Posts Tagged ‘Gospel’

21 Years and God is good – My Story

21 years ago, Nicholas Leslie Rona, was born. Not in a palace nor in a lowly stable. To be precise, Mr Rona was born in the Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton, Hampshire, to an Irish mother and a Hungarian father, who welcomed the third and final edition to their growing army of sons.

Some of you will recognise the first two names, and then wonder who Rona is. Well I can happily tell you that my surname was Rona for the first four years of my life. Though I remember very little about my birth Dad, Raymond Rona, I know he was a wonderful man, who loved God and cared immensely for his wife and children before he died in 1994.

Love

I can’t remember a time when I have never felt loved by someone, and for that I am very thankful. My parents loved me dearly as I grew up (and they’ve kept it up somehow until the present day), and I’m told that even my older brothers showed some fraternal affection for me in my early years.

I feel enormously privileged to have grown up in such a caring family (I have forgiven them for giving me the middle name Leslie). My birth father was a loving man, and my step-dad Andrew Spear has been a wonderful model of love since marrying my Mum back in 1995 and bravely adopting a trio of cricket fanatics; my two older brothers Richard and Duncan, and I.

Family relationships are great, and I am very thankful and enormously privileged to have had such a happy childhood.

However, there is one love that has been missing from the story so far, the love that really matters in my life, the love that defines who I am and what I live for. Namely, the love of God seen supremely in the man Jesus Christ.

Missed the Point

I had heard about God’s love since being a young child, but I didn’t understand it. I read fantastic stories in my children’s Bible and heard great things He had done in my parent’s lives, but still I didn’t really get it. In fact, I completely missed the point of Christianity and who Jesus was for a number of years as I grew up.

You see, morally speaking, I was a very good kid. I went to church each Sunday, I got on with my friends, didn’t murder anyone, and never stole any lollipops or bubble gum from the local newsagents. I wasn’t perfect, as I knowingly still disobeyed my parents occasionally and told a few porkies but it was nothing compared to the ‘sins’ of the rest of my peers.

And so I seemed to think that I was heading for heaven because surely my good deeds outweighed my bad ones, and I was a lot better than most people and wasn’t hell bound because hell was for really bad people like Hitler, Judas and the Devil.

But at age 13, while away on holiday, something changed. The penny dropped. Before this, I had not understood who Jesus really was. In my mind, he was a great man, who had good teachings on life, but had tragically been killed while a young man, but that somehow forgiveness was possible through his death on the cross. Or perhaps I just thought he was some kind of make believe character like Santa Claus.

But of course forgiveness wasn’t something I needed much of because in my eyes I hadn’t done much wrong.

Jesus is absolutely the only good guy in my story

The holiday I went on was a conference explaining the message of the Bible to teenagers. And for the first time I realised that God wasn’t interested with how I matched up to my peers. He was only interested in how good I was in comparison to Jesus. And because Jesus is the only perfect man to have ever lived, the odds weren’t good. I was proud of my good deeds, causing me to look down on others, and was therefore self-righteous, and I started to become a hypocrite and quite frankly thought that God was lucky to have me on his side. Jesus has stern words for people like that (see Matthew 23), calling them whitewashed tombs and vipers, whose destiny is destruction.

This message really burst my balloon. God didn’t love my good deeds, they were as filthy rags before him. My motivation for doing good was to look good to others, gain access to heaven and to feel great about myself. I realised that I had ignored God and it was ridiculous to think that my good deeds could grant me a place in heaven. What I believed is the essence of religion, that what you do earns you God’s favour.

But Christianity is not religion, it is relationship. To be precise, it is the relationship between God and people made possible only by Jesus living a sin-less life and dying the death that we deserve for the way we have treated Him.

On the cross, Jesus took all the wrong thoughts, words, actions I had thought, said and done against Him, and he died for them, endured all of God’s anger (because a good God is understandably angry against evil) and then he did something even more incredible. He didn’t stay dead!

Jesus rose from the grave! The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is compelling (read The Case for Christ, or tune into websites like http://reason.cck.org.uk/or http://www.reasonablefaith.org or look at this short article). The Bible recognises that without the resurrection of Jesus, Christians would be most pitied because they would worship a God who is dead, and Jesus wasn’t who He said He was. But Jesus rose from the dead! His resurrection proves his power of death, sin and evil. Jesus is not the meek and mild figure sometimes depicted in paintings or on television, He is God and He is capable of leading you back into relationship with the God who made you. He is awesome, and knowing God is the greatest thing.

Human beings are made for relationship, and we’re wired to look for happiness in our lives. I don’t know anyone in my life who has said they would rather be unhappy than happy. Well, in Jesus, we have the ultimate relationship that brings everlasting joy. Happiness in found in knowing the God who made you.

I want to urge you to look into this further and not to dismiss the Bible or Jesus as fiction if you are not a Christian and never considered looking into who Jesus is. To become a Christian is not a decision of blind faith, but rather a reasonable decision of faith given the historical evidence for who Jesus is and what He has done.

Christianity – the good life?

But it is a big decision. Will you stop ignoring God and start living for Him?

I can testify that life didn’t become incredibly easy when I became a Christian. I still struggle to do things for God and regularly fail to do so. Not everyone accepts my lifestyle, I don’t feel at home on this earth, and look forward one day to being with my Lord and Saviour in heaven where death, suffering and evil will have no place. I don’t always walk around with a smile on my face because life this side of heaven is hard. But there’s still joy in times of suffering, even when I am the cause of such suffering, which is often the case. I no longer dread death, and I care more about other people than I used to because my God cares about them. When things don’t go according to plan, God is always trustworthy and His promises never fail.

The Bible tells an incredible story of a loving God who seeks out and redeems people who have gone away from Him. The best thing about it is that it is true!

Driscoll & Chester on Missional Church

I have just come across some fantastic material from the Redeem Cities Conference a couple of months ago, thanks to my brother Rich, and I thought I would share it on the blog. It is worth keeping in mind that the talks were spoken to a crowd of majority pastors and church planters but I think there are many lessons in there for Christian men and women in any role within a local church. I was particularly struck by Mark Driscoll’s first session on the four vital components of church – Reformed Theology, Complementarian Relationships, Spirit Filled Lives and Missional. He unpacks it very well indeed.

Then Tim Chester speaks about the way mission should happen in churches from 1 Peter 2. Evangelism is not first and foremost an exercise that brings non-Christians back to church, but rather Christians living holy lives to the glory God outside of the church meeting.

Anyway, they are brilliant lectures. Watch them if you can.

Mark Driscoll

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/17671500″>Redeem Cities 2010: Mark Driscoll Session 1</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/newfrontiers”>Newfrontiers</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

Tim Chester

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/17918004″>Redeem Cities 2010: Tim Chester Session 4</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/newfrontiers”>Newfrontiers</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

To live is Christ, to die is gain

In the next chunk of Philippians (1:12-26), Paul faces three kinds of opposition.

(1) Opposition from outside the Christian Community (1:12-14). He is in prison for preaching the gospel.

(2) Opposition from inside the Christian Community (1:15-18a ). Some people are preaching Christ out of selfish ambition, envy, rivalry, thinking they may even be able to stir up trouble for Paul while he is in chains.

(3) Death (1:18b-26 ).The outcome of Paul’s trial is yet to be decided, so he knows death is very much a possibility for him.

And Paul’s response to all of this opposition, amidst even fellow brothers in Christ who are stirring up trouble for him, is extraordinary. He has one concern, and it is the GOSPEL. He rejoices in the gospel going out! See verses 13-14, his imprisonment has meant the whole palace guard have heard about Jesus Christ (likely about 2,000 soldiers according to William Taylor’s commentary), and other Christians in Philippi have been spurred on to preach because of Paul being in prison.

In verse 18, we see Paul’s response to the Christians who are preaching out of envy. And this is outrageous stuff. Paul declares that ‘The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice’. Once again, Paul rejoices because of the gospel going out to unbelievers. He really doesn’t seem bothered in the slightest about his own reputation; he’s in it for the fame of God’s name.

And upon facing death, he fears nothing, and more surprisingly, he even looks forward to it, knowing what is ahead. He shows that his life on this earth is all about proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. ‘If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me’ (v22); If God preserves his life after this imprisonment, he will continue to proclaim Jesus (which is exactly what happens), but if he dies, Paul will have gained something far better (v25), Christ himself, face to face forever.

Have a think about how you can have a greater concern for the proclamation of the gospel. Even amidst the troubles you face today, how can the gospel be proclaimed despite, and even through, those troubles?

Secure in our Saving God

I’ve just got back from UCCF: The Christian Unions Forum Conference 2010. It was a wonderful time of learning more of Jesus, being encouraged by searching the scriptures, praying and enjoying fellowship with 900 other Christian students in a field in Shropshire.

The highlight for me was the seminars I went to in the morning, aptly called ‘Secure in our Saving God’ led by Mike Reeves and Angus Moyes. You can listen to the audio here (I cannot recommend it highly enough). Having started on the first morning looking at a rounded view of the doctrine of original sin and federal headship, how in Adam we are sinners because he first sinned, we moved on to salvation being found in Christ alone, and more specifically the crucial truth that we can only be justified before our holy Father through being united in Jesus.

I have never before realised Union with Christ is absolutely essential. It warms my heart to the very depths hearing of the fact that I am clothed with Christ, it is in itself the life transforming message of the gospel. Isaiah 61:10 says ‘I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.’ Christ alone is my robe of righteousness. I wore a robe of death.

The Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright, claims that on the cross righteousness and sin cannot be transferred between Jesus and a sinner as if by osmosis. And this would be a credible argument, if this was actually the evangelical claim. But it isn’t the claim at all. We only receive Christ’s righteousness because we are actually wrapped up in him. In salvation, it is as if we are grafted into Him so that he can carry our body of sin and death, and we can claim his very own righteousness for our own. Ephesians 1 is helpful in showing how all the Spiritual blessings are not from Him as such, but rather are found in Him!

And there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because He is the same yesterday, today and forever. If you are a Christian, you can be secure in the Saving God because He is our means of knowing the Father at all times, today and forever.

Book Review: The Unquenchable Flame

I’ve read this short-ish book (185 pages) in just a few days since coming home from university, and it has been a fantastic read to kick off my summer list. Mike Reeves, UCCF’s Theological Advisor, writes with enthusiasm and admiration of the Reformation heroes of the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries.

He begins with a chapter on the background to the Reformation, the state of the world pre-Luther and his colleagues, showing the desperate state of Christianity under the influence of papal Rome, relying on a false justification and without a Bible anyone could understand.

Despite some of the negative voices there are in 21st Century Britain about the Reformation today, Reeves shows that the whole affair was a positive one, about bringing people the true message of the gospel, and not primarily to flee the evils of Rome.

The Unquenchable Flame unpacks the wonderful stories about the works of both mind and body of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli and the Puritans in bringing about Protestantism in Europe and further afield.

I have been challenged to see my half-hearted efforts at trying to please God are not enough to warrant salvation, and that is why justification by faith alone is so important. Martin Luther once wrote; ‘sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.’

It is inspiring to see men willing to be burnt at the stake for the sake of sound primary doctrine. To the mistake of some, it was not the work of madmen willing to die for the small print of religious waffle. Those reformation martyrs were willing to die when salvation was at stake.

It reminds me of the God-man, the Lamb of the world, Jesus Christ, who humbled himself to death, even death on a cross to save the sins of the many.

Buy The Unquenchable Flame at 10ofthose.com or on Amazon