Christianity is not a religion of information but of transformation. The gospel begins as information but leads to transformation.
We need our whole lives to be converted and transformed. Transformation goes beyond a point-of-decision faith, where we "decide" one moment to accept the gift of salvation but then we live without the ongoing transformation that God calls us to. The example for this is Lydia. She was converted, and her life was changed. She led her household to faith, and opened her house for hospitality. Her home became a church.
In Acts 11, Peter defends himself against a faction in the church that is disturbed that he preached the gospel to people they did not approve of. This raises several questions for us about whom we have fellowship with and whom we do not have fellowship with.
The rule that Peter sets out is simple: When he saw that the Gentiles (Cornelius' household; Acts 10) were given the same Spirit that he and the other apostles were given (on the Day of Pentecost; Acts 2), he could not stand in God's way. If God includes someone in his church, so should we.
The gospel is God's plan for the world. We can spend our lifetimes building things for ourselves, or we can give ourselves to something bigger than ourselves--to God, his gospel, and his life.
When our lives become too complex, we seek to simplify them. But when our faith becomes too complex, we tend to add more. More Bible studies, more activity, more things to do. We need to resist the urge to focus on our personal accomplishments and instead seek a simple faith that aims to know Jesus (not about him) in both his power and his suffering so that we may become like him and attain the resurrection of the dead.
In Philippians 4:10-20, in a discussion about the financial help Paul received from the Philippians, he explains why we give to missions: not only do we do it as a spiritual discipline that teaches us dependence on God, but our giving is also a sacrifice that is very pleasing to God. When we give to gospel work, we are partners with those who are working to share the gospel message.
Sometimes we view God's will as something very complex and difficult to understand, find, and do. But in the New Testament, a clear picture of God's will as the fulfillment of his plan to save all people through the gospel (the death and resurrection of his Son) is presented.
We understand God's will when we align our lives, through spiritual growth, with God's purpose to save people through the gospel.
The gospel is not only for unbelievers, but for believers as well. The gospel keeps us grounded and keeps bringing us back to God and away from ourselves.
But two misunderstandings of the gospel can easily take root. First, we can look to the gospel with wrong expectations, expecting God to deliver blessing upon blessing because we belong to him. Second, we can believe that the gospel saved us, but to continue in the salvation we need to earn it by our own efforts. We fail to see the completeness of the gospel and we focus on self-improvement.
In 2 Corinthians 11:1-12:10, Paul turns the ideas of strength and weakness upside down to show that the gospel changes people. When we look to our strengths--either to receive more or to do more--we do not live by the gospel. Rather, we should see God's grace as sufficient for us, and look into our weaknesses, because in our weaknesses we find real, spiritual strength that comes from God and is for God.
Paul gives thanks for the Colossian believers because of their spiritual growth in the gospel and for the growth of the gospel that they participate in. He prays for them to continue to grow in knowledge of God and to receive power to continue the gospel growth that was happening among them.
How does the gospel grow? It grows person-to-person, in ministry.
In Acts 3-4, Peter preaches two gospel sermons and prays a prayer rooted in the gospel. After this prayer, Acts proceeds with two stories that show how unity and disunity work in the church.
Unity is tied to the gospel; it is an outgrowth of being of one heart and soul with each other. Disunity, as seen in Ananias and Sapphira, creeps in when we focus on ourselves and our own glory rather than the glory of God in Christ Jesus as seen in the gospel.
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