What’s So Special About the Gospel?
August 3rd, 2014
Romans 9: 1-5
Greetings to you in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, our author and perfecter of our faith! Alleluia, amen!
What is so special about the Gospel?
What is so important about the Gospel that Paul says in verse 2 from our Epistle on Romans today that he would be willing to give up everything he has including his salvation and be willing to be forever cursed, that is cut off from Christ, if that would save them?
What is so important and who are the “them” that Paul is talking about?
His people; or who he calls his Jewish brothers and sisters. Jews, Hebrews, Israelites!
His people, the people of Israel chosen by God to be the Father’s adopted children.
But aren’t these Jews the same people who have flogged Paul with forty lashes minus one? Didn’t they beat him with rods? Didn’t they stone him and treat him like garbage?
With friends like that who needs enemies?
Well it was probably for good reason I’m sure. I’m sure Paul deserved what he got!
So what did he do that was so heinous?
Was he a drug dealer or a terrorist? Maybe he was a gang banger or a thug or thief or a burglar. One thing for sure is that he had gone from a prosecutor of Christians in the name of the Jews to an enemy of the Jews.
No, this all happened to Paul at the hands of the Jews because of his mouth.
He had gone from prosecuting to proclaiming.
Paul had these things happen because of the Gospel that he was proclaiming.
What is so important and so incredibly powerful to Paul that he would give up his own salvation so that his enemies who hated him and persecuted him would know and be saved?
What is so important to you?
Is it the Gospel of Christ? The Gospel which witnesses to Christ descending in the Incarnation and being born the savior of the world in a feeding trough? Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that through Him sacrificing His own life atones for our sin on that old rugged cross?
Is it the witness of that blessed Easter Sunday of the true and living resurrection of our God?
Is it the power of the Gospel that frees us through Christ from our sin and calls us to baptism and where we die with Christ only to live in the resurrection eternally with Him?
Is it the Gospel of Christ given, witnessed and heard for all people even your enemies or people that you just don’t care for?
Like Paul are you willing to give up everything including your own salvation so that another might come to Christ and hear the call?
Or is only for you?
The Gospel is great as long as it meets in my wheelhouse or comfort zone. I believe in Jesus but I don’t want a messy Gospel or ministry!
Maybe your sincere intention is that you really want all people to believe and know Christ; but in a convenient, leave me alone sort of way. Let’s put up signs and keep it chained up and locked up and keep those in our lives we deem undesirable out of the way. Jesus would say and do this but I am no Jesus, yet we are called to be little Christs are we not?
All these ideas may That may seem logical and valid until you read what Paul wrote in verse 2 about his Jewish brothers and sisters when he wrote, “My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief.”
How do you render that? Paul ached for these people, his people to know the freedom of the Gospel and the relationship repaired that all God’s children share in that adoption into Him.
He was torn apart that even his very enemies who scorned and despised him and more importantly Jesus, didn’t know Christ and His free gift of reconciliation.
How did they not get it? These were the people of Israel, remember Israel? His name was Jacob but it was changed because he struggled with God. They were God’s people, descendents of Jacob or Israel. God had chosen them like He has chosen us to be His people. Israel, His adopted children and He has revealed His glory to them and us in the risen Christ.
He had and has given them and us the privilege of worshipping Him and living and living in and receiving His wonderful promises.
These enemies of Paul had it right there in front of them and they rejected it and even despised it. Isn’t that our M.O. every time we sin? Isn’t it right there in front of us? Yet we reject God all the time but still His heart desires us and His heart is filled with bitter grief and sorrow whenever someone rejects Him.
These enemies had it right there in front of them as Jesus walked among them but yet they rejected the cornerstone. As I hear Paul cry and suffer for these people I am reminded of Jesus doing the same. Jesus wanted nothing more than to gather these people and die and suffer for them and live for them so that they would live but no…yet even on the cross he forgave them.
But weren’t they his enemies? Weren’t they enemies of God who rejected Christ.
Wait a minute, weren’t we enemies of God? Do we really deserve to be saved and adopted into Him? If God does this saving work through His Son and willingly gives Him up to die for His enemies, what does that say to you and I and our enemies or those we struggle and have difficult times with?
In the eyes of the world, Paul should just cut his losses and run, shake off his sandals and go.
But the power of the Gospel wouldn’t and won’t do that. The promises that God gives to Paul and to us through the Holy Spirit will not give up on us or anybody else even to people who are trying to do us harm whether it is by thought, word and deed and even people we want to harm in thought, word and deed.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ transcends our human feebleness and frailty and our sinfulness and like last week’s parable seeks to catch us like a net.
What is so important about the Gospel that it crosses lines and dividers and smashes down walls, breaking chains and unlocking doors and ripping signs down? How does it make enemies become brothers in Christ? Not by anything or the work of you and i! It is the message of Christ Himself, the very Son of God who takes our sin and God’s wrath and heaps it all upon His shoulders so that you and I through the Holy Spirit may share in His joy and His peace as brothers in sisters of the cross.
It is the Gospel of Christ that wades through all the garbage and all the junk that Satan tries to use to pull us from God in our lives outside of church and even in the church. Boil it all down and what does it come out to? It has to be about Christ.
If it is about Christ then it is about life not death, life in Him for eternity, even eternal life with people that we may not enjoy or get along with so much. You have been called by God to be His. Through the Gospel we have been given a relationship with the Father of confidence in hope as we trust in faith, a faith given freely through Christ to all those who proclaim Him.
Paul knew why the Gospel was and is so important and what they were missing. It was so crucial that he would even give up his salvation so they would know it in every fiber of their being.
So that it would affect and circumcise their very hearts and they would be washed and made new creations. So that they could live in the perfect promises of the Trinity.
He was so sure of the Gospel that he would stake his salvation so that others would have the same thing on it.
Would God take his salvation from him? No. God will never take our salvation away. He will never deny us the forgiveness of sins and our faith.
Your salvation has been freely given through Christ and for God to take it away would make His promises deceitful and untrue and not faithful to His people.
The point is Paul through being convicted and called by the Holy Spirit knew how important the Gospel of Christ was and is. He knew that it is a life restorer and saver and he knew tht this free gift of mercy, love and grace was given through Christ on the cross.
Do we? Do we really understand not from our heads, but from our hearts and would that change us and would it change how we see the world, our lives and our church?
Would we be filled with bitter grief and sorrow over those who don’t know the life saving Gospel of Christ and complete joy when ones proclaims and confesses Christ?
It might get messy and yucky. It might even get uncomfortable. It may cause us to suffer and It may even cost us our lives.
But that’s ok because we live through Christ in the power and the glory of the Gospel and through that we are the body of Christ called in baptism and united in Him who suffered and gave His life. It was messy and it was uncomfortable and it was God’s love for you and I.
What is so important and special that the Gospel would unite enemies together?
Jesus Christ given and shed for you and for all.
Discussion Thought of the Day:
4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth just as we were commanded by the Father. 5 But now, Lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing a new commandment but the one we have had from the beginning: let us love one another. 6 For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning, in which you should walk. 2 John 1:4-6 (NAB)
431 You should always be well-mannered towards everybody, especially towards those who present themselves as your adversaries (you should never have enemies) when you are trying to let them see their mistake. (1)
I started composing this blog this morning, based on the Bible passage above, from my devotional readings. It’s been a thought on my mind for a while, this idea that we cannot separate loving God from being obedient to Him. We can’t say we love Him, and then live a life that rebels against the way He has revealed for us to life.
Then I came across the words of St. Josemaria, this morning, and it is the words that are in parenthesis that stunned me. What does it mean that we shouldn’t have enemies? Is there such a great difference between enemies and adversaries?
Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us. He’s saying the same thing – for in loving our enemies, they are not enemies anymore. They may work against, us, frustrate us, even ignore us, but if we love them, if we walk in the steps of Jesus Christ, they aren’t our enemies any longer. They are those we are willing to make sacrifices for, that we desire the best (which is knowing God’s love) , that we are willing to die for, to become martyrs, those who death testifies of Jesus Christ, and His love.
Adversaries can be convinced, not by carefully planned arguments, but by those who love them and sacrifice for them. We in turn are changed as we pray for them, as we unite our hearts with God’s heart, as we ask Him to bless them. As we sacrifice our right to be resentful, angry, our plans of revenge and retribution, as we simply pray, and learn to love them.
This is easy to say as I sit in my church office in California, No one is pointing a gun at me, or throwing me in jail. Yet if I look at the lives of the martyr’s throughout history, I am not so sure I have it easier. There was a level of trust, a level of faith, an awareness of the presence of God that was beyond anything I can even imagine. Oddly enough, I find myself desiring it, being a little envious of their stories, of their ability to love their enemies.
This is the way we, who trust in Jesus, are supposed to walk. Loving all, confronting their errors for sure, but loving them in that. We have to realize that our job isn’t to convict them, but to shepherd them into Christ’s love, into His truth. We can do that with adversaries, we cannot with enemies. Of course, they may still see us as enemies, but it is not their perspective that matters. It is ours.
We are called, commissioned, commanded to love them, even as that demonstrates our love and trust in God. Even as it screams that we are walking in Christ’s steps, united to His death, and to the life which we are raised with Him to live. This is how we are God’s masterpiece, as Paul tells the Ephesians, re-created in Christ Jesus to do the good works which He has planned for us, from before time. The good work of loving others, bearing witness in that supernatural love, to the love of Christ.
Lord, have mercy on us, and teach us how to love as You do!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1925-1927). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Matthew 5:43-47 (MSG) 43 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
“Think of the good that has been done you throughout your lifetime by those who have injured or attempted to injure you. Others call such people their enemies. You should imitate the saints, at least in this. You are nothing so special that you should have enemies; so call them “benefactors”. Pray to God for them: as a result, you will come to like them” (1)
As I feel a need to write this blog, I am also a bit wary of it. Simply put, many of my blogs – almost all of them, are written based in personal reflection and need.
As I sit in my office this morning, haven’t had to deal with any of those people mentioned in the title. So maybe this blog is for you, and not me?
Even so, if James is right about trials and trauma being beneficial to us, then it logically can be stated that those who are the cause of some of those trials and traumas are likewise blessings and not curses. That we can view the lesson they teach us, as a gift from God, and rather than get more and more frustrated, we can give thanks and praise for their being in our lives.
Well – were are you going to find the strength to rise above your own sinful nature and love them – as Jesus asks you to? How are you going to find the focus to pray for them, not that God would change their habits, or their ability to just tick you off, but instead that God would richly bless them, and reveal His love to them?
There is the lesson…
They aren’t your cross, they simply drive you to it. They are a reminder that you aren’t God, that you can’t walk alone in this world, that you cannot conjure up this transformation in your own soul, in your own heart – on you own.
You need Jesus love, you need the power of the Holy Spirit, you have to know that you dwell in the presence of God – and assured of His presence, His mercy shown to you – then you can love them, then you can pray for their best, then you will realize the blessing that they are…. and give thanks for them.
Pray for me, even as I know within the next month, I will need to come back and remember these words..
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2859-2863). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.