not ashamed of the Gospel

(2 Timothy 1:15)

You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me …

 

For us today looking back at history, we know Paul was a remarkable apostle, an effective servant of God, a wise master-builder in church-planting

Paul was instrumental in bringing the Gospel to Asia and Europe under guidance of the Holy Spirit, and being appointed and authorized by Jesus.

But in reality Paul was abandoned, deserted by most people towards the end of his ministry life, and only few faithful men of God stood with him and continued his ministry, and the preaching of the Gospel.

 

Now keeping our focus on the Gospel, why was Paul abandoned, deserted?

 

If we know God is good, and Jesus love us so much to die for us to redeem us, why would people abandon Paul who was full-time preaching the Gospel?

I want to discuss three main reasons, which we today are faced with the same situation, and we who are called to preach the Gospel to be prepared to suffer the same consequences.

 

(1). the most important message of the cross is also the most offensive for people

 

The central theme of the Bible is about God’s salvation plan for mankind.

Salvation from what? And why do we need to be saved?

 

Judgement of God …

 

Now wait a minute, did we not believe God is good? Yes

If God is good why do we need to face judgement?

The kingdom of God contains the righteousness, truth, and justice of God.

Sin is lawlessness, sin is against God, sin is disobedience against God, sin is disagreement against God, sin acted in rebellion against God, and therefore God cannot allow sin inside His kingdom.

Adam and Eve were judged by God because of their acts of sin.

We will be judged of God because of sin and lawlessness committed against God.

 

There will be no forgiveness if there is no atonement!

 

God showed it to us from the Old Testament, the necessity of atonement for sins.

In the record of the Gospel, Jesus is the Lamb of God who will take away our sins.

 

Jesus is our atonement for sin.

 

Jesus died on the cross not just to pardon our sin, but to bring us into the kingdom of God. Means to say, we must walk away from sin that caused Jesus to die on the cross for us!

The complete message of the cross includes forgiveness and repentance

 

(Matthew 4:17)

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

 

If Jesus preached repentance, let no men no women change that message!

To give people reasons not to repent is to give people excuses not to enter the kingdom of God!

In the days of Paul, there were many who wanted forgiveness but don’t want to repent.

That’s not fair for Jesus!

Jesus went through all the pain and bloodshed because of our sin.

Jesus redeems us from sin and death so that we don’t walk in sin again.

Today we are faced with the same situation. More and more churches have abandon preaching against sin. And this absence of teaching and preaching against sin is not due to ignorance but a deliberate scheme to remove men’s requirement to repent.

 

Paul was abandoned as people begin to reject preaching against sin.

We are saved by grace through faith, not grace alone.

Faith has everything to do with living in obedience to God and His commandments taught and preached through Jesus and His Apostles.

 

(2) People’s expectation and desire to interpret the will of God based on material blessing

 

Long story short, in our days there are issues with “Prosperity Gospel”, and back in the days of Paul they had the same issues with material wealth as well.

There was something about Paul that is not appealing to the masses

 

(1 Corinthians 4:10-13)

We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

 

Paul was not telling stories, not joking, neither saying things to gain sympathy.

 

Paul was actually homeless!

 

If we got a time machine and travel back in time to meet Paul at the time he wrote this message, Paul would have looked like any one of those homeless sleeping on the bench out in the park.

While Paul had friends who provided accommodation during his missionary journey, we should know Paul spent a lot of his time in Roman prison for the sake of preaching the Gospel.

The image of Paul is the complete opposite of today’s prosperity gospel preachers.

Who wants to stick around with Paul?

Only those who can embrace the suffering of Christ for the sake of the Gospel, for repentance, for renewal, for transformation, and to live in faith and obedience for the kingdom of God, and to preach the same message through their life.

 

(3) World influence of meritocracy

 

The world could not have enough of it and more and more churches are playing catch up.

In one of my previous message I shared about excessiveness of expectations for academic credits and paper credentials that are hindering Gospel outreach.

Adding on to such human demands and expectations, more and more churches today earnestly aspire their leaders to “show off” their credentials and merits better than non-Christians.

For what?

Among the most foolish reason I have encountered – “Because our God is good we must show to these non-believer our God take care of us better, then we can be good testimony to win them to Jesus”

Such methods of evangelism, theology and doctrine are foolish and not based on the will of God!  How could any church leaders teach such things to the congregation?

 

(Colossians 3:1-2) –  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

 

Jesus died for us to get to heaven, not to establish an organizational branding here on earth!

Christ was crucified for us that we may be born-again to be sons and daughters of God, and that we may enter the kingdom of God, and that we may enjoy eternal life with Jesus.

 

 (John 14:6)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

(John 15:4)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

(1 Corinthians 3:11)

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

 

The way to win people to Christ is the way of Jesus!

The only way to eternal life is through Jesus.

 

The most accurate doctrine of evangelism is to preach the cross of Jesus.

 

It is very foolish to use material wealth, sugar-coated messages of unconditional blessing, and public show of meritocracy to win people to Christ. This is not what Jesus called us to be witness.

 

We are called to witness and testify of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

We are called to be living testimony of the complete message of the cross of Jesus.

 

Paul was abandoned, deserted because he preached the full council of God, the complete message of the cross of Jesus.

In our days there will be people who will abandon and disassociate with you if you follow the ways of the cross of Jesus, and preach like Paul.

 

(2 Timothy 4: 10-18)

For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

 

Only those not ashamed of the Gospel will embrace the cross of Jesus

 

In-His-Service

David Z

 

Immanuel“God with us” … the name given to the Savior of Mankind

When Jesus was conceived and destined to be born through Mary, He was given this name

 

(Matthew 1:23)

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

 

This is the hope the whole nation of Israel was looking forward to, but …

 

God have a bigger plan.

 

This hope of salvation is extended to people all over the world.

 

Jesus is God’s salvation plan to the nations, races and tribes

 

The Gospel would never have been written without Jesus.

The Gospel of Jesus is about God’s salvation plan for Man.

 

In our times and generation, there are many who think “what does God have to do with people?” And there are many who don’t bother if there is a God.

 

Man was a deliberate creation of God.

We were created to worship God and to fellowship with God.

We should never forget our roots and our history because it reminds us of two important life issues –

 

1) How we had fallen away from our Creator, and our human need for salvation.

2) How God provided for our redemption through Jesus.

 

The first important issue is factual about our past and the second important issue reveals how God can change our future

 

God created us but He will not leave us alone to perish in our sins without hope.

 

We have sinned against God, we deserved to die, we deserved judgement and hell, but God have provided a way of escape.

However, there is a clear different between

 

“God will save us”

 and

“God’s salvation plan”

 

“God will save us” – God is sovereign and almighty, He have the power to save.

“God’s salvation plan” – means we need to response according to His plan as we are able to, because God cannot save those who refused to obey and act in faith.

 

I know there has been a lot of argument about infants and people who died without the abilities to response, and all these I will refer to the sovereignty of God.

Means to say, I believe and acknowledge God is almighty and sovereign and He alone knows who is able to response and who is not able to response. I believe and am fully convinced God will act for those who are not able to.

But for the rest of us who have the ability to response, and we know ourselves we have the abilities to response, we definitely need to response, because God will hold us accountable.

So how will God save us through Jesus? And how should we response through God’s salvation plan?

 

(Psalm 23)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

The message in Psalm 23 is well-known across the world.

It is comforting, encouraging, and it has a good ending.

Even non-believers across the world who don’t attend Christian fellowship know about it.

 

Well, Psalm 23 is not just talking about sheep. Although it refers to “sheep”, it is talking about relationship between God and man.

The “Lord” here refers to God.

The “shepherd” here refers to Jesus.

 

Oh yes!

Jesus is God and Lord and Shepherd of our souls.

And so how will God save us through Jesus?

 

Step ONE ….

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 

Have we acknowledged Jesus as our Lord and Savior?

This is the most fundamental foundational truth of Christianity; no one can start his Christian life without this!

Every person need to take responsibility and take that step of faith and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior!

Many have heard the Gospel of Jesus but have yet to make a personal response to confess and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior.

 

Non-believers can argue “why do we need a savior”.

Therefore earlier I mentioned we must not forget our own human history and roots.

Human was a deliberate creation of God.

We were created to worship God and to fellowship with God.

But we have sinned against God through disobedience and went astray.

We can be here alive in body and moving, but we are spiritually dead without fellowship and communion with God, and we are all awaiting our physical death.

To receive Jesus as Lord and Savior is to let God renew and restore our soul.

To receive Jesus as Lord and Savior is to repent and turn away from our sins and disobedience –

 

(Ephesians 2:1-7)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

 

So this is it.

We were dead, destined to die physically death, and we were spiritually dead as we had no fellowship with God due to sins and disobedience.

We need to response by turning away from sins and disobedience against God.

And when we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, God make us alive through Jesus.

Only through Jesus we are able to engage in lively meaningful fellowship with God.

 

What do we do next after we received our new life in Jesus?

Step TWO.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

 

Walk with God and continue in this fellowship with God and worship God through Jesus.

 

Our Christian life is a journey of faith and obedience.

 

We need to do our due diligence to protect and guard this relationship we have with Jesus, till we meet Him in person.

It does not make sense to turn away from our sins and disobedience to receive new life from Jesus and still continue in our old ways which does not work for good!

 

(2 Corinthians 5:7) – for we walk by faith, not by sight.

 

The Apostle Paul’s instruction for the church does not means we walk blindly not knowing where we are going! No!

To live by faith is to live in obedience as according to Jesus teachings and commandments.

To live by faith is to trust in the promises of God.

Jesus was crucified on the crossed and died, but on the third day raised from the dead as according to the promises and word of God!

 

(Acts 2:23-28)

this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.

For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.

You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

 

This same Jesus who was crucified and died and being resurrected from the dead, is God’s chosen Messiah.

This same Jesus will return again to Earth in person to judge the world.

Yes we will all be judged as according to the teachings and commandments of Jesus Christ. Therefore we are called to live in obedience to Jesus Christ.

Remember the two important life issues I shared earlier –

 

1) How we had fallen away from our Creator, and our human need for salvation.

2) How God provided for our redemption through Jesus.

 

The first important issue deals with our past and the second important issue deals with our future.

It is very easy for us to read history and blame it on Adam and Eve.

But if we ourselves don’t continue to live in obedience, we risk falling away from God and going astray.

Now I want to bring your attention to the last ending verse of Psalm 23

 

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

That is the ultimate destination of Psalm 23, and this is where Jesus our Lord and Savior wants to bring us to.

 

Eternal fellowship with Jesus, to be in the kingdom of God forever

 

Our whole life here on Earth is our journey of faith with Jesus.

When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need to stand firm with Jesus.

When we are faced with all sorts of distractions and diversion that promised fake salvation and fake promises of hope, we must stand firm with Jesus.

 

(John 14: 6)Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified on the cross by order of Pontius Pilate is God’s appointed Messiah. I repeat and emphasis that!

This same Jesus who was born through the virgin-birth of Mary, of the seed of Abraham and of the house of David, who went through water-baptism under John the Baptist and preached repentance for the kingdom of God, is our Lord and Savior.

This same Jesus who was betrayed and crucified on the cross but on the third day rose from the dead by the power and authority of God to resurrect the dead and never to die again, is God’s salvation plan for man.

This same Jesus is the source of eternal life, none other.

 

I would like to end this message with

 

(Mark 10:51)

And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”

 

Jesus asked What do you want me to do for you?because God needed a response from us as we are able to.

In the days of the Gospel, people who knew Jesus in person they know Jesus have the power to work wonders and to save. In fact the Pharisees were so convinced Jesus can save people’s life that they threaten Jesus not to heal on the Sabbath and those who agree with Jesus were excommunicated from the synagogue.

So why would God bother to ask when He have the sovereign power to do so?

 

so that we know for sure what we want in life, both now and the future.

 

Imagine today Jesus asking you What do you want me to do for you?

What would you ask for?

 

Immanuel“God with us”

 

The best thing in life, both now and the future is eternal fellowship with God through Jesus.

 

In-His-Service

David Z