God’s Story, Your Story: The New Testament

If you could sum up the Bible in one word, what would it be?

This may be tricky for some. Some may be thinking we can’t sum up the Bible in one word.

I think we can sum up the Bible with the word, JESUS. After all, in Luke 24, Jesus tells the disciples on the way to Emmaus that all of scripture points to him. Paul, in Colossians, says that all things are held together in him. So as we read scripture, even the Old Testament, we should be able to see Jesus in everything.

As we take the time to talk through the New Testament, remember how the storyline of the Biblical narrative goes:

Act 1: Creation, Fall, Israel

Act 2: Jesus, Church, New Creation

Last week, we saw the 39 books of the Old Testament are divided up into categories:

Pentateuch (Torah), History, Writings/Poetry/Wisdom, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets

The New Testament is divided up into categories as well:

Gospels of Jesus, History (Acts), Paul’s letters (longest to shortest), General letters (longest to shortest), Apocalyptic

So the way to think about the layout of the New Testament is like this:

Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension 

The spread of the message (Acts)

Living out the Christian life through the empowerment and presence of the Holy Spirit (the letters and Revelation)

Now, if the whole Bible could be summed up with JESUS, can we think of key passages that help explain the gospel and the way the Christian is supposed to live in the world?

Many know John 3:16 (For God so loved the world the he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.)

Unfortunately, this is where many people stop—at the point of gaining their own salvation. But the Christian life and faith is so much richer and deeper than simply personal salvation—it’s about being in community, sharing life together, and laying down our lives for the sake of others.

The second part of the gospel we need to hear, and live out, is 1 John 3:16 (This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.) This is why we follow the command, and example, of Jesus to take up our cross and follow him. We follow him even though we, as believers, will have challenges and suffering in this life. We follow him because he is the only source of hope and life.

So many people think the Christian life is just for them—it’s become what can Jesus do for me here and now? How can my life get better? But see how we miss out on the power of the gospel? The power of the gospel is found when we live our lives in community, when we seek to bring new people into the family of God (this is kingdom growth not just numerical growth). The power of the gospel is found when we live our lives for others instead of ourselves.

This is why there is so much emphasis on not judging, gossiping, slandering, anything that destroys or devalues another human life. The emphasis is on love—a word that has honestly lost it’s meaning because we over use it. (I love hamburgers, I love my spouse, I love (pick your favorite sports team).) Love in the Bible is not a feeling, or even how we feel in the moment. Love is the way of life. Love is at the core of who God designed us to be.

A little pastoral care moment: When we “speak truth in love” our goal is never to belittle the person but to build them up and encourage them. So often we attempt to speak, what we call, truth and end up having anger in our hearts towards the person. This is not the example of Jesus at all.

Christ followers are to emulate and imitate Jesus in their everyday lives. This is the point of the epistles (letters) from Paul, Peter, John, Jude, James, the author of Hebrews. What’s incredible is how the Spirit continues to speak through these words today—with the intention of building up the community and growing the kingdom of God (God’s rule and reign in the world).

Then we come to the book of Revelation. This is a book that has been misunderstood and misapplied for the last 200 or so years. We’ve said it before, the point of Revelation is to show how God’s people can and should stand firm in their faith even when everything is going to pot. 

The ancient readers would have understood this was a letter, written in code, so they could understand what’s happening in the world to them at that time. We do know that Christ will come again and set things right (true justice not revenge). That is why we can live in hope and joy—we know the end of the story.

This is the New Testament, in a brief nutshell. 

One more thing to consider. There really is nothing new in the New Testament that is not in the Old Testament. In fact, what we see is an expansion of the thoughts and teachings from the Old Testament. (Think Sermon on the Mount which we’ll begin next week.)

This is why it is so important to study and read through the Old Testament. There are many resources available to help us study to learn the history, traditions, and context of the Old Testament. When we better understand the OT, we will begin to see more of the beauty found in the New Testament.

Jesus is the point of the Bible. Jesus is the point of the Christian life. How we live, in this life, matters and it has eternal consequences. I challenge you to read through at least one Gospel, a few letters, and Revelation this week. Ask God to reveal himself to you. The best picture of God is found in the person of Jesus Christ. 

Then, ask God to mold you into the likeness and image of his Son and give you the grace to live out the Christian life in community and help you be a person to build people up and work with God to grow the kingdom of Heaven.

Even in the Storm

Most important, live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel. Do this, whether I come and see you or I’m absent and hear about you. Do this so that you stand firm, united in one spirit and mind as you struggle together to remain faithful to the gospel. That way, you won’t be afraid of anything your enemies do. Your faithfulness and courage are a sign of their coming destruction and your salvation, which is from God. God has generously granted you the privilege, not only of believing in Christ but also of suffering for Christ’s sake. You are having the same struggle that you saw me face and now hear that I’m still facing. (‭Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭27-30‬ CEB)

“Live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel.” When you think of this phrase, what does it mean to you? At first when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we may have the idea that life will be easy and that all of our problems and issues will go away. We can easily forget how Christ suffered, and he was God in flesh!

The gospel of Jesus Christ does not guarantee there will be no suffering or struggles. The gospel tells us the God is with us and we do not live this life alone. We will feel alone at times because we can choose to go through our struggles alone; but the gospel message is that we are never alone and God has experienced life as we do and knows how hard life can be. 

We have the opportunity to share life with others who are struggling also. Since we know that we are not alone, we have the privilege to show others that, even in the storms of life, they are not alone either. We can be a tangible, physical reminder of God’s presence to them. 

People will say all kinds of things about you and about me. We stand firm in our faith because Christ is with us and is guiding us and walking with us; so we don’t have to be afraid or fearful in any way. Paul is a great reminder of this. He kept his joy and peace because he leaned on his faith in Christ to allow him to endure any situation. Paul had people care for him and you and I have people that care for us. 

So, “live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel.”

#BeJoyful

New Year

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Grace and Peace to you this year and welcome to 2015!

From Paul, an apostle who is not sent from human authority or commissioned through human agency, but sent through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead; and from all the brothers and sisters with me. To the churches in Galatia. Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He gave himself for our sins, so he could deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. To God be the glory forever and always! Amen. (‭Galatians‬ ‭1‬:‭1-5‬ CEB)

The promise of a new year is a great reminder of the fresh mercies and new beginnings our God gives us constantly. We have new chances to walk and live in the freedom Christ gives.

The power of the Holy Spirit lives inside you and me and we are sent by the Holy Spirit into the world to show and remind people of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

So as New Year Resolutions are being made now we should remember the plea of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians: to live into the calling God has given us, to remember what Christ has done for us, to be true representatives of grace and peace and allow our lives to reflect this, to give God glory in all we do forever and ever Amen.

It’s going to be easy to slip back into our normal and usual routines and forget what God has done and what we resolved to do this year. But God continually asks and commands us to be different and reflect His love and glory.

My prayer for each of us is to remember that we are called and sent out by God. You are commissioned to go into the world to spread the news Christ is alive! We have the promise of Christ in Matthew 28 that He will be with us even to the end of the age; and in Acts 1 that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us.

Imagine what will be unleashed this year when we know our calling, trust in Jesus Christ and give God glory in all we do.

Live in Christ’s freedom this year! Love God and love people. Amen