The Gospel is the A-to-Z of the Christian Faith: Devotional for March 22, 2022

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Today’s Bible Reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Deuteronomy 10-14; Psalm 5; Luke 8

For those who believe that the Scriptures are merely a string of unrelated stories made up by unbelievable characters in an antiquated time bring too many of their own presuppositions to the table on which to feast.  The Scriptures are an account by which God, in one elaborate, effective, and efficient way, shows how it is one narrative about who He is, what He has done in Christ, and what He aims to do through His people and the world.  I love what Tim Keller said many years ago:

The gospel shows us that our spiritual problem lies not only in failing to obey God but also in relying on our obedience to make us fully acceptable to God, ourselves, and others. Every kind of character flaw comes from this natural impulse to be our own savior through our performance and achievement. On the one hand, proud and disdainful personalities come from basing your identity on your performance and thinking you are succeeding. But on the other hand, discouraged and self-loathing personalities also come from basing your identity on your performance and thinking you are failing.

Belief in the gospel is not just the way to enter the kingdom of God; it is the way to address every obstacle and grow in every aspect. The gospel is not just the ABCs but the A-to-Z of the Christian life. The gospel is the way that anything is renewed and transformed by Christ—whether a heart, a relationship, a church, or a community. All our problems come from a lack of orientation to the gospel. Put positively, the gospel transforms our hearts, our thinking and our approach to absolutely everything. The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope–at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin. [source]

On first glance, Luke 8 looks like a string of homespun stories coupled with some miraculous events.  But notice the connection here of the importance of God’s Word in its power and effect.

Luke 8:1-3:  Jesus’ habit of going through the towns and villages proclaiming and bringing the good news (‘gospel’) of the kingdom of God.  Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna along with many others accompanied.  Why bring out the women?  Because Jesus’ word not only healed some physically (as in Mary Magdalene, former demoniac), and healed them all spiritually by bestowing the gift of grace and/through faith—they were women!  Both Roman and Jewish custom put women as second-class citizens.  The women could not enter into the inner court in Temple worship.  The Word indiscriminately cleanses!

Luke 8:4-15:  Jesus delivers the Parable of the Sower, where the sower distributes the seed (the Word of God), but the condition of the heart of those who listen do not permit the Word to be implanted to take effect.  Through the heart either being stony where it doesn’t come in at all, shallow where it can take no root, thorny where the cares of the world choke out it’s effect—we see that God must plow up our hearts in his time for the Word to come in.  God readies the hearts of his chosen in this world by preparing in, making it receptive to His Word so that fruit may be borne. 

Luke 8:16-18:  Jesus told His disciples, “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”  Hear and receive God’s Word—we have nothing without it!

Luke 8:19-21:  Who are Jesus’ relatives?  While His mother and brothers are outside, He says that over and above this, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”  We are not a part of His family unless we submit to what He says!

Luke 8:22-25:  Jesus calms the storm.  While many preachers have said that the point of this story is that Jesus will calm the storms in your life, that is not the ultimate point.  In the midst of this chapter, this account is placed to show the power of Christ’s word even over nature.  When He rebuked the wind, it ceased.  John MacArthur once said, “The only thing more terrifying that the storm outside the boat is Holy God in your boat.”  Here, Jesus shows He is Creator God (Colossians 1:15-17) by having control over nature itself (see Isaiah 40:10-31). 

Luke 8:26-56:  Jesus heals a demon-possessed man who lived among the rock, serving as the village outcast—and Jesus sent that legion of demons into some nearby pigs who ran off into the sea (and then townspeople, more concerned about pigs that people, ran Him off).  He also heals a woman with the ‘issue of blood’ that no earthly physician could diagnose and heal.  His word also rose Jairus’ daughter from the dead:  “Child, arise.”  This is a foretaste of what all believers will hear one day from their Lord Jesus!

There is good news of God’s Word to be found not just at the entry point of salvation, but at all points of our Christian walk.  Yes, the gospel is the A-to-Z of our Christian faith!

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