The Gospel Message: Turning things around

What is the gospel message?

We have discussed how the Assembly is a community of believers to equip them to make more disciples and grow the Kingdom. But what exactly do these believers believe in? They believe in the gospel message. Let's look at Peter's answer when Jesus asked him what he believed:
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
This is the gospel message. The idea salvation comes from believing Jesus came from God is repeated in many different forms throughout the New Testament. Paul said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Jesus himself said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”

But belief isn’t just an abstract acceptance that something is real. Imagine your boss says to you, “Believe me, I’m the boss, and if you don’t get more work done, you’re fired.” If you tell him you believe he’s the boss, would that save your job? Of course not! Your boss would only know you believed him if you listened to him and did the work. Belief that results in works is the kind of belief the Bible is talking about.

Look at what James said: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” Belief that isn’t acted upon doesn't make you any better off than demons! Paul echos that belief results in righteousness: “With the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

Whether it's your boss or Jesus, if you believe him, you’ll listen to what he tells you to do. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” What did he command? The Bible says, “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’" Jesus also said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Jesus commanded repentance!

The Greek word for repentance means a change of mind. We must change our minds about our sin. The Hebrew word for repentance comes from two words: to feel sorrow and to return. When we sin, we must not only feel sorrow, but we must return to righteousness. Turning away from sin is not a new concept that started in the New Testament. Even the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel said on God’s behalf, “If the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die.” Just because it was a long time ago doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to Jesus! Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”

But Paul says that we are “slaves to sin.” How are we to truly repent and turn away from the sin that rules us? Paul gives the answer:
Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! 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? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
Baptism puts to death the sin inside of us so that we can truly repent and live in righteousness! Peter made the gospel message very clear when he tied repentance to baptism, saying, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus told us that belief and baptism result in salvation, saying, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” Belief, repentance, and baptism always go together.

In some ways, these simple, biblical principles conflict with the very foundational teachings developed in modern churches. What about ideas like once saved, always saved? Saved by grace, not by works? Sola fide? Asking Jesus into your heart? The sinner’s prayer? We will be exploring these teachings and how the relate to the gospel in much more detail in future posts. But for now, know that what we do matters to God. Look at the other half of what he told Ezekiel:
“But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live? All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die.”
What is the gospel message? Repenting from sin and being baptized to walk in righteousness. How great is God’s grace and mercy to save sinners like us and make us righteous, holy saints. That is some Good News! If nothing else, the Assembly must get this message right.

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