United Through the Gospel

United Through the Gospel

By Erin Bird

All Together Now

We started this series all the way back in August when I returned from my sabbatical. For the past three months, we have seen eleven different “facets” of the Gospel – being spiritually born, adopted, reconciled, ransomed, justified, rich, and so many more. (You can catch any you missed or want to re-read over on the Riverwood blog.)

While we could keep going with several more facets, we are going to end on the facet of “unity.” But this facet is like a “two for one deal” because it actually has a double meaning –  like two sides of a coin.

 

United with Christ

The first side of this coin is the unity we experience with God through the Gospel. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6  that we are united with Jesus in both His death and resurrection (verse 5), and we see this beautifully illustrated in the sacrament of baptism (verses 3-4).

This powerful facet lets you know you are never alone at any moment during your time on earth. And when you breathe your last and appear before the Father, Jesus the Son is standing right there next to you. But it is even deeper than that.

To be united with Christ means your identity completely changes. Just like an American bride goes from single to married with a new last name upon exchanging wedding vows, a brand-new Christian goes from “single to united” with a new identity when they place their faith in the Gospel.

This truth means you are not your own. If you are a Christ-follower, you do not have autonomy – you are completely connected to Jesus.

 

United with Christ-followers

The other side of this “unity” coin is that through the Gospel, Jesus-followers are also united with one another. This is SO important for us to remember, especially in the divisive days in which we find ourselves. If your life is in Christ, you need to know that you…

  •  spiritually have more in common with someone of the opposite political party than someone in the same party who doesn’t follow Jesus
  • are more tied to someone who cheers for the rival of your favorite sports team than your fellow fan who doesn’t know the Gospel
  • are far more connected with someone spiritually who is of a different race or different income level than someone with an almost identical background as you

This truth is why the Apostle Paul talked about the Church as being a “body” in 1 Corinthians 12. Some of us may be more like an ear hearing from the Lord, others of us like a hand serving those around us, while still others of us might be more of an elbow jabbing those who are complacent in their faith. 😉  But no matter what role God has called you to, you are part of the Body, united with others through the Gospel.

And because we are united to one another through the Gospel, we need to live out the “one anothers.” You know, like love one another, be patient with one another, carry one another’s burdens, and such. To follow Jesus isn’t a call to solo-Christianity, but rather a call to live in community, helping one another follow Jesus.

So may you this week bask in the beautiful truth that if you are a Jesus-follower, you are united with Christ. But then let that truth bleed into your everyday life, fulfilling the “one anothers” of Scripture because you are united with fellow Jesus-followers.

Reconciled through the Gospel

Reconciled through the Gospel

By Erin Bird

The word “reconciliation” is being used a fair amount in our culture these days, often paired with the word “racial.” The racial tension in many portions of our country is at a fever pitch, leading many to talk about the need for the races to be “reconciled.”

But what does the word “reconcile” truly mean?

The Oxford Dictionary on my Mac defines “reconcile” as a verb meaning “to restore friendly relations between.” When it comes to race, there clearly are not “friendly relations” existing among some people of various races. There are white people who distrust Blacks, Hispanics, and/or Asians, and there are Black people who distrust Whites, Asians, and/or Hispanics. And there are Asian people who distrust people of other races, and there are Hispanics that have racial distrust as well. So you can see why these broken racial relationships lead some people to rightly call for “racial reconciliation.”

But the word “reconcile” isn’t relegated just to the racial realm. It can be used in all sorts of areas of life.

  • If you are married, and you have have a big blow up with your spouse, you need to be reconciled.
  • If a friend betrays you by gossiping about you, you might hope for reconciliation.
  • Or if you are a parent and  one of your children walks away from a relationship with you,  a huge part you longs to be reconciled with your child.

Reconciled to God
The Gospel story from Scripture tells us that we had a broken relationship with God. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit as seen in Genesis 3, their relationship with God shattered, and every human born since has been born relationally-separated from their Creator. But God did not wait for Adam and Eve’s descendants to apologize and return to Him. Rather, He made the first move by coming to earth Himself and repairing the broken relationship by paying our penalty for us. Through the cross, He sought to “restore friendly relations between” Him and humanity.

This is the deepest form of reconciliation anyone could experience! Which means, if you have had the joy of a broken relationship being reconciled, whether with a spouse, friend, child, parent, boss, or whoever, that reconciled relationship actually points to Gospel reconciliation.

So this week may you find joy in knowing that God has “restores friendly relations between” you and Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus!

Rich through the Gospel

Rich through the Gospel

By Erin Bird

This week’s “facet” of the Gospel is that through Jesus, you are rich!

But don’t take that phrase the wrong way: I don’t mean earthly wealth. While some Jesus-followers have been blessed with much,  many have very, very little. They would be considered poor in the eyes of most people on this planet.  Even Jesus Himself would have been considered poor during his three years of public ministry, saying that He had “no place to lay His head.” (Matthew 8:20)  In fact, Jesus warned against seeking worldly wealth many times. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Matthew 8:36)

So what do I mean, then, by saying that through the Gospel you are rich?

I’ll let Ephesians 1:3 explain:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,”

Did you hear it? If not, read it again.

If you follow Jesus, you have been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places!

I think this is why Paul described these riches as “unsearchable” a couple chapters later. (See Ephesians 3:8) These spiritual riches are so vast, so huge, they can’t be searched. That’s a lot!

But sadly, most of us aren’t using these riches.

Inherited Riches

In America, we tend to idolize people who “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps” into fame and wealth. At the same time, we tend to look unfavorably toward those who are wealthy due to inherited riches. Earned wealth is thought to be more impressive than inherited wealth.

But what if you heard that before some guy became the newest millionaire in your community, he had been unemployed due to his employer closing down and was on the verge of homelessness? Suddenly, you would be quite happy for him! I doubt you’d think poorly of this guy. (Rather, you’d probably be a bit envious, wishing you had a rich uncle who could leave you a couple cool million!)

But now imagine you heard this new millionaire never touched the money.  And by not using the money, the bank kicked him out of his house for refusing to pay his mortgage. “But I didn’t earn that money, so I can’t use it!” he would exclaim with faulty logic.

This imaginary scenario is played out regularly by Christians on a spiritual level. Jesus’ death and resurrection have resulted in us receiving an inheritance that can never be taken away from us. And yet, daily Christians refuse to use these riches.

What spiritual riches am I referring to?

Your Spiritual Riches

First, if you follow Jesus, realize you’ve been given the righteousness of Christ. Some theologians call this “the great exchange.” Jesus took your sinfulness and gave you His righteousness (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). That’s like a billionaire having the credit card company send him your maxed-out credit card bill while putting a billion dollars in your bank account.

Second, not only have you been given the righteousness of Jesus, you’ve been given God Himself. His very Spirit lives within you. (Ephesians 1:13-14) And if the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now dwells in you, (Romans 8:11), then who can stand against you? (Romans 8:31) Talk about rich and powerful!

Third, because you’ve been given God’s Spirit, you have complete access to God (Ephesians 2:18). So I would encourage you to make your first move in the face of problems be prayer rather than make your first step an attempt in your own strength to “earn” the solution. (“God helps those who help themselves” is NOT in the Bible!)

Fourth, enjoy these riches now! These aren’t just riches awaiting you in heaven. You can enjoy the presence of God now through worship, service, conversations, prayer, good food, generosity, and so much more. (This is why Paul tells us in Colossians 3:17 to do all things for Jesus.) So enjoy God’s riches!

And whenever you forget to use these spiritual riches, go to the “bank” of the cross and empty tomb, reminding yourself of what Jesus has done for you, taking you out of spiritual poverty by giving you an inheritance of spiritual riches of His righteousness.

So know that if you follow Jesus, you are rich!

Birthed Through the Gospel

Birthed Through the Gospel

By Erin Bird

Last week, I opened the series Gospel Facets letting you know that for the next several weeks, we are going to look at different “facets” of the gospel. This week, we jump into possibly one of the most well-known “facets.”

Even if you are not a follower of Jesus yet, I suspect you might be familiar with this week’s “facet”. For it is heard in our cultural and Christian nomenclature to refer to certain types of Christians. The facet I am referring to is the idea of “birth.”

In his conversation with a religious leader named Nicodemus in John 3, Jesus said a person must be “born-again” in order to see the kingdom of God. This really confused Nicodemus, causing him to ask Jesus if he has to climb back into his mother’s womb. Jesus responded:

“Truly truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)

newborn baby with outstretched handsI have heard some people say the phrase “born of water” is baptism. Perhaps, but to me, that doesn’t make sense when Jesus says someone must be “born again.” Hear me out: I believe Jesus is referring to physical birth when he uses the phrase “born of water.” After all, when a woman goes into labor and the amniotic sac breaks, releasing the amniotic fluid, we say her “water broke.” This is what I think Jesus is referring to when he says someone must be “born of water.”

But a person can’t just be born physically of water. To enter God’s kingdom, they must also be born of Spirit. They have their first birth – physical birth. Then they can go through the second birth, being “born again” by the Spirit.

The cool thing about this image is that if you follow Jesus and have been “born again” through the Gospel, God is your Father – your Heavenly Daddy! And just as new parents love their helpless newborn, God the Father loves you passionately. You don’t have to do anything to impress Him. He simply loves you because He has created you. His image is in you, marking you as His.

So may you contemplate today and this next week just how much God loves you if you have been “born again” through the gospel, letting this thought lead you to rejoice!

Like Riverwood on Facebook