Usually what I do in preparation for Sunday’s message is I avoid reading sermons or listening to anyone else on the day itself, until I share my own message. This is out of the observation that I tend to throw in whatever I pick up and end up adding a half-assed quip to an otherwise ready message.
Tomorrow we will be starting on our journey down an excellent book by Paul Ellis, entitled ‘The Gospel In Ten Words’. This book has had a specific part in what I consider my foundational beliefs in Christ and His finished work, and needless to say, I am every bit excited to lead the Aces down this path, in the name of calibration, in the name of being on the same boat with Christ.
On any normal day I would be avoiding the messages of the Pastors in the morning services, but for some reason I am wanting to listen to them – I am genuinely interested to see their approach, and in order for me to stay true to my perspective, I am pushing myself to stay away from relaxing – from watching anime, playing on the phone or on the computer, mindlessly surfing and scrolling through social media,
watching por – towards getting my points together.
Because see, here’s the thing: I am emphasizing the confidence that I can have in listening to other people share their perspectives of Christ and His finished work, simply because I have my own perspective. My folks in the Aces certainly have an idea of how I personally think of Christ and His finished work – and not only coming from the pulpit, but in our dealings with each other – with the congregation, with my team, etc.
I hope they see, as I claim for myself, how we are certainly welcoming towards anyone and everyone who would give us the time of day, not necessarily for us to take the right moment to shove our doctrines and dogma down their throats, but simply for us to celebrate Christ before them, and then, God willing, together with them – at their own pace, lovingly considering their own perspectives. When our perspectives find common ground in Christ, then we have won. We may have different frequencies, but we are all on the same boat.
In talking about the love of God, I strongly believe it is critical for us all to talk about what we think about the Gospel.
Actually, before I even go down this road I would like to encourage anyone and everyone to give some time to gather what they can from Paul Ellis’ The Gospel In Ten Words. What I would give to have this translated to Tagalog, and to Ilocano.
The Gospel is what we talk about each and every Sunday when we whip out the grape juice and the bread – It’s us remembering that the Son of God left His glory in order to be born as one of us – Creator leaving infinity and eternity to be born into Creation bound by space and time. Jesus Christ grew with us, He spoke to us, walked with us, laughed with us, and He cried with us.
Jesus Christ preached the true love of God as a Father towards us, but I believe He was not content with being with us, and expressing this overwhelming love in mere words; No, friends, the Son of God who stepped out of heaven to be born in this reality took it a greater step further and lay down His life.
His crucified body was consumed as the blameless lamb was slaughtered, a full and complete sacrifice offered up for the sins of the world – In fact, Scriptures say that He did not merely take our sin – No, friends, the Word says that Jesus Christ as a sacrifice BECAME sin, in order for us to become righteous – that’s right, not for us to merely GET righteousness, but to BE righteous.
The Scriptures go on to say that by Christ’s obedience we were made righteous, and therefore have been reconciled to God. Now, because of Christ’s birth, death, resurrection and ascension, we proclaim with confidence, the same truth that Paul proclaimed – that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present or things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For me, I find this to be the sweetest thing about the Gospel – that nothing can ever separate me from His love.
I’m no pastor’s kid. No, my Father was a military man, and as such, his upbringing taught me to be careful – perhaps, a little bit too careful, to the point that I even told him some years before he died that I was totally afraid to make a mistake, scared to take any risks.
He passed on, and I thought I settled this fear on my own. I mean, Good News made me a Pastor, so I shouldn’t be so afraid, right? Well, the fear probably wasn’t around the way I thought it was, but it certainly manifested by way of dead thoughts, weighing me down both by way of quality and quantity: Quality in that I unconsciously told myself, ‘I need to feel ready before I do what I plan on doing’ – so destructive yet so subtle. Quantity in, well, overthinking.
It took a combination of godly sorrow and revelations of God’s goodness in what I call our adventure in repentance – our consistent transformation from the renewing of our mind, our transition from glory to glory – to realize for myself, how in Christ I live and move and have my being – that I can go forth and do what I am brought to do, without fear, knowing nothing can ever separate me from His love.
I can go ahead and exercise without needing to feel ready before doing it, knowing that even if I don’t feel like doing it, I can do it because I know Christ is with me.
I can go ahead and start a new business venture or investment, without being held down by overthinking and the condemnation that follows, knowing that my God, who knows each and every circumstance and angle – He will never leave me nor forsake me, and He is always thinking about me.
Of course, this doesn’t mean I can be reckless – quite the opposite! As in any other decision we make, the more time we can afford to do due diligence in research and testing, the more chances we have of succeeding. I emphasize chances because this is still a fallen world and we will never have a 100% chance of success.
I can go ahead and face situations, calculate the risks within my limited perspective, and proceed to execute a plan or response… and I can certainly succeed, and in all this, the Creator of the Universe celebrates with me, OR I can certainly fail, and the Creator of the Universe reminds me of His faithfulness to me even when I stumble!
To know that nothing separates me from His love, propels me to action… and no matter if I bask in victory or am crushed in defeat, I win or lose WITH HIM.
Success reminds me of His love. Failure reminds me of His love.
Either way, I win!
If I live, then I am once again amazed in how His perfect love operates in this fucked up world. If I die, then, well, I’m brought to the infinite and the eternal, safe in the arms of my everlasting Father.
Either way, I win!
And speaking of my Father, I always believed that I would probably never understand how God loves me as a Father, because I never was really chummy close to my own Dad, at least compared to my older brothers. But I realized it doesn’t really work that way – the thing is, when I understood how God loved me, that’s the only time my eyes were open to seeing how my own Dad loved me.
If I realized this before he passed away I would have hugged him more, I would have told him more about how I loved him, because he loved me first. I always tell my Aces that my Dad didn’t really love me the way I was brought to expect him to love me, but he loved me with his absolute best… And when I understood this, I couldn’t help but tell others of God who loves us this way, and the cycle of truth goes on and on and on…
And that’s just me – One man out of 7 billion other souls in this chaotic world, whose own reality has been flipped upside down by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul Ellis explains that the book He wrote was the Gospel in Ten Words – more like ten of the greatest blessings each person would have because of Jesus.
In his Prologue he writes, “some time ago I challenged readers of my blog, Escape to Reality, to proclaim the good news in as few words as possible.
Steve from Sydney supplied this short gospel: ‘Receive Christ and you will be as clean as he is, as free as he is, and as close as he is to the Father God.’
Phil from Alabama gave us his ten-word gospel: ‘Jesus loves you and God is not mad at you.’
Daniel from Massachusetts provided a nine-word gospel: ‘Come! The sin barrier is down. I love you.’
And Miriam from Nebraska gave us this stunning nine-word affirmation: ‘In God’s family forever by his work and power.'”
I like to fancy things up, and so I copied from Rene Descartes – He says, ‘Cogito, ergo sum.’ (I think, therefore I am)
My Gospel is, ‘Christus est, ergo sum.’
Christ is, therefore I am.
What’s your Gospel?