When God Walked Alone—Part 4 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

The Power of Personal Story
by: Ben Biles

I think for most of us, we get nervous when we think about sharing the gospel. We worry that we won’t communicate it in the right way. Or that the other person will get offended. Or that our friends and workmates will only think of us as that “religious person” and want nothing to do with us. All of these worries and fears have kept us from sharing the most important truth of all time, and when we’re reminded of that, we feel shame. Because of this, most of us choose to ignore it and leave the evangelizing to the church staff. 

Yet, the truth is that God has called all believers into ministry. Paul writes in Ephesians, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:11–12). Jesus gifts people within the church for the purpose of equipping all the saints, which is what Paul calls believers in his letters. As saints, or believers, we are all called to ministry by our Heavenly Father and are able to experience the absolute joy of sharing our faith. Plus, when every believer is involved in spreading the gospel, the church multiples its ability to spread the gospel by 100. 

So, how can we be confident in our ability to share the gospel with others? How do we get over those fears that hinder us? Well, this past weekend, Pastor Tim talked about the tools available to us that are useful in helping us share our faith with other people. He mentioned three in particular: 1) the Holy Spirit, 2) our own personal story, and 3) the church. 

First, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will give us the right words to say when we give witness to the truth of the gospel. It is by the Spirit’s power that anyone is persuaded of the gospel truth. We can be comforted that God’s own Spirit is with us when we share our faith. 

Alongside the Spirit, there is nothing more powerful than talking about our own personal story of coming to know Christ. When we communicate about anything life-changing, people want to know, “Does it really work?” So when we share how Jesus truly turned our life around, saving us from sin and death and giving us purpose and meaning in a relationship with God, others latch on to the power of that personal experience. They think that, “If it worked for you, then it can also work for me.” Our personal story gives context to the truth of the gospel. It’s more than just facts and belief statements. We admit our past sinfulness, but point to God’s salvation through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

Finally, when we get involved in a church community that is actively talking about faith within their life, it becomes natural for us. We no longer fear bringing up spiritual topics, but delight in discussing the truth that changed our life. When we together live and speak in a way that displays the goodness of God, we show all people the power of God’s life-changing salvation. These tools are the same three that believers have used for centuries to share their faith. They truly work and will help you share your faith and change lives.

 

Living out the Message:

Gospel-Sharing Community
By Ben Biles

It’s not always easy to share our faith with others. In fact, just thinking about doing that makes some of us start sweating in nervous fear. The truth is that many of us don’t feel gifted with the ability to share the gospel in a way that would make an impact on nonbelievers. Yet, I think a mistake we usually make is thinking primarily of sharing faith in a one-on-one conversation. While that does happen and can be effective, I have found that for all believers, the gospel is best shared through the actions and words of the church community as a whole. 

Throughout the two millennia since the creation of the church, the most persuasive form of the gospel is seen in the love of believers for others. The church is the main source of evidence for Jesus’ power as it shows so many changed lives and how their faith affects the way they relate to other believers. Individuals can be discounted, but an entire community is harder to disbelieve. The church is a community that is built of broken people, who were formerly strangers, who were all redeemed by the Savior and brought into the family of God together. We are brothers and sisters in the faith and together, we proclaim the gospel through our lives.

This is why Paul writes, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3). When all believers in the local church live in this way, then they build incredible unity in their relationships which display the love of Christ. The church body functionally shows the world that a relationship with Jesus changes lives and we become invitational through the way we love each other. When others see that, they want to know why we are the way we are, and through that, the gospel is shared. 

In this way, all believers can be involved in sharing their faith in a way in which they can feel effective and useful. We simply need to be involved with other believers in a united, caring community and then live in such a way that communicates how the love and grace of God has changed our lives.

When God Walked Alone—Part 3 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

The Problem, The Solution, The Response
by: Ben Biles

Throughout our current series When God Walked Alone, Pastor Tim has been developing the clearest possible version of the gospel message. The reason for this is that the language surrounding the communication of the gospel can be confused and many of us have experienced this in our lives. However, just because it sounds spiritual, doesn’t make it correct. So, in order to build confidence in the truth that God has given us, we feel that it is necessary to present it in a format that is easily understood and without confusion. It includes three parts: the problem, the solution, and the response. 

First, the problem is sin. The horrifying truth is that all people are sinful. It all started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden deciding to disobey God and then spread to all of humanity. Every single person, except for Jesus the Son of God, has followed in Adam and Eve’s footsteps in sin. In Ephesians, Paul writes, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world” (Eph. 2:1–2). In Scripture, there are two kinds of death. Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. Spiritual death is the separate of the individual from God. Our sin separated us from God. We were spiritually dead. We could neither know Him or even come to know Him through anything that we did. Left in our sins, we were doomed to an eternal separation from God. 

Thankfully, the solution is Jesus. The Father sent His Son into the world. He lived a perfect life completely free from sin. Yet, He was nailed to a cross, taking the sins of the world upon Himself, and was killed as a sacrifice for our sins. Why did Jesus have to die? Because the penalty for sin is death. Only the righteous Son of God could take our place and die the death we deserved. Through his death, Jesus paid the penalty for us all. 

Finally, the response that God is looking for is faith. There are no other conditions except for faith. You don’t have to make a commitment. You don’t have to surrender your life. You don’t have to be baptized. All of these involve an exchange in which we receive eternal life in exchange for something we give God. Instead, God gives us salvation freely and we receive it by faith. Again in Ephesians, Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8–9). We couldn’t do anything to resolve our sin problem, but God could and He did. Now, He extends salvation from sin freely as a gift to be received simply by faith. In this, we rejoice knowing that our sins are forgiven and we have eternal life. 

The problem is sin. The solution is Jesus. And the response that God is looking for is faith. That is the gospel. 

 

Living out the Message:

Faith and Discipleship
By Ben Biles

Over the last few weeks, we’ve tried to make the Gospel message as clear as possible. Simply put, it starts with a problem: we are all sinful. Yet, God the Father sent His Son to earth as a solution to our problem. Jesus died on a cross as a sacrifice for our sins and the Father raised Him up to life as acceptance of the payment of our debt. The response God is looking for now is faith. Whoever believes in Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of their sins receives eternal life. They are saved from sin forever and enter into a relationship with God. 

God did everything to secure our salvation and He offers it freely as a gift. There is nothing that we can do to earn it in any way. We simply receive God’s gift of eternal life by faith. Yet, if you’ve been in church for a while, you’ve probably heard things like “you need to follow God,” “you need to obey God,” or “you need to serve God,” etc. To be clear, following, obeying, and serving God are all great decisions to be made by believers, but they in no way earn salvation. Instead, these are all a part of the discipleship process that we choose to enter into after we place our faith in Jesus. We do this because we want to know God more and grow in His love and grace. 

But what if someone believes in Jesus and then immediately goes back to a sinful lifestyle? Are they still saved? If someone believes in Jesus, his death and resurrection, then God gives him salvation. There is nothing that they can do to earn it, and there is nothing that they can do to lose it. To go back into sin is a misunderstanding of the life God offers us and the destructive nature of sin, but it does not cancel out faith. No amount of sin we commit can lose the salvation God gives us. 

The Apostle Paul writes, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him…  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:6–8, 11). Our faith in Jesus gives us a relationship with God—we are ‘alive’ to God. We can now freely choose to follow God, obey Him, and serve Him, all of which lead to a richer, fuller experience of life. God does not force us to follow Him. He does not force us to stop sinning against Him. It is a decision we make in response to His love for us.

When God Walked Alone—Part 2 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

God’s Economy of Grace
by: Ben Biles

This last weekend, Pastor Tim took us through Abraham’s experience of God’s grace. As can be deduced from Genesis and Paul’s writings in Romans, Abraham was credited righteousness by God not based on his own good works, but simply by his faith. Yet, we live in a world that runs on a merit system. If you make good grades, you go to a good college. If you work hard, you get a promotion. If you are attractive, smart, funny, and have a good job, you can marry the person you want. Yet, God’s righteousness is given out freely through faith and it is not based on what we do. 

This is great news because if we were rewarded based on what we have done, we would only earn ourselves God’s wrath. As Paul says in Romans, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). The law given to Israel in the Old Testament showed the nation the incredible standard of righteousness needed to be in a relationship with God. Yet by it, we came to understand sin and were unable to live up to God’s standard. Ultimately, what the law really showed us was that we needed a sacrifice for our sins—one that could free us from sin and death. 

To this end, Paul continues in Romans, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:21–22). He tells us that righteousness is not available by obeying the law since that is impossible. Instead, God made a way to make us righteous through faith in Jesus Christ. Why is righteousness so important? Because only the righteous can know God and have a relationship with God. Sinners are unable to come to God because they are not righteous. Thankfully, all we need to do is believe and God gives us forgiveness from sins, gives us His own righteousness, and gives us eternal life.

Paul makes it even more clear in Ephesians when he writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). We are saved from sin and death solely by God’s grace. So then, as believers, we no longer live in slavery to sin, but we live in God’s economy of grace, owing everything to Him for what He has done for us. We are sustained through His grace on a daily basis and are promised the full richness of His grace into eternity. This should fill us with overwhelming joy as we celebrate the free gift of God.

Living out the Message:

Good God, Good Grace, God Works
By Ben Biles

Our God has provided a way for us to come to know him through His Son. By Jesus’ death and resurrection, the debt for our sins has been paid and we can be forgiven through faith in Him. Though we cannot do anything to earn God’s favor, He saves us from our sins and gives us eternal life. We have new life with Him and experience His constant goodness and grace now and into eternity. 

Yet, this can cause confusion going forward in the lives of believers. Though we are not saved by good works, our actions are still important in our relationship with God. I’ve heard many people say, “Well, if God will forgive anything I do, then I can just live however I want.” Then, they continue to pursue sinful desires and patterns of life, which betray the true desire of the heart. They weren’t interested in pursuing a relationship with God. Instead, they wanted assurance that, as they pursued sinful living, they wouldn’t be doomed by it. 

This is exactly the attitude Paul addresses in Romans 6, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin… So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:6–7, 11). We are freed from sin and its deadly effects through Jesus’ death. Desiring to go back to sin is a misunderstanding of the life that is presented to you. Avoiding sin and resisting temptation has the double effect of pleasing God and benefiting us personally with a stronger relationship with God.

We talk a lot about Ephesians 2:8-9, but the verse right away these says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). This word “workmanship” is a term used to talk about something a master crafter has made. In other words, we are God’s creation and designed to do good in the world. Not only do these good works enable us to better enjoy our relationship with God, but they also further God’s mission to spread His gospel message throughout the community. When we do this collectively as believers, we impact our communities in incredible ways. Based on God’s grace, we walk in good works, showing the world our good God.

When God Walked Alone—Part 1 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

The Essential Elements of the Gospel
by: Ben Biles

On Sunday, Pastor Tim started off our new series When God Walked Alone, which is loosely based on his new book by the same title. The idea behind the series and the book is to better explain the gospel message by communicating the three essential elements of this message. These elements are 1) the problem is sin, 2) the solution is Jesus, and 3) the response God is looking for is faith. The purpose is to equip each of us to confidently share our faith with others, clearing up any confusion along the way. 

The first element of the Gospel message starts off with bad news: all people are sinful. Yet, a lot of people believe that they will go to heaven after they die because they lived good lives. The Bible gives us a different perspective. Paul explains in Romans that “there is no one righteous, not even one” and that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The problem is that all of humanity is considered sinful and unable to come to know God or enter heaven after death. Without God, we are eternally doomed. 

Thankfully, God does not leave us in sin, but provides a solution to sin through His Son. Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life, and died on the cross for the sins of the world. Paul explains that “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus took all of our sins upon Himself and paid the penalty for those sins through His death. We see God’s acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice through His resurrection from the dead. 

Now, the response God is looking for is faith. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he says “for you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). Salvation is a gift from God that is received by faith in Jesus Christ. Through faith, our sins are forever forgiven, God declares us righteous, and we are given eternal life. 

This is the Gospel that we live to proclaim. Our greatest desire is for all people to come to know God and have their lives forever changed by the Gospel. We get to be a part of God’s mission as He uses us to communicate this incredible message of grace. 

Living out the Message:

Our Response to the Gospel
By Ben Biles

Though we were dead in our sins, God made us alive together with Christ. The gospel message is one of hope as we are forgiven from our sins and enter into a relationship with our Creator. Yet, many Christians are confused about what comes next. How does this gospel message change the way we live now? From what I gather from the New Testament, I have found four main actions that characterize the life of a believer.

First, we are called to rejoice. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). The reason for our rejoicing is based on what God has done for us. He has saved us from an eternity apart from Himself and has given us eternal life. We now have a relationship with our Creator and are secured in His love and grace. This is cause for daily celebration! Plus, your joy is one of the greatest evidences of God’s work in your life.

Second, we give thanks to God for what He has done for us and what He continues to do in our lives. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). Though it is easy to get distracted with everything going on in your life, a mind focused on God gives thanks to Him. This is a sign of our appreciation and love for Him as we acknowledge how great our God is. God has given us the very thing our souls desperately desire and we thank Him for this free gift of eternal life.

Paul encourages all believers to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1–2). Though we all struggle with sin, we are continually being shaped by God to be more like Him. There are hundreds of commands in the New Testament that instruct us on how to do this, and they are all aimed at showing us how to be more like Jesus. When we do this, our lives align with our faith. 

Finally, we share our faith with those who do not know God and His salvation. Jesus commands His disciples with His final words in the gospel of Matthew, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). We want everyone to come to know God and His salvation and share our faith out of love. To that end, we proclaim the gospel through the way we live and speak as we understand that God has put us all in the right place to impact the lives of others.

Make It a Habit—Part 5 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

The Power of Prayer
by: Ben Biles

For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about key spiritual habits to include in your life. So far, we’ve covered reading God’s word, taking a Sabbath, connecting with other believers, and serving. This week, Pastor Josh talked through the essentials of prayer. I’ve noticed through years in ministry that prayer is simultaneously the most simple and the most intimidating part of our walk with God. What I mean is that a lot of believers feel like they aren’t praying in the right way. So today, I want to make you feel confident that your prayers are God-honoring and well meaning. 

Praying at its simplest form is communicating with God. There is no limit to how much you can pray or what you can pray for. God desires that we say what is on our minds and hearts, whether that be praises and thanks in the good times or confession in the bad times. Many times, I communicate my struggles and problems alongside my worries and stresses. If you’re angry, be honest. If you’re sad, know that He wants to care for you. You don’t have to be perfect to come before the Father. You are His child and He wants you to communicate with Him wherever you are. 

If you don’t know what to pray for, Josh mentioned praying through the acrostic A.C.T.S. which is helpful for believers to think through. Adoration means we praise God for who He is. In confession, we bring our sins before God and ask for forgiveness. When we express thanksgiving, we thank God for the things He has done and is doing in our lives. Finally, supplication is asking God for help with current and future needs. 

You should also know that praying for others is a key function of prayer. We have a fancy word for this: “intercession.” We intercede on behalf of others to God, making known their needs. We see a great example of Jesus doing this in John 17 in which he talks to the Father on behalf of the disciples. We also see the Apostle Paul do this in the beginning of his letters to the different church (see Eph. 1:15-23 for example). Interceding for others is the product of love for them and a desire to see God work in their life. 

When we pray, we focus on God and center our minds and hearts in Him. Consistent prayer then is able to help us confront the fear, stress, and worry in our lives as we focus on God, placing our hope and trust in Him. When you incorporate prayer as a habit, you will find it easier to take a step back from the current situation and let God reassure you that He has everything under control. 

Make It a Habit—Part 4 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

Spiritual Gifts
by: Ben Biles

This past weekend, Pastor Tim talked about the fact that all believers have been specially gifted by God with spiritual gifts. These gifts include things like prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and showing mercy. In Ephesians 4, we see Paul talk about the roles associated with these kinds of gifts. Some people in the church were teachers, others were leaders, others were generous with their money, and others were serving. 

Yet, some, if not most, believers are completely unaware of their gift. The reason why is because your gifting doesn’t usually become apparent unless you are serving within the church. This comes from the fact that all gifts are given by God to his people in order to build up and serve the church. Once you are serving, over time, it becomes clear what you are good at and passion about, which gives you a pretty big clue about what your gift is. The people around you will notice your gifting and begin to affirm it. Then, you will know with a good amount of certainty, but it requires serving within the church. 

Personally, I had no idea that I was gifted with preaching (it’s weird to talk about your strengths, but I promise I’m not trying to brag). Honestly, I hated public speaking and became really nervous every time I had to give a speech for school. But when I started preaching to the junior high students at my church, I realized that something was different. I became passionate about it and enjoyed each time I was able to preach the word of God. Then, people began to affirm that gifting in me. 

Recognizing your spiritual gift is once thing, but learning to use it to build up the church is another. It also requires a good deal of humility. When Paul writes to the church in Corinth, we see that they were deeply divided over the issue of spiritual gifts. They had come to value the gift of speaking in tongues above all others to the degree that it was making worship in the church an absolute mess. 

Paul corrects them by saying that the church is like a body. In order for a body to work properly, each part needs to do its job. Therefore, each part of the body is essential. Though certain parts are most important than others, each part relies on the other. As believers, we should discover whatever gift we have and then use it to love and serve others. When we are all using our spiritual gifts together, then the church flourishes and becomes more effective in sharing God’s love with the community.