My previous posts have dealt with the issue of forgiveness. I had planned to move on to another topic, however, a letter from an interested reader raised a common question worthy of a response. The writer wanted to know my thoughts on how “repentance” figured into the process of forgiveness.
The actual questions concerning repentance and forgiveness posed by the letter writer were a bit complicated, but boiled down to its simplest form it might be stated like this: “If we have been offended by a person who is not sorry about their actions, who has not apologized, and who may even be continuing their offensive behavior are we really obligated to forgive them? Wouldn’t we be encouraging ungodly and offensive behavior?”
At first glance it seems reasonable to link our obligation to forgive with the offending person’s obligation to accept responsibility for their actions and to seek our forgiveness with a heartfelt apology and genuine sorrow and repentance. After all, we certainly feel a lot more forgiving when a sincere apology is offered first.
I’m reminded of the apostle Peter’s question to Jesus in Matthew 18:21…“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” If you will allow me to take some liberty here to read between the lines, I believe what Peter was implying was “If someone is inconsiderate enough to offend me beyond seven times, they can’t truly be serious about living in harmony with me, so why should I have to forgive them?” Jesus’ response in the next verse, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” indicates our forgiveness is not tied to the offending parties behavior.
Remember, the overriding principal concerning forgiveness is found in Matthew 6, verses 14 and 15…“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” I didn’t notice, here or elsewhere in scripture, a “good behavior” clause. (i.e…you should forgive them only if they behave properly.)
Forgiveness is an issue of the heart; your heart, not the offender’s. Unforgiveness is the root cause of much anger, bitterness, resentment, anxiety, hatred and strife. It becomes a roadblock to healthy relationships; including a relationship with the Lord. The ill effects of unforgiveness take their toll even when the offending party is unaware of any offense they may have committed. It’s the person who forgives who benefits most. It’s important that we do our part and keep our hearts pure, even if the offender doesn’t do their part. As my mama used to say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
The letter writer presented another interesting thought. They wrote “My understanding is that God has a forgiving heart and desires to forgive us all, but are we truly forgiven before we recognize our need for forgiveness and turn to God and ask Him to forgive us?” This question actually helps makes my point. Yes, God desires to forgive us and responded toward all of us with love, making forgiveness possible. He did this, not in response to our good behavior (we weren’t repentant and asking for forgiveness) but in spite of our bad behavior. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” To receive the full benefit of God’s actions requires that we accept the gift with a repentant heart. Yet, whether we do or not, God has done His part. If we want to follow God’s example we will not reserve our forgiveness as a reward for our offender’s good behavior.
It’s important to note that forgiveness also has some relationship to the issues of “justice” and “restoration.” Forgiveness does not necessarily eliminate the need for justice, nor does it automatically require restoration of the relationship to what it was before the offense. Though an intriguing part of the forgiveness equation, to fully explore how justice and restoration come into play will have to wait for another time.
For the last couple of posts, this blog has focused on the topic of forgiveness. Understanding forgiveness from God’s perspective is so important I’ve decided to give you more food for thought on the subject.
From time to time all of us have a seemingly good reason to hold a grudge; that’s part of life. If you are going to live on this planet, you will be hurt by other people. You cannot escape it. Even if you left this planet, you would probably have your feelings hurt when your friends neglected to call or write.
Now that we’ve established offence is inevitable, how are we going to deal with it? There are two choices. You can harbor and nurture anger, bitterness and resentment or you can forgive. You can hold them accountable for their wrongdoing or release them. (In a previous post I pointed out the literal meaning of the Greek word that is translated as forgiveness in the New Testament is to release someone from punishment for some wrongdoing.)
Because of the inevitability of being offended in this life, there’s a good chance someone in your life has “done you wrong.” Because of their wrongdoing, it’s natural to feel as though they owe you something…they are indebted to you. Maybe they owe you some money. Maybe they “owe” you an apology. Maybe they owe you another chance. Maybe they owe you more respect. Whatever the debt, you are determined to make them pay.
Like the wicked servant in Matthew 18, you have probably even gone so far as to have them thrown into prison. Not a literal prison, but a little prison you have constructed in your own heart. A cruel and dark place where you keep your debtors locked up, until you feel their debt is paid in full. Every once in a while, in your own mind, you take them out of their cell to beat and torture them. You may have people who have been locked up so long you can’t even remember what their offense was.
It is tragic to see a person who refuses to release those who have offended them. They imprison the offending party until they feel the debt is paid in full, but in reality they are the ones who are held in prison by their own anger and bitterness. They are the ones who are tortured most. There is emotional torment for the person who lives a life of unforgiveness. True peace eludes them. There is always a bitter memory; a continual replaying of hurtful words and actions.
According to medical science, an attitude of unforgiveness is hazardous to your health. Aside from the obvious headaches and ulcers, there is also an increase in most other illnesses due to a weakening in the immune system from the stress and fatigue caused by unforgiveness.
Worst of all, are the spiritual consequences. As the wicked servant eventually learned, God will not forgive the person who will not forgive others. His actions evoked the immutable law of Galatians 6:7 – “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Remember the admonition of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 6, verse 14 and 15: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Some time ago Billy Graham stated the benefit of forgiving others succinctly when he said: “If His conditions are met, God is bound by His word to forgive any man or woman of any sin because of Christ.”
The first condition to obtaining forgiveness for the sins we’ve committed against God is to receive the free gift of salvation He provided through His Son, Jesus. Another important condition is that we also forgive those who have sinned against us.
Remember the golden rule: “do unto others….”
As hard as it may be, forgiving others is critical to receiving the forgiveness we so need and desire from God. Let me remind you again, Jesus said “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” ” (Matthew 6:14-15).
When questioned about forgiveness by the Apostle Peter, Jesus illustrated the importance and true issue of forgiveness with a parable found in Matthew chapter 18, verse 23 through 35…
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. “And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. (In today’s economy, an amount of money equivalent to millions of dollars) But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.
“The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ “Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (an amount of money equivalent to a few dollars); and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ “And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.
“So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. ‘Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’
“And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Like the wicked servant, when we receive the free gift of salvation from the Lord through His only Son, Jesus Christ, our debts (the sins we’ve committed) are forgiven. The slate is wiped clean. That’s Good News directly from God’s Word!
Like the wicked servant in the parable, we had millions of offenses (debts we were obligated to pay God for) piled up. When we trust in the salvation offered through Jesus Christ, in one sweep of His forgiving hand God wrote off all of our debts. And still, just like the wicked servant, we often want to require others, who owe us a mere pittance (in comparison to the great debt we owed) to pay us in full and right now!
Though we were shown amazing grace and mercy by the One we offended so greatly, we want to throw the bums who offended us in prison (our emotional prison if not a literal prison) until we are satisfied that they have suffered enough.
Go ahead; demand your rights. Go ahead; get even. Show them they can’t get away with treating you that way. Show no mercy. Make them sorry they ever messed with you. And while you are exacting your pound of flesh, think how God will respond to that type of attitude? Jesus told us God, the Father, will treat us the same way the king treated his wicked servant. Unless we forgive others, He will not forgive us.
Who are you holding in the “debtors prison” of your heart? Are you treating them the way you want God to treat you? Are you willing to throw away God’s eternal mercy in order to gain a moment of earthly satisfaction?
The Bible is clear; God forgives us only if we forgive in kind. A wise man once said “We are most like beasts when we kill. We are most like men when we judge. We are most like God when we forgive.”
Determine to be more like God this week. Begin the process of forgiving others who have trespassed against you.
I don’t know you personally, but I do know something about you. I know that dealing with people is one of the greatest challenges in your life. At one time or another, I know you’ve had to deal with people who were mean, cranky, obstinate, overbearing, and downright ornery. You’ve also had to deal with people who were rude, crude, brash, insensitive, and thoughtless. I know, in your life, you’ve had to deal with people who have stolen from you, betrayed you, lied to you, cheated you, blamed you, stabbed you in the back, spread vicious rumors about you and never paid back the money you lent them. (I hate it when that happens!)
These people can be the people you work with or work for. Some of them are (or were) your good friends. Some were strangers, your parents, or your children. You may have been married to them. You may be married to them now. There is no getting away from them; people are everywhere.
Because people can be so rotten, we are continually faced with the issue of forgiveness. When others do us wrong we have a choice to make. We can harbor the hurt feelings, anger, bitterness and resentment in our heart toward them, or we can forgive them. The choice you make will greatly affect your personal well being as well as your relationship with that person. And something else most people don’t realize, it will also affect your relationship with God.
One of the central themes of the entire Bible is “forgiveness.” In the New Testament the word “forgiveness” is translated from the Greek word “aphiemi.” It simply means to release someone from punishment for some wrongdoing. The New Testament alone contains 142 references to this word. Of these, 129 are located in the Gospels. So, you can see that forgiveness was a central theme in the life and ministry of Christ.
When Jesus instructed the disciples how to pray, part of the prayer He prayed dealt with forgiveness. Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts (or trespasses) as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12). After giving this prayer example (known as The Lord’s Prayer) He commented about the line concerning forgiveness in Matthew 6, verse 14 and 15: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your father will not forgive your sins.”
Now there’s a sobering thought. If I don’t forgive the people who have done me wrong, God will not forgive me for the wrong I have done. That puts a whole new light on holding a grudge, doesn’t it? All of the sudden the philosophy of “don’t get mad, get even” loses a lot of its appeal.
The concept of God expecting you to forgive if you want to be forgiven is, what the Bible calls, a “hard teaching.” It is “hard” because we’ve been raised on the philosophy of revenge; “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” We feel it’s our duty and our right to bring judgment and punishment upon those who treat us wrong. Sure, we believe forgiveness is a lovely idea, as long as we’re not the ones who have to forgive.
The Apostle Peter asked Jesus “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” I’m sure Peter thought he was being generous. After all, after two or three times most people would slam the door on forgiving an offender. Peter was willing to go the extra mile; to be used, abused and mistreated up to seven times. Jesus answered him “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Mat. 18:21-22).
My lightning-fast calculator tells me seventy times seven is 490! The shear magnitude of the number reveals Jesus’ intent was not to give us a destination where forgiveness ends, but to, instead, clearly imply there is no limit when it comes to our need to forgive others.
That should spark enough thought to take you to Part 2 of this series. In the next installment, we will continue to explore the important biblical subject of forgiveness.
The term “trinity” is an essential part of orthodox Christianity. It is the term the Church uses to express the unity of three Persons in the one, true God. In a nutshell, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is this: (1) There is only one God; one divine nature and being. (2) This one divine Being is tri-personal, involving three distinct persons in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; all joint partakers of the same nature and majesty of God.
In talking with Christians, I find that nearly all are familiar with the trinity. Most Christians know God the Father as the creator of all things. They know Jesus, as God’s Son who was crucified, and rose again. Many, however, know little about the person of the Holy Spirit. A somewhat understandable position since most preaching and teaching center on God, the Father, and Jesus, the Son.
A majority of Christians would be unable to give you a clear answer to the question “what is the function of the Holy Spirit?” The good news is that God’s Word, the Holy Bible, has all the answers. Through reading and studying God’s Word, we can (and should) be as familiar with the Holy Spirit as we are with the Father and Son. We must not be ignorant about any person of the trinity.
One of the major functions of the Holy Spirit is to tell us about Jesus. Jesus told His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit would testify about Him. (John 15:26) Jesus also said “He will glorify Me…” (John 16:14) When Jesus walked on the earth as a man, He glorified the Father. In the same way, the Holy Spirit now glorifies Jesus. Just as Jesus testified about the Father, the Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus.
In John 16:7 Jesus makes and amazing statement. He said “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” As much as we think it would be good for Jesus to have stayed, He said it was good that He was going. Why? So He could send the Holy Spirit. This third person must be pretty important.
In the next sentence (John 16:8) Jesus reveals another crucial function of the Holy Spirit. “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin…” The Holy Spirit brings an awareness of our sin to us. Without an understanding our own sinful condition, we would never turn to a Savior.
Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would also be our teacher. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26) According to John 16:13 the Holy Spirit reveals all truth: “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” Not only does the Holy Spirit remind us of what Jesus said (the past) and teaches us “all things” that we need to know now (the present), He will tell us of things that are yet to come (the future).
The Holy Spirit also empowers us for the work God has called us, His Church, to do; to go into all the world and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the first chapter of Acts Jesus told His disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit before beginning the task (Acts 1:4-5 & 8)
In the second chapter of Acts the power of Holy Spirit came. From then on the disciples walked “in the power of the Spirit” and turned the world upside-down. The world still needs to be turned upside-down for the cause of Christ. The Holy Spirit is still supplying the power to get the job done. To appropriate more of this “power” to work in your life, make a commitment to learn more about the mysterious third person of the trinity.
by Bill Pevlor
For the most part, the Christian world had been duped into thinking the highest calling of Christianity is being “blessed.” Some Christian circles have become nothing more than “bless me” clubs. Blessing is a definite part of the Christian life, it is a promised result of Godly living and I’m all for seeking the blessing of God. To simply strive for blessing, however, is the lowest level of Christianity. As Christians, our highest calling is to be a blessing.
Many Christians, on a personal quest to find the blessing of God, often miss the opportunities God places before them to be a blessing to others. The Kingdom of God operates on a different set of standards than the world. Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) To be first in the Kingdom of God would be a major blessing. So, if you want to be first in God’s Kingdom, look for ways to serve and be a blessing to others.
The good news is that anyone can be a blessing. You may feel your life is insignificant and unimportant, but let me assure you – you can be a blessing! As a Christian, your destiny is one of blessing others. You don’t have to be a gifted singer, speaker or foreign missionary to be a blessing. You need only to be willing. Let me give you an example.
Saul was a man who, after an encounter with Jesus, became known as the Apostle Paul. He was a great man of God who wrote nearly half of the New Testament and spread the gospel to the far corners of the known world; including the household of Caesar. We’ve all heard of the Apostle Paul. But have you heard of Ananias?
In the 9th chapter of the book of Acts there was a man named Ananias. The Bible tells us that the Lord spoke to Ananias in a vision and told him to go to Saul and restore his sight. The Lord told Ananias that Saul (remember Saul will later have his name changed to Paul) was God’s chosen instrument to carry the Lord’s name before all men. Saul’s eyes had been blinded by his previous encounter with the Lord. Saul was staying in Damascus; praying and, no doubt, confused with no clue of his future.
Ananias was faithful to the prompting of the Lord and found Saul. He placed his hands on Saul and Saul’s sight was restored and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Ananias, no doubt, shared with Saul (soon to become Paul) what the Lord had told him about Saul’s future ministry, and, as they say, “the rest is history.” Of course, we all know of Paul’s success, but after this event, Ananias is never mentioned again in scripture.
Ananias wasn’t a big-shot. And, thank God, He wasn’t a member of the “bless me” club, merely interested in his own blessing. He was ready and willing to be a blessing. In fact, the only notable thing Ananias did was to offer himself as a servant willing to bless another. As insignificant as his life might have seemed, Ananias was a vital link in the chain of events that produced one of God’s greatest men; the Apostle Paul.
We often forget the Anne Sullivans who play such important roles in the lives of Helen Kellers. In our day of distorted values, we often think our lives are of little importance. Being blinded by the dazzle and the desire of another blessing, we often lose sight of the potential in our own, seemingly small, efforts to bless others.
When you offer yourself as a servant intent on blessing others you rise to the highest calling of Christianity. Every blessing you extend to others, no matter how seemingly small, is significant in the Kingdom of God.
Let me say to members of the “bless me” club, this thing we call the Christian life is not just about you. It’s really about others. I saw a bumper sticker encouraging “Random Acts of Kindness.” I thought it was a good idea. Still, a better idea would be “Deliberate, Premeditated Acts of Blessing.” Don’t pass up opportunities today to bless someone else. You could be ministering to the next Apostle Paul.
by Bill Pevlor
Close to 2000 years ago Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, left heaven and came to earth. Think for a moment. If you were in heaven, what would it take to get you to leave the ultimate paradise and come to earth to face a terrible death? If you asked any number of people “Why did Jesus come to earth?” you will get a variety of answers.
Some people will tell you that Jesus came to teach us the way we should live. It is true, Jesus did teach us how to live. He taught us to live by the golden rule (Mat. 7:12), to turn the other cheek (Mat. 5:39) and to go the extra mile (Mat. 5:41). Though Jesus was the greatest of teachers, God had other teachers who could have taught those same messages. Jesus came for a much greater purpose.
Some will tell you that Jesus came to start a religion. This is simply not true. God did not devise a plan to send His only Son to die a horrible death so that we could formulate doctrine, teach catechism, perform dreary ceremonies and stare at stained glass windows. I suppose you could say Jesus was the originator of Christianity, but Jesus didn’t come here for the purpose of starting it and, by the way, Christianity is not a religion.
Some will tell you that Jesus came to die on the cross. Certainly Jesus did die on a cross, however, the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ was the necessary action taken to finish His mission on earth, but not the reason He came.
The Bible tells us the reason Jesus left heaven and came to earth in 1 John 3:8 when it says “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” All that Jesus did – His sinless life, His powerful teaching, His death and resurrection – were all part of his definitive purpose; destroying the work of the devil.
Jesus made a clear distinction between His work and the work of the devil. In John 10:10 Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The devil’s work is to bring havoc and untold devastation to your life. Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work so that you could have life. And not just an “average” life, but a “full” life. The King James version of the Bible translates it “that they might have it more abundantly.”
The devil’s plan for your life is a bare, minimum existence filled with heartache, distress, pain, suffering, and sorrow. Jesus, on the other hand, has a plan for your life that is pleasing, satisfying and full; a life of quality and quantity. The Amplified Bible translates what Jesus said as “I came that they may have, and enjoy, life and have it in abundance, to the full, till it overflows.”
Jesus was not referring to the time when we die and go to heaven. He was talking about life here on the earth. Thinking that the only reason Jesus came to earth was to hand out tickets to heaven is one of the fallacies of religion. It is clear, from His earthly ministry, that Jesus was exceedingly concerned about the quality and quantity of our lives here on the earth. Everywhere He went He healed the sick, delivered those who were oppressed by the devil and even raised the dead. If Jesus’ mission was only to provide a wonderful life in heaven after we die, when He encountered sick and suffering people, He would have simply patted them on the head and said “Just hang in there, I promise it will be better when you get to heaven.”
The glorious reward of accepting the saving work of Christ is not limited to the “sweet by and by” if you can just hang in there till the end. Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil so you could have an assurance of heaven and also live a full, abundant life here on the earth. If you are not living the joy-filled, abundant, overflowing life Jesus promised, recognize the work of the devil (to steal, kill and destroy) and turn to Jesus. As the memorable song says “Jesus is the answer.”
by Bill Pevlor
Belief in the devil is at an all time low. Although a vast majority of people profess a belief in God, only a small minority still believe in the devil. Most have decided the devil is nothing more than a made up “bogeyman” used by the ancients to scare people toward good behavior. Even some theologians (I use the term loosely) have decided the devil of the bible is not a true personality, but simply an imaginary prop for illustration purposes. After all, we have become much too sophisticated to fall for fairy tales from the dark ages.
Well, I’m here to stand against the tide of modern, “conventional wisdom” to declare: There is, indeed a devil! Not an imaginary figure; an actual, existent, diabolical personality whose sole intent is to thwart the purposes of God and destroy mankind. Jesus spoke of the devil as a thief who comes only to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10) Jesus also said the devil, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44) It’s clear from the scriptures, Jesus believed in, warned of and fought against a real devil.
By now, you might be thinking, “I thought you were a ‘good news’ preacher? How is the existence of a real devil good news?”
Here’s the good news: The reality of a real devil clears up a lot of potential confusion about God. Without acknowledging the existence of a devil, people end up with a twisted impression of God. If the devil doesn’t exist then God gets all the blame, as well as any credit. People who don’t believe in the devil find God rather schizophrenic; bringing blessing one minute and curses the next. They, unknowingly, defame God; blaming Him for the unpleasant circumstances and tragic events actually brought about by the devil. Even worse, without an understanding of the the devil’s existence and malevolent activity, God becomes someone to be feared from a distance because, if there is no devil, the good, bad and ugly are all attributed to God. That kind of thinking will hinder intimacy and keep you from growing close to your Heavenly Father. (“Don’t get too close, you never know what He’s likely to do!”)
I often try to teach new believers a simple concept we call “Theology 101”. The course is summed up in two short sentences – “1) God is a good God. 2) The devil is a bad devil.” I know it is a very simplistic approach and some additional teaching is needed to bring a full understanding. However, if all you understand is “God is a good God and the devil is a bad devil” than you are already well ahead of a lot of so-called theologians.
If you want to investigate who’s behind various circumstances in your life, be sure to check the character of both suspects. According to the Bible, God is holy, righteous, and just. God is the one who loves you so much He sacrificed His only son. The Bible describes God as much more than just a loving being when it says “God is love”. Now, contrast that with Jesus’ description of the devil.
As a practical example, if your theology doesn’t allow for a devil, when a young child dies, all you can do is shrug your shoulders and say “well, God must have had a reason”. If you’ve graduated from Theology 101, it’s easy to see the culprit is not God, but the devil. God is the life giver. The devil is a thief and a murderer. It is so simple you’d have to have help to get it mixed up. And the devil has been all to happy to provide help by confusing people and directing blame toward God.
As Jesus said, the devil is a liar, and one of the biggest whoppers he wants us to believe is that he doesn’t actually exist. If he can get you to believe the lie, you’ll begin to blame God. The devil’s ultimate goal is to get you to turn away from God and His plan of salvation out of anger or fear. Don’t fall for the lie.
Now, a final bit of good news from God’s Word. With all the Bible says about the devil, the last (and most thrilling) reference is a prediction of the devil’s future found in Revelation 20:10 where it says “and the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone…”. Now that’s good news!
by Bill Pevlor
I love to study the Bible in search of the wonderful treasures God has enfolded within the pages of scripture. This article is entitled The Gospel Is Good News, because, by and large, that’s what I find in the Bible – good news. In fact, for those who have given their hearts and lives to the Lord, it’s all good news.
The New Testament authors understood this and emphasized the good news in their writings. They adopted a unique word to relay the concept of good news. As the New Testament was translated from Greek to English, this unique Greek word was translated as the word “Gospel.” The literal meaning of the word translated as “Gospel” in English is “good news.”
In my studies, I’ve learned an interesting fact about the word “Gospel”. The Greek word the Gospel writers used was, for their time, a rather obscure word. If you researched volumes of Greek literature from that time period, the occurrence of this word is quite rare outside of the Bible. It was a word that existed but had simply fallen out of popular use. That is, until the apostles began to use it. It’s found over 100 times in the Bible.
The early church and its writers began to use the word when referring to the message of Jesus Christ. It was a message that was so remarkably different than the other religious messages of that day it required a unique word to identify and distinguish it. This unique word would came to mean more than just basic good news. To the New Testament believers this Gospel was wonderful news; good-beyond-words news; almost-too-good-to-be-true news!
As time has passed, the word Gospel, I fear for most, has become rather ordinary. It has become a word that has lost its true, unique meaning for most people. Many have come to view the Gospel as “boring news” or even “bad news”. The religious world has, all too often, mixed-up, watered-down and compromised the message of God’s “good news” and, by association, given the word “Gospel” a bad name.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day preached a harsh message of God’s unending wrath for anyone who didn’t live up to their oppressive, unobtainable religious standard. That wasn’t good news. That was bad news. Today, in much the same way, many so called Gospel preachers are preaching the bad news, not the good news of sins forgiven, grace extended, lives renewed and an assurance of heaven.
Jesus was a good news preacher. He declared “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19). Now that’s good news!
The apostle Paul was a good news preacher, too. He said “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes… For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17). According to Paul, the Gospel is not a message of the wrath of God coming against unrighteous man. The true Gospel is wonderful, almost-too-good-to-be-true news of a righteousness that comes from God. Not from our efforts, but by faith. It was this “good news” that caused Paul and other godly men and women to fully commit their lives to spreading the Gospel.
The apostle Paul even dealt with bad news preachers in his day. There have always been those who wanted to make the path to blessing and salvation hard and oppressive. That was not the Gospel Paul preached. Paul preached the good news of Jesus Christ and had a zero tolerance policy toward any other Gospel. He wrote “…if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:8). Don’t miss the seriousness of Paul’s statement. When he says “let him be eternally condemned” he is literally saying “let him go to hell”. If Paul were alive today, you can bet he’d be ostracized as a mean-spirited, intolerant, conservative, right-wing, religious bigot.
Always remember, the Gospel is good news. If the news you’ve been hearing about God has not seemed like good news, you’ve not been hearing the Gospel truth. Make it a point to read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (and the rest of the Bible, too). God’s Word is overflowing with good news for you.
An Important Announcement from Pastor Bill
A familiar passage in the Bible says, “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
It seems the season is changing for the church we serve as leaders.
Victorious Faith Ministries began holding regular weekly services on Easter Sunday, April 23, 2000. Now, thirteen years later, the scope of our ministry is changing. In a few short weeks we will cease holding the weekly church services we’ve been accustomed to.
Victorious Faith Ministries is not going away. We still have ongoing work with Esther’s Hope and Victorious Faith Ministries in Liberia, West Africa. We’ll hold Bible studies and take advantage of other ministry opportunities, as the Lord opens those doors. Still, the ceasing of weekly services will be a dramatic change for the ministry. After last Sunday’s service we met with the committed members of our church concerning these changes.
We’re sharing this publicly for two reasons. First, to inform past members, prayer partners and faithful supporters – in Northeast Wisconsin and around the world – who are not a part of our current congregation. Second, to head off the kind of foolish speculation and senseless rumors that tend to spawn in the absence of such a statement. I assure you (any member – past or present – can verify) we have had no splits, no scandals, no mismanagement, no tragedies. This realignment is merely a matter of several years of slowly dwindling attendance.
Over the last 13-years, we have had the pleasure of serving and working alongside many remarkable people and have many wonderful testimonies, memories and victories to revel in. In fact, we are planning a special service to do just that, Saturday evening, May 11th. I hope you’ll make it a point to save that date and join us.
Let me finish with a quote I recently read from C.S. Lewis that seems to fit the moment: “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
Pastor Bill & Sara Pevlor