The word “gospel” was not a particularly Christian word at the time of the writing of the New Testament in the first Century Roman Empire.
Gospel was simply the word used for momentous news of a historic event that would no doubt bring a new situation or circumstances. For example, the news of a new Emperor being crowned was called gospel, as was the news of victory in battle by the Roman legions, ushering in a era of relative peace.
Andries Tatane’s death and the death of Jesus of Nazareth bear some remarkable similarities and differences.
Both men were 33 years old, guilty of no crime, yet treated with contempt, beaten, and killed by the authorities of the day. Both men’s death was terrible and tragic. Both men’s death also achieved results for their people.
Jesus’ death, however, was voluntary. Andries’ death was involuntary. Andries Tatane did not wake up planning and knowing he would die. On the other hand, from the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus said that he must die and give his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus death was also vicarious. Jesus unambiguously said that he must die for others. He said that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus suffered, was abandoned, and died to take upon himself the full wrath of God for the sin of God’s people. Jesus died not for his own sin, but that of others.
Jesus death was also infinitely valuable. Andries Tatane’s death may have some short term service delivery benefits for his community. Jesus’ death however has infinite benefits for people of every generation, every nation, every culture and every age. Through trust in Jesus as Lord and God your eternal salvation is secured, you are adopted in God’s very own family, and your sins are completely, utterly forgiven.
The violence of Andries Tatane’s death has rightly angered the people of South Africa. Let us remember another violent death. And be angered at our sin. And then be driven to the cross, where God’s anger was poured out on Jesus so that we may experience his love.
Every week there seems to be another report of a pastor falling into sexual sin and disqualifying himself from the ministry. Adultery is more and more the norm and even celebrated by some. The book of Proverbs gives us some really practical advice on how to keep our marriage beds (and future marriage beds) pure.
1. Remember that God is all-seeing and all-knowing
Whatever you were doing a hour ago, God saw and heard and knew. Proverbs 5:21 says, in the context of temptation to adultery, “For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths”. God is like Norton’s Internet Protector on steroids and that’s a good thing! Its good to know that God know all we say and do and think. God sees where we go on the internet and what pics we download on our phone. God listens to our phone calls. God reads our SMSes and Facebook statuses.
Can a Christian loose their salvation? The Bible says no.
The last point of Calvinism is: The perseverance of the saints. Perhaps a better summary would be: God’s preservation of the saints or God’s persevering with the saints. (BTW “Saints” is the word the New Testament uses for regular Christians.)
The Westminster Confession of Faith has a great definition of this doctrine. It says, “They whom God has accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.”
The fourth point of Calvinism is Irresistible Grace. This doctrine says that when God calls us to faith in Jesus he calls effectively; he always succeeds in his purpose to save us.
The Bible distinguished between the general call of God to all sinners to come to Jesus (e.g. Jesus saying “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”) and the specific call or summons God gives to his elect (e.g. Romans 1:6…you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ…)
Who did Jesus die for? What did Jesus’ death actually achieve?
These two questions point to the heart of the third so-called point of Calvinism1, “Limited Atonement2“. Most Christians would say that Jesus died for all the sins of every person in the entire world. In other words, Jesus paid the price for each sin of every person and we apply that forgiveness to us personally when we put our faith in Jesus.
Most of us don’t have a plan. No plan for our life, no plan for our finances or health and no plan for our spiritual growth. Proverbs says that we are acting foolishly. Proverbs tells us that we should plan ahead. Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”
We should plan because God has a plan. God has a plan for each of our lives (Psalm 139:16), Jesus was part of God’s plan (Acts 4:26-27) and even our salvation is included in God’s master plan (Ephesians 1:11). God is a planner and we strive to be like him.
The first part our plan should be to follow Jesus, as Proverbs tells us “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”. Next, as we plan, we should ask ourselves four questions:
1. What does the Bible say about this? This is a question or righteousness. To make a plan contrary to biblical principles or in disobedience to what the Bible says, would be sin. What does the Bible say about earning money or who to marry. As you begin your plan, chech out biblical principles.
2. What does wisdom say? This is not a question of right or wrong, but of wisdom and foolishness. Just because a plan may not be sin, does not mean that its wise. It may not be a sin to plan to accept a particular job offer, but it may not be wise.
3. What do other mature Christians say?
Proverbs 15:22 says “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.”
4. What do I prefer?
When you’ve answered out all the above questions (and spent time in prayer), the last issue is your preference. If what you are doing is not a sin, if its wise and you have the backing of other Christians, you are free to use the natural preferences and likes God has given you. E.g. you might prefer a Toyota to a Honda after planning that buying a car in this price bracket would be the wisest thing to do to get to work to earn some money to provide for your family.
Do you have a plan? If not: Submit to God, study the bible, speak to others, pray, and use your God-given brain to plan!