Do you really know what the message of Jesus Christ truly means to humanity? Or, are you still hearing the old, old story about sin and forgiveness, which is of course the heart of the Old Testament from which the Gospel arises. But those who desire to control people with Religion have not told you the whole message. What you hear every Sunday depends on where you worship, and which “truths” your denomination or fellowship was founded upon.
For instance, The Church of Rome (Roman Catholic) formulates its hold on people through the incessant demands of the Confessional. This regimen requires one to seek out a priest and confess the most recent sins – since the last confession – and ask for forgiveness and perform some form of penance. This is nothing more than Old Testament Law - which is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Martin Luther created a huge rift in the Catholic world when he questioned the whole idea of penance, especially the paying of indulgences. The father of Lutheranism, however, must have not made it clear enough in his emphasis on salvation through faith and not by works because liturgical congregations seemly are living in fear - that Sin may “get them” if they are not very, very, careful in their behavior - is this what the Gospel is all about?
The Liturgical churches, such as the Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc., have not fallen far enough from the Catholic “branch” to throw off the old cloak of Sin and Death. To do so would liberate their followers from the control needed to further the religious system with which these churches burden their people. Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32). A church that constantly reminds those under its care that they are evil sinners and must constantly repent or face Hell is not of the Truth. Nor is a church that pretends there is ho such thing as Sin and absolute moral truths and lets people believe they can pick and choose the biblical tenets they will abide by. Both of these "types" are incorrect - one knowing nothing but Sin and the other ignoring that Sin needs to be dealt with through the Gospel.
The two major branches of Christianity – and their many offspring – still dwell on the Old Covenant. This “system of religion”, referred to as Mainline Christianity, is actually holding its adherents in bondage just as Paul warned Timothy that there would come a time when there would be those, “having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” Paul stated these people are “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” Further, “these men oppose the truth--men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.” (2 Timothy 3:5, 7,8).
Now, before you think I am downplaying Sin let me assure you I am not. Sin must be dealt with – once and for all – and that is exactly what Jesus did! That is why, on the Cross, he declared, “It is finished.” (John 19:30). What was finished? Why the Law of Sin and Death! The very Law God gave to Moses - that no one could ever hope to keep to the letter! Jesus paid the “price” required by God to wipe out Sin, our Sin, yours and mine. It was, and is, and always will be, gone forever at the very moment Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary. For God Himself said through Jeremiah the Prophet, "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah 31:34); words restated in the 8th chapter and 12th verse of the Book of Hebrews. That Jesus abolished the old law is clear in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in which he states, “by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.” (Ephesians 2:15). If this is the case, and it is, then why do so many preachers continue to hammer the “saved” over the head with the Law of Sin and Death? The get “saved” message is for the lost, not the saved – the saved need to hear The Good News!
Christians should know that the word Gospel means Good News. The Angel’s announcement to the shepherds was “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10 & 11). Jesus himself stated what this Good News is, “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!'" (Mark 1: 14 & 15). And he commanded his disciples to, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15 & 16).
The Apostles took up the task when Jesus ascended to Heaven, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 5:41 & 42). In its early stages the Gospel was in fact Good News to the Hebrews; their God had sent His Son to be their King and establish the Kingdom of God – but this was no Earthly Kingdom! Nor, as Saul of Tarsus was to find out, was it just for Hebrews, “But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.” (Acts 9:15). It was through this man now called Paul that the mystery of the Gospel would be revealed.
Yes, to Paul it was given to understand that the message Jesus Christ brought had a significance for humanity far beyond the simple message of forgiveness of Sins. This mystery was central to Christ’s mission of bringing in the Kingdom of God, “Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 3:2-6). This mystery was, according to Paul, not found in the Hebrew Scriptures. It was a new “revelation” through the Holy Spirit given only to the Apostles and Prophets after Christ ascended to Heaven. Jesus is not “just” the Savior of the Hebrew peoples, he is the Savior of all the people in the World who call upon his Name, as it is written, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
How hard is it to understand this Good News? It isn’t if you have the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles had walked and talked with Jesus but He told them to wait in Jerusalem until they were empowered from on high. When this happened those who saw it described it this way, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:4). The way to salvation is through repentance, but wait, there’s more, “Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38,39). If you expect to know the Truth, after you have believed that Jesus is the Son of God – repenting of your sins, you need to “get” the Holy Spirit. Peter and John were sent to Samaria to those who believed on Jesus for this express purpose, “When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:15-17).
But this is not meant to be a religious, ritualistic, “formula” to be followed - because the Holy Spirit can and has come upon those hearing about and believing in Jesus before they are baptized, “’Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’ So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10:47, 48). To the Apostles it was absolutely an issue that believers receive the Holy Spirit, for instance, “While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ They answered, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ So Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’ ‘John's baptism,’ they replied. Paul said, ‘John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.” (Acts 19:2-6). Note that in this instance these believers had been baptized for repentance of sin. But that was not sufficient as Paul then baptized them “into the name of the Lord Jesus” and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. The important thing here is that it is essential that you “have” the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
If you have not had this experience you should question whether or not you truly have the Holy Spirit – this is not something to take for granted or as a matter of fact because some minister says you have “it”. You can know for sure! You dare not forgo this important gift from God. Why? Because, “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:6). Whoops! There’s that old law being overcome by the Holy Spirit, and setting us free! Does your minister teach that, “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:2-4). If instead all you hear about is how bad a sinner you are, how weak and sinful your nature is, then you are in the wrong church – you are still under the Law.
The fact is Christians - born again, spirit filled, prayerful, God loving Christians - can and do things that are not pleasing to God. Usually they don’t do these things on purpose, that is, they do not “practice” sin because, "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9). And, “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.” (Romans 8:12-16).
Are you getting the picture? Do you understand that, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” (Romans 14:17,18). Being a Christian means “Peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit”, not fear and dread of falling into sin and eternal damnation. Those who are filled with the Spirit know they are “sinners saved by grace” and that knowledge gives them great Joy, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17,18). Rather than worry about sin they endeavor to do what Paul commanded, “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
You will make "fleshly" mistakes in the Christian walk. Confess them to God and seek the power of the Holy Spirit in you to be like Paul who wrote, “but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14). Because of Christ’s sacrifice you have been redeemed from the Law of Sin and Death and are brought into the Kingdom of God. Through belief in Christ Jesus, and receiving of His Holy Spirit, you have become a Son of God, “but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.” (Romans 8:16). Now if that isn’t Good News I don’t know what is!