Nuggets of Fudge – A WONDERFUL MESSAGE OF LIFE


As those who claim to represent Jesus Christ today, we Christians need to get clear on our core message, then get on with proclaiming it to the world. This is true across the theological spectrum. Unfortunately, much that is offered as “gospel” today has little in common with the message announced by the apostles in obedience to Jesus. The confusion began quite early. John Chrysostom of Constantinople (A.D. 349-407) thought the apostolic message included “the glad tidings of the soul’s immortality.” However, the idea of an “immortal soul” that lives forever comes not from Jesus or his apostles but from Socrates and Plato. According to Genesis 2, God made man from dust of the earth (physical body), breathed into him breath of life (spirit, breath, wind), and man became a living soul or living being. Only God is immortal by his own nature (1 Tim. 6:16). We humans are not naturally immortal; we die unless God gives us life.

Contemporary with Chrysostom, “Saint Augustine” of Hippo (A.D. 354-430), was shaping the Western church. Burdened with a guilty conscience after an early life of sinful indulgence, Augustine viewed God and humankind in terms of cosmic criminal law. As a result, the Western church developed a legalistic culture with a core message that focused on our guilt, God’s wrath, and Christ’s appeasement. And always looming overhead was the ever-present threat of unending torment in hell. Meanwhile, Eastern Orthodox churches were centering attention on the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, but especially the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and his Ascension to God’s right hand. The chief motivation in Orthodox Christianity is God’s glory as seen in the Risen Christ, and the expectation of our sharing it, beginning now, and far more fully in the Age to come. This difference between East and West is seen in their respective aids to devotion, whether Western crucifix (punishment, suffering) or Eastern icon (reward, glory).

So what did the apostles proclaim? Not doctrine but a story. As reflected in Acts, apostles and other evangelists alike told the story of Jesus, often in the context of God’s larger salvation story. Jesus went about doing good, the story says, then he was killed by wicked men. But the story climaxes with the announcement that God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:24; 3:15; 3:26; 4:10; 10:20; 13:30; 17:31). On that grand note the apostles declared “the full message of this life” (Acts 5:20). Many Jews heard only “weakness”; many Greeks sneered, “foolish talk!” But to all who believe, both then and now, this gospel sparkles with wisdom and resonates with power. In a world of mortal humans, where sin and death seem often to hold invincible sway, there is no better news imaginable. Through Jesus of Nazareth, God has overcome sin, defeated Death, and given us the promise of eternal life. Death is not invincible after all. Life will have the final word!

Edward Fudge – January 19, 2014

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Edward Fudge is an author, theologian, thinker, scholar, teacher, preacher and most important to me, my dear friend. I invite you to visit him at EdwardFudge.com. You will find a wealth of great material helpful to any serious follower of Jesus.

 

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Eternal life is not a what, it is a Who


The ultimate claim of Christianity is the immortality of it’s adherents. I think that many of our well-meaning friends over emphasize that if you come into a relationship with Christ you can have a better life now, at the expense of the message of the resurrection life of Jesus.

If you follow those faithful followers of Jesus after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus the hope of shared resurrection was a constant theme in their preaching. Man’s greatest enemy had been decisively defeated. There was clear proof. Jesus’ closest associates had seen him, eaten meals with him, and had seen him ascend into the clouds. And, on one occasion over 500 people saw him very much alive at one time. And then there’s Paul the Apostle, perhaps Jesus’s greatest spokesman, who didn’t fit the mold of the others, but also saw Jesus face to face long after his resurrection.

The Gospel of John gives the account of Jesus’ conversation with the Jewish leader Nicodemus. What Jesus offered one of the most holy men in Israel was simply “eternal life”. He said it in no uncertain terms. The choices were, trust in me and live forever, or don’t trust me ….you are already condemned.

Then there’s the narrative of Jesus showing up later than expected after the sickness and death of his friend Lazarus. John 11 tells about Jesus’ words to the sister of the dead man saying “I am the resurrection and the life” and that “everyone who lives and believes in me, even though he dies yet will he live” and then asks “Do you believe this?”

Wow! “I am the resurrection and the life“! The implications of this, if true, are staggering. Well, it is true. You see, what God offers through the gospel about Jesus is Jesus himself. Eternal life is not just one of several benefits afforded like forgiveness, peace, community, hope, etc. Eternal life is a PERSON! I have said this to people in classes and small groups and they don’t seem to grasp the weight of it. It is true anyway.

The opening words of 1st John are very straight forward and hard to miss if read carefully and thoughtfully.

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
1st John 1:1-4

John’s testimony is that Jesus is himself eternal life! He has always been “the life” or “eternal life” and he was “made manifest” (the incarnation) and he is now proclaiming “the eternal life, which was with the Father (before Jesus’ human birth) and was “made manifest“. When you are looking at Jesus you are staring eternal life in the face. So when a sinner repents and puts his trust in Christ what God gives him is not a “something” but rather a “somebody”, namely the man Christ Jesus our Lord.

In the 5th chapter of 1st John it is confirmed and I think even more clear.

10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
1st John 5:10-12

The record is crystal clear. Jesus is eternal life. People who are living life dictated by the appetites and desires of their bodies and are swimming along with the culture toward certain destruction do not need religion. They don’t need a life coach or new resolve or even better morals. What they desperately need is Jesus who is eternal life and our blessed hope. What the good news offers is a person, A man who lived a life pleasing to the Father that you and I could never live, A man who willingly died being punished for our common sins, as a substitute for us, so we would never have to face the wrath of God.

In short, the good news is very good news! There is a way out! Jesus loves you, He died for you, and if you will put your whole trust in Him, He will give you himself with all that he is. He will come to be your constant companion and friend by the Holy Spirit, and as a promise that you never need worry if you will finally be with him forever when this earthly life is done. Sins gone, eternal life now, a free gift to you by the God who loves you. What a deal!

The Bible describes those who are not Christians as spiritually “dead”. A dead man needs only one thing, life! Here it is, His name is Jesus, trust Him now.

Can you help raise the dead?


What is your/my church doing in the community, or around the world, that could not be done just as well by a good civic club made up of non-Christians?

I was first challenged by such a question perhaps 30 years ago by the late Dr. J. Vernon McGee, a pastor and radio preacher. The question he asked was something like this. “What is your church doing that could not be done if God was dead?”

Wow! What a question! Questions like those make me a bit uncomfortable, how about you? I believe that for far to many churches the answer would be “Not much”.

For about 14 1/2 years I lived in a small north Texas town. There was one place in town to eat breakfast on Saturday morning, a post office, hardware store, grocery store, police office, and a couple of gas stations. It was one of those little communities where you knew the mayor and the chief of police and most everyone else on a first name basis. Our little town also had Baptist churches, a church of Christ, a Methodist church, a Catholic church, and a Pentecostal church. (There might have been others but I remember those)

We also had an American Legion Post and a VFW club. To be fair, some of the members of those churches were also active in either the VFW or the American Legion. The truth is that those beer guzzling old veterans and their wives did far more benevolent works in our community than all the churches combined. That was true for at least the first 10 years I lived there.

If someone’s house burned it was them, not the church folks who would show up to pitch in and help rebuild and give money for new appliances, furniture and bedding. Those two clubs simply put the churches to shame when it came to actually doing something tangible in the community. Thankfully, because one new pastor came to town who actually loved the people, that changed quickly, first in his church and then it spread to the others.

There is great value in giving a cup of water to a thirsty man in Jesus’ stead. We must do those sorts of things to be right and on track with God. His command is that we remember the down trodden, widows, orphans, and prisoners. Those acts of love are not options.

What then can the church do that a civic club can’t?

Christians, as God’s agents in the world, can offer dead men life!

You see, those men and women who are not Christians have one great need and that need is LIFE! A person who does not have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ does not need better morals, or even to become a regular attender at church on Sunday. No, his needs are far greater than improvement, he a problem only the gospel of Christ can solve.

Non-Christians are spiritually dead.

There is only one remedy for death and that is life. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians said this of those Christians before they trusted Christ and were saved.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1)

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. (Ephesians 2:4,5)

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him. (Colossians 2:13)

In response to the gospel God makes the dead live.

God’s greatest work is not to make bad men good enough for heaven but to make dead men live. Ephesians 2 above says “God…made us alive together with Christ“. There is no other cure for death. Just as certainly as Jesus called Lazareth from the tomb he calls ungodly men to life today. Jesus said of himself, “I am the resurrection and the life..” and “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.

Jesus himself is eternal life.

Eternal life is not something Jesus gives to repentant sinners outside of himself. There is no spiritual (eternal) life outside of Him. What He gives is Himself. He is LIFE!

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10)

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27

Feed the poor? YES! Care for the needy? YES! Visit and care for widows, orphans, and prisoners? YES! But we must also be saying to the dead in our communities “LIVE!”.

The gospel of Christ is good news because it announces that Christ has died for you, that God’s righteousness can be yours, and that your body will be changed from mortal to immortality, and you will forever be God’s own dear child. No civic club can do this work. It is reserved for those who by relationship and sonship have become ambassadors for a heavenly kingdom whose orders is to herald the good news “Jesus Saves, Jesus Saves, come and live forever with Him”.

Royce

What Is “Eternal Life”?


“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

We know from this passage and numerous others that God gives life to those who put their trust in Jesus and again and again it is called eternal. I think a fair question to ask and try to find an answer to is, What is eternal life? What is the life offered? And, what are the implications of the use of eternal to describe it?

Eternal life is God’s life, the life of Christ.

Eternal life is not something Christ gives that is apart from himself. He said it clearly in John 11 when speaking to Lazarus’ sister Martha.

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25,26)

Paul’s convincing statement is that Christ is your (our) life!

“When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4)

And in 1st John 5 one of the clearest statements saying eternal life is in his Son (Christ).

“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (1 John 5:11)

Eternal life comes from only one source and can be received only one way. When you have Christ you possess eternal life. There is no eternal life apart from Him. He is the Author of life.

Because it is eternal, the life Jesus gives has no beginning and no end.

The most simple definition of the word “eternal” is that it is timeless. It is not confined to the limits of time. Just as God is eternal, has no beginning and no ending, so is the life given to those who come to him through Christ.

In our experience, from our limited perspective as mere humans, there is a point in time when we appropriated for ourselves this life that is unlimited by time, or space. We are told that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead now lives in our mortal bodies in the person of the Holy Spirit who resides in us. (Romans 8:11)

God promises those who have eternal life are safe forever.

Over and over in scripture promises are given to those who have the Life that they are completely safe. One of the most beautiful is in Jesus high priestly prayer in John 17.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:20-24)

This tender request is that you and I and other believes will experience the oneness the Father shares with the Son, and the Son the Father, and that we will experience it in the place where he is. I am continually amazed as God keeps assuring, convincing, and encouraging his children. Did you catch this phrase? “”I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me!

Can you imagine who much God loved his only Son? How great is that love for His own, from the unmatched lover of all lovers? If you can somehow start to fathom how much God the Father loves Jesus, that is just how much He loves you. Yes, with all your warts and bumps, with all of your failures, bad habits, and shortcomings, God loves you perfectly for Christ’s sake.

Eternal life comes with a guarantee from God.

Jesus often said of those who were his that they should “never die”, have “everlasting life”, and that he “would raise them up at the last day”. God continues these promises through the inspired pen of the Apostle Paul.

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” ( 2 Corinthians 1:20-22)

“He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 5:5)

“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-15)

Can you think of any reason we should not believe that God’s word on a thing is sure and certain? If God promises He will do it. He cannot lie. What a blessed hope, what a well-spring of joy, to know that the only true God has promised that we who are his will possess the inheritance promised!

Eternal life is a present possession and at the same time a thing hoped for.

Those who are Christ’s “have” eternal life now, present tense. The verses above attest to that fact. But now, in our mere human flesh we can only apprehend and appreciate eternal life in a limited way. We are still constrained by time and space and the limitations of any person who still battles with sinful passions as we live the Life.

The Bible describes the situation in this way. It is the picture of a 1st century person looking into a dark, clouded, imperfect mirror. You see an image but it isn’t perfectly clear. But one day, when the return of Christ is announced, well will see him face to face and behold his glory and share in it. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

The full measure of eternal life includes the salvation of the human body. Death will finally be done. Mortality will be instantly changed to immortality. The living will in a split second be changed and the dead in Christ raised to live forever and ever in bodies perfectly suited for outer space and earth’s atmosphere. God’s word promises that our bodies will be like Jesus’ glorified body! It is then that the gift of eternal life will be fully realized and for eternity we will share in praise and joy and peace and walk in the light of Jesus Christ.

To be continued…

Agape’

Royce