Many people have heard the gospel message in part but when they hear it fully they seem shocked. This past week I have had the privilege to share the gospel during our weekly Bible study on Wednesday, our monthly visit to prison on Saturday, Sunday School class and in our local jail Sunday night. During each of these opportunities there was at least one person truly enlightened through the sharing of the full gospel message. There is nothing better than getting to be a part of what God is doing in people’s lives and the joy of watching the lights come on in their eyes as they begin to understand God’s love for them on such a deep level.
As I prepared for bed on Sunday night, I found myself reflecting on the past five days and was simply amazed. Since I’ve been teaching the Bible I have had many memorable moments but this week has really been extraordinary. Wednesday night Bible study found us discussing Galatians 2:20 and Romans 6. For those unfamiliar with these verses let me just say I think they are the core of the gospel message. They establish for us that through the cross we, that place our faith in Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, are to consider ourselves as having been joined with Him. In other words, we too have been crucified with Christ! While this is plainly taught over and over throughout the letters of the Apostle Paul, I saw clearly this week many have never really heard this. One lady in our Bible study was so effected by this understanding she chose to stay with us rather than go to a meeting she previously planned to attend. She simply couldn’t tare herself away from the scriptures.
On Saturday night I shared Romans six with the ladies in prison and the response was the same. All but maybe one of them never took their eyes off of me as I talked. I joked with them saying, “Isn’t it amazing how this has been in your Bible the whole time?” You see while many may have read Romans 6 not many really believe what it says. For instance one of the ladies made the comment that “We, meaning Christians, still sin everyday.” While she’s not alone in this view, I simply asked her the same thing the Apostle Paul asked in Romans 6:2-3, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” As our time at the prison came to an end, a few of the ladies excitedly said, “I’ve never heard preaching like that before!” While I’m not sure what she specifically meant, I think it’s because we didn’t berate them to do more, and try harder, instead we shared with them that God loves them so much He has done it all through His Son Jesus Christ and by faith we have become one with Him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17). As we left them one lady said, “You need to tell everyone that message, I know that’s what I’m going to do right now!” as she made her way back to her dorm.
For the sake of any who misunderstand, let me just say, no one is advocating that a Christian can’t sin we are simply saying we don’t have to. While the gospel to many means we have come to God in repentance and He has forgiven our sins in order for us to enter Heaven one day, the gospel message is really much more remarkable than that. According to the scriptures, we who have received Christ have been joined to Him in an inseparable, eternal union. God sees us as having died in Him and been raised back as a brand new creature in Christ. This is not just an old sinner who has been washed off, patted on the back side and told to try a bit harder this time. This is a creature in which God’s Spirit is joined to your human spirit in a way that has never existed before.
One reason many have such difficulty with counting themselves as dead to sin is because we far too often live from our natural senses rather than simple faith in the Word of God. What the Bible calls walking in faith or walking in the Spirit is a foreign concept to the natural man. In fact the Bible tells us the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Maybe we’ll discuss that a bit more some other time. For now I pray God will clarify for you what being born-again really means according to the scriptures.
The whole of the Gospel is defined for us in Romans six through eight. The Apostle Paul tells us We have died to sin and have been joined with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection in Romans six. Immediately after we read the great news of having died to sin we discover in Romans seven we have also died to the Law. Dying to the Law means it has no jurisdiction over we who have placed our faith in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Romans 10:4 tells us “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Thinking about Galatians 2:20 I sort of saw it in new light; let me see if I can explain. Paul said, “I (our supposed, independent I but the I that is really in union with the spirit of error) am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I (new me now separated from the prince of the power of the air and in union with Christ) live; yet not I (as if independent), but Christ (in union with me) lives in me; and the life which I (really Christ) now live in the flesh I (joined to Christ) live by the faith (faithfulness) of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Ultimately the work of God, through the cross of Calvary, is the breaking of man’s unholy union to the spirit of error in order to restore mankind to our oneness with God. God’s image in man was damaged through the fall so Christ (God in human form) came here, lived the perfect sinless life and yet died our sinful man’s death on the cross. In that horrible death he “became sin” so we might be made “the righteousness of God in him.” Jesus Christ took the spirit of error into himself and died. When he died the spirit of error left him, because he had no sin of his own, and once a body dies the spirit has to leave. So God is telling those, that have placed their faith in Christ, we have been crucified with him so we might be freed from the spirit of error through him to walk in newness of life.
Some friends of ours, Brian and Tandy Coatney, open their home once in a while to spend a day apart from the world to focus on Jesus. We have such a good time, nobody wants to leave. This time was no different. The crowd was slim, but the stands were full. I invited two friends of mine to join me, Annastaja and Shanda and Shanda’s step-son, Antwan, who were all too eager to come. We start around ten in the morning, break for lunch and wind things down from there.
Tandy started us off by sharing with us with how she grew up in this house and since her mom and dad went to be with Jesus, the house became theirs to live in, and they wanted to carry on the tradition of having guests come to their house and share Jesus with others, which is something Mimi (Tandy’s mom) had always done.
Brian spoke next of how he came to know who he was in Christ and when his eyes were opened to being a real Christian. The verse that came alive for him was “I go to prepare a place for you, if it were not true, I would have told you.” After returning to college that summer, he was a changed man and his class mates knew this was not the same Brian they had known the year before.
Brian talked of Galatians 2:20 and being the vessel in which Jesus expresses His love to others. For me, my eyes were opened when he spoke of being changed from glory to glory through our mess-ups. Jesus uses them to show His glory. We get to do this over and over again throughout our life because it never ends. We could all relate to this because the enemy is always at work to drag us down.
Annastaja shared with us how she had to change the way she did things because she was going down the path of drugs and her siblings were following her. She is so worried that there are bad influences in her younger siblings’ lives and now wants to rescue them. Annastaja is doing things differently because she doesn’t want to go back to jail and wants good things in her life. I am really proud of her because there was a time she would not have called me after she got out and certainly would not have come to an all day Jesus party.
I just have to say the same thing about Shanda because in the past she would run from Jesus. When I invited Shanda to come to this day apart, she said yes; but then she couldn’t find a sitter to stay with Antwan. I called her early that morning, and she asked Antwan if he wanted to go, and after explaining that it might get boring, he still said yes. Later I asked him why he wanted to come and he said, “I might learn something and to hear more about Jesus.” This is coming from an eleven year old boy. I think that he has seen a change in Shanda and wants to know more about what is making this change in her.
On the way over to the Coatney’s, I asked the Annastaja and Shanda if they smoked cigarettes, and they both answered yes. Shanda brought hers with her, but Annastaja left hers at home. I said, “You should have brought them, not to smoke in my car, but you know what I mean.” They laughed but were shocked that I would say that. Some people may not agree with the logic but see, when you fall in love with Jesus, He takes that desire away. It is yet another sign of grace and mercy God shows us.
After Brian talked, we took a little break for lunch. Tandy made us Quinoa with vegetables, copper pennies, which were really carrots, hummus with crackers, fruit, bread, and I made some peanut butter fudge. We all sat together in the dinning room like many meals before. Ide and Starr, Joseph, Brian and Tandy, Shanda, Antwan and Annastaja all had good conversation and later were met by Raymond.
Before our meal, Brian had asked if I could say a little something once we got back from lunch, which I was happy to do. The last couple of days I have been nursing a sore throat and wasn’t sure if things could be heard clearly. After starting in prayer, my voice seemed strong and I quoted Galatians 2:20 again because that verse means so much to me. I told of a recent experience in jail of how the enemy was throwing accusation and confusion into the room by way of an inmate. I recognized the tactics as one by the devil and am not blaming the person whom the devil used. This person was laughing at one of the ministers when she saw the karaoke machine with the microphone plugged in. Once the minister came up front to pick up the mic, the inmate asked if she was going to sing a song and then turned to the lady sitting next to her and they both began to laugh at her. The incident reminded all of us why we continue to go the jail to minister. There may only be one chance from them to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. I don’t want to waste any of those opportunities. We come there in love to minister love and show them that God is love. If they receive Jesus into their life, He will transform you into a new creature. He will reconcile relationships in their life and restore what the sin has eaten.
God uses even our mess ups to bring glory to Himself. What the enemy means for harm, God will use for His glory. He not only helps you get through, it’s really Jesus doing it because when you come out the other side, you give God the glory for doing it. It looks like you did it, but it’s really Him. We agree with God that I would doing that very sin, if it’s wasn’t for Christ in me, and I thank Him that He is keeping me.
For me, having Shanda and Annastaja there with me at the day apart meant more to me than anything. I love to see their hunger for Jesus and His righteousness. They both exclaimed their passion to have their men come next time we have one of these things. Although we wanted to stay longer, I had to take Annastaja home early. After we dropped her off, Shanda and Antwan and I continued to talk about the Lord and His goodness in our life. She continues to ask questions and seek the Lord in her life.
The day a part was so much fun and I never want to leave; always looking forward to the next one. Thank you, Jesus for this time together.