What Was the Good News Jesus Taught Paul?

“Whatever you do, don’t drink from any stream or creek. I don’t care how cold and clear and inviting it seems, it’s polluted and dangerous. Unless you see spring water bubbling from a rock, it will make you sick.”

That’s my warning to people I take backpacking in the wilderness of the High Sierras. If you’re not drinking from the source, you can’t trust the water.

Paul uses the same reasoning when he defends his message of the gospel of Christ, the gospel, declaring that the Christian life is by grace, through faith.

Like the sweetest water from a high mountain spring, the gospel Paul taught refreshes because of its divine source—direct revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What Was the Good News Jesus Taught Paul?

The source of Paul’s gospel was God, not man (1:11-12).

  • “But I make known to you” is Paul’s way of introducing a statement that he especially wants to emphasize (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3; 15:1, 2 Corinthians 8:1).
  • Paul’s gospel is not “according to man”—not an idea that a human would come up with, not sourced in human intelligence or reasoning.
  • Paul’s gospel is not “received…from, nor…taught by man”—not from a school of thought or a theology or a religious tradition.
  • Paul’s gospel came “through the revelation of/from Jesus Christ”—revelation, disclosure, unveiling, revealing.

The Very Words Paul Heard from Jesus!

Acts records the words of that revelation to Paul to preach deliverance from sin and righteousness through faith in Christ alone. Paul recounts his conversion before Agrippa:

I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (Acts 26:17-18)

When I taught this at Church of the Open Door, I provided this chart that breaks down the gospel Jesus taught Paul:

I will send you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, in order to turn them…

from darkness

to light
from the power of Satan

to God

…that they may receive…

forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified

BY FAITH IN ME!

 

  • This is what Jesus had always said about eternal life: John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47.
  • This is what Paul faithfully preached: Galatians 1:4 (before the Jerusalem Council), Acts 16:31 (after the Jerusalem Council), Ephesians 2:8-9.

Christian, you can trust the gospel of Christ Paul taught. You can be sure that your deliverance from sin was by grace, through faith in Christ. That’s a message unpolluted by the teachings of men and women!

Question: What are some examples of the works men and women have tried to add to faith in Christ during the centuries that have polluted the gospel of Christ Paul taught?

 

Is it Just A Gut Feeling or the Holy Spirit?

Get Me Out of Here God!

All I wanted to do was get out of there.

Instead of being the time of encouragement I was seeking, the conference was just a discouraging gathering of pastors and church leaders trying to impress one another with how successful or large their churches were. The speakers weren’t anyone to write home about either.  To make matters worse, it seemed those listening were almost as impressed with their ideas as the speakers were themselves!

But, I couldn’t leave because I had brought another pastor with me and he, well, let’s just say, he would be one of those writing home about the conference!

I could, however, sneak away to the neighborhood coffee shop.

So, off I went anticipating a good cup of coffee and some quiet time with Steinbeck.

That’s when I saw him.

“That’s all I need,” I muttered to myself as I watched him walk towards me. “One more guy I went to seminary with wanting to get together to talk about himself or the book he just read.”

I decided to avoid eye contact and veer left . . . a hard left.

No, Ed. You’re Staying

But God wouldn’t allow it.  He seemed to be telling me to say hi to this “acquaintance.”

I protested. “No, Lord. I’m too tired. I just want some time alone . . . to lose myself in Tortilla Flat. Don’t make me do this.”

God won the argument.

So I walked up to this guy I vaguely remembered from the weight room at Dallas Theological Seminary. “Hi, I’m Ed. Didn’t we go to DTS together?”

“Yeah, I think I remember you, Ed. Yeah, the weight room.  I’m Kevin Butcher.”

I shook hands with the man who would become my closest friend in ministry. His sustaining friendship these past 25 years has made every difference in my life.

He officiated at two of my children’s marriages, flew to California the night I almost died in 2000 to be with Judy and to tell Church of the Open Door not to worry because Jesus was still good.

Anyone who knows me well knows that the story of my life contains many paragraphs (and some entire chapters!) with Kevin Butcher as the main character.

So…here’s the question–was it my gut feeling or God’s Spirit that wouldn’t let me avoid Kevin at the pastor’s conference?

I’ve learned over the years that what a lot of people call a gut feeling is, for the disciple of Christ, the indwelling Spirit’s guidance.

Romans 8:9 says that everyone who has Christ is indwelled by God’s Spirit.

The older I get the more I realize that God wants me to live as if it’s true.

Question: Do you have a story to tell about a time when you knew the indwelling Spirit of the Living God was telling you to do something  . . . and when you did it, it  made every difference in your life?

Let me know about that time . . . I’d love to hear it!


How To Avoid The Megachurch Mistake

But, I Love My Megachurch!

That’s what a few of you have told me.

For every comment that defended megachurches, dozens agreed that there’s something seriously wrong with the concept.

I found myself writing the same comment over and over again.

It’s the mindset, not the size that makes the difference.

Size does not matter!

It turns out that the size of a church isn’t the issue at all. No church is too big, and no church is too small.

What they are is irrelevant because of the motivation and model of the leaders.

If the motivation is growth at all costs and the model is corporate, then everything about the church growth movement that is sick and hurtful is in play. Grace, discipleship, justice, community, and authenticity are pushed aside.

If the motivation is to build into believers so that they live for Christ and others in the messy glory of community, then there’s hope for health.

It’s not the numbers, it’s the mindset!

What we need is less pastoral ego and more shepherding

…more community and less corporateliness (new word by Ed).

…more discipleship and fewer programs.

…more vulnerability and less hiddenness.

…more grace and less law.

…more good works and less boasting.

If you want to make news on earth, then go for it–grow, grow, grow, grow, grow.

If you want to make news in heaven, then follow the Master’s Plan–gather in groups and give your life away to others in His name.

Question: What would you add to this list of what must happen if our churches are going to make a difference in our culture? 

Can We Really Believe Megachurch Leaders Who Claim to Have Learned Their Lesson?

So I’m hearing from many sources that the megachurch pastors of America are getting into “authentic Christianity.” Suddenly, as if some convicting wind of the Holy Spirit moved across the sprawling Chuck-E-Churches of America, their superstar leaders are realizing that they had it wrong.

I pray that’s the case and that they have learned their lesson.

But I’m Suspicious

Especially when they all unveil their slick, Wall Street, multi-million dollar, you-gotta-buy this-and-all-our-churches-are-doing-this-and- we’ll-show-you-how-to-make-disciples-the-right-way-plans-that-you-can-come-to-our-new-seminar-packages. Of course this is all with the usual glitz from the “me-your-guru” programs before they even take an after-their-confession breath.

I’m a little hesitant to listen to the same guys who got us into this mess. I hope their repentance is sincere, but I’m wary that their motivation may be due to embarrassment.

  • It’s embarrassing to them that now that they’re thirty years into this, their churches still can’t seem to do anything without them.
  • It’s embarrassing to them that they’re realizing that their churches are like a shallow lake–eight miles wide and three inches deep.
  • It’s embarrassing to them that so many people in their gospel fiefdoms have translated into so few changes in their culture.

So now, their “next big thing” is to make disciples.

But for Jesus, making disciples isn’t the new thing.

It’s the only thing.

Question: Do you trust them? Why? Or, why not?

Can You Really Change Your Church? (Megachurch Series)

Megachurch Controversy

When I  write on the church, especially the growing irrelevance of the megachurch movement, people react. I get everything from, “Don’t be so down on other Christians and churches” to “You tell ‘em Ed.” Most of us have strong opinions about church, and some have surprisingly passionate positions on megachurches.

Many of you have asked, “Okay, the irrelevant church is a problem, but what do we do about that?” My answer may surprise you.

What to do?

Everyone wants to solve the big problems in the church, and many consider the irrelevance of the church in general and the move toward megachurches as big problems. Only Jesus, who loves His bride, can transform His church through revival.

But that doesn’t mean that we just pray and wait. We need to take responsibility for our part of the problem.

  • If we think the church is too materialistic, we can give some of our money away to authentic churches or missions…or even the poor. Find a widow and give her some of your money!
  • If we think the church is too shallow, we can study the Bible ourselves and determine to teach others. Find a young Christian and teach him or her the Scriptures.
  • If we think the church ignores evangelism, we can build relationships with non-Christians. Find a non-Christian and make friends with him or her.
  • If we think the church ignores discipleship, we can make disciples. Pour yourself into just one younger believer.

When you honestly finish the sentence, “I think the church is too…,” you’ll know what Jesus wants you to do to make His church better.

You want God to change the church? Give God permission to begin that change with you!

Question: What are some other personal changes you think Christians should make to move the church toward health and impact in our culture? I would love to hear your comments.

Deep Before Wide: A Vision for Returning Discipleship to the Church

Robby Gallaty (Ph.D.) is the Senior Pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN, and the Founder of Replicate Ministries. He is the author of Creating an Atmosphere to Hear God Speak, Unashamed: Taking a Radical Stand for Christ, and Growing Up: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples. – See more here.

Robby Gallaty —  March 20, 2014

Matt Smethurst:

Pope sat down with Mark Mellinger to discuss his vision for and experience with church-anchored discipleship over the past 25 years. “Discipleship is laboring in the lives of a few to give away your life and the gospel,” explains the founding pastor of Atlanta’s Perimeter Church and author of Insourcing: Bringing Discipleship Back to the Local Church. “If you want to see lives change, you’ve got to do it life-on-life.”

I highly recommend you watch the the video below.  Randy Pope brings a lot of discipleship experience to the table.

My Question: Why do you think most churches are so preoccupied with wide and so dismissive of deep?

Vital Resources to Liberate You From Legalism

The Battle is Real!

If you’ve been reading this blog you know that you should never underestimate the danger of legalism. “Legalism means making laws that God has not made and treating them as equally authoritative as God’s Word.” (Dr Tom Constable, professor of Bible, Dallas Theological Seminary) It doesn’t lead to holiness, it leads to hiddenness and sin. Legalism never works because it depends upon and energizes the old nature, the flesh. Grace always works because it depends upon and energizes and releases the new nature–who we are in Christ.

Remembering the Jesus Movement: What I wish we had back then!

The legalists attacked us constantly during the Jesus Movement of the 60s and 70s. Here are the resources I have discovered during my decades of Bible study and teaching that I wish I would have known about, or wish would have been available back then:

Classics:

Holiness, the False and the True , by H. A. Ironside. You can usually pick up a used copy on Amazon. Dr. Ironside was one of the great Bible teachers of the Bible Conference movement and a champion for grace. You can also download the ebook at www.inchristalone.org/IronsideHoliness.htm.   The Grace Awakening, by Charles Swindoll. This book has convinced many that the Christian life is best lived by grace, not by works.

My Personal Writing

Living Water: The Gospel of John. I wrote the study notes to this years ago. I still feel it is one of the best ways to introduce unbelievers to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. You can get a free copy from the gracious people at www.livingwater.org.

Beginning In Grace: What the Bible Teaches About Relationship with God. This is the basic discipleship manual we have used at Church of the Open Door. I’ll send you one if you write, email, or you can simply download it here.

My Personal Favorites

The Cure, by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch. These men are close friends and warriors for authentic Christianity. Anything they write or produce…get it! wwwtruefaced.com.

The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning. This book absolutely rocked my grace world and liberated me from shame and guilt Christianity.

“It was for freedom that Christ set you free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Question: Do you have any resources to add?

3 Ways To Deal With a Legalist

I’ve tried just about every strategy with legalists–kindness, harshness, arguing, citing Bible verses. Finally, in desperation, I decided to examine how Jesus handled them. I’m sure you can find a lot of principles that I’ve missed by reading through all of His encounters with legalists, but here are three steps that have guided me:

Ignore them!

That’s right. Just ignore them. That’s what Jesus did. His disciples picked grain on the Sabbath, didn’t wash their hands properly, and mixed it up with Gentiles. He never explained Himself to the legalists. There was no, “Okay, Mr. Pharisee, we’re going to pick some vegetables here because we’re starving and you’re going to be a little upset. Sorry to discourage you, but I really don’t think your view of the Sabbath is correct.”

He just acted like they were irrelevant to what He was doing.

Because they were … and they still are!

Know Your Bible!

Jesus ignored the legalists until they tried to force their unholy theories of spirituality on His followers. Then He came out with all guns blazing. There was too much at stake.

And there still is today.

In my next blog, I’m going to give you some resources to turn to when a legalist tries to get you to conform to his or her outside-in measurements of righteousness. But you will never be able to stand up to the legalists if you don’t know your Bible.

When the legalists started confusing His followers, He came back at them with Scripture.

Live It Out!

The best way to neutralize the legalists in your life is to live out of who you are in Christ. His Spirit always produces true righteousness in the lives of those who trust Him enough to follow.

So, follow Jesus…honestly, courageously, and radically.

It won’t make them happy, nothing will. But they’ll leave you alone, because you scare them.

Question: Why do you think we’re afraid to stand up to legalists?

 

Discipleship Minute: Death, Taxes, and the Fiscal Cliff. Really!?

 

Two Worldviews?

In a letter to a French political historian, Benjamin Franklin commented on the new constitution of the United States: “Our constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said certain, except death and taxes.”

This is exactly what I’d expect from a great man with the worldview of Benjamin Franklin. Though ole Ben liked the idea of God and the teachings of Jesus, he wasn’t buying into the idea that the Bible was God’s Word or that Jesus was God’s Son. It was this world which mattered most to Franklin because it was all he was sure of.

And if all you know for certain is this world and what you see in it and what you think about it in your own mind, then Franklin’s maxim is absolutely true: In this world nothing can be said certain, except death and taxes.

We Christians claim that this world isn’t all there is. We claim to believe that what we see and hear and think isn’t the final reality. We claim to embrace Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Bible as His Word.

Really?

Then Why?

Then why is it that every time I turn on my computer some Christian is forwarding me a “chicken-little” email from a high-profile Christian leader that tells me the sky is falling because the President or another elected official is raising our taxes?

Then why does the most listened to Christian drive-time talk radio host whine on day after day about the evils of big government instead of the evils of Satan’s strongholds in our neighborhoods and the church’s failure to make a significant difference?

Then why do so many Christians worry more about the day they file their taxes than they worry about the day of Christ when they will stand before Him and give an account of their lives to Him?

We’re supposed to be the ones who live above the cares and challenges of this world because our eye is on another Kingdom in the world to come.

Last Time I Checked…

The last time I checked, we serve another King Who is coming soon…very soon. And when He shows up and I stand before Him, suddenly every concern I ever had about this world, my comfort, my rights, and yes even taxes, will seem small, petty, and selfish.

Because they are! In fact, according to Paul, they’re just “rubbish.” So what are you most concerned about? Your bank account after taxes, or your ledger of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ? Your accountant’s, “I think we saved you a lot of money?” or your Lord’s, “Well done?”

“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” –Paul, Philippians 3:8

Discipleship Minute: The Devil Is…

This morning my closest group of friends and I were lamenting the evil in this world and the ways it hurts people we shepherd and love. As were texting one another and praying for these people, it got rethinking about the different views of evil among Christians. I’m not about to try to understand all of the theories of evil, they all have strengths and weaknesses. But there’s one that I feel puts Christians at risk–the one that tells us not to be afraid of the devil.

To be certain, it’s not healthy when Christians live in freezing fear of the devil, but we should have a sobering respect for Jesus’ most personal enemy.

A few years ago I asked a seasoned, second generation missionary statesman from Africa to speak to my emerging leaders’ discipleship/mentoring group.

The first question I asked was the last we would have time for: “Herb,” I asked as he stood in front of twelve of the most devoted disciples in our church, “Here is the future of Church of the Open Door. What is the one insight from all of your time planting churches and making disciples among the tribal groups of Africa that you feel is the most significant lesson these young men need to learn?”

He didn’t hesitate:

“The devil is real!”

For the next hour he told stories of spiritual warfare, demonic oppression, and personal battles with the forces of evil.

And then, he closed with this ominous warning:

“Most of the young missionaries arriving in Africa today don’t want to talk about or even think about the devil. But that’s their undoing. I don’t care what the Bible School and Seminary professors are saying about the reality of the devil. I’m telling you that the devil is real, and if you don’t get that, he’ll get you. He hates you; he hates your family, and he’s out to get you.”

The devil is real. Still not convinced? Consider this:

Ezekiel 28:11-19; Isaiah 14:12-17; Matthew 4:1-11; John 12:31; Revelation 12:10; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 6:11-18.

Enough said.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Question: Do you feel you know enough about prophecy to give you confidence that Jesus is going to win?