospel really is.  It’s not about our getting up to God.  It’s about God coming down to us.  It’s not about making ourselves holy before God.  It’s about God living a holy life in our place.  And it’s not about cleansing ourselves of our wrongs.  It’s about God going to the cross to wash our sins away.

When it comes to human reason versus the Gospel, the Gospel wins every time. Thank God.

How can I begin to read the Bible?

The Bible is a big book. Maybe you’re like many other people who want to read the Bible but don’t known where to start.

In reality, the Bible isn’t just one book; it’s a collection of 66 books. Knowing a few things about some of the books may help you to have some idea about where to start. So let’s first take a quick look at subject matter of some of the books, then I’ll give a brief suggestion about how to get started in Bible reading. If you want to know more details about each of the books of the Bible, you can check out the articles which are included on this website. Look at Book by Book.

The Bible is divided into an Old Testament and a New Testament. The Old Testament contains books which were written before Jesus’ time and the New Testament contains books written after Jesus’ time. When you’re reading Old Testament books (like Genesis, the Psalms, Isaiah, etc.) you’re reading about events which happened before Jesus came. In those books God is telling us about his plan of salvation, how he brought Jesus the Savior to the world, about our need for the Savior, and prophecies about the Savior, so we could recognize Jesus when he came. Some of the books of the Old Testament are straight-forward history (like Genesis). Other books have many details about the worship life of the Old Testament Israelites (like Leviticus), and others address very specific time periods in the Israelite history (like Amos and Hosea); those can be a bit more challenging to read and understand.

The New Testament books were written after the birth of Jesus. The first four books, the “Gospels” – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – give us the account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The book of Acts records the history of the early New Testament church and the spread of the gospel message. The majority of the books of the New Testament are letters, written either to churches or individuals, in which God gives us further insights into the truths he expects us to believe.

So where do we start? I’d suggest the following:

  1. Luke
  2. Mark
  3. Genesis and Exodus
  4. Matthew
  5. Romans
  6. 1 & 2 Samuel or John or Acts or 1 Peter or some Psalms or Ephesians or Philippians – you decide! Or, re-read the first five suggested books again, and then go on.

That will allow you to start with Jesus’ life, death and resurrection – that’s the heart of God’s saving work for you. Then you’ll begin to broaden your knowledge by seeing the beginning of all things. Then you’ll study Jesus’ life again, then broaden your understanding of Bible truth by reading one of the New Testament letters.

“What translation should I use?” There are several good ones. I’d suggest that you use a New International Version (NIV). It’s written in modern-day, understandable language, and is an accurate translation. “What if I don’t understand what I read?” Two thoughts – try reading it again and think about it in light of what you have already read in the Bible. Or keep on reading – perhaps the next time the meaning will be clearer, because you’ll have learned more. “Should I just read each book once?” No! Feel free to read, to re-read, and then to read it again! Particularly the first five suggested books – read them often! “What if I get confused?” Why not use the church locator feature on this website to locate one of our churches? Our pastors would be happy to help!

So go ahead! Open your Bible to the book of Luke (check the Table of Contents) and begin to get to know Jesus up close and personal!

How do we know the Bible is true?

“Because the Bible is the Word of God, and God never lies” is the answer.  Next question: how do we know the Bible is the Word of God?  “Because it says so,” we answer.

If you don’t find that answer satisfying, we understand.  The Department of Motor Vehicles or the ticket agent at the airport doesn’t believe that I am who I say I am just because I say so.  They want proof, and the proof has to come from somebody other than me.

It’s understandable that people expect the same from the Bible.  Especially since, throughout the centuries, lots of people have claimed to have spoken or written words that came straight from God.  They can’t all be telling the truth.  How do I know that the Bible is?

First, there is much more evidence that the Bible is true than most people think.  For instance, the Bible was written over a period of 1400 years by more than 40 authors.  And yet, this book tells one story and has one message–one that people of all times, places, and cultures have found meaningful.  Notice also what a “survivor” the Bible has been.  Not only has it survived thousands of years of history.  It has also been the most violently attacked book of all time.  And yet, every year it tops the best-seller list by a wide margin.

Then there are the Bible’s fulfilled prophecies.  In the Old Testament you have a large number of predictions about what the Messiah would do.  In the New Testament you find them all fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.  Read, for example, Isaiah 53 (written in the 8th century before Christ) or Psalm 22 (tenth century before Christ).  You can’t help but be amazed at how these prophecies tell the whole story of the death of Jesus centuries before it happened.

Finally, not even this will convince somebody who wants corroboration from an outside source.  And that’s really the problem.  When we ask for an outside source to vouch for the Bible, we’re really looking for a higher authority than the Word of God.  And there is no higher authority.  For instance, who could corroborate the God’s account of how the world began?  Nobody else was there!

That’s why, ultimately, the reason we believe the Bible isn’t because we can use objective, external evidence to prove that it’s true.  It’s because the Bible’s message has conquered our hearts.  In the Bible, we’ve found a book by people we’ve never met, but who somehow seem to know us better than we know ourselves.  And we find a message that meets our deepest need:  the need for a Savior from our failings and guilt.

That’s why we say that the Bible is “self-authenticating.”  Read it for yourself, and we think you’ll see what we mean.

Why is the Bible called the Holy Bible?

Prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.  (2 Peter 1:21)

“One more book, Dad! Please!” my two-year-old daughter tells me as she looks at me with her baby blue eyes and holds up her favorite book. It’s amazing how many books we read in a sitting, everything from: Pete the Cat to the Biscuit series, to Pinkalicious to Dr. Seuss. These books contain short stories that hold the attention of the listener (and the reader) while providing some entertainment or education along the way.

We read for many reasons. And we know that most of the things we read whether online, in the newspaper, or in a book must be read with a discerning eye. The problem is that we sometimes struggle to know which parts of them are real and true.

This can be a challenge. But what about when it comes to the Bible, the Holy Bible. Well, that is another story! Why? Throughout Scripture we are told that God’s Word is different. What makes it different? The author is God. Yes, men wrote the Bible but God is the main author. It is his holy, perfect Word.

God tells us some remarkable truths about his Word such as: God’s Word cannot be broken (everything it says is reliable). His Word is truth (why would God lie to us?). His Word is sharp (it can pierce through the hardest of hearts). His Word is alive (it is active). His Word is powerful. His Word always achieves God’s purpose. His Word will never pass away.

While these truths are important to note, it is the message of God’s Word that can’t be overlooked. For God says that the purpose of the Bible, the Holy Bible, is for us to know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in his name.

The Bible is holy. But you have to open and use it to get anything out of it. If you want to change a heart or be comforted by God’s grace, you have to “blow off the dust” and share or listen to the holy words of our God. These are the words that he authored through men, for you, to tell you about his great love and saving activity in Jesus, so that through the encouragement of the Scriptures you might have hope.

How did we get the Bible?

Very frankly, that question is the topic of lengthy books and scholarly study. After all, it’s a huge question! How do we know that we have what God originally gave? We want – and need – to know! Here’s a very brief explanation.

God gave the Old Testament in the Hebrew language, along with a bit of Aramaic (a cousin language to Hebrew). The Jews then took the originals and made copies. As they did, they had to be absolutely precise. The scribe was allowed to correct one error. If he were to make more than one error (in the whole book!) he had to throw away the copy, and start over. The copying was painstaking, careful work. Because of that, our copies of the Hebrew Old Testament are extremely consistent, with hardly any questions about the text at all.

God gave the New Testament in Greek, the common world language of that time. Because Christianity spread into Europe, North Africa, Turkey, etc., many copies had to be made. So, for example, one person would dictate the text, while several people made copies. The result is that we have hundreds and hundreds of copies of the New Testament, coming from those several different regions of the world. By comparing all the manuscripts, we are able to be positively sure of almost every single word in the Greek New Testament. In less than 1/10 of 1% of the text are there any questions at all as to what the text ought to read, and in each of those cases, no truth of the Bible is impacted.

One example. Matthew 1:18 begins, “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: …” But, quite a few Greek texts read, “the birth of Christ Jesus” instead of “the birth of Jesus Christ.” Some others read, “the birth of Christ,” and there’s even two which read “the birth of Jesus.” We’re not sure what the text ought to read. Because it’s God’s Word, we take every single word seriously. Yet we also realize that whether the text reads, “the birth of Jesus Christ” or “the birth of Christ Jesus” etc., there is no question whatsoever as to the point God is communicating.

So can you be sure that we have the Bible, the pure Word of God? The answer is “yes.” And we thank God for that, for He’s promised that even if the mountains were to pass away, yet His Word will never pass away (Matthew 24:35, 1 Peter 1:24-25)! God has preserved it! And He will!

What is the Bible trying to tell me?

If you’re like me, a book needs to grab you right from the start or you don’t keep reading.  Many people have wanted to read the Bible, only to get bogged down in the long list of unfamiliar names just five chapters into the book.  They stop reading.

The Bible seems like such an important book to so many people.  But it is very long.  It is not organized like a conventional book. Its message can seem so confusing.  I wish someone could condense the Bible’s message in a few sentences.  Just what is the Bible trying to say, anyway?

Break the entire Bible down to its barest minimum and you end up with two basic messages: The Law and the Gospel.  1)  The Law tells us that we have rebelled against God and as a result deserve God’s punishment, and 2) The Gospel tells us that God has saved us from the punishment of our rebellion through his Son, Jesus Christ and as a result we can live forever in heaven.

The Bible is full of passages that make demands of us.  The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) or Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) are some of the more familiar parts of the Bible that explain the kind of perfect life God demands.  When we fail in any way (either in what we say, think or do) – even just once – then we are no longer perfect.  We are rebels and sinners.  God says clearly in the Bible, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a).

The Bible is also full of good news.  One of those passages is known by its familiar reference,John 3:16.  It reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  That’s good news!  God’s act of love trumps our sins.  Jesus has forgiven all our sins.  Heaven will be home for all who believe this!  Or, to quote the rest of Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God presents these two messages in many different ways in the Bible.  Most of those ways are through the real life events of real people – people you and I can identify with because they were rebels just like us.  And Jesus saved them just like us.  Read it and you’ll find out for yourself.

How do I know there is a God?

Have you ever thought about how many things you know and believe without having seen them? Take gravity for instance. I have never seen gravity, but I see evidence of it all around me. As a matter of fact, we depend on it for almost all of our everyday activities. Gravity holds our cars on the road. It keeps us from floating away into space. We would be in serious trouble without it.

I look at God in very much the same way that I look at gravity. I have never seen him, but I see evidence that he must exist in the world around me. Whether I am taking in a soft summer sunset or a late night display of the constellations, I know that someone took some serious time and effort to get things just right. The Bible puts it this way, “Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” (Hebrews 3:4)

Have you ever taken time to look closely at the world in which we live? Get up a little earlier than normal tomorrow and let the sunrise speak for itself. You decide which is more impressive, the beauty of the sunrise or the fact that it has risen every day in the history of the world. You will hear an inaudible voice in that sunrise. It is God’s voice. (See Psalm 19:1-4)

Perhaps you are more impressed with detail. Take time to count the hairs on one of your arms from your wrist to your elbow. As you notice the delicacy with which each hair is connected, consider how hard plastic surgeons work to duplicate a “normal” hair pattern. They never do get it quite right, do they? All of this is part of God’s great attention to detail and more evidence that he does exist.

I have never seen God, but, like gravity, I know he is here. He has taken the time to leave evidence of his existence all around the world in which we live. Take time to notice it. You will see that he is very real. If you want more, definite information, take time to get to know him better in the Bible.

Why memorize Scripture?

Child:    “Why do I have to memorize this Bible passage?”
Parent:    “Because it is important.”
Child:    “Why?”
Parent:    “Because it is God’s Word.”
Child:    “But why memorize it?”
Parent:    “Because I said so!”

Have you participated in a conversation like that?  How would you respond to the child’s questions?  Christians know that memorizing the Bible is a good thing.  Some would even say that it is very important.   But why?  Here are some brief reasons to commit God’s Word to memory.

  1. Psalm 119:105:  “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”  Life can get very dark at times.  A promotion at work that we know we deserve doesn’t happen.  Marriages can fail.  Our children don’t turn out the way we had hoped.  Sickness is constantly plaguing us and death is just around the corner.  Where are we supposed to go for help?  Who is able to guide us through this mess?  God can.  His Word is a light that brings hope in the darkest moments of our lives.  Will you have a Bible when you need this light most?
  2. Deuteronomy 32:47:  “They are not just idle words for you– they are your life.”  God’s words are not idle.  They are not just ink on a page. God’s Word is living and active.  It’s powerful.  It gives life to the soul.  In fact, the Bible often refers to God’s Word as food for the soul.  It is terrible to go to work or school without our lunch.  It is far worse to leave home without God’s Word.  If you put it in your head, your soul can snack all day.
  3. 1 Peter 3:15:  “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  One of the greatest reasons for us to commit God’s Word to memory is so that we can share it with others.  The Bible assures us that all of our sins are paid for and forgiven.  Jesus died so that we can live with him in heaven.  Because of Jesus, God has promised that all things work for our good.  When we see our loved ones suffering, despairing, and burdened with guilt, God’s Word can be of great comfort to them.  In fact, the same hope that we receive from it we can give to others.

Will you always have a Bible handy?  Will you always be able to read God’s Word?  No.  However, you don’t go many places without your head.  Memorizing Scripture is important.  It’s important because we constantly need God’s guidance, comfort, and peace.  Don’t leave home without it.

Is God up there?

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1

“God, if you are up there, please show yourself to me.” Have you ever said that to God? Wouldn’t it be great if God just came down and showed himself to us?

God does show himself. In the first line of the Bible, God reveals himself to us.  He tells us that he made all things. He made the huge galaxies of the universe. He made the tiniest atoms. He made you and me. His creation demonstrates his power, creativity, wisdom, and tender concern for us.

Take time to notice and to marvel at all God made—the colors of the sky, the light of the sun and stars, the mosaic of leaves outside your window, the beauty of the landscape within your view. Consider how God made you. Think of how your body works—your eyes and ears, your arms, legs, fingers and toes, your brain.

However, God did not make the world and then stand back as a disinterested observer far removed from it all. He is “up there” watching over it all. He continues to care for us by providing for all our needs.

Sadly, we often don’t thank him for what he has done for us. We forget him. For that, God has every right to turn his back on us. Amazingly, he still cares for us. More than that, he came down to us and saved us from our wayward ways.  He came down in love in the person of his Son, Jesus, and rescued us. Jesus lived the perfect life of thanks that we should live. On the cross, he died the death we should die for our sins. He promises a new and perfect world where all who believe in him will live forever in perfect joy.

Is God up there? Yes he is! God is not only up there, he is in every inch of his creation. He is closer to you than your own skin. Does God love and care for his creation? Oh, how he cares! He sent his Son, Jesus, and rescued the world he has made. Look at God’s creation, and above all, look to Jesus and know that God is “up there” loving and caring for you.