Those who are keeping up with us on the tremendous outreach media ministry of using smartphones, need to be informed concerning the awesome developments of this ministry.
1. A WORLDWIDE/CYBER SPACE CONNECTION: The phenomenal news is that director, DENVILLE WILLIE, has now registered and enrollment over 600 people. This is the first contact group of registered individuals. However, this group does not include the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who are registered with the initial recipients of Denville’s registration. We speculate that the number of registered recipients of the lessons goes into the thousands.
2. NAME CHANGE: You will notice on the billborad that is pictured that we have changed the name. We have gone from “international” connection to GOSPEL Connection. This name better reflects the goal of the ministry. The teaching that is made available through smartphones focuses on the gospel, and how we can better continue what the apostle Paul did in reference to the Roman disciples in Romans 1:13-16. He sought to travel to Rome in order to educate the disciples there more in the gospel. That is exactly what the GOSPEL CONNECTION seeks to do with smartphones throughout the world. Paul’s travel to Rome was slow, whereas our travels throughout the world go forth literally at light speed.
3. SMARTPHONE CLASSROOMS: The internet has almost made resident Bible schools very limited in reference to Bible training in the thousands. No longer does one have to travel to a school facilitity in order to receive Bible teaching. By enrolling with the GOSPEL CONNECTION network, gospel teaching comes directly to you on your smartphone. THIS IS JUST FABULOUS! (All we need is a school bell to let you know that there is an incoming gospel Bible lesson on your smartphone.)
4. SCHOOL LIBRARY: The Biblical Research Library will continue to “have on the shelf” all the books of the GOSPEL CONNECTION. All these books can be download free. Just go to the website that is listed and download all the books you can read. You are free to make hard copies of any book in order to distribute to friends and students.
YOU CAN HELP. Please forward this Facebook News Release on to your friends. All the lessons that are released through the GOSPEL CONNECTION are also posted on Facebook. However, please keep in mind that almost all those who are registered with the GOSPEL CONNECTION, do not have a Facebook site. Nevertheless, through Facebook advertisements we will continue to send out notices concerning the ongoing development of this fantastic worldwide outreach.
REGISTER NOW! You CANNOT register through Facebook. You MUST REGISTER DIRECTLY by using the phone numbers that are on the billboard advertisement.
Over two thousand years ago the disciples of Jesus were called Christians (At 11:23). Many people of faith today have always wondered what it meant to be just a Christian in the first century in the midst of so many confused idolatrous beliefs? Today, there are likewise thousands of religious groups throughout the world that are quite confusing. Add to this the fact that the religious groups that exist today are as diverse as those that were scattered throughout the world in the first century. Nevertheless, in the midst of so many idolatrous beliefs and religious groups in the first century, thousands of people responded to the gospel in order to be united as one body of faith, being Christians only. We can do the same today.
Many people in the first century were becoming Christians simply because of the overwhelming truth that Jesus of Nazareth was more than a prophet. He was the actual incarnation of God just as He claimed to be. And in order to come out of the religious confusion that existed in those days, and be set free from the bondage of sin and religion, millions of people then and today are rethinking what it means to be just a Christian.
DESIRE TO BE CHRISTIANS ONLY: People of faith today are hungering and thirsting to maintain a simple faith as opposed to being marooned in the confusion of numerous systems of religion that are divided from one another by unique divisive names and traditional religious ceremonies. Therefore, there are thousands of people throughout the world today who want to restore Christianity to its original simplicity as it was in the first century.
For this reason we too want to be Christians only. That’s all. In a world of conflicting and confusing religious beliefs and practices, everyone can be just a Christian, that is, if he or she is willing to focus on the word of God as the only authority in all matters of faith. Because people want to free themselves today from the bondage of religion, they are turning to the only guide that will lead them out of the diversity that is caused by so many religious groups that exist today.
People have simply concluded that they can be a disciple of Christ without being in the bondage of some religious institution. It is a phenomenon of these times that people of faith throughout the world are thirsting to be set free from the bondage of religious traditions and misguided religiosity. They are thirsting to fellowship and encourage one another on this road to restoration. It is our plea that all of us join together in order to restore this simple New Testament Christianity that is based solely on the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Through obedience of the gospel, anyone can be just a Christian without placing their membership with a particular religious organization that seeks their loyalty as a club member. For this reason we believe it is time to restore Jesus as the sole owner of all those who believe in Him and have obeyed the good news of His death for our sins. Contrary to some religious organization claiming us to be their member, we seek to place our membership in heaven alone, right at the feet of the reigning King Jesus.
The word “Christian” means that one is “of Christ.” That is, as a Christian we belong to Christ alone. We are followers of the person of Jesus and His teachings because we have responded to the good news that He brought into the world. One who follows the person of Jesus Christ, and is obedient to the gospel, is just a Christian. Nothing more, nothing less. Are you interested? If so, then this plea is your invitation to join with us and millions around the world who have discovered the freedom that one can enjoy by being just a Christian.
BRANDED BY CHRIST ALONE: Every Christian throughout the world seeks to be identified by the name of Christ. Being a Christian means just that. There is no such thing in the New Testament that Christians are to be branded by a unique denominational religious group. In the first century, believers in Jesus were simply known as Christians. They were not identified with a unique name that would separate them from one another. They were not divided into different denominated groups simply because religious denominations that posed to be a unique flavor of Christianity, did not exist in the first century. Therefore, in order to be a Christian today, one must put away any unique name that would separate him or her from others who have likewise obeyed the gospel in baptism and are seeking to be Christians only.
WHY BE A CHRISTIAN: We are Christians because Jesus fulfilled over 300 Old Testament prophecies that were written about Him hundreds of years before He came into this world. Therefore, He must be believed. Even before the world was created, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit planned that the Son of God would be incarnate in the flesh of man (Jn 1:1,2,14). When the time was right in the history of mankind, the Son of God was incarnate in the flesh of man. The following is a list of only a few of the fulfilled prophecies concerning the Son of God coming into this world:
A. He would be, and was a descendant of Abraham (Gn 12:1-3; Gl 3:16). B. He would be, and was born in Bethlehem (Mc 5:2; Mt 2:1,3). C. He would be, and was a sojourner in Egypt (Hs 11:1; Mt 2:15). D. He would be, and was a teacher of Gentiles (Is 42:1-4; Mt 12:18-21). E. He would work, and did work miracles (Is 35:5,6; Lk 7:18-23). F. He would be, and was betrayed (Zc 13:7; Mt 26:55,56). G. He would die, but be raised from the dead (Ps 16:10; Jn 2:19-22).
UNITY OF CHRISTIANS: God expects His people to be united throughout the world. Though there were city assemblies of Christians in the first century as in Corinth (1 Co 1:2) and Ephesus (At 20:17), all local city assemblies were part of the one universal church (Rm 16:16). No local assembly of Christians validated themselves as Christians by proclaiming autonomy from other Christians that were meeting at other locations in the same city, or in another city, town or village. On the contrary, all individual Christians were members of the one body of Christ that existed throughout the world. Therefore, there is only one church of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is this church that is made up of all those who have responded to the gospel, and thus are just Christians as a result of their obedient response.
God expects Christians to be united together as one universal church (1 Co 1:10). They are not to divide themselves by binding as law any religious heritage, religious tradition, or any matters of opinion. As obedient disciples of Jesus who have given themselves in service to God, all Christians are to stand fast in the faith and strive together with one heart and soul in order to maintain unity (Ph 1:27). Through the power of gospel, and their unity, Christians are, as a united body, a mighty worldwide force against evil. Everyone who struggles with this world should be encouraged to become a part of this worldwide force in order to make this a better world. But in order to be encouraged, we must strive to restore the one united body of Christ wherein we can find close fellowships.
JESUS’ PRAYER FOR UNITY: Jesus prayed that those who follow Him should be united as one (Jn 17:20,21). He did not pray that we would be satisfied by dividing ourselves into different denominations according to our unique heritages, or different religious rituals or Sunday ceremonies. On the contrary, He prayed that all His disciples throughout the world who believe in Him, and who have obeyed the gospel, should work together to answer His prayer that we all seek to maintain the unity of the faith. It is for this reason that we are striving to be united in order to call all people of the world into a covenant relationship with God through obedience to the gospel (Rm 6:3-6). We must not forget, therefore, that inherent in the one gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is the unity of believers for which Jesus prayed.
BEING FREE AS A CHRISTIAN: Being just a Christian sets us free. We are set free from the bondage of religious restrictions that others might impose on us as law, which restrictions have no authority in the word of God. This means that believers in Jesus can be just Christians without being a part of any man-made religious group. In this way all believers in Jesus can be free from being divided into different religious groups that are denominated from one another, either by unique names or religious traditions.
One can be free to be a Christian only by allowing the Bible to be his or her sole authority in matters faith. Since we will be judged only by the word of Jesus, then we are free in matters of faith to be accountable only to the word of Jesus (Jn 12:48). When people of faith establish the word of God as their only authority in matters of faith, then unity among believers will prevail.
Since the Bible is the Spirit-inspired word of God, then we are free to allow the Bible alone to direct us in godly living (2 Tm 3:16,17). Since this word is our source of faith, then we are free to allow it to be the only foundation of our faith (Rm 10:17).
It is certainly not wrong to carry on with religious traditions. However, religious traditions must never be bound on believers in a manner by which the traditions cause division among Christians (Gl 5:1; see Mk 7:-19). In order that the truth of the gospel set us truly free, we must agree to allow the Bible to be our final authority in matters of faith, not our former religious traditions or unique names (Jn 8:32).
We must speak, therefore, where the Bible speaks. But where the Bible says nothing about a certain religious practice, we must allow freedom of opinion in the atmosphere of loving discussion. When one is a Christian only, therefore, he or she is very cautious about imposing on others religious traditions or any current rituals or ceremonies that are not found in the Bible.
FIRST PRINCIPLES FOR CHRISTIANS: Being just a Christian in the community means believing and doing good to all people. Being a Christian means being a disciple who works in thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for us through the gospel. In order for anyone to get started in living as a Christian only, the following are fundamental beliefs that all Christians must maintain in their lives:
A. Believe in the one true and living God (Is 44:8; Ep 4:4-6). B. Believe in Jesus as the one Lord (Jn 20:30,31; Ep 4:4-6). C. Believe in the one universal body, the church (Cl 1:18). D. Believe in the one Holy Spirit and His fruit (Gl 5:22,23). E. Believe in the one baptism (immersion) (At 2:38; Ep 4:4-6). F. Believe in the one faith (Ep 4:4-6; Jd 3). G. Believe in holy and moral living (Cl 3:12-17; 1 Pt 1:15). H. Believe in Jesus’ principle of love (Jn 13:34,35; 14:15). I. Believe in the one gospel (Rm 1:13-16; 1 Co 15:1-4).
EXPECTATIONS OF CHRISTIANS: As a result of their commitment to Jesus, Christians expect to live the abundant life of spiritual and emotional peace in this world (Jn 10:10; Ph 4:6,7). Christians know and expect all things to work together for good (Rm 8:28). They expect not to be tempted above what they are able to endure (1 Co 10:13). However, because of their commitment to be working disciples for their Lord Jesus, they expect persecution from those whom Satan is using to destroy the work of God (2 Tm 2:12). Therefore, they have peace of mind in the fact that the word of God tells them not to be ashamed of their stand for the gospel of Jesus, but to glorify God by living as a Christian (1 Pt 4:16; see Mt 5:10; At 11:26). Since the disciples of Jesus are more than Christians in name only, they understand that obedient service in response to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ will stir up persecution against them. But they also remember that the reward for faithful discipleship is eternal life in heaven.
ANYONE CAN BE JUST A CHRISTIAN: In order to be a disciple of Jesus, one must first believe that Jesus Christ is the incarnation of the Son of God (Jn 20:30,31). One must then respond to the gospel of this incarnate God by being immersed into Jesus Christ in order to put on Christ (Gl 3:26,27). Jesus is calling upon everyone in the world through the good news of His death for your sins, resurrection for our hope, and security by the present kingdom reign of King Jesus over all things (2 Th 1:14; see Ep 1:16-23). If one responds to Jesus’ call, then he or she can be just a Christian. Great things will then happen in one’s life (At 2:38,47). It is for this reason that we encourage everyone to respond to the good news of all those events that Jesus accomplished when He came into this world in order to deliver us out of this world. We must never forget the following words of the Holy Spirit that were written in 2 Corinthians 4:15 by the hand of the apostle Paul:
“For all things are for you sakes, so that the grace that is reaching many people may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.”
There are always a multitude of inquiries concerning the leadership of the church. In many situations, the members are perceiving that there is a difference between the behavior of some of their existing leaders and the leadership that they notice in the life of the incarnate Son of God. They are even perceiving that there is a difference between how the church is led today and how the church of the first century was led by incarnationally devoted servants of God. We know this because of many directives that came from the Holy Spirit to correct dysfunctional leadership in the first century, which directives we use as a textbook to correct our own leadership challenges.
This is not to say that the early church was perfect. The fact that they were dysfunctional in some areas of leadership is to our benefit because we have in our hands today the Spirit’s corrective manual of discipline in order to sort out any problems that we may have in reference to our own leadership.
Our leadership challenges are particularly true in a world wherein many members of the body sit in corporate board rooms, or are employees of some business from Monday through Friday. There seems to be a constant concern, therefore, that the leadership of the corporate/political/business world is finding its way in among the disciples, and thus taking hostage the sheep of God. This threat is simply a part of the world in which we live, and thus, we need to thoroughly understand the leadership principles that are revealed in the New Testament, which principles are disturbingly different from what is sometimes prevalent among many religious groups throughout the world today.
• Consulting the leadership manual: In contrast to the world, and in reference to the gospel, leadership among the disciples of Christ is inherently determined by the very nature of the gospel (good news) of the incarnate Son of God. When a group of disciples in today’s corporate/political/business environment consider leadership among the disciples, they are invariably faced with a daunting challenge that is presented by the example of the leadership behavior of the world. Leaders sometimes think that they can lead the church of disciples as they would lead in world affairs. But in all matters concerning church leadership, Jesus must be both our teacher and example. The Holy Spirit must be allowed to have already produced a manual on church leadership, which manual was completed over two thousand years ago. When it comes to incarnational leadership, the world can offer little in comparison to what the Spirit has already completed.
Unfortunately, it is almost inevitable that the behavior of leadership that permeates the corporate/political/business world today finds its way in among those who should be following the teaching and example of the incarnate Son of God. We must, therefore, when considering the behavior and function of church leaders, focus on the behavior of the incarnate Son of God, not on the leadership ways of the world in which we live. Only the incarnate Son of God can be the standard by which we would both live and behave as His disciples, and in particular, conduct our lives in leading incarnationally obedient disciples.
In our present world, we are faced with an almost insurmountable challenge concerning the behavior of church leaders. If we rely on the ways of the world in this matter, then we are certainly in trouble. Therefore, in order to begin our transformation into being incarnational leaders, our first concern is to understand the leadership that was revealed by the incarnate of the Son of God. Once we somewhat understand the incarnation, then we can more effectively apply the example of the Son of God to our own lives. So before we can lead among the disciples who have given themselves over to King Jesus in response to the gospel, we must first understand what the Son of God went through in His incarnational journey of giving up being in the form of God to allowing nails to be driven through His incarnate hands.
• From spirit to flesh: The organic function of the body of the Lord Jesus is not determined by democratic procedures by which the membership might exercise some authority at the end of a democratic process of voting to make laws they would bind on the body. On the contrary, King Jesus was given absolute authority over all things before the ascension (Mt 28:18). And thus, the democratic power struggles that are common in government and corporations must have no place among the gospel-obedient citizens of a kingdom that has only one Lord and King who reigns with supreme authority over all things (Ep 1:20-23). When it comes to decision-making amount the members, therefore, the authority of Jesus over all things must always be in the forefront of our thinking and planning.
Before we can come to any understanding of how our leaders are to behave themselves among gospel-obedient disciples, therefore, we must first understand the nature of the leadership that was revealed through the incarnate Son of God who now has all authority. In order to do this, we must first understand one very important point. Before His ascension and coronation, Jesus reminded His disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” From this statement alone we understand that 100% of the authority over all things in the galaxy and on earth is within the control of King Jesus. Not one percentage point of authority has been left for any human being on earth, including all church leaders.
Church leaders are given responsibility to care for the flock of God (At 20:28). They are not given authority to be lords over the flock. The position of the authoritative head of the body has already been filled (Cl 1:18). If one would move into this realm of authority among the disciples, therefore, he has moved from assuming responsibility among the sheep to being in some position or office in order to lord over the sheep. There can be no lords of authority among or over the sheep of God. Jesus is our one Lord with all authority.
Therefore, when we consider leaders of all those who have submitted to the autocratic kingdom reign of King Jesus, then all things in reference to the order among gospel-obedient subjects has been fulfilled in the one Lord Jesus Christ (Ep 4:5). All this is drastically different from the order of authority in the corporate/political/business world in which we live. We must be very careful, therefore, not to import into the body of Christ the leadership that is characteristic of the world. There can be no chairmen, no presidents, and no lords among the disciples of Jesus. There can be no corporate boards with invested authority who would slip mandates under a board room door to the anxiously awaiting employees outside.
• Revelation of a leadership standard: In our challenge to transform our personal character into the nature of the gospel, we sometimes import into the body of Christ attitudes of corporate competitiveness or political pomp that is characteristic of the world in which we live. This is a particular problem in those nations wherein there has been vigorous debates among politicians for several decades. In such a social culture subsequently feel that we are in competition with one another, or threatened by the presence of one another as supposed politicians in the political world. We thus use the church of disciples as an opportunity to behave politically. Nevertheless, we must recognize and repent of this common behavior and thinking among the disciples that is totally contrary to the very nature of the gospel of the incarnate Son of God.
Remember when Paul wrote the following? “For if by one man’s offense [Adam introduced sin into the world], death reigned through the one [sin of Adam], much more they who receive abundance of grace [that’s us] and of the gift of righteousness [from God] will reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ” (Rm 5:17). Those who live according to the incarnate Savior, who reigned over and conquered spiritual death at the cross, and afterward ascended to become the King of kings and Lord of lords, have likewise become kings in this life as a disciple of the King. Jesus now reigns over all things. As subjects of His kingdom reign, we too reign with Him in life. But we must not forget that our present reign is over the unbelieving world through our obedience to the gospel, not the body of kingdom subjects. Our reign over the unbelieving world is contingent on His present continued reign from heaven. We must not forget this, lest we seek to reign on earth over one another as the church of His subjects.
In forgetting to transform competitive attitudes and behavioral patterns that are contrary to the behavior of the incarnate Son of God—which behavior was revealed in His journey from being on an equality with God in spirit to being God in the flesh of man that hung on a cross outside Jerusalem—we often manufacture autonomous church groups as an opportunity to compete with one another as if we were in a corporate board room, or in some political debate with other politically minded leaders. In fact, the concept of the autonomy of individual local groups of disciples rose out of a misunderstanding. Such power-hungry behavior sometimes found its way in among the disciples of the first century. However, such behavior was vigorously opposed then by the Holy Spirit through the pens of the early writers of inspired Scripture. He continues to oppose such today through the pages of the New Testament.
The vast majority of the members of the body in those early days sought to emulate in their lives the nature of the actions of the Son of God in His incarnation from heaven to earth. Though we cannot go through the transformation of an actual incarnation, there is still a behavioral life-style lesson in the incarnation of the Son of God that must become the foundation upon which our behavior as His disciples must be established. The Holy Spirit wanted to make this very clear as He guided the hands of disciples as Paul (More later.)
Self-exaltation is typical of the corporate/political/business world. But such behavior is totally contrary to incarnational behavior. Unfortunately, such self-exalting behavior sometimes finds its way into the leadership of the church. We may complain about one behaving as a lord among the leaders, but we must first look to our own behavior.
The reason the church body sometimes produces self-exalting lordship leaders is that the existing leaders have often behaved as such among the disciples as they would behave in the corporate/political/business world in which they weekly work and live. Young leaders, therefore, who arise among the body of members subsequently believe that they too must behave in the same manner as the existing leaders if they would be future leaders in the church.
Some young leaders often rise out of a competitive body of members in order to struggle “through the ranks” to be leaders “of the church.” These young leaders often conclude that if all the members must behave in a corporate/political/business manner Monday through Friday, then they too are tempted to believe and behave in the same manner. Instead of emulating on the incarnate behavior of the Son of God as the guiding principle for leading the people, they too often take a peek into a corporate board room, or clone their favorite politician or business owner. But this thinking is nowhere found in the New Testament.
• Misleading road maps for leadership: Lordship behavior is often perpetuated throughout the decades by those who have never fully understood the selfless nature that is inherent in the good news of the incarnational journey of the Son of God. This lordship behavior is a perpetual curse by which most of the religious world functions today. The common scenario is that young leaders who seek to rise among the disciples are stymied by the existing leaders who maintain their lordship over their local diocese of disciples. What consequently results is that the rising young leaders are encouraged to go out and start their “own churches” in order to likewise lord over a flock just as the leadership of the local church from which they were given birth to be lords.
The result is that a history of lordship leadership is perpetuated among religious groups. There is then a competition between local “pastors” in the community who compete for control and contributions in local independent churches. This all takes place in view of a statement from the Holy Spirit that leaders not lord over the flock of God (1 Pt 5:3). It is for this reason that many members are wondering what we are talking about when we speak of incarnational leadership. People of faith have moved so far away from the example of Jesus that they have a difficult time finding their way back to the true Lord Jesus Christ. It is as if people have invented in their minds a “Jesus” that is totally foreign to the Jesus we read about in the New Testament.
We must insert here something about the self-centered culture of the “me generation” that is so prevalent today throughout the Western world. When children are reared in families with the attitude that they can do nothing wrong—there are no losers—or that they are the constant center of attraction, then this me-culture of people arise in the body of disciples with prerequisite conditions as to how the church should behave. When the local the church places little emphasis on the gospel of the heart of God that was revealed through the incarnate Son of God, then young people grow up “in the church” with the thinking that they must continue to receive special attention. It is for this reason that it is difficult for those of the Western “me generation” to understand the selfless nature of the incarnational leadership of the Son of God. It is challenging for them to understand that the Jesus who is revealed in the New Testament was an incarnate God who allowed Himself to be crucified. And if the leaders of the existing church are not living incarnationally, then another generation of lordship leaders are produced for the future church.
This at least gives us one answer as to why “church” is declining in Western societies. Or better, church is simply becoming some form of religion that is defined after the nature of the members’ desires, not the nature of the incarnate Son of God. The younger “me generation” is largely turning away from those groups that have any scent of true incarnational behavior. When one of the me-generation encounters incarnational disciples, their first reaction is to change the assembly of the local church into something that pleases (entertains) themselves. “Worship” is thus changed from focusing on worship of God to focusing on emotionally exciting ourselves. The assembly of such “worshipers” thus turns into a narcissistic, self-centered music concert.
This is possibly one reason why “church attendance” in the West has drastically declined in the last two decades. Those older mature disciples have simply decided to focus their worship on God the Father in thanksgiving for the incarnational behavior of His Son who became flesh in order to bring incarnational people into the population of heaven. This was certainly in the mind of Paul when he allowed the Holy Spirit to guide his thoughts in the following statement:
“For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace that is reaching many people may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God” (2 Co 4:15).
People of virtue (integrity) always struggle with their behavior in their relationship with others, and especially in their relationship with God. This struggle is simply part of living in preparation for eternity. So in our struggles, we know that sin is defined as doing that which God said we should not do, lest we be separate from Him (Is 59:2; 1 Jn 3:4). This would be the sin of commission. We break God’s law, and thus we sin, sometimes knowingly, but sometimes unknowingly. We simply cannot live perfect lives (Rm 3:23). Add to this the fact that we more often do not do good to others we know we should do, and thus, we sin by omission (Js 4:17; Gl 6:10). Without a clear and appreciative understanding of the grace of God, therefore, we would certainly live a life a guilt, never know if we were saved.
In order to deal with our guilt, we often categorize sin, and thus check off those sins we do not do. In order to make a list of such sins, we quote Revelation 21:8. We then assume that we are good people of faith because we do not do the following listed sins about which John wrote: “But the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murders and immoral people and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, will have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.” And certainly, we are not bad people as that. So far, so good.
Since we are not bad people about which John wrote, and try to do the good about which James wrote, we assume that we are fine, and thus, good people in reference to our standing before God. But we must go beyond John’s list by which we would judge ourselves somewhat righteous before God. We must also consider the list that Paul presented in Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are: fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, outburst of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, revelries, and the such like.”
It is Paul’s final phrase that gives us some grief. “And-the-such-like” certainly includes everyone beyond what John specifically wrote in Revelation 21 and Paul’s specific list of sins in Galatians 5. In both Galatians and Revelation, there seems to be under the umbrella phrase, “and the such like,” all those who are not forthright in confessing that they are often walking in some sin about which they might be unaware, or at least, unwilling to confess (See Js 5:16). In some way, we are all there.
When one encounters the gospel, beliefs and behavior must radically change. There must be a beginning of the transformation of our character, and thus, our behavior (See Rm 12:1,2). This is particularly true in reference to our relationship with people who have likewise obeyed the gospel. Drastic repentance is in store for all those who have truly responded to the gospel simply because the gospel is not of this world. Because we seek to respond to the One who gave Himself for us, this heavenly action on the part of the Son of God inspires us to think and live contrary to worldly thinking and behavior.
For example, upon one’s encounter with the gospel of the incarnate Son of God, it is often easy to repent of moral sins. We can check off those sins that were listed by both John and Paul. We subsequently stop doing bad stuff, and try to do the best we can in doing good for others as the incarnate Son did good for us. However, this is not enough in reference to our personal transformation.
There is often behavioral sin that is persistent within us in reference to our selfish ambitions, which self-centered behavior we are sometimes not willing to recognize or change. Since we often fail to recognize some of our behavioral sins, we leave some of our behavior unchecked by the gospel. In particular, we often justify our self-centered narcissistic behavior by saying that at least we do not commit the sins that are on the list of both John and Paul.
Nevertheless, when we do what we feel is wrong in some area, we often try to cleanse ourselves of our wrong with some self-sanctifying good deed. We thus satisfy ourselves by trying to do the best we can in doing good works to atone for our sins. Our good works make us feel good about sins that may persist in our lives.
But if we are honest with ourselves, we still know that we fall short in doing enough good works to feel that we are justified before God. When we presume to find atonement in our good needs, we often fail to gospel check our inner attitudes that caused us to sin, and thus, behave contrary to the gospel. So we continue on our way trying to do self-sanctifying good works, while continuing on in our wayward ways. Such is a frustrating lie to live.
It is for this reason that various statements by the Holy Spirit in Scripture become very precious. For example, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ep 2:8). It is thus very comforting to read what the Spirit concluded, “Sin will not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under grace” (Rm 6:14). “And if by grace, then it is no more by works [of law-keeping or meritorious good deeds], otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it is by [meritorious] works, it is no longer grace, otherwise work is no longer work” (Rm 11:6).