Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part Three

In our preceding article, we talked about how there can be no greater motivation for believers to live out their new lives in Christ as a BIG THANK YOU than to have a growing understanding of the grace of God. That is certainly the experience described in Scripture on more than one occasion.

Remember the immoral woman who came to Jesus quite unexpectedly in the home of a Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50)? Braving probable scorn and ridicule, she came to express her love and gratitude for what she had experienced of the grace of God in her life—forgiveness. She was well aware of how undeserving she was but nevertheless God had forgiven her and for this she was supremely thankful.

Rather than drawing back in disdain from this woman with the tarnished reputation, Jesus expressed what was at the heart of her outpouring of emotion: she loved much because she had been forgiven much.

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47 NLT)

Possibly a prostitute, this woman recognized how needy, how undeserving she was of Christ’s forgiveness. In fact, she was conscious of her abject spiritual poverty—totally incapable of doing anything to merit God’s forgiveness. Yet, the Bible assures us that…

He [God] does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10 NIV)

That’s grace—undeserved!

Continue reading “Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part Three”

Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part Two

“No longer…!”

In the context of the message of the Gospel, these two words hold tremendous significance. They are words that ought to prompt an overwhelming sense of wonder and gratitude as to what Christ accomplished on the cross on our behalf. Consider that we, as believers, are no longer…

  • slaves to sin but free (Romans 6:6-7,14,18).
  • strangers and aliens but members of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19).
  • servants but friends (John 15:15).

These statements represent powerful, new realities for us who have been transferred at the moment of salvation from the “kingdom of darkness” to the “kingdom of light”—the kingdom of God’s Son, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:12-13).

Each of these declarations holds a wealth of meaning but all hold in common a fundamental fact of change as to how God perceives us, brought about by God alone. Understanding how God now sees us—the new position we have been granted in Christ—is a key principle for living the Christian life.

Continue reading “Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part Two”

Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part One

Most of us have experienced the uneasy feeling of being in an unfamiliar setting where we’re conscious of being outsiders who have very little in common with those who “belong.” After finding ourselves in that environment, it’s a welcomed relief to come to a place where we are “no longer a stranger,” but where we’re known and accepted.

As Christians, we can identify. There was a time in each of our lives when we were separated from Jesus Christ—strangers to Christ and everything God desires for us (Ephesians 2:12). This separation came about as a result of sin.

Your iniquities have separated you from your God… (Isaiah 59:2 NIV; cf. Romans 3:23; Ephesians 4:18).

However, for believers, a time came when all that changed as a consequence of what Jesus did on the cross. When we put our trust in what he accomplished by dying in our place, the Bible says to us as believers:

You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19 ESV).

Whereas previously we were separated from God, “without hope and without God in the world,” we have now “been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12 NIV).

No longer a stranger! What welcome news that we have been brought back into a right relationship with our Creator!

And yet, if this is true…

…why is it that so many professing Christians live as if Christ is still a stranger to them? Why is it that many new believers and even others who are not-so-young-in-the-faith experience so much difficulty in growing spiritually, seemingly falling back two steps for every step forward? (If the truth be known, perhaps most of us can identify with those questions because they are part of our personal experience.)

Continue reading “Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part One”

This study brought it all together!

It is always such an encouragement to hear how believers are strengthened in their faith and understanding of the Bible through chronological resources. Janie’s* testimony is an example of this. She was a participant in a recent Worldview Rethink study led by two of our staff and wrote the following email to express her thanks.

It is with great pleasure that I look back to our study, By This Name… Raised in the church, my whole life revolved around Christian activities. I was well taught all the Old Testament stories, believed in the authenticity of the Bible, had accepted Jesus as my Saviour, and knew the presence of God in my life.

There were years when I did not live my faith, and was ashamed of my behavior, but I was never ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Never did I feel abandoned by God, rather that I had abandoned Him, or tried to. We know how He draws us back.

I entered this study with many precious gems of Biblical knowledge knocking around loose in my head. This study brought them together as gems in a single piece, pointing our way to eternity.

Continue reading “This study brought it all together!”

Going Deeper: Final words of a dying Saviour, Part II

Jesus made seven statements during the final hours on the cross before his death. These are recorded for us in the Gospels, and GoodSeed’s primary tools emphasize three of them. In this two-part Going Deeper article, we examine the deeper significance of all seven statements.

Introduction

Jesus of Nazareth has been arrested in the night on trumped-up charges. Falsely accused, he is paraded through a series of courts. These court sessions are simply a pretext to provide legality to what is already a foregone conclusion in the minds of the Jewish religious leaders: a sentence of death for blasphemy. Jesus is beaten and mocked before he is sentenced to death by crucifixion by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.

The intent of this barbaric form of execution was to prolong the agony of dying as long as possible. However, the crucifixion of Christ lasted a relatively short time, from the “third” hour—about 9:00 a.m. (Mark 15:25) to about the “ninth” hour—3:00 p.m. (Mark 15:33).

As a person reads the description of what happened during those six hours, what isn’t found are sensational, lurid details of the physical suffering Jesus experienced as he hung on the cross. The Bible doesn’t indulge our curiosity. There are none of the horrific details that one might expect in tabloid journalism. Rather, the account of the crucifixion is told in a simple, straightforward manner without any dramatics. This is not to minimize the physical agony Christ felt on the cross. His pain was very real, but pain isn’t what Scripture highlights. Instead, the Bible gives us glimpses of Jesus’ heart for humanity through seven statements he made during the final hours before his death. Just as the final words spoken from the deathbed of a loved one hold great significance to family and friends, so these words of Christ are such that they have reverberated down through history.

In the first part of this two-part article, we delved into the significance of Christ’s first three statements from the cross. Now we will discuss the final four statements.

Continue reading “Going Deeper: Final words of a dying Saviour, Part II”

Going Deeper: Final words of a dying Saviour, Part I

Jesus made seven statements during the final hours on the cross before his death. These are recorded for us in the Gospels, and GoodSeed’s primary tools emphasize three of them. In this two-part Going Deeper article, we will examine the deeper significance of all seven statements.

Bible writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each give us unique insights into the crucial few days surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion.

Setting the Scene

Jesus of Nazareth has been arrested in the night on trumped-up charges. Falsely accused, he is paraded through a series of courts. These court sessions are simply a pretext to provide legality to what is already a foregone conclusion in the minds of the Jewish religious leaders: a sentence of death for blasphemy. Jesus is beaten and mocked before he is sentenced to death by crucifixion by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.

The Crucifixion

The intent of this barbaric form of execution was to prolong the agony of dying as long as possible. However, the crucifixion of Christ lasted a relatively short time, from the “third” hour—about 9:00 a.m. (Mark 15:25) to about the “ninth” hour—3:00 p.m. (Mark 15:33).

As a person reads the description of what happened during those six hours, what isn’t found are sensational, lurid details of the physical suffering Jesus experienced as he hung on the cross. The Bible doesn’t indulge our curiosity. There are none of the horrific details that one might expect in tabloid journalism. Rather, the account of the crucifixion is told in a simple, straightforward manner without any dramatics. This is not to minimize the physical agony Christ felt on the cross. His pain was very real, but pain isn’t what Scripture highlights. Instead, the Bible gives us glimpses of Jesus’ heart for humanity through seven statements he made during the final hours before his death. Just as the final words spoken from the deathbed of a loved one hold great significance to family and friends, so these words of Christ are such that they have reverberated down through history.

Continue reading “Going Deeper: Final words of a dying Saviour, Part I”

It has given me the ability to defend my faith

bible_college1“It helped me see all of the connections of the Bible more clearly so that I can be confident and equipped to share my faith with others.”

This was one of the comments received from students at a Bible institute in Ontario this past fall. GoodSeed staff members John Cross and Troy Johnstone were there to teach through By This Name as part of the students’ year of Bible studies. Over five days they taught a total of 24 hours, giving the young people the big-picture view of the Old and New Testaments, showing how God created templates in the Old that Jesus fulfilled in the New. We are grateful to this school for the opportunity to share with these young people who have given a year of their lives for Bible instruction.

One student, just 10 months earlier, had been begging for cash on the side of the street to support his drug habit. After checking into rehab he was given a copy of The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, which was instrumental in him coming to understand the gospel. Now he is taking this year to study God’s Word as he prepares for a totally different life!

Continue reading “It has given me the ability to defend my faith”

It all points to Jesus

image-1A chronological and systematic approach to presenting the Bible’s message is not only invaluable for leading unbelievers to understand the gospel. It is also a powerful means of establishing believers in their faith and preparing them to share the gospel with others. We recently heard of a pastor who recognizes this. As a result he has used By This Name to disciple his congregation.

Pastor Craig* started by using By This Name as the springboard for a 14-week sermon series. He wrote to us: “I had the congregation read a chapter of By this Name each week as well as scriptures related to the topic of the chapter. I preached on scriptures related to the chapters. Each home group discussed what they were learning from the book and the scriptures they were reading.”

This sermon series was an Old Testament survey—with the specific goal of revealing Jesus Christ in clarity and simplicity. Pastor Craig titled the series “It All Points to Jesus” to emphasize that the Old Testament is not just a conglomeration of random stories, but the critical basis to understanding the identity and work of Jesus.

Continue reading “It all points to Jesus”

The best weekend of my entire life!

church-378654_1280It’s an idyllic village nestled in an out-of-the-way corner along the north Atlantic coast. On this early spring evening, a group of about 15 people, ranging from teenagers to middle-aged, have just completed a weekend retreat. They are eagerly anticipating an upcoming missions trip to Central America. The weekend has proven to be pivotal in their preparation as they have spent two and a half days together, getting to know each other and being established in the message of the gospel.

“I wanted to join the mission team to increase my faith in God. This weekend has done that for me.” This comes from Vicky, one of the teenaged participants who is typically very reticent about expressing herself in public.

Samuel, a man in his 50s, is even more enthusiastic: “This weekend was literally the best weekend of my entire life.”

What made this weekend so special? For one thing, it was a great group of people. It was also a well-planned event. But the backbone of the weekend—and the highlight for everyone—was what they studied together: the gospel itself, from creation right through to the Cross.

Continue reading “The best weekend of my entire life!”

I have relationships with churches, not God

2015_04_Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-church-sky-sun-light-leeroyRose* looked up as the weekly ladies’ Bible study leader approached her. “Something’s come up. Can you fill in for me?” Rose agreed and took the opportunity to share the gospel briefly as part of her talk. Afterwards, Amy, a native lady, approached her.

“Every church I’ve been to has talked about having a relationship with God. But it’s not a relationship with God I’ve had; it has been a relationship with a church.” Amy went on to express her realization that she didn’t understand the gospel, although she’d attended numerous churches for years and had been baptized in most of them. It wasn’t until she heard Rose’s simple explanation of the gospel that it hit her—what she’d been searching for in all those churches could only be found in the Lord. She’d had it all backwards.

Shortly after, Amy moved in with Marcia who was a friend of Rose. Amy was tireless in her search for truth. She asked so many questions that Marcia became quite exhausted. Finally, the woman offered Amy a copy of The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, hoping it’d address her curiosity. Amy lost no time in reading the book. “Now I’m beginning to understand,” she told Marcia. But Amy’s questions didn’t abate. She still needed answers to some nagging questions she had.

Continue reading “I have relationships with churches, not God”