For about as long as I’ve been an adult I’ve made it a habit to read the newspaper daily and watch the news to try to keep up with what is going on in the world. Often it is discouraging to simply see all the horrible things going on with death, destruction and devastation everywhere. In such times it is easy to begin thinking that everything and everyone is awful and no one can be trusted. While it is certainly true that evil is prevalent in the world, it would be a horrendous mistake to conclude that nothing was beautiful, wonderful, amazing and honest in life. I’m convinced that while we hear most of those who are out to harm and destroy, they do not represent the majority of humanity. I believe most people want to do right and good and be helpful to one another in life.

When we read the Bible and realize that sin has invaded our world in horrible ways and that sin always has a price to be paid it is discouraging. One of the reasons the good news or gospel of Jesus is so wonderful is that it is available to everyone and that it came to us at the highest price imaginable. God longed for our salvation from sin so much that he willingly paid the price for our sins on the cross with the brutal death of Jesus His own Son. No wonder Paul declared he wasn’t ashamed of the gospel because it is God’s power to salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

But to feel the full power of the gospel we must look a little further in Romans one to see full impact of the gospel message. After he declared in verses 17 “Therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith. As it is written the righteous shall live by faith.” Then came these horrible words: “For the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and all unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” We love to hear the story of the gospel and God’s amazing love and grace toward us. But it is difficult to hear of his wrath against ALL UNGODLINESS AND ALL UNRIGHTEOSNESS OF MEN. But a view of God that sees only his love and grace and misses his wrath against sin is a false view of God and is an erection of a god of our own liking. The reason the gospel is so powerful is that it saves us from the very wrath of God when we submit to it by faith.
Remember every single one of us is guilty of being ungodly and unrighteous. In Romans 3:23 it says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We have failed to be godly or reverent toward God and we have failed in doing the right things He requires. It is also true that we tend to suppress the very truths that most demonstrate our own guilt or failure. It is very easy for all of us to look around and see the horrible failings of others. They are jealous, envious, cheat, steal and lie. They lust and covet for what another has. Their influence isn’t what it should be. But it is far more difficult to see our own failings. “It isn’t my fault” becomes a favorite expression from very early life and continues with us until death.

If we were innately good and could on our own make our own salvation the gospel wouldn’t be so great after all. But when we realize we are helpless on our own to save ourselves and be right with God, it becomes all the more remarkable that God not only wanted our salvation but would pay for our sins and instead place the very righteousness of Jesus to our account when we through faith submit to him and live by faith in him. The whole world needs the gospel to be saved.

What would you think today of a person who had a cure for cancer but refused to share it with other people? How much more tragic it is when we have the gospel to save the immortal souls of all people and don’t share it with others. Risk it this week to tell a friend about Jesus and the good news of salvation. It may change your life and theirs for eternity.

Leon Barnes

The Questionable Gospel

I grew up with a stereotypical image of missionaries. I envisioned men and women who journey into the African bush to find small villages of people who have never heard the name of Jesus. These bold men and women gather the local people under a shade tree, preach a Gospel message, and then lead the whole village in a procession down to the river where they baptize people by the dozen.

Our ministry in Angola is nothing like my once-held stereotype.

I live in a city of almost a million people that is saturated with churches, though Jesus has little effect on the average Angolan’s life. Belief in God is nearly universal and Jesus’ name is everywhere. But for many Christians, the Gospel has been reduced to a short list of rules: 1) don’t drink alcohol, 2) don’t smoke, 3) go to “church” on Sunday, and 4) tithe 10% of everything you earn.

It seems to me that the religious culture in urban Angola isn’t much different from many cities in the U.S.A.

I struggle to find opportunities to share the Gospel for two reasons. First, it’s hard to convince people that their understanding of the Gospel is insufficient. Following Jesus Christ is more than a handful of rules that we follow, but reducing Christian life to a handful of rules makes following Jesus a much more manageable task.

Second, evangelism doesn’t come naturally to me. I tend to be task-oriented rather than relationship-oriented. I must continually remind myself that every individual whom I encounter may be an opportunity to share my faith. When I feel busy, I often lose this perspective.

I appreciated Michael Frost’s thoughts in the first chapter of Surprise the World! Frost suggests that, for most of us, opportunities to tell others about Jesus will not arise from bold evangelistic proclamation but rather from living questionable lives. I believe this is true. When I reflect on our ministry in Angola, I see far more fruit born out of our friends and neighbors witnessing the way we live, than I see result from my Sunday sermons or Gospel meetings.

Recently I have been trying to focus more on living a questionable life. I am consciously looking for opportunities to bless others. I make at least three attempts per week to eat with others. (These are two strategies suggested by Frost.) After just a few weeks of developing these new habits, I notice that I am more focused on relationships than tasks. I have also had many more opportunities to explain why I live differently than most.

On Sunday, Wade challenged us to put the Gospel message into our own words – to find our own unique way to account for the hope that we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15).

I have adjusted the way I share my hope as I have been developing these new habits. One example:

Three weeks ago, I stopped to buy a small item from a woman, Adelina, in an open-air market. The price was approximately $1.75 and I only had a bill worth about $2, so I told Adelina to keep the change.

She smiled and exclaimed, “You white people are so generous!”

I smiled back and replied, “I know many white people who are not generous. But I like to bless others because Jesus blessed others – and I am trying to be like Jesus.”

She immediately replied, “I need to know more about your church!”

I am now one of Adelina’s regular customers and each time we interact I share a little bit more about what I think it means to “be like Jesus.” In fact, as soon as I finish writing this post, I will head to the market to see her again.

I pray every day that God will bring me new opportunities to share my hope in Christ. I pray that he does the same for you.

Robert Meyer

I am ready

Wade’s sermon this past Sunday was entitled “I am ready.” The preaching passage came from Romans 1:14-17 where, among other things, Paul states, “I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto Salvation for everyone who believes….”
You know it got me to thinking about the question ‘What is the Gospel of Christ and are we guilty of acting like we are ashamed of it?’ I think that in this age of cultural relativity we sometimes are guilty of trying to package the good news of Jesus Christ into a palatable version of truth, (a ‘Cliff notes’ version of the gospel or what one of my friends refers to as ‘Gospel-Lite’).

While we should make every effort to make the gospel plain and simple for all to understand, I think there is a danger of assuming that people need us to ‘dumb-down’ the truth of God’s word in order for them to understand it! Paul was absolute in his contention that the clarity and simplicity of the gospel message of Jesus Christ was more than adequate to do the job it was designed to do. As a matter of fact, he proclaimed that it “IS THE POWER OF GOD…”. It seems to me that Paul understood that in the simple proclamation of the word of truth, something unique and wonderful happens as a person hears and believes it. The word of God will ignite in their heart and will kindle the fire of salvation to burn within! The challenge for each of us, is to be that spark. I believe our challenge is to be ready to say like the apostle that I am not ashamed to share the story of what God has done for me in saving my soul from sin!

The Gospel is still powerful today and contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a polished public speaker, a rock star or a stand-up comedian to get people’s attention. God can use each of us sharing our unique story to touch the lives of those around us who are searching for a better way!

It’s nice to sing the old song, I love to tell the story, but are you ready to actually tell it? Let’s not be ashamed to let the world know where we stand and boldly share the ‘good news’ with someone we care about this week!

John Phillips, Jr.

Old news or new news

I’m always encouraged by my Central Church family, but for me, yesterday was one of those incredibly impactful days. For instance, Life-Stage Groups 1C and 2A are combining for this month as we discuss the core values at Central. Brian Beck and Lezley Cooper led a tremendous discussion on the values of “ACCEPT” and “RELATE”—how God accepts us and relates with us, but then how we are to accept and relate with others.  Being Missions Month, our worship service began with an interview of Amy Williams and Renada Burt on behalf of Laundry Love. You can tell that anyone who has served with this ministry has been touched by how personal it becomes. Yes, you’re helping to meet a specific need by a specific person, but you’re also making a relationship. What a perfect example of our call to “ACCEPT” and “RELATE”. How cool it is to hear testimonies from brothers and sisters in Christ who are actively and passionately reaching out to those who need to be loved.

After our church family shared an intimate time of communion with each other, it was great seeing the smiles on every face as we witnessed the CentralKids bring their gifts up to the front on behalf of our Peru Mission to children. Our church family has long valued this emphasis on sharing what we have with those who have needs, be it in our community, or through our mission efforts around the world.

Wade also shared a challenge for our church family to review the idea of the gospel in our lives. As Christians, how we define precisely what the gospel message is for us may vary subtly from one person to the next; however, what change has it made? The power of the gospel isn’t limited to its definition but is empowered through the transformation of each person who believes. The gospel doesn’t sit on a shelf collecting dust. The gospel is not meant for but one day out of a week. The good news of the gospel is a life-changing, world-altering, relationship-transforming way of seeing the Kingdom of God.

If the gospel is old news to you, it will be dull news to everyone else.

-Ken DeYoung

We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.

–Dallas Willard

So, what if we lived every day as if the gospel wasn’t “old news”? What if the church believed in the transformative calling of the gospel and acted—each day—as if it were true?

What would be different today? What would be different tomorrow, or next Sunday? How is the gospel changing our lives every day?

Chad Tappe