O Come Emmanuel!


man in praise

…the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.
(Isaiah 7:17)

This ancient promise was fulfilled over 2,000 years ago when a virgin girl named Mary gave birth to a child with no human father. He is truly the Son of God.

His coming was and is “God with us”!

His passion was “God for us”!

The announcement of His birth included this bit of information.

…he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21b)

And so it is, this one of lowly birth and social status is the only Savior. The Holy Scriptures are explicit. Jesus, who is the Christ, is the only one who can save from sins and death.

 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12)

Not any depth of personal morality, not any acts of kindness, not ten thousand rites and rituals can set ungodly men and women right with God. It is Christ Jesus alone who fulfilled the Father’s requirement for righteousness. It was the God-man who took upon himself the sins of the whole of humanity and offered his holy life in a cruel execution so that God can now declare those who trust him to be righteous and His own dear children.

Every promise of good from God to sinful humans is centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ our Lord.

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. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

How can we not be thankful for this unspeakable gift? Emmanuel has come!

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

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Nuggets of Fudge – Evangelism, Then and Now


For some time now I have been concerned and disappointed that so many people who are pastors, preachers, and other church leaders do not preach the gospel of Christ, and worse, some have made it clear they don’t know what the gospel is.

My beloved friend Edward Fudge shares some wisdom in his most recent gracEmail about evangelism today compared to what happened in the first century. We would do well to pay attention to his words and make some corrections if necessary.

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Two of the most glaring contrasts between the evangelism reported in Acts and much evangelism done today involve the message itself. The word “evangelism” comes from the Latin (evangel) and Greek (euanggelios) root words for “gospel” or good news. News, of course, is the report of a deed or event. The message in some evangelism today is not good news at all, but at best good “do’s”–a list of things (varying by denomination) that the hearer is told to do to enjoy God’s favor; or, in other evangelism, at best “good views”–a system of doctrine that the hearer is told will bring God’s favor if faithfully learned and followed. These examples both differ from New Testament evangelism in two important ways. First, their message is not good news. Second, their message spotlights the men and women to whom it is directed, instead of spotlighting God who has done marvelous deeds of which the gospel brings the good news.

By contrast, the evangelistic reports in Acts summarizes parts of the story of Jesus’ life on earth, variously including his miracles, arrest, and unjust execution by the Romans, incited by the Jerusalem Temple establishment. Some reports also mention Jesus’ ascension, exaltation, and enthronement at God’s right hand. But the major element in this “good news”–the item in the apostolic spotlight–is this: “God raised him from the dead.” The gospel is about God, not about us. It tells the great deeds God has done for us, not good deeds we are to do for God.

The core of the apostolic gospel is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and its promise that we also can receive immortality from God and enjoy eternal life. This is so central to the evangelism reported in Acts, that when the apostles are put in prison in Jerusalem for preaching the gospel, the angel who releases them during the night encourages them to go to the Temple and “speak to the people all the words of this Life” (Acts 5:20). In conversion, God gives repentance that leads to life (Acts 11:18). When the gospel is heard and understood, people do one of two things: those who are appointed to eternal life, believe; those who reject the gospel judge themselves unworthy of eternal life (Acts 13:46, 48). Jesus went into hades, the realm of death, but he had no sin and death had no power over him. When he arose out of death and out from among all the dead, Jesus conquered death and the devil who ruled through fear of death. Because Jesus arose, all who are in Jesus, whom he represents, also will arise from death.

Edward Fudge

EdwardFudge.com

 

Crucified with Christ Yet I Live


Central to Christian teaching is the forgiveness of sins and eternal life afforded in the person and work of Jesus Christ our Lord. Every earthly expression of the Christian community does not agree on how, or upon what basis, God forgives sin and makes sinners a part of His own family. But, every Christian group to my knowledge admits that mankind is sinful and that God frowns on sin.

In his letter to the believers at Rome Paul gives a brief version of the origin of sin and how that sin invades every person.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— (Romans 5:12)

When Adam sinned he represented us all, each of us has an appointment with a grave. Physical death is a result of sin, first of Adam and then all of his decedents.

Adam was (is) a “type” of Jesus (Romans 5:14) in that he too was our representative in his life and death.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. (Romans 5:15)

How then did God choose to break the curse of Adam’s sin,  and our common death? He accomplished that by the representative death of Jesus. Central to the gospel is that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3). And when Jesus died “for us” he represented us in his death so that the effect is we died with him. It is specifically for that reason that His death is effectual for us.

One way Paul illustrated this dying was to use the death of a woman’s husband. A widow is no longer bound to her marriage vows and to her husband. Death ends the marriage with it’s obligations.

Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. (Romans 7:1,2)

In the same way a wife is freed from the law of marriage through the death of her husband, we Christians are freed from the law of sin and death in the same exact way.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:4-6)

The question that is raised is, “When did we die the death that frees us?”. The answer is in the passage above. “you also have died to the law through the body of Christ“. When Christ died for us God counted, or reckoned us as having died with him. “How can this be?” you ask. In the same way God counted the sinless Son of God utterly sinful (2 Corinthians 5:21) on the cross, he counts us as having died when He died.

Paul goes at this truth from another vantage point in Romans 6. Here our baptism is used as an illustration of this very truth. Paul is combating the idea that those who are in Christ are free to go on sinning as before.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:1-11)

Our symbolic dying is in the waters of baptism. We are “baptized into his death” in the watery grave acting out what actually happened when Jesus died. It is not in baptism that we actually die to sin. Baptism points to the reality that “our old self was crucified with him…” and, “we have died with Christ..”. In the exact sense that we do not actually rise from the dead when we come up out of the water we don’t actually die when we go into the water. The symbol never stands alone but always points to the reality.

In light of the truth that when Christ died we effectively died with him, and by that death are no longer are under the dominion of sin, Paul says “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11) Another way of saying this is to count yourselves dead as God does because you died with Christ.

One of Paul’s best known statements is found in Galatians 2.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20)

Ours is a salvation accomplished outside of us without any help from us. Christ reconciled us to God by the blood of his cross. Paul therefore writes to the Colossians these words.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him. (Colossians 1:21,22)

Sinners are reconciled to the Father, not by what they know, not by what they do, but by what Christ has done.

Let’s roll back the odometer of history, to the first century? No, further. To the time of the patriarchs? No, further yet. Let’s go all the way back before history was being made. Let’s go back to pre-creation, pre-earth and see what God was up to.

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, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 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 1:3-14)

All of this love, this definite plan, before time, to be implemented in time, and at just the right time. Our God is a God of purpose and his purpose is the praise of His glory! God’s salvation leaves no room for boasting in ourselves.

Without regard for some nuanced meaning of what “righteousness” or “justification” means in Paul’s writings two things are crystal clear. God is just! And, He is the justifier of the ungodly! Jesus saves! Your salvation? You didn’t build that!

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

 

An empty life needs an empty tomb


Over 2200 people swarmed into the auditorium of White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ for Easter Sunday morning. There was great singing by the praise team and the congregation and songs with solo parts by elder Gordon Dasher and  Missy Robertson of Duck Dynasty. My heart was full to the point of tears as we sang about the One the tomb could not hold.

Jase Robertson gave a wonderful communion meditation and together we remembered the body and blood of the Lord Jesus who died for our sins. We gave our gifts and then Alan Robertson and Mike Kellett gave a wonderful message about Jesus and his work for sinners like us. An empty life can only be filled with the one the tomb was emptied of. The whole service focused on the good news about Jesus and what he accomplished by living and dying and then living again “for us”.

When the invitation was given many walked to the front (no one ever goes forward at the invitation alone) for prayers for sick family members, problems with marriages, and personal failures. And there was the usual love and forgiveness sealed with hugs and tender words of encouragement, and of course sincere prayers asking God to intervene as He wills.

Among those who came forward was a man whose beard and long hair resembled Jase Robertson. He and his wife had driven in from Indiana. Jase explained that this morning he had shared the good news with this man and then asked him what he had to say to the congregation. His words were brief and to the point. “I have lived a very rough life for the past 41 years and I want to give myself to Christ”. Soon Jase baptized this 41-year-old, a 13-year-old girl, and an African-American family of five, dad, mom, and three teens. Seven people who were helpless and hopeless have decided to follow Jesus and now the one who is the resurrection lives in them and they are assured they will live forever because of Him alone.

After sharing a delicious meal with my daughter, son-in-law, and our three grandsons, I am home and I can say that Easter this year was God blessed and couldn’t have been better.

If you read these words, somebody you, whose life is a mess, with no hope for a future with God, Jesus Christ is the answer! I hope you will consider him and his claims.

Royce Ogle

Easter 2013