Assured by the Gospel

Assured by the Gospel

Back to our Gospel Facets series…

Longing for Peace
I was really surprised at just how nervous I was. I was in a hotel room in Minneapolis on the final day of a church planting assessment center. As LeAnn and I sat in the hotel room, the “assessors” were back at the church building where they had been assessing all of the church planting candidates for the past three days. These assessors were planning to talk late into the night about each candidate and his/her spouse and whether or not they were going to recommend each of us for church planting.

I knew God had called me to plant a church. I had already spent two years praying about it, then spent a year fundraising. I also spent a year in Kansas City working at a church to learn more about church planting. And LeAnn and I had already selected Waverly, Iowa as the location where we felt God calling us to plant.

And yet, I was still nervous that a group of men and women might render a verdict of “no” to my calling of church planting after all I had been through.

Ever been there? It probably wasn’t at a church planting assessment center, but perhaps you were nervous that she might say no to your marriage proposal, or nervous that he wouldn’t call back after the first date, or nervous that someone else was going to get the job.

If you are like me, you didn’t revel in that nervous feeling. (Anxiousness isn’t exactly an emotion I enjoy!) In the midst of your nervousness, what you longed for was peace.

Peace in the Gospel
I think humans around the globe and throughout time have longed for peace not just in their careers, or marriages, or spiritual callings. I think we also have a spiritual longing for peace.

But so many humans don’t have peace about their spiritual standing before the Divine. They know they have done some bad things in life,  so they seek to make it up to God through good works.

But there is a problem with building a relationship with God based upon your efforts to do right. The problem is how do you know when you have done enough good to offset your bad?

  • Is helping the little old lady across the street enough?
  • Or do you also have to give 10% of your income?
  • Or is 10% not enough – do you have to give 50%?
  • And is it okay to only read the Bible two or three times each week, or does it have to be everyday?
  • How good is good enough?

If this is your mindset, I have some bad news for you. Nothing you can do will repay the spiritual debt you owe God. The debt of your sin is death. So you can help thousands of little old ladies safely cross a busy intersection, but that won’t pay off your death penalty.

But there is some good news in all of this. While YOU can’t find peace with God through your good works, Jesus did the one and only good work that could pay off your spiritual debt. Jesus died on the cross in your place, fulfilling the demand for justice. Even though He had never sinned, Jesus died in the sinner’s place, so that sinner’s could be freed and made into saints.

This is the gospel! And this truth should bring you peace, giving you an assurance of God’s love for you and His ability to remove your sin.

So if you find yourself questioning whether or not God loves you, look to the cross and empty tomb to find peace! Be assured that when you placed your faith in Jesus, He was able and just to forgive you of your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.

Wrath Relinquished through the Gospel

Hello there!

How are you doi…

What’s that? Oh… the title of this post.

Yea… I’m not surprised you’re opening this page with a question mark floating above your head. “Are we really going to talk about wrath?”

Yes, yes we are.

Talking about God’s wrath makes us uncomfortable. We like to think of God as a God of love (which He is!), and so to talk about His wrath makes Him sound cranky, vengeful, or even evil.

But let me point out an important truth about you that you might not realize at the moment. You don’t want a God who doesn’t show wrath.

Think about it: If God didn’t possess rage, then He wouldn’t be just. You wouldn’t like a God who was passive, allowing evil to permeate our world without consequence. If He did let evil go unpunished, He would either be impotent or uncaring. So you want Him to be a just God who shows wrath against the evil in our world.

Also, without wrath, God wouldn’t be able to fully reveal His love. If you are a parent and caught someone trying to kidnap your baby, you’d be extremely angry. Your love for your child would fill you with wrath. It’s the same (and even more so!) with God.

So whether or not you like the idea at first blush, God is a God of wrath.

The Recipient of God’s Wrath

But there is an important truth about God’s wrath you need to know. God’s wrath is first and foremost against sin, not people. The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans,

” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)

lightning stormNow, that verse could be translated “For the wrath of God is revealed in heaven against ungodly and unrighteous men…” making it seem that God’s wrath is against certain humans. But let me ask you: what is it that makes a man (or woman) ungodly and unrighteous? Their sin!

God’s wrath is therefore first against sin, not against humanity.

A parent might be disappointed when they witness their child wallop an innocent kid on the playground. But a healthy parent’s anger will be first against the action, then directed toward the child.

This is why 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that God made Jesus sin. I know, that sounds strange, but read it for yourself:

“For our sake, he made him  (aka Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

As you think that truth through, you realize that by Jesus becoming sin, God’s wrath could come against sin instead of directly at mankind.

This means that if you have placed your faith in Jesus, any wrath God may have had toward your sin has been relinquished through the cross. The righteous wrath of God was satisfied to see sin punished and defeated by Jesus’ sacrificial act on the cross.

So if you are living day to day fearing  God is angry with you because of past sins or repeated sinful behavior, know that His wrath toward your sin has been relinquished through the cross. God is like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, running down the road longing to embrace you, despite what you have done. He loves you and His wrath toward your sin has been relinquished through His selfless act.

Pursued by Love

Pursued by Love (Sheep running)

by Erin Bird

Let’s continue with our series in Psalm 23. This week we are going to look at the first part of verse 6:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,”

Chased by Nice Enemies?

Remember back in verse 5 that David was sitting at a table in the presence of his enemies? According to the NET Bible study note on verse 6, the word “follow” in Hebrew should actually be translated “pursue” or “chase,” and usually the word is used in Hebrew literature to reflect the actions of an enemy.

But it isn’t David’s evil table-mates that are chasing him, it is “goodness and mercy.” Interestingly, the word translated “mercy” can also be translated as “loyalty” or even “devotion.” In other words, David is saying that God loves him so much that God’s goodness and loyal-devoted love pursue him no matter what.

running sheepThis is good news! No matter what is happening around you (COVID-19, lost job, health crisis, etc.) or in you (anger, sadness, confusion, worry, etc.), God is right there pursuing you with His love. And we see that pursuit perfectly in Jesus.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

At Riverwood, we talk about being a “Jesus-follower.” But maybe to follow Jesus is to realize He is following you. What a comforting thought to think that no matter where we go and no matter what is happening to us, God’s goodness and loyal love shown through the gospel is pursuing us each and every day we experience.

May you rest today in the knowledge that God is with you, and His goodness and mercy are chasing you all the days of your life.

Do Unto Others What God Did For You

by Erin Bird

I’m pretty sure you have heard the Golden Rule: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” But if you think about it, that could be potentially selfish. “Hey, I’d really like someone to give me a present, so I’ll give some else a present so that they get the idea!”

In the Gospel Prayer found in J.D. Greear’s 2011 book Gospel, the sentiment isn’t “do unto others what you want them to do for you.” Rather it is “do unto others what God has done for you.” Here is how J.D. puts it (with slight “massaging” by me):

The Gospel Prayer

“Heavenly Father, in Christ, I know there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less. Help me realize Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy. Just as you have been to me, so I will be to others. And Heavenly Father, as I pray, help me measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.”

We’ve already looked at the first two sentences in this short series on The Gospel Prayer (here is sentence #1 and here is sentence #2). So let’s take a few moments together to consider that third thought: “As you have been to me, so I will be to others.”

Gospel-Motivated Relationships

Because we are looking at the Gospel Prayer, we need to take a quick second to remind ourselves of what is the gospel. At Riverwood, our definition of the gospel is…

“The ongoing story of God redeeming broken and imperfect people and restoring them into the perfect and complete image of Jesus.”

The tools God uses to accomplish this spiritual redemption and restoration of people are the cross and empty tomb of Christ. As we look at the cross, we see God’s love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, justice, kindness, and so much more. Yet as we look at the empty tomb, we see God’s power, presence, sovereignty, faithfulness, and more.

But here’s the kicker: These attributes of God seen through the Gospel aren’t to just stop at changing our lives. Over and over in the Scripture, God instructs us to take the attributes He has shown us through the cross and empty grave, and display them towards others, changing their lives in the process.

For instance,

  • just as God has given us forgiveness, we are to forgive others. (Ephesians 4:32)
  • just as God has shown us love, we are to love one another. (1 John 4:7-12)
  • just as God put your needs first, put the needs of others before your own. (Philippians 2:4-7)
  • just as God showed us great mercy, we need to be merciful toward others. (Luke 6:36)
  • just as God generously gave Jesus for us, we need to be generous toward others as well. (2 Corinthians 9:13-15)

But why pray this?

So it’s clear the Bible instructs us to do toward others what God has done toward us through Christ, but why do we need to pray it? Aren’t these just actions we need to do?

Just as you have been to me, so I will be to others

Perhaps you are holier than I am, but I am a selfish person. If left to my own ways, I will often try to carve time to give to myself. But the gospel does not teach that God changed me so I could be absorbed in “me” more. The gospel says God is transforming me to be more like Jesus.

So I need to pray not to tell God something He doesn’t already know, but to invite God to remind me of what the Gospel leads me to do. Praying “Just as You have been to me, help me be to others,” invites God to continue to transform you into the likeness of His Son, to love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived.

So I invite you to join me in asking God to help us do unto others what He has done for us through Christ.

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