Declared Righteous, But In What Way?

Two ways to understand justification and why it’s important

Two books, one written by Paul to the Romans and one written by James, are found in the Bible. Both books speak of an important doctrine called justification. Justification means “to be declared righteous.” But when reading each book, the question becomes: “Who does the book say is declaring me righteous?” and “What does it mean for me?”

Romans explains justification from a legal perspective. In other words, Romans expresses how God is able to declare sinners who place their faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection as “cleansed from all unrighteousness,” even though in this life, we are far from perfect.

James, on the other hand, writes about a practical justification. James speaks of how a believer can be “declared righteous” by the surrounding world, which is observing our lives to see if they match what our mouths say.

In both cases, the writers use the same word, but what they mean for the believer is quite different. You don’t want to confuse the two.

The chart below, from No Ordinary Verdict, gives a brief comparison of the uses in each book:

No Ordinary Verdict

This 48-page booklet takes a deeper look at the essential doctrine of justification. Building upon key concepts learned through reading the No Ordinary Story series, the reader will gain a great appreciation for what it means to be “declared righteous” by God and how that impacts the believer’s daily living. This book can be used all on its own as a resource for learning the concept of justification.

Notes From Death Row

Prisoners set free on death row

Letters from prison are always sobering; letters from death row even more so.

Over the last 3 years, GoodSeed has received occasional letters from an inmate on death row. Having committed a crime punishable by death, he went looking for redemption and found it in Jesus. GoodSeed’s book, By This Name, helped him see his need to put his faith in Christ. Since then he has written about reaching out to others.

Recently we received another letter from death row at the same prison, this time from a different inmate. Though it’s hard to know, we wonder if the first prisoner’s efforts are bearing fruit. The second inmate requested a copy of The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, apologetic that he could not pay for it: “I’m poor as they come sadly.”

How true—of us all! Pray with us that as he reads, he will see beyond his financial poverty to his spiritual poverty and that he’ll turn to the One who can make him rich.

Fieldnotes from the Bible Lands : No. 1

Bethany: House of Affliction

A small town a short distance from Jerusalem, Bethany is mentioned several times in the Gospels and was the hometown of Jesus’ friends, Lazarus, Martha and Mary.

Today, the ancient village of Bethany has been swallowed up by the Arab town of al-Eizariya (Arabic for Lazarus) on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives. Amongst the crowded streets, you can visit a location marked as Lazarus’ tomb. There is good reason to believe the location is fairly accurate: archaeology has uncovered a large first-century Jewish cemetery there; the Arabic language has preserved the historical significance of the place; and early Christians chose that particular site for a church to highlight the momentous events which took place there.

There is something about the town itself that gives insight into our Saviour. Bethany can be translated as “House of Affliction or Misery.” With a leper colony located just outside the town during Jesus’ time, such misery would have been hard to avoid. So near an unclean population, Bethany would not have been considered a desirable destination. Yet Jesus seemed to frequently stay there while in Jerusalem.

As our Great High Priest, Jesus could have rightly claimed quarters alongside the priests on Temple grounds in Jerusalem. As Coming King, Herod’s palace was his due. Instead, Jesus chose to stay in Bethany, the House of Misery, rubbing shoulders with the afflicted (Mt 26:6). Then he went a step further and became afflicted himself, bearing our punishment. Praise the Lord for his sacrifice!

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted … he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:4, 12

Real Places. Real History. You can know it’s true.

Fresh off a 3-week study trip in Israel and Jordan, we want to share some insights in the coming weeks to encourage you and strengthen your confidence in the Bible.

Increasingly, those who believe the Bible is true are subject to much mockery. Arnold Toynbee, an English historian in the mid-1900s, described those who accepted the Old Testament as reliable as people who “set a religious premium on an obstinate stupidity.” 1 His opinion continues to be popular, despite numerous discoveries that authenticate the Bible’s message.

But Bible-believers have every reason for confidence! As American archaeologist, Nelson Glueck, once stated: “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference.” (Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev, 1959, p. 31)

Author John Cross states: “Though still prone to individual interpretation, whenever the shovel has gone into the ground, what has been uncovered has over and over again authenticated the reliability of the Bible’s message.” (No Ordinary Book, 2019, p. 19)

In the end, our trust in God and His Word is a matter of faith and should not depend on historical proof. However, we can be strengthened in our faith to know that, however it is tested, the Bible is shown to be true.

You will be able to follow this series here:

Is this what Easter is all about?

For most people, the above image represents the essence of Easter—eggs, bunnies and chocolate. Perhaps this year, you can help those around you understand the true meaning behind Easter. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Children can give booklets that explain the gospel to their friends and classmates, along with a sweet treat.
  • Offer a small booklet to friends on social media that explains the message of Easter, like one gentleman did.
  • Make gospel booklets available at the reception or waiting area of your business.
  • Gift a booklet or CD that shares the gospel, along with a sweet treat to your neighbours.

Consider sharing these:

Booklets to give away
GoodSeed has two booklets, ideal for giving away at Easter. What are Christmas & Easter all About? and The Story that Matters explain the Good News from creation to the cross and are priced to give away en masse. Many people are curious and open to learning more.

Radio Theatre Sale
When you purchase 10 or more copies of the No Ordinary Story Radio Theatre from our North American store, you will receive more than 70% off the base price from now until March 17.

Free 7-minute Easter presentation.
This animated, poetic story follows two disciples whose despair turns to joy upon understanding the incredible message of the resurrection. This video is available to use for FREE, in your church or to share on social media. Click on the video link below to watch and download.

Alive with a Roar from GoodSeed on Vimeo.

Troubleshooting Outreach

M.T. wrote in recently with an issue she’s faced when
trying to share GoodSeed materials with others. We answer below.

Study the Bible

The Quandary:
“I have given the books to many Christians to read, and for whatever reason,
they don’t want to even try reading them.”  — M.T.
Our Advice:
Hi M.T. — Though we don’t know the circumstances surrounding your quandary, here’s some general advice we can share.
  1. It helps to be hungry. Often if people don’t see a need to grow their knowledge in a certain area, they won’t put in the necessary effort (such as reading a book). While we do hear of those who will accept a big book, sit down and read right through it, often it helps if the person first has a hunger to know what they’re about to read.
  2. Sometimes you have to create the hunger. Share how learning about the Bible this way impacted you and why you think it’s important. Another idea is to give them the very small booklet, No Ordinary Book, first. This 48-page booklet was written for those who aren’t sure it’s worth their while to know the Bible’s message, but presses the point that the Bible is unique in many ways and worth studying. It’s meant to “whet the appetite.” It’s also a much less expensive book to test the waters to see if your friend will actually read a more in-depth book about the Bible.
  3. Ensure you are sharing the RIGHT material. Some people just aren’t big readers. Perhaps No Ordinary Story series might be better, since it’s split up into small, bite-sized booklets. Or share a video series that they can listen to for free here. Or perhaps they’d be willing to listen to a gospel drama and musical while they’re driving–No Ordinary Story Radio Theatre is ideal for this. Also, consider their worldview. If they are coming from a different background than you, you may want to consider the lens through which they see the world and offer something that addresses their specific worldview.
  4. Start a Bible study or book club. People often have the best of intentions of reading that book “some day,” but never seem to get around to it. This is where it’s helpful to arrange a time to meet to read through the book together. Many people will happily join a book study, but won’t make time on their own to read. You don’t have to be a great leader, teacher or even very knowledgeable about the Bible. Instead, consider yourself a facilitator who will provide the discipline and accountability to journey with your friend through the message. This is the most effective way to ensure someone learns the material.

Bible illiteracy and what it means for the Gospel

I recently read an article in Christianity Today regarding staggeringly poor Bible literacy rates found in the US and UK.

“Around 30 percent of [British] parents don’t know Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, or the Good Samaritan are in the Bible. To make matters worse, 27 percent think Superman is or might be a biblical story. More than 1 in 3 believes the same about Harry Potter. And more than half (54 percent) believe The Hunger Games is or might be a story from the Bible.

“But it’s more than simply not knowing stories from Scripture. Our lack of biblical literacy has led to a lack of biblical doctrine. LifeWay Research found that while 67 percent of Americans believe heaven is a real place, 45 percent believe there are many ways to get there—including 1 in 5 evangelical Christians. More than half of evangelicals (59 percent) believe the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being—in contrast to the orthodox biblical teaching of the Trinity being three Persons in one God. As a whole, Americans, including many Christians, hold unbiblical views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity, and the Bible itself.”

This article dates back to 2017, and in my limited experience, things have not improved.

GoodSeed was created for ones such as these, those who are biblically illiterate. Whether from an IslamicNew AgeSecular or even a Christianized background, most people these days do best with an approach to the Bible that assumes little or no prior knowledge; that builds foundations carefully; that takes into account worldviews and their common hang-ups; and that gives a creation-to-cross overview of Scripture.

Multiplying the Gospel

Recently we received phone calls from two different men who are multiplying the gospel using our materials.

Reaching out to Family and Friends

Gary* received his copy of The Stranger in the mail on a Friday and once he began reading it, couldn’t put it down. He finished it over the weekend and was so impacted by the message that he immediately ordered 5 more copies to give to family and friends. Pray that Gary’s loved ones will also be gripped by the good news of the gospel.

Reaching out to the Nations

Matthew* has trained lay leaders and pastors in Liberia and Ghana for many years with Equip2Serve. He trains these leaders to teach a clear gospel and disciple new believers, multiplying his efforts throughout these countries. One of his main tools for training and evangelism is By This Name. It speaks directly to the worldview of those his group is teaching and gives them a strong foundation in the gospel. Matthew has also begun using The Captive and the King’s Will to train their core group of leaders to lay a strong framework from which they can effectively disciple others. With hundreds of these books headed his way, in addition to visual aid kits, we pray the Lord will use these materials powerfully as the clear gospel message is taught.

Whether by the ones or by the thousands, it’s immensely encouraging to see believers around the world becoming impassioned about the gospel message and eager to share the Good News with others.

How we’re working to keep costs low

Making materials financially accessible

We’re all feeling the impact of rising costs. At GoodSeed, we work hard to make the gospel as accessible as possible to those seeking the Truth, including in the area of cost. We we are doing what we can to keep our costs as low as possible. So far, our prices remain unchanged.

Here are some things we do to keep our materials as affordable as possible:

  1. FREE materials: Some simply cannot afford to buy a book. Others fear for their safety and do not want to have to explain a religious book purchase. For those people, we offer our e-books free of charge. You can also stream the entire video series of The Stranger online, as well as find other resources freely available on our website.
  2. Our staff don’t earn money off GoodSeed materials. Not even our authors. Instead, staff members either work as volunteers or raise funds as missionaries in order to keep GoodSeed operational.
  3. We charge as little as possible. GoodSeed isn’t looking to make big bucks; we simply want to be financially responsible and cover our costs to reprint and create new resources.
  4. We opt to keep our prices low rather than offer free shipping. We know shipping prices are shooting up. While free shipping is awesome, usually the shipping costs are instead hidden within the price of the item, making the items more expensive. Instead, we keep the prices of our materials as low as we can and don’t cover “free” shipping by raising the prices of our books. What it means is that you only pay for what you need, whether that be books or how much it costs to get them to you. No more and no less.
  5. We looked ahead. We could see that print costs were about to skyrocket, so we stocked up on frequently purchased books months ago. That’s how we’re still able to offer materials at the same prices as a year ago. We will continue to offer materials at those prices for as long as possible.

Here are some things you can do to save when you purchase from us:

  1. Purchase in bulk. For most of our materials, you receive significant discounts (often between 20-50% off) the more you purchase. In some cases, if you just buy another book or two, you will find your cost doesn’t change much – but you get more books.
  2. Try to purchase more, less often. This is why: shipping on the first book or two is significant compared to the cost of the books. But the more you purchase, you will see the per-book shipping cost drop significantly. So if you think you will want more books in a few months, consider saving yourself quite a lot in shipping by buying it in one go.
  3. For USA Residents: Americans save a significant amount due to exchange rate. Because we operate out of Canada, you currently save 20-25% off Canadian prices (including shipping) simply because the US dollar is that much stronger than the Canadian dollar. Also, you do not pay any taxes, Canadian or American.

25 Years of “The Stranger”

It’s amazing the impact one book can have.

When The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus was published in 1997, author John R. Cross could not foresee it would be the catalyst for a global ministry. It’s clear in hindsight the birth of The Stranger was guided by God years before it appeared on the horizon.

John didn’t plan to be an author—he didn’t even like paperwork! So God led John into a position where he gained unique knowledge of the gospel being taught in a wide range of circumstances, all through observation. In the 1980s, John’s role in New Tribes Mission (now Ethnos360) took him to some of the remotest places on earth. He saw firsthand the Bible taught to isolated tribes previously ignorant of the Bible’s message.

He saw that success wasn’t about numbers, but about understanding.

In some locations, he observed whole villages putting their faith in Christ. In others, he saw that only a handful became believers. In some situations, tribal people came to Christ without the age-old problems of syncretism and being “rice Christians*.” In others, new believers struggled with those very issues.

As John visited these locations, he asked the local missionaries and national Bible teachers questions—many questions. Without really seeking it, John received a God-engineered education in cross-culture communication—what worked well and not so well. He learned what it meant to cross worldview barriers. He observed that when the Bible was carefully presented from creation to Christ, it made profound sense; God would be at work and lives would be transformed. He saw that success wasn’t about numbers, but about understanding. He witnessed how the Holy Spirit always worked through his Word. When the Word was taught with clarity, the Holy Spirit would bring conviction and enlightenment to the heart. It became clear that an understood gospel is a powerful gospel.

When the Word was taught with clarity, the Holy Spirit brought conviction and enlightenment.

Then, as John interacted with people in North America and other areas of the developed world, he realized that often those he rubbed shoulders with differed little from remote tribal people. Here too, people knew little or nothing about the God of the Bible. They didn’t understand who Jesus was or why he came to earth. The western world had become a post-Christian culture.
Building on the experience gained overseas, John began sharing the Bible in North America using many of the same methods.

It was in this environment The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus was birthed. John incorporated into the book four principles of learning that proved so effective with tribal groups. He designed The Stranger as a stand-alone book, to be given away on its own. It could also be used in small groups as a guide for teaching a clear gospel.

An understood gospel is a powerful gospel.

Within weeks of The Stranger’s release, requests came pouring in. “Can we have a German translation? Do you have an audiobook? Can you adapt this for a Muslim reader?”

Thus, GoodSeed International was formed.

More than just one book

GoodSeed’s mandate is to partner with churches and ministries around the world, creating tools for different:

  • Ages (children, teens, adults, elderly)
  • Worldviews (Christianized, Islamic, Eastern, Secular, Children)
  • Learning Preferences (read, watch, listen; individual or group)
  • Needs (sight, hearing, literacy, etc)

As part of that mandate, visual aids are a significant component in communicating to these groups.

In the last 25 years, GoodSeed has become an international ministry. Books, videos and curricula are used in homes, churches, kids clubs, VBS, camps, prison ministries, retirement centres, community outreaches, rehab programs and Bible colleges. They have been translated and printed in scores of languages.

The impact and power lie in the gospel itself.

In 2001, All that the Prophets have Spoken was published to address the Islamic worldview. That same year, The Lamb, our fully illustrated children’s book, was released.

No Ordinary Story

In 2007, By This Name was produced for the Eastern, New Age, post-modern worldview, which includes those from atheistic or agnostic backgrounds.

Sensing a rapidly developing, disinterested/secular worldview, the No Ordinary Story series was written in 2019. In 2021 GoodSeed released an adaptation of No Ordinary Story as a radio theatre.

Each tool follows the same structure as The Stranger. All are creation-to-Christ presentations of the gospel, tailored carefully for different worldviews, ages and learning preferences. Hundreds of Scripture verses are incorporated into each book, allowing the reader to constantly interact with the Bible and get direct exposure to its life-giving message.

In 2019, a sequel to the evangelism books was released called The Captive and the King’s Will. Written for new believers, it gives a logical next step for those investigating the Bible. A training curriculum in worldview evangelism and discipleship was created called TERM for Small Groups (TERM=The Emmaus Road Message).

We regularly receive stories and testimonies of how people from around the world have come to faith in Christ through reading the books or being guided through a Worldview Rethink course. And it is not only unbelievers who have been impacted. Longtime Christians have been strengthened in their understanding and faith.

Twenty-five years. Yes, it is amazing the sort of impact one book can have. But ultimately, it isn’t the book at all. It also isn’t any of us–writers, teachers, staff, volunteers or those who give and guide through the materials. The impact and power lie in the gospel itself. It is God who does the work, bringing people to understanding and faith through his Word. We simply get the privilege of participating in bringing him glory.