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Category Archives: The Gospel is the Most Important Thing

Looking Towards the Cross

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

Paul: famous apostle of Christ, someone whose written fourteen book (known books, that is, it’s still unknown if he wrote Hebrews) of the Bible, and someone who despite beatings, whippings, and ship wrecks, persevered… Went to the Corinthians with fear, trembling, and weakness, in order to better share the Gospel with them. Not only that, but he even resolved to know nothing while he was with them but the Gospel (of Jesus). So, after reading all that, it seems rather apparent that the Gospel is important… Except, of course, in this day and age, where it needs to take a back-seat, right? After all, people today need ten steps to overcoming! They need six ways to stop getting drunk! Yes, the Gospel is vitally important to get people saved, but then we really need to put it in a corner by itself and give them “solid teaching.” — Let’s let the Bible decide if this line of thinking is wrong or right:

1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:1-5)

“Standing,” implies the present tense: they were still “standing” on the Gospel, even after they had been saved. — Something which is vitally important, is the realization that the Gospel isn’t just meant to “save people,” and then put to the side. Rather, it’s the very power of God (See: Corinthians 1:5), and should be treated as such. With that being said, Paul also says this in the following verse (the verse after the one quoted earlier from 1 Corinthians):

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. (1 Corinthians 2:6)

Yes the Gospel is vitally important, and is the power of God, even so, people still do need to be taught how to avoid temptation, etc. and please don’t think i’m not saying otherwise. But we should never lose sight of the cross! This is what the author of Hebrews says on the matter:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

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The Gospel Changes Everything

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; (1 Timothy 2:5-8)

I find it interesting how Paul seems to put all three things he talked about here, into one category. Jesus’ Death and Resurrection; his own preaching; “lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling”. All lumped in with each-other. But why? How can something like the Gospel of Jesus, be connected with something like “lifting holy hands without anger…”?

As the picture states: the Gospel changes everything. It has the power to change a person from wanting to raise their hands into a fist; to a person who wants to praise God so much their hands end up joining in. But an obvious question comes up, “how?”. How could such a thing change a life?

for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

Take Paul: Originally he was a terrorist. Then he was an apostle, then after Jesus’ death and Resurrection he was an Apostle, preacher, and teacher. Why? Because Jesus had saved him and now God was working in his life. The same happens with us. Though possibly we didn’t start out physically killing Christians… Accepting Jesus as Lord causes a dramatic change in a life. This is because you go from Spiritually dead to alive and growing in(/into) Jesus.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:14)

But now, looking at the situation practically, it’s not as if God could change a rapper, right? Surely he couldn’t change either a murder or an all-out-terrorist. Not true. Something everyone should be glad for, as everyone is a cold-blooded-serial killer. Which for your information, doesn’t just mean we’ve killed captain crunch. The bible equates murder with hate, thus when we hate, we kill (they become dead to us to some aspect). God can and did save me, thus it can happen.

The point being this: Because Christ died for us, our lives should be changed or changing (if it’s not, we should check our relationship with God).

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Running the Race; (is only possible with) The Gospel

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1)

Well that’s a pretty simple command, isn’t it? Just run the race. Nothing to it. Just so long as you remember of course to avoid the pitfalls that will ensnare you, shed your sin prior running so you don’t stop half way through, remember you’re being watched in order to remember to run faster, side-step booby traps set out by Satan that include lust, pride and other such things. Oh, and you should also make sure you don’t forget about the landmines. But that of course is only touching on the minor aspects. There are also mud pits that will no doubt lead to back-sliding. Avalanches, that will smother any attempt on your part to get free. Torn up and bombed roads that will surely prevent any attempt at progressing. And worst of all perhaps, bandits and thieves eager to steal your money and your soul with false teaching. – As you can see, it’s really very simple.

“How on Earth, is it, even under the best circumstances even remotely possible to make it past the finish line?”

First, we need to know how to survive… I hear it’s a jungle out there, what with the lions waiting to tear us to bits.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:2-4)

And to think, for a moment there I was thinking I had it tough. The reality of the situation is that no matter what mud pit we run into, whatever landmine attempts to permanently prevent us from moving on, whatever avalanche tries to overcome us, Jesus is there with his medical kit and heat-ray (for both the mud and the avalanche).

Now translate, “medical kit and heat-ray” into, “cross, which Jesus died on for us” and you have the equivalent of those things to real life. – Think of the mud-pit as the place on the board which if you land on, you go back to, “START”, (leaving Christianity) unless you have The Thing that prevents any backward momentum.

Think of the landmines as the place where you “skip a turn” permanently and continue to remain in the same state (marital and family problems that prevent any growth in Christ), unless you have The Thing that can heal you.

Finally, think of the avalanche as the place where you get swamped and lose the game. Those are the places where Satan tempts you to the point of breaking, unless of course you have The Cross of Christ which will prevent you from being broken (though that doesn’t mean God won’t let you go into the avalanche zone).

All of this may seem somewhat ridiculous, how could a cross, a Roman Torture stick of all things, help anyone? How can knowing Jesus Christ died for you and me fix family and marital problems? How can knowing Jesus rose from the dead, possibly prevent someone from being completely and utterly crushed by Satan? How could it prevent someone from back-sliding? – When your united around Christ and not around some problem, when Christ is enabling you to stand firm in the Devil’s attack, when your suddenly remembering what Christ did for you, that’s how it can help you. Not only that, but God uses people as well. Your pastor, a biblical counselor, your own family (after the problems are fixed), all can help you continue running.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Hebrews (Part 2) – First Importance

Hello again!

Today we start the book of Hebrews (again)! 2 Peter was only 3 chapters long; that’s why we finished it so fast. – This is what God gave me today in his word:

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, (Hebrews 2:10-11)

We’re only at chapter two, and we already know exactly what the writer of Hebrews is about. As a matter of fact, if you look at chapter two in general, you’ll find it’s the only thing the writer actually talks about in the whole chapter. But why is that? Surely it would be better of the writer to give them some sound, day-by-day teaching. After all, the writer is talking to Christians here! They already know what the Gospel of Jesus is, why bother bringing it out?

First, why does the writer bother bringing out the Gospel? … It doesn’t seem to make much sense; aside from encouraging them.

For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:16-18)

Jesus has been tempted by Satan too. He knows what it’s like, he’s, “suffered”. He came down, becoming like man, not considered equality with God something to be grasped, and was tempted. Not only that, but he actually died for us on a cross! – In general, that’s what the writer is saying. – The question is, “why bother?”. He bother’s, because it’s an important part of what he’s saying; everyone is being tempted, was tempted, or is going to be tempted, it’s part of life. However, we can know that Jesus went through first! He took the sting from death, he, ‘cut down the thorns before we even got to them’ if you will.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

I can tell you what that way is. It’s the same, “way” for everyone, in fact, in addition, it’s also the truth and life itself. In fact, “it” has a name and that’s, “Jesus Christ”. The reason TW (The Writer) feels that it’s important to share the Gospel with Christian’s, is because it is important! I don’t really care if you’re the worst wretch in history or the, purest (in Jesus’ power) Christian ever, we all need the Gospel of Jesus as hope, as a way to resist temptation, as life. Without it, we’d be the equivalent of a baby, unable to resist, always crying at our inability to do anything good or right in of ourselves.

The Gospel should always take first importance in what we say, in what we do, in our own minds. How can we, “take every thought captive to Christ” if Christ isn’t in our minds/thoughts? If you don’t have the way, you can expect to get lost on your way to Heaven.

The point? In the mind of TW, the Gospel should take first importance and who are we to argue? After all, the evidence says we should listen to him.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Characteristics of the Effective and Fruitful Christian

Hello again!

Today we start the book of 2 Peter! – This is what God gave me today in his word:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, (2 Peter 1:3-5)

We’ve escaped the corruption that is in the world, therefore clearly we should make every effort to supplement our faith with virtue (etc). That doesn’t seem to make much sense. We’ve escaped for Heaven’s sake! Why is it then that we would have to, “supplement our faith”?

First, why is it that we have to, “supplement our faith” if we’ve already escaped the corruption in the world? … 

and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. (2 Peter 1:6-9)

We need to, “supplement our faith,” because of the reason Peter just named. i.e. To keep us from being, “ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – We happen to know that the, “knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” is the Gospel, so with that in mind, how can someone be ineffective or unfruitful in it? By not having knowledge, self-control, etc. It’s safe to assume therefore, that since in order to be ineffective and unfruitful we need to not have those things, that in order to be effective and fruitful we need those things. Let’s list them out and then review them:

1. faith

2. virtue

3. knowledge

4. self-control

5. steadfastness

6. godliness

7. brotherly affection

8. love

But of course, that isn’t right is it? I listed them wrong, I put them all separately (on purpose; to make this point). Peter says, “knowledge and with knowledge self-control,” and so on. This is because when you have the first one,  you need the second one as much as you need the eighth one and you need the seventh one to have the eighth: getting the point yet? We all need faith to be Christians, but when we have faith, we need virtue, or our faith is useless. As James says:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-16)

If we have virtue then, we also need knowledge. What good is it to give someone a bowl of soup and send them on their way?  That person is still entrapped in sin! If you’re going to care for someones physical needs, also care for their Spiritual needs; the only way you can do that, is if you have knowledge about the Gospel.

And if we have knowledge, we need self-control. We have to know when and where to use that knowledge. What real good can knowledge serve, if it’s not presented at the right time. Also, just in general, people need to have self-control.

Now if we have self-control, we also need steadfastness. What good is self-control if you can’t continually use it? By that, I mean if you’re not steadfast, you can’t continually do something, what ever that may be. Whether it’s having self-control, or even simply having virtue.

What good is having steadfastness though if we’re not Godly? What good is being Godly though if we’re Godly in a, “holier than thou” manner? No, we also need brotherly affection to love those who we’re talking to. But how can we have brotherly affection if we don’t have love? How can we have virtue if we don’t have love? How can we remain steadfast if we don’t have faith? How can we have faith if someone first didn’t give us the knowledge of God? It all intertwines. Everything is important, but you can’t have one without having the other.

The point? All these characteristics that I mentioned spring out of one thing. Just one. The Gospel of Jesus! We can’t have knowledge of it (and therefore faith, etc), if we don’t first and foremost know that. It is the most important thing and should never be forgotten.  It’s the only way we can even be effective and fruitful! Without knowing the fact that Jesus Christ died and rose again for us, every effort that we make towards, “holiness” is fruitless, every, “good deed” fruitless. It doesn’t matter how much faith we have if we don’t know what we have faith in! It’s no good if we have virtue but aren’t Godly! We need everything to be, “effective and fruitful,” but the only way we, or anyone who God blesses us with the ability to minister too, can be a Christian (much less a effective and fruitful one) is through the power of the Gospel.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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The Stewards Of the King

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. (1 Corinthians 4:7-10)

Wait a minute here Paul, you obviously have something wrong! You just (in chapter three) addressed them as infants in Christ! How come you are now saying their wise in Christ while you aren’t? How is it that you’re weak while they’re strong?

First, did Paul make several mistakes when he wrote to the Corinthians here? …

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

Paul isn’t paying them any compliments, quite the opposite. He’s possibly even referring that Christ hasn’t chosen them to be his. But isn’t it good to be wise in Christ? Isn’t it right to be strong in God? Isn’t it better to be honorable? Yes, it is! But this isn’t what Paul is saying, he’s referring to their being “wise” in Christ. Which in context means that Paul is in essence saying they know a lot about Christ, but they know all of this from a worldly point of view.

To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. (1 Corinthians 4:11-14)

So now, is it better to be homeless or to have a home? Better to work with your hands, or to own a farming business were all your “human assets” do the “manual labor” for you? Better to be the scum of the world, or the president of it? Is Paul saying that the Monks were right and that we should take vows of silence, vows of poverty, and farm all day?

Second, should we all sell our homes? … At the moment, that seems to be what Paul is suggesting.

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Corinthians 4:1)

Paul isn’t saying that we should sell everything, unless of course that what God calls us to do. He’s saying that according to the world’s standards, we are fools, the scum of the world. Which when you think about it is actually rather a good thing, to be the scum of the world. Better that, then the pride and joy of it.

I’ll put things this way; Paul, here, is simply rebuking the Corinthians. Lightly, but still, rebuking them. Why? Because they are “wise” in the world, not in Christ! Or they are wise in Christ, but it’s a worldly wisdom, which isn’t really wisdom. But now we have to ask a final question, “what can we possibly learn from a rebuke to the Corinthians from Paul?”, if Paul wanted us to learn one thing from this, I think it would be the first verse in Corinthians 4. People should see us as stewards of the Gospel. Everything else Paul has said in this chapter is just building upon this point. It doesn’t matter if someone thinks of us as foolish, in fact, we should welcome it! We should be drunk with the Spirit, foolish in our insane repetition of that which is most important; the Gospel!

And this my point. It doesn’t matter so much if we’re homeless, scorned by the world. God promises to provide our needs not necessarily our wants. But, whether we’re poor, or as wealthy as kings, we should be like Paul in that we should be content in all things. But that isn’t what matters, what matters is that when the world looks at us, they don’t see a kinsmen, they see a steward of the king; the almighty and eternal king.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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1 Corinthians – The Power Of the Gospel

Hello again!

Today we start the book of 1 Corinthians! – This is what God gave me today in his word:

What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) (1 Corinthians 1:12-16)

So what’s the problem here? The church is divided, some people over here say, “we follow Paul” while the guy over there says, “I follow Christ” and even still the guy in the corner claims to follow Apollos (the disciple of Jesus, not the, “god”). So why exactly is this wrong? Because Paul isn’t Christ, and neither is Apollos, or Cephas… Not only that, but this issue was of course, dividing the church! This is the issue Paul is addressing with the Corinthians, and how does Paul go about addressing it?

First, how does Paul address this issue with the Corinthians? … So that we can learn and avoid such problems.

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:17-18)

He addresses it, typical of Paul, with the Gospel of Christ. But why does Paul consider now an appropriate time to bring the Gospel into the situation? Wouldn’t it be better to concoct a fancy, reasonable and rational speech that the Corinthians would have no choice but to listen to, and obey? No, it wouldn’t be better, as Paul himself brings out. The power isn’t in the words, it’s in the Gospel! That’s why Paul seems to “consider” every situation and problem a pretty good time to bring out the Gospel, because it’s what fixes the problem(s)!

For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:19-24)

This is Paul’s point, that it’s foolish to follow anyone but Jesus and him because he died to give us life… Paul addresses the problem with the Corinthians, by calling it foolish. More importantly than his calling it foolish however, he helps them fix the problem by giving them the means to do so.

Second, we now know how Paul addresses the issue but how does he help them fix it? … Pretty much just as important as the first question.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:25)

Paul gives them the, quote, “foolishness” of God. Which is as I already mentioned the Gospel, to help them fix it. He, through his words, tells them how to fix the division in the church, by being united in the Gospel. But of course, the question which I’m sure you’re no doubt thinking of now, comes, “How can the simple seeming knowledge that Christ died and rose again to save you, bring a church together?” Because in this case, the problem they were having, was with the people of the church, following different people. In essence Paul says, “what I says, what they say, it’s foolishness! But out of that foolishness comes the Gospel, which is the power of Christ to salvation.”

This is the point. What I say (and/or type), what Paul said, what any man says is worthless, without any real power to save, change, or effect the heart of anyone. However, through the power of the cross; the power of the Gospel of Christ, people can and will change (be saved). This is the point Paul was trying to get through to the Corinthians: the Gospel! The Gospel is the most important thing and should be treated as such. In the Corinthians case it brought unity to the church because of the reasons I’ve already mentioned, but it also “fixes” our problems too!

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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