The Gospel 11: Reaching the Addicted

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, May 31, 2024 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

One of the first things Jesus did to begin His ministry was to proclaim liberty to the captives. Very little can describe an addiction better than being a captive of that addiction. Let’s cut straight to the brass tacks here: every single one of us has addictions. There is something our physical body or our mind is enslaved to that is not Jesus Christ. Some have it more blatantly and more obviously than others. Some can’t hide it; some are masters at hiding it. But every one of us has our addictions that we face, and Jesus came to set us free from them.

There are plain and obvious addictions, such as drugs and alcohol. Pornography is finally being recognized as a serious issue. Tobacco, smoking, etc. are also on the list. Once someone gets on the drug, they cannot get off, and if they do, they literally go through a withdrawal phase. David Wilkerson started Teen Challenge to help teenagers get off drugs and off the streets and get them real help. His biography The Cross and the Switchblade gives quite a few details about what goes on with a drug addict. Most of us know or have heard about the problem with alcoholism and how that drink so controls a person, like the town drunk who repeatedly and regularly makes a fool of himself. Josh McDowell was the son of the town drunk where he grew up, and that combined with the oft-repeated sexual abuse he endured by a farmhand drove him to bitter hatred against God. Yet, God redeemed him and saved him and his father.

Pornography deserves its own category because it is so severe today. Pornography is much more than looking at naked women. It is more than watching videos of people having sex. It is more than homosexual porn. It is more than looking at the extreme stuff. It is more than looking at naked children or watching adults do evil things to them or forcing them to do the evil deeds themselves. It also includes masturbation and getting yourself “excited” without involving another person physically. The physical acts of watching this stuff are so rampant that if you can find an honest person who has not struggled with this, you truly found a rare gem. But many people can control the opening of a browser window, the flipping through a magazine, or the reading of graphic accounts. It is what goes on in the head that is even more sinister. Many call it “fantasy porn.” It is what the imagination does in between those viewings. I remember hearing a mom catching her 10-year-old son having found such videos on his phone’s history. It started as innocent searching and then he found the dark stuff, and he cried to his mom saying he could not get those images out of his head. It is truly addicting, and it does not go away.

There are other addictions too that are less notorious because they are not inherently evil. Sports is one. Someone addicted to following a certain team is always looking at how that team is doing at any chance they get; they are always looking at the latest talk and updates, especially when their team is doing well. Video games and reading can be additions to the point where one cannot think or process without playing the next game or reading the next book. Binge-watching falls under this category, too.

Some addictions include family. There are some people, parents, grandparents, in-laws, etc. that have an addiction to knowing every little thing going on in the family and then being the solution. Some addictions include work or your job. Many people do not know when to take a break and they do not know when to say no. They become absentee parents because they are working well beyond their kids’ waking hours. Even sleep can be an addiction, telling the body when it is supposed to get up before what is natural.

There is one addiction that has only been identified scientifically just recently: dopamine, the biochemical that gives us “pleasure.” The Bible calls it the lust of the flesh. ALL addictions can be grouped together in this category. It is the search for pleasure, or at least started that way, and even when one tries to stop it, the brain, body, and mind demand that which is pleasurable. This was part of what Eve saw in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. She saw the fruit as being pleasurable for eating. She was going to defy God and enjoy every minute of it – or so she thought. And ever since, she and Adam and mankind have had a desperate craving for pleasure, comfort, and the things that God promises, but not in God’s form, His timing, or even His distribution of them. Every single one of these addictions, even with things that are not sinful, are chains that will weigh us down and rob us of the true riches that God has for us.

Jesus came to break the chains of addictions. He came so that we may be freed from seeking our satisfaction in all these temporary things that only last for a moment. The creations of man can be used correctly, in moderation, or not used at all. There is a place for the use of the right drugs and even alcohol. Paul told Timothy to drink some wine from time to time to deal with his health issues. There is a place for sexuality, in the proper context of the marriage bed, and seeing the spouse in their glory instead of as toys of pleasure. There is a place for sports, work, sleep, hobbies, activities, family, etc. There is pleasure that can be acquired from them, but they are not our sustenance; Jesus is. When Jesus is our sustenance, we can truly enjoy those good activities. One of my friends, Steve Lillis, is a professional pool trick shot artist, and there was a season in his life when he compromised his faith and chased after fame and fortune, obsessed with pool. Then God broke him, and he literally laid down his cue stick, giving up the game so he could serve Christ. He never plaid again for 12 years until God gave him an opportunity to start using the sport to preach the Gospel. He and I connected very quickly because I did the same thing with fencing, and he founded his ministry on the exact same day I started fencing. So again, there are many addictions that are not sinful, but they can be if they get in the way of Jesus.

Jesus came to break us free from addictions so we can get our true pleasure from Him. As with any addiction, to break the habit, one must not only cease that activity, but he must also replace it with something else. Sadly, so many of us cease our activity with God and replace Him with something far less than. But the Gospel is for those who are addicted to the things of this world and to sinful pleasures – breaking those chains and giving them a much better source: Jesus Christ who truly can sustain all our needs. Jesus came to break the chains of the enslaved, but the enslaved need to recognize that they are indeed slaves and need to be rescued. And when the chains are broken and the door is open, we need to walk out and live the life of liberty. So few do that because the life of slavery is known and comfortable; a life of freedom otherwise is strange, foreign, and scary. But Jesus is a good master and all we need to do is put our trust in Him, and He will give us what we need for this life.

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2 Corinthians 4:13-18

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, May 27, 2024 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
- 2 Corinthians 4:13-18

In this section of 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul provides profound insights into the nature of faith, the power of the gospel, and the hope of eternal glory. Here in this short passage, Paul explores faith, resurrection, and an eternal perspective, offering encouragement to believers.

Paul begins here in verse 13 by quoting a psalm, though many of our modern English translations don’t have that exact verse translated that way. In the KJV, it is clear that Paul is quoting Psalm 116:10, but other English versions of that verse have completely different wording. The Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament) has the wording Paul is quoting for Psalm 115:1, though again, our English translations do not reflect that. However, the details of what verse Paul is quoting from are less important than his meaning with using that statement.

Paul draws a parallel between the faith of those in the Old Testament and his New Testament faith. He emphasizes that faith is not a silent, passive belief but an active force that demands to be proclaimed. Faith is rooted in the experience of God's power and promises, and it enables believers to speak boldly about their convictions and the gospel. This verse challenges contemporary Christians to consider the vitality of our own faith and how it compels us to speak and act.

Why should our faith compel us to speak about it? Verse 14 gives us the answer: “Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself." Paul’s faith is anchored in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that is where our faith should be anchored as well. The resurrection is not only a past event but a future hope for all believers. Paul confidently asserts that the same God who raised Jesus will also raise all believers, presenting them together in His presence. This belief in the resurrection underscores our certain hope that transcends temporal suffering and mortality.

Verse 15 concludes Paul’s thought for this section. His ministry is marked by suffering and perseverance, and it is ultimately for the benefit of the Corinthians and others who hear the gospel. The grace of God reaches an ever-widening audience, both in Paul’s day at today. This spreading grace results in an outpouring of thanksgiving, bringing glory to God. As the gospel message expands to more and more people, there is greater thanksgiving to God and greater glory given to God. Our purpose is to glorify God, and we accomplish that purpose in part by spreading the gospel message.

Paul starts verse 16 with the same phrase he used in verse 1 of this chapter: “Therefore, we do not lose heart.” Despite the external decay and suffering he experiences, he remains undaunted. The key to his resilience is the inner renewal he experiences daily through his relationship with God. This inner renewal contrasts sharply with the outward deterioration of our bodies, emphasizing the transformative power of being spiritually connected to God. Even when we face physical or external challenges, we need to focus on spiritual growth that is not dependent on our physical bodies.

Paul puts this in perspective in verse 17: "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." Paul’s afflictions, and ours, are "light and momentary" in comparison to the "eternal glory" they are producing. This eternal glory, which is far more significant, serves as a powerful incentive to endure whatever our present difficulties are. This perspective challenges Paul’s readers to reframe their understanding of suffering. Instead of viewing it as pointless or overwhelming, he invites us to see it as a temporary phase that contributes to a much greater and everlasting reward. This eternal perspective can transform how we as believers approach our trials, fostering hope and perseverance.

Concluding this passage in verse 18, Paul encourages believers to focus on the unseen and the eternal rather than the seen and the temporary. The visible, material world is passing away, but the invisible, spiritual realities are eternal. By shifting our focus to the eternal, we as believers can maintain a sense of purpose and hope amid life's transitory challenges. This verse gives us a fundamental principle of our faith: living by faith rather than sight. It calls believers to prioritize spiritual realities and eternal truths over immediate, tangible experiences. This means cultivating a vision that looks beyond the present circumstances to the enduring promises of God.

This section offers profound insights for believers facing various challenges. First, it emphasizes the active nature of faith, which compels us to speak and act boldly, not just to silently keep our faith to ourselves. Second, the certainty of the resurrection provides a foundation for hope and perseverance. In a world marked by suffering and uncertainty, the promise of resurrection and eternal life offers a powerful anchor for the soul. The interconnectedness of ministry, grace, and thanksgiving highlights the communal aspect of faith. Believers are called to persevere in their ministries, knowing that their efforts contribute to the spread of the gospel and glorifying God.

The call to fix our eyes on things that are unseen and eternal challenges us to cultivate an eternal perspective. This means prioritizing spiritual realities and eternal truths over immediate, tangible experiences. It encourages a shift in focus from the transient to the enduring, fostering resilience and hope.

Speak boldly, be anchored in the resurrection, embrace Christian community, make spiritual growth a priority, and cultivate an eternal perspective in your life.

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The Gospel 10: Reaching the Affluent

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, May 24, 2024 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

While the Gospel is for the destitute, the Gospel is a call to the affluent as well. Not everyone in affluent positions got there by greed, power grabs, or corruption. Some got there simply because they worked hard and are reaping the rewards of their efforts. Not all who are rich are evil people seeking to crush those below them under their feet. But the wealthy, the celebrity, the politician, and the star all need the Gospel too, and the Gospel can change them just as it does for the destitute.

A classic case of Jesus dealing with the wealthy is the case of the rich young ruler, who knew Jesus had everything for eternal life and he did not. Jesus addressed the law and the young man thought he had kept it, but Jesus exposed his fatal flaw: his wealth, or rather, his love for his wealth. Jesus told him to sell it all, to give it all away, and then to follow Him, and he walked away sad because he was unwilling to let it all go for eternal life.

A more modern example of the Gospel reaching the affluent is C.T. Studd. He was born in riches, living in one of those “Pride and Prejudice” or “Sense and Sensibility” homes. He was also a star athlete, the #1 cricket player in the world. Then Jesus got ahold of him. He literally gave away his cricket career, his academic endeavors, and his entire fortune to follow Hudson Taylor in interior China before going on to India and then to interior Africa. We hear of David Livingstone being the first missionary to interior Africa. C.T. Studd was the man who answered the call to go there when Livingstone gave his report. Studd left all his wealth behind and became a true warrior for Christ who would not back down from anything.

When it comes to the affluent, the Gospel will work one of two ways. It will release them from the grip of their money, prestige, and title and drive them to use their position purely for God’s glory. Or it will curse them, and their idols will utterly consume them. One thing regarding the rich young ruler is that Jesus did not tell every wealthy man to give up his money. Jesus’ goal was to give up control of the money. Jesus’ own ministry thrived on the donations and gifts of wealthy, affluent people. There are good churches and good business people who do build up their resources but they have a goal and purpose which is to be a storehouse to be able to give at sudden notice in large quantities. I am by no means rich or wealthy, but God has put me in a position financially that if I see a need with a larger request than most people could give, I can. I could not drop $10k in one go, but there have been times when I have dropped $1k because the Lord gave me an opportunity to do so. I say this not to boast but to give an example of what someone can do if they have resources and how they can use it if the Gospel has reached them. They become Kingdom-minded.

My parents are an even better example. When I lived with them in Fabens, TX, and then far east El Paso, their mindset was how they could use their property, their tools, and their resources for ministry. They didn’t have a lot of money, but even when my dad did make a decent income before we moved to the mission field, the first thing I remember us doing in this regard was using our place to bring in buses we used for ministry to take mission teams to Mexico. We would fix the buses as needed, and then we used our house to stage for outreach.

This was demonstrated in the early church, too. The early believers would sell off extra land and property and give to the church. They kept the land and houses they needed and what would be useful for the church. The wealthier ones used their homes for Bible study, meetings, prayer, breaking of bread, tending to the poor, and bringing in families, especially those women whose husbands were persecuted or killed. The Gospel did not tell them to give away every penny. The Gospel changed their hearts so that all their resources were for God to use at His desire.

But for those who do not hear the Gospel’s call to repent, their own affluence will become their own death sentence. The love of money and the seeking of power, prestige, and glory brings a curse when one finds it. It never satisfies and always leaves the seeking of more until it has eaten the soul completely. As Scripture says, God’s word will not return void. It will go do what it was sent to accomplish; that includes saving some from their idols, and it also includes judging and condemning those who refuse to let them go.

There are more whom the Gospel reaches than these. The Gospel also reaches the addicted, which we will look at next week.

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2 Corinthians 4:7-12

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, May 20, 2024 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
- 2 Corinthians 4:7-12

Paul often uses contrasts in his writings, which we see here along with displaying how Christianity can contain paradoxes as well.

When we start reading at verse 7, we first have to ask what “this” treasure is. We found that in verse 6: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” The treasure is the gospel message of Jesus Christ, but yet it is in “jars of clay.” These jars represent humans, who are fragile, mortal, and broken. Paul uses this contrast to show that while our physical bodies are not perfect, we were made in God’s image and we display His glory. This is the paradox of the Christian experience – the amazing truth of God’s revelation in the gospel message is contained within the limitations of our human frailty.

This simple metaphor emphasizes the source of the power behind the gospel message. While the vessels themselves may be ordinary and easily broken, the power they contain is extraordinary and divine. By using such humble containers, God demonstrates that the effectiveness of the gospel message is not dependent on the strength or wisdom of its messengers but on His power working through them. This challenges our tendency to rely on our own abilities, and it underscores the importance of acknowledging God as the ultimate source of all spiritual power and insight. We do not exist through our own power but through God’s.

In verses 8-9, we see more contrasts that help us apply the metaphor from verse 7, along with the lyrics to a popular worship song from years ago. We see the weakness of Paul (and all human beings) but in that, we see the power of God to preserve him (and us) through all things. Paul lists some of the challenges of following Christ in this life – being hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. But through the power of the Spirit, we can persevere through all these things! We are not crushed, not in despair, not abandoned, and not destroyed.

This is another paradox of the Christian life, which is simultaneously marked by trials and triumphs. The phrase "hard pressed on every side" conveys the sense of being surrounded by difficulties and obstacles, yet Paul quickly adds the qualifier "but not crushed." Here, we see the resilience of the Christian spirit, which can continue on by the hope and strength found in Christ.

The word "perplexed" suggests a state of confusion or uncertainty, reflecting the complexities of life in a fallen world. Yet, even in the face of uncertainty, believers are not left to despair. The promise of God's presence and provision sustains them through the darkest of times, offering a steadfast anchor for the soul. This verse reminds us that while trials may test our faith and endurance, they cannot ultimately defeat us, for we are held secure in the hands of a faithful and unchanging God.

Continuing his catalog of hardships, Paul highlights the reality of persecution and suffering endured by believers for the sake of the gospel. Throughout history, countless followers of Christ have faced opposition, rejection, and even martyrdom for their faith. Yet, even in the midst of such intense hostility, believers are assured of God's unfailing presence and support.

The phrase "but not abandoned" carries with it the assurance that God stands with His people in their hour of need, providing comfort, strength, and courage to endure. Similarly, the image of being "struck down" evokes the sense of being overwhelmed by adversity, yet believers are reminded that they are not ultimately defeated. Just as Christ Himself was raised victorious over death, so too can believers find hope in the promise of resurrection and redemption.

In verse 10, Paul introduces a profound theological concept—that of sharing in the sufferings of Christ. By identifying with Christ in His death, believers participate in the redemptive work of the cross, bearing witness to the transformative power of His resurrection. This is another paradox: dying to self in order to experience the newness of life. The idea of carrying "the death of Jesus" in our bodies speaks to the sacrificial nature of discipleship. As followers of Christ, we are called to embrace the way of the cross, willingly surrendering our own desires and ambitions for the sake of His kingdom. In doing so, we become living testimonies to the reality of Christ's resurrection, as His life is made manifest in and through us.

Paul further elaborates on the theme of suffering and resurrection in verse 11, emphasizing the ongoing nature of this paradox. The phrase "always being given over to death" speaks to the continual process of dying to self, as believers daily surrender their lives to Christ, motivated by love for Jesus. The ultimate goal of this process is the revelation of Christ's life in our mortal bodies. As we yield ourselves to God's transforming grace, His presence becomes increasingly evident in our words, actions, and attitudes. This is a testimony not to our own strength or goodness but to the power of God at work within us.

Paul brings his argument full circle in verse 12, drawing attention to the paradox of Christian ministry. When sharing the gospel, Paul and his companions willingly embraced suffering and hardship for the sake of those to whom they ministered. The phrase "death is at work in us" underscores the sacrificial nature of their service, as they expend themselves for the sake of others. The suffering endured by Paul and his fellow workers serves not to diminish their ministry but to enhance it, as their weakness becomes the conduit for God's power. This is the mystery of the gospel—that in dying to self, we find true life, and in weakness, we discover divine strength.

Through the multiple paradoxes in this passage, we see the tension between human weakness and divine strength, suffering and glory, death and resurrection. We are encouraged to embrace the way of following Jesus; it may be difficult, but ultimately it is worth it because of God’s power that will be shown in us. This is the result of living our lives for God’s glory rather than for our own glory, the path of self-denial and sacrificial love.

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The Gospel 9: Reaching the Destitute

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, May 17, 2024 1 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

The Gospel does not merely reach the repentant sinner, though for one to be born again, he must repent of his own sin. The Gospel also reaches the destitute. The destitute are not those who have been broken and shattered over their sin; the destitute are those whom society has broken and left as outcasts. They are those reduced to do “manual labor,” the thankless jobs, in which no one gets noticed. They are the poor, the rejected, and the ones who are refused recognition or support. In India, they have a caste system, and below the four major castes are the Dalites, the poor of the poor, and the ones treated as though they are beneath the Brahman. The Gospel is for these types of people, those who are poor in spirit.

When Jesus began His ministry, He went to His hometown of Nazareth and quoted Isaiah 61, saying His calling was to rescue the lost, free the captive, and lift up the downtrodden. He was the fulfillment of this prophecy for the ones whom society has ignored, the ones whom the world rejects. Judea, that distant wasteland that the Romans deemed almost a punishment to be sent “out there,” was rejected by the world. In David and Solomon’s time, they were the pinnacle of the world. All the nations came to see them. But Israel and Judah sinned against God and made this tiny, weak nation truly tiny and weak, where the only reason it remained in existence was the divine protection of God. Israel was not an affluent nation. They did not have a prestigious heritage. They were slaves. They went to Egypt as a family and were enslaved, but they came out as a nation that was led and backed by God Himself.

The exodus from Egypt and the entering of the Promised Land is a full image of the Gospel. We who were once slaves to the meanest and strongest slave master ever to exist (sin) were bought with the greatest price ever paid (the blood of Jesus). The lowest of all people were brought out of slavery and exalted to the highest possible position: servants of God, people who would worship God, serve Him, and praise His name forever. That is the purpose of the Christian: to love God, to enjoy Him forever, to serve Him, and to be His people.

The ones whom the world has beaten down, the victims of the scams, those whom the government has robbed, those who have landed on very hard times, those whom the bankers have denied, those whom the politicians have run down, all unjustly – the Gospel is for these people too. Unlike the selfish rulers who make promises they have no intention of keeping, God does not break His promises. While God does not promise immediate relief to all people, He does promise He will elevate those who trust Him and yet the world does not.

For those in ministry, if you are in that backside of the desert church, serving only 10-50 people if that, and when you go to conferences to get fed and help you are seen as “lesser than,” understand this: one day, God is going to raise you above all those pastors who use their numbers and congregation size as a boasting figure to look at self. The greatest sermons and the greatest preachers truly are those whom no one has heard.

Jesus said, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” When James and John asked to be seated at the right and left hand of Jesus, you could see Jesus weep with frustration at how little they got the purpose of the Kingdom. The Gospel reverses the order of this world. While man seeks acclaim, glory, prestige, names, money, and power, Jesus seeks humility, service, and love and care for others. The world is all about self and elevating self. The Kingdom of God is about denial of self and serving others and a purpose greater than self. When Jesus comes again, He will bring low those who thought they were the best, and He will raise up those the world refused to allow to grow and develop.

The destitute are those who cannot get out of their situation on their own. They need help. They need someone to come down, reach down, and stoop down to lift them up. They need someone from a higher station to come elevate them. The worldly will keep shoving them down because they don’t want competition and they don’t want to be seen as weak before their blood-thirsty peers. The worldly see these people as mere obstacles in their path. The godly, however, sees the individual despite the circumstances and sees the image of God, even if marred and corrupted, in that person. The Gospel is for these people, too. The Gospel tells them that their troubles in this world are only temporary and that the day will come when they will enjoy paradise forever.

Do not hear what I am not saying. I am not saying that the Gospel will lift these people up if they do not repent of their sins. In every category of person I address in this series, there must be repentance because all have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God in their own right. But the Gospel does much more than cleanse humble sinners. That is primary, but it does more than that. It also lifts up those whom the world has rejected, and it will bring low those the world lifts up. I’ll address that category next week. The Gospel is for the wealthy too.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.


2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, May 13, 2024 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
- 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

In the previous section of this letter, Paul used the example of Moses and the veil over his face to demonstrate how we do not understand God’s Word until the veil is lifted and we are enlightened by the Holy Spirit through our faith in Christ.

Verse 1 of this passage also connects to 2 Corinthians 3:6: “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant —not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Paul was appointed to be a minister of this new covenant, and that is only through God’s mercy. Paul’s mission is not to enforce the law of the Old Testament but to promote the grace that God has shown to him and to every person through the death of Jesus.

This ministry that Paul refers to is not just his own, but that of all believers who are called to spread the message of the gospel. The phrase "do not lose heart" speaks to the challenges and tribulations faced by those engaged in this ministry. Despite setbacks, opposition, and hardships, believers are encouraged to persevere, drawing strength from the mercy of God.

Paul promotes doing this ministry with integrity in verse 2. Some believe Paul writes this because he had been accused of deceitful behavior, which he is continuing to reject here. He has not used any deceptive or shameful practices, and he honors the Word of God when he preaches the gospel message. This emphasis by Paul appeals to the conscience of the Corinthians, trusting that they will receive this truth with sincerity and authenticity.

This should apply to us today as well; we, too, should promote the gospel message with integrity, without using any kind of deceptive measures or secret and shameful ways. This would hamper the message of truth and love that we should be preaching with the gospel message.

In verse 3, Paul acknowledges that despite their efforts to proclaim the gospel plainly, there are still those who remain blind to its message. The metaphor of veiling refers back to the end of chapter 3 and suggests that some are unable or unwilling to see the truth of the gospel, often due to spiritual blindness or hardness of heart. However, Paul does not despair but recognizes that this blindness is temporary and a consequence of spiritual death.

Paul acknowledges that this veiling is not due to his lack of preaching the gospel message clearly but rather because of “the god of this age” (verse 4). The “god of this age” is not the one true God but rather Satan, who was referred to as the “prince of this world” in John 12:31. As Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

This adversary seeks to blind the minds of unbelievers, preventing them from seeing the illuminating truth of the gospel, which reveals the glory of Christ as the image of God. It's a reminder of the spiritual warfare inherent in spreading the gospel and the need for discernment and prayer in combating the forces of darkness. We need to fight against this adversary’s powers to blind people to the truth of God’s Word. We can do this through being in the Word ourselves and allowing God to open our minds to His truths, which we should not keep to ourselves but share with those around us to enlighten their minds as well.

While Paul did emphasize the integrity of his preaching tactics, he did not preach his own message but rather the message of Jesus Christ as Lord (verse 5). That is the essence of the gospel message – proclaiming Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 12:3, Colossians 2:6-7). Paul’s role is one of service, humbly sharing the message of Christ for the benefit of others. This verse underscores the centrality of Christ in our Christian faith and the selfless nature of true ministry.

Paul concludes this section in verse 6 with a powerful reminder of God's transformative power. Just as God brought light into the darkness at the creation of the world, so too does He illuminate the hearts of believers with the knowledge of His glory through Christ. This light dispels spiritual blindness and reveals the beauty and majesty of God's presence in the person of Jesus Christ. This is also reminiscent of Paul’s own conversion to the faith where he was literally blinded by the great light of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:1-19). The metaphor of God being light and Satan/evil being darkness (the absence of light) is often seen throughout Scripture.

In this passage, we see multiple encouragements for our lives as believers. We all have this ministry through God’s mercy, and that includes all believers, not just those whose vocation is ministry. We should proclaim the gospel message with integrity, not using any kind of deceitful tactics. Spiritual warfare is real, where Satan tries to blind the hearts of many against the truth of the gospel message. But the light of God will ultimately defeat the darkness of evil, just as it did in Paul’s life. May the light of Christ continue to shine brightly in our hearts, illuminating our path and drawing others to the knowledge of God's glory through our lives!

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The Gospel 8: Reaching the Repentant

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, May 10, 2024 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Over the past few weeks, I have been explaining the major portions of the Gospel: God’s message to mankind on his malady of sin, the severity of it, and the solution, the way out. Now I want to get to the heart of what triggered this series: who does the Gospel reach and how does it affect their lives in those areas? I want to make clear that the Gospel is for everyone, in every type of situation. The Gospel exposes every one of man’s problems with one word: sin. It reveals the solution to that one problem: Jesus Christ. Sin is the thinking, actions, and lifestyle of one’s own way instead of God’s way. Salvation is the surrender and denial of self and submitting oneself to Jesus Christ.

The first group I will address that the Gospel reaches is the most obvious one for those in Christian circles to identify: the repentant sinner. The repentant sinner is someone who has realized the severity of their sin and the consequences of it. They understand they have broken God’s law and thus offended the Lord of Glory and made themselves a stench in His nostrils. They also understand the severity of the consequences and realize that they will not just spend eternity in hell for it, suffering most greatly, but they will never have any chance of fellowship with God ever again. They will never be able to experience life to its fullest. The repentant sinner understands he has already done this, and it grieves him so much to the point that he will literally change his lifestyle and his thinking to get away from it.

The result of a sinner who has realized the severity of his sin is sheer brokenness. The sinner will have reached rock bottom, realizing and understanding that he is in a pit with no hope of getting out of his own. He is at the end of his rope, the end of his pride, the end of any self-effort, and in total desperation, he will cling to the only hope that is offered. If he arrives at this point, he will also very likely have tried all other options already. To be broken like this will mean he will have either experienced it himself or seen it in others to know that the other routes will not work. He will not try alcohol or drugs. He will not go to any false or pretense of religion that merely tries to sweep away the guilt he feels. He will go to the very one he offended the most: God the Father. The clearest example of this is David in Psalm 51 where he confesses his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah before God.

To reach this state of brokenness, it will be God who bears such witness to his guilt, and it will drive him to his knees, if not his face to the ground. Paris Reidhead speaks of John Wesley in England and John Wesley Redfield in Yale, CT, that when they preached their multi-hour sermons about the holiness of God and the severity and depravity of sin, that hundreds to even thousands of people would be so weighted down with the guilt of sin that it drove them to unconsciousness. This was the impact of Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” There was nothing special about these preachers’ delivery, but it was the preaching under the anointing from heaven to bring sinners into brokenness so they may repent. Unlike the crusades of today, people did repent and changed their lives.

The Gospel changes lives. Jesus died so that the just punishment we deserve for our sins was taken upon Himself in our place. He put His own righteousness upon us as though we never sinned to begin with. But this exchange is not a “Get Out of Hell Free” card. It is also an exchange of mindsets, an exchange of lifestyles, and an exchange of interests, drives, and motivations. The sinful lifestyle is to be put to death as Jesus died. In its place, the new life of Christ is born in us and comes with the resurrection of Jesus.

No clearer example of this can be seen than the Apostle Paul. He was an evil man who thought his religion was sufficient to make him right with God. He sought to arrest and murder those who professed the name of Christ, the very messiah his own faith proclaimed. Then Jesus knocked him on his backside and blinded him. In that state of brokenness, when Paul met Jesus, he saw his own sin and he became a new man. He would no longer be identified as Saul of Tarsus but as Paul the Apostle.

But there is something else about Paul that marks someone who has been saved after having his sin fully exposed and coming to know Jesus Christ. The repentant sinner is not crushed by his own sin just one time; he is repeatedly and ever increasingly aware of his sin and its severity. Paul started out boasting about how great a Savior Jesus was, but he continually became more aware of just how severe his sin was and would consider himself the chief of all sinners. Paul knew his weaknesses, and he also knew how much he sinned AFTER he became a believer. And he bemoaned himself how he could be saved from sin, how he could know what right and wrong truly was, and he would still sin. And he recognized that it was never in and of himself that he could ever do right, but only Christ in action, through him, that he could be saved. Paul’s rant in Romans 7 is not that we are hopeless in our sin, but that in our own strength we are hopeless. That is why we need a Savior, and we need to rely on Him wholly and completely. We will never overcome sin on our own even after salvation. Only Jesus can overcome sin. And only by denying self and dying to self on a daily, hourly basis, will we see victory.

Jesus died for the repentant sinner. He died for those broken by the weight of their sin and who know their only hope is found in Jesus. He died for that prodigal son who came to his senses and realized his sinful lifestyle destroyed him and shamed his family’s name. He died so that these people may have a new life, that their sinful past may be a thing of the past, and that they may now live new lives in the hope and glory of the King.

But the repentant sinner is not the only one whom Jesus died for. The Gospel is God’s message to mankind, and it will not return void. There are others whom the Gospel reaches too. Stay tuned for the next few weeks as there are more for whom the Gospel comes to save.

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2 Corinthians 3:7-18

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, May 6, 2024 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
- 2 Corinthians 3:7-18

The verse right before this passage is important to bring up again as we get into this section: “[God] has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). The NIV inserts a section heading between verses 6 and 7, but Paul’s idea of becoming ministers of the new covenant continues throughout this overall section.

In verses 7-8, Paul compares the old covenant, represented by the tablets of stone given to Moses, to the new covenant, inaugurated by the Spirit. Here, we encounter the theme of contrast that runs throughout this passage. The old covenant, characterized by the letter that kills, stands in contrast to the new covenant, which brings life. In this verse, Paul lays the groundwork for his exploration of the surpassing glory of the new covenant in Christ.

This is just the start of Paul’s references to the narrative of Moses from Exodus 34:29-35. When Moses came down from Mt Sinai with the Ten Commandments, his face was shining so brightly that the people could not look at him. If that was the greatness of the old covenant, how much greater is the glory of the new covenant in revealing God’s character! The ministry of God’s Spirit is so much greater than the letter of the law.

In verse 9, Paul reminds the Corinthians that the law brought condemnation by showing the people their sin, while the gospel now brings righteousness by showing the people their redemption. It is so much more glorious to bring life than to condemn!

In verses 10-11, Paul introduces a key theme that runs throughout the passage: transformation. He describes the ministry of the law, administered by Moses, as glorious, but ultimately overshadowed by the even greater glory of the new covenant. The ministry of condemnation, which reveals the reality of sin and its consequences, is contrasted with the ministry of righteousness, which brings forgiveness, reconciliation, and transformation through Christ. Here, Paul lays the groundwork for his exploration of the transformative power of the Spirit. The new covenant is life-giving, and it empowers believers to live in freedom and victory through the indwelling presence of the Spirit.

The “therefore” at the beginning of verse 12 summarizes the previous thoughts and points toward what we should do about it. We do have this certain hope in the new covenant because of Jesus Christ. Because of that, we are bold in living out our faith.

This boldness is contrasted with the actions of Moses in verse 13. Paul teaches that Moses put a veil over his face so that the people of Israel would not see the brightness of God’s glory fading from his face. The new covenant surpassed the old covenant and will never fade or pass away.

In verses 14-15, Paul highlights the role of faith in experiencing the transformative power of the Spirit. He draws a parallel between the veil that once obscured the glory of God from the Israelites and the veil that blinds the minds of unbelievers. Just as the Israelites were unable to see the fullness of God's glory because of their unbelief, so too unbelievers are unable to perceive the truth of the gospel because of their spiritual blindness. This verse underscores the importance of faith in apprehending the reality of God's presence and power in our lives.

Paul emphasizes the role of the Spirit for revelation in the believer's life. He describes the process of spiritual transformation as a gradual unveiling, likening it to the removal of a veil from the face. Just as Moses' face shone with increasing brightness as he beheld the glory of God, so too believers are transformed into the image of Christ as they behold his glory. But this veil is still in place for anyone who does not have faith in Jesus; a spiritual veil still covers their hearts.

It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit giving faith in Jesus Christ that this veil is lifted (verse 16). This verse underscores the centrality of the Spirit in the believer's life, who enables us to see and apprehend the reality of God's glory. The Spirit is the transformative power in the believer’s life, which is what truly brings us freedom (verse 17). We are set free from the power of sin and death and empowered to live in righteousness and holiness.

Verse 18 is the culmination of this passage, showing how each one of us is being transformed into the Lord’s image. As believers behold the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, we are transformed by the Spirit, reflecting more and more of Christ's likeness in our lives. This verse serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of the gospel, which not only saves us from sin but also shapes us into the image of Christ.

This passage should continue to remind us of the power of the gospel message and how glorious it is. The glory of the old covenant has faded and been surpassed by the new covenant. We are no longer a part of the ministry of condemnation but rather the ministry of righteousness. When we have faith in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, the veil is removed from our hearts and we are transformed in Christ!

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The Gospel 7: Eternity

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, May 3, 2024 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

The Gospel is about God. It is about the Father who created the universe. It is about the fall of man, who was created in the image of God, and his defiance against God. It is about the love of God and the mercy of God who, while upholding His righteous judgment against the wicked, made a plan from the start for how He would rescue mankind from his malady without violating His character. Jesus, the Son of God, fully divine, became a man, lived fully as a man, was in actuality fully man, and He submitted Himself to the suffering and discipline of manhood and to the Father where He would give His life as a ransom for many. Jesus died on the cross, bearing the full weight of God’s wrath, the full weight of the sin of mankind. He then rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father, ruling as the King of Kings, preparing a place for the saved, and preparing to come get His bride and put an end to the rebellion against God once and for all.

The Gospel is not just the ultimate epic story about the redemption of man. The Gospel has that ultimate ending, too, when the villain is finally squashed once and for all, and the hero gets to live with his loved ones happily ever after. Unlike the fairy tales, however, this happily ever after ending actually does happen because the sin that ruins it will be removed once and for all. All things in history today are pointing towards this grand finale. While I know every generation has believed this, there is serious reason to suggest that it will come in my lifetime or the next generation’s lifetime. I’m not calling that a prediction or a prophecy, just a hunch. The level of urgency to preach the Gospel, to get back to Scripture, and to start living holy lives once again is at an all-time high. The coming of Christ is imminent. I am not going to get into the end times models or anything like that, but this is about what Christ will do to end the story and how it will all come to a close, not the specific details of how it will be carried out.

The great struggle between good and evil, between righteousness and wickedness, is coming to a close. The wicked are becoming more wicked and the righteous are getting more righteous. And the day is coming, though we do not know when, that Jesus will come again. That day will be swift and sudden, and there will be no chance to get one’s life in order once it starts. Just read Jesus’ parables. Those who are ready and have already made terms of peace will be spared and welcomed into the kingdom of heaven. Those who are not will be treated as who they have always been – the enemies of God in a rebellious coup against Him. The devil will get one last chance to deceive the nations and it won’t be a gradual, sly deception this time. It will be a full-out war that will make Armageddon look small. But unlike Armageddon, this battle won’t even need to take place, because when all the nations and armies are gathered, Jesus will come on His white horse with the saints and the angels and spectators. He will come and slaughter the wicked in one last judgment. After that will be the Great White Throne Judgment in which every person will give account to God and all the physical creation will be burned with fire and the story will conclude as one closing a book.

At the judgment, those who failed to make terms of peace and receive the Gospel will be cast out once and for all, and they will be cast into hell. Those who sought all their lives to live without God will still never get their wish. They will only know God’s wrath and judgment. They will cease experiencing His love, mercy, and grace in which the rain falls on the just and the unjust. I do believe they will get the desires of their sinful flesh, but there will be no pleasure in any of it and those desires will only get stronger and stronger and never cease. I can’t prove those details of hell, but when you see the horror stories of cursed existences, those ideas come from somewhere.

But for those who have made terms of peace, for those who have received the Gospel and been born again and are now living lives that seek after God instead of self, they will see Christ come to their stand at the judgment day. Jesus will proclaim that His blood has purchased them, and God will make the righteous declaration final. At that point, we will be granted our new, glorified bodies, which are completely freed from any curse of sin, and we will be made as we were originally intended. At the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for sin. At the resurrection, Jesus broke the power of sin. And when He returns, Jesus will remove us from the very presence of sin. At that point, the Gospel will be completed, and those whom Jesus saved will be in true paradise forever.

But this paradise is not for us. That is, God did not save us so we could enjoy paradise. God saved us ultimately so we could enjoy HIM. True paradise is not simply a lack of sin, though it involves that. True paradise is being in the presence of God forever, where we can enjoy and worship Him forever. The Gospel starts with God, it was carried out by God, and it will be ended by God. And when it all comes to a close, God will be the center of everything, and we will get to see Him face-to-face. The marriage to Christ will be completed, and we will have all of eternity to learn more and more about God with a sin-free mind. That is something we cannot look forward to enough.

So that completes my series on what the Gospel is. But next, I want to get into some more specifics as to what the Gospel does and who it is for. The Gospel is a much stronger and greater story than just to save sinners. It does so much more than that. We’ll explore who the Gospel is for and what types of people it will heal starting next week.

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