Monday, April 01, 2013
THE MESSAGE WITH THE AROMA OF LIFE
Mary and I just sailed the Aegean sea this past week. It was rough on occasion and totally delightful on occasion depending on the condition of the sea. I noticed especially two of many interesting things on board that ship. One was the anchor and the other a life ring to be tossed in any "Man overboard" moment. Different things with different purposes and they worked correctly only when fulfilling their true purpose. Don't ever try to stay safe above water with an anchor tied to you and don't ever try to keep a ship stable in the water with a life ring on a chain. You see what I mean.!
I find it interesting that the true gospel message is often lost and becomes what it really isn't. Good news is what it is, and it is like a life ring to people who are drowning when heard and received. But when the true gospel is lost the message being preached and received will become like an anchor that sinks the person holding on to it. The aroma of Life results from the former but the stench of death from the latter.
How can we know if we've lost the true gospel as our message? it would help to ask certain questions about any message being preached or being heard.
One question is... does the message you're sharing or hearing cause people to fix their eyes exclusively on Christ and what He alone has done? At the risk of sounding simplistic, whatever a person's need in life, our answer always starts with Jesus and His finished work at the Cross.
I was reminded of this as I visited the old ruins of first century Corinth last week. Paul stayed eighteen months there and later wrote a letter to them from Ephesus, a letter we call 1 Corinthians. In it he said he came to them determined to know nothing "except Christ and Him crucified." [1 Corinthians. 2:2] He had just experienced the philosophy and wisdom of man in Athens and smelled the stench of death permeating the entire place and saw the hopelessness found in any other god or message. His message [the true gospel] revealed Jesus Christ and His Cross and the resurrection and was the power for salvation and life to all who received it.
Any other message [man's wisdom] would only be a powerless substitute, a flesh fling, and a wasted moment in time. That's because only Jesus is the supreme manifestation of the character and purpose of God. Any message that diminishes Jesus actually insults the Spirit of grace. Jesus is without peer and nothing compares to Him. He has become for us wisdom from God and Paul would boast (preach) of nothing less. (1 Co 1:30-31)
Another question to ask is...does the message being shared or heard demand an utter faith dependence on Jesus? Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Granted, the call to follow Christ brings us face to face with the impossible. How do we love as He loves us when people act the way they act? How do we forgive as we've been forgiven when people hurt others so deeply? How do we remain pure to vows and promises when others flaunt their broken promises and words?
Let me put your mind at ease immediately: I guarantee that in our own strength and effort we can't. But when we CHOOSE to TRUST His life in us, the power flows and we will see the impossible accomplished. But all, including each of us, will know whereof the power.
Sadly, much is being done apart from His life and Spirit in us and most of it is OTHER STUFF__ like church attendance or bible reading or conference attending__ which can be used to measure our success as Christians. And, because we’re so busy doing OTHER STUFF [all good things perhaps] we’re worn out and miss real opportunities to do the greater works such as unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness, all of which have the aroma of the Christ-life about them. The true gospel will always inspire us to risk relationships with the outcasts, wounded people, hated people, in His name, but the false message will only promote activity in the name of religion.
Finally, ask the question...Does the message I'm sharing or hearing release peace and joy as it's fruit? It's interesting to me that Paul began every one of his letters with this: "Grace and peace to you from God the Father." It is ONLY a revelation of God's favor that brings true peace. If the message you're sharing or hearing doesn’t reveal Jesus and the gift of His righteousness, then you will never experience the peace and joy that comes with it. It really is all about Jesus. He took our sin and gave us His righteousness (2 Co 5:21). This is what the gospel reveals – a righteousness from God that is received by faith from first to last (Rm 1:17). When you know that God sees and counts you as righteous as Jesus, you will be empowered to reign in life (Rm 5:17).
So the real key is actually knowing His righteousness has become ours: Are we resting in His or are we trying to impress Him with ours? A false message will seek to manufacture righteousness through works and holy living. it will prescribe a course of action for us to take and it will instantly fail the above three tests. It will burden us with loads we cannot carry and expectations we cannot live up to. Before you know it, we will be as stressed and as joyless as Martha. There will be the stench of Athens [death] about us instead of the aroma of life. [Christ]
The gospel really is the message with the aroma of life.