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A gospel to be proud of

Sunday, 17th April, 2005

Psalm 85:7-11

Show us your unfailing love, O LORD,

and grant us your salvation.

I will listen to what God the LORD will say;

he promises peace to his people, his saints—

but let them not return to folly.

Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness meet together;

righteousness and peace kiss each other.

Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,

and righteousness looks down from heaven.


Romans 1:16-17 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."


I am not sure of the title, because pride is a sin. But too often we have become silent because we are embarrassed by our gospel. It no longer seems culturally acceptable. We have become ashamed of our gospel. So we dress it up in a more appealing wrap, We change bits of it to fit. But truth is not negotiable.

Paul summarises the gospel in these two lines.

What is clear is that the gospel has two key elements. First it is the power of God and secondly in it the righteousness of God is revealed. Notice it is first and foremost about God not about us.

In our society the first question is "what is in it for me". God is not considered unless there is some benefit to me. So we still look at what we can do. Our gospel is all about what God can and does do.

The gospel is the power of God. So what is power?

If you watch 'fifth gear' you will see the worship of raw power in the mechanical sense. We think of power as force. We think of God's power in terms of the tsunami or Mount St. Helens. And we humans want that sort of power. So we have weapons that can blast our enemies to destruction whether nuclear or conventional. So we see God the same way, blasting out his enemies.

So the question is who are God's enemies? The bad news is that we are.


Romans 3:11-12 there is no one who understands,

no one who seeks God.

All have turned away,

they have together become worthless;

there is no one who does good,

not even one."


This then is serious. If God is against us, we are in a pretty hopeless position.

But Paul knows God and therefore knows that God's power is not used that way. It is the power of God for salvation. Power is the ability to transform and God uses his power not to reduce us to heap of rubble but to convert mortal man into an eternal spirit. He saves us by implanting his life in us. It may not produce fireworks, a cloud of smoke and a lot of noise but it is a far greater power. We can annihilate our enemies but God makes us his friends.

how does he do it? Romans 3 puts it this way:


There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.


So God's power is revealed on the cross as Jesus dies. That is not how we see power at work but it is. The death of Jesus is powerful because it brings life to the dying.

Secondly the gospel is about the righteousness of God.

this is terminology we are not familiar with. In our European culture it is to do with ethics and morality. We see righteousness in terms of a moral code by which we measure ourselves. But in Middle Eastern cultures it has more to with relationship. So the righteousness of God is his relationship with you. To be righteous before God is to be on good terms with him. The Law, as exemplified by the 10 commandments, tells us what is accepted behaviour with God. The key to the gospel is how God restores your relationship with him. The 10 commandments tell there is a problem. The gospel tells you God's solution.


God's solution is a righteousness apart from the law, a relationship where the rules are set aside . God deals with the breaches in your relationship by the death of Jesus. We are invited to respond by faith.


The gospel is about the power of God to save you and the righteousness of God in bringing a new relationship.


But God does not stop at re-establishing a relationship with him. He ensures that the relationship is on a proper footing. He sends his Holy Spirit into our lives to develop our spiritual being and give a permanent communication channel with himself.


He presence of the Holy Spirit is not an option. He is the means by which we cry ‘Abba, Father’.  He is the means by which we understand sin, righteousness and judgement. He is the one who interprets our thoughts and our prayers and presents them to God. He is the one whose gifts enable the church to worship, honour and praise God’s name. He is the power of God for salvation. He is the means of us being righteous because he enables us to have a relationship with God. In other words he is like Jesus and like God. He is part of the Godhead.


And there is more. Not only has he saved us in the sense of re-establishing a relationship, not only has he given us, by his Spirit the power to develop that relationship but also he has an end game. God has plans for us for eternity. He has a home for us and as we saw, last week a home with us.

God is more than faithful in the sense of sticking to a commitment. He reaches out to under-gird that agreement to empower, guide and enable the church to carry out its mission. He provides everything we need for life and mission. He has a plan for our eternal safety. Nothing is left to chance.


We have nothing to be ashamed of in our gospel. The world around us may generally reject it, rubbish it, sneer at it. But they have nothing of the love, faith and hope which our gospel is drenched with. Do you believe it? Does it thrill you? Is it worth sharing? Who are you going to share it with next?


I believe we have some sober thinking to do here. We have a gospel which is the power of God for the salvation of anyone who puts their faith and trust in Jesus. God has given us this message to share with our neighbours and friends, whether they are in South Ruislip or further afield. The question is how do we become better messengers?

That we are is because they will know that we are Christians. But they will see the power of God when they see it in our lives. They will hear of the righteousness of God when we tell them about it.

As individuals and as a church we have to think this through.

Here is a challenge. In the magazine ‘Christianity’ J.Johns describes our mission as Look up in worship, look in fellowship and look out in evangelism. The challenge is that if you agree with him then we should examine our budget or spending to see whether we actually spend money on that basis and our activities to see whether we spend our time and energies in those three ways. You see if we seriously believe that we have such good news for the people of South Ruislip we will make our plans and our lives reflect that belief.


          That is not to say we will find fault in our current strategy, but we need a robust examination of it and a clear idea of why we are doing the things we are doing. After all, we are not making the impact we want on the community around us. So lets be known for what we believe in, a gospel of which “we are not ashamed because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."”


          Maybe this week, get together with a friend or two, rehearse what the good news is and pray for an opportunity to share it with a non Christian. Don’t wait to be asked, invite two people round for coffee or whatever and see what God can do as you repeat the good news to each other and pray about sharing it with others.

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