What does the Gospel mean to you? I’ve been thinking about this all week in preparation for a meeting this Sunday. To me, it boils down to Religion vs Relationship. It’s the difference between ceremony and connection, liturgy and linkage, ritual and relationship. For Religion is mostly man-made, piling on the things we can’t do…while a Relationship with Jesus Christ is about freedom. It’s about freedom from sin and death and freedom from the Law we can never keep. But the biggest difference between Religion and Relationship is this…Religion can’t save you. Only Jesus Christ who lived a perfectly sinless life has the ability to bring you into His glorious Kingdom and eternal life…it’s only through Jesus that you can make your way back to God.
It could have been me among that group of dosing disciples. There they were in the Garden of Gethsemane, having just been warned by Jesus to watch and pray as He moved off to pray alone. Coming back to them, Jesus was dismayed to find them all sleeping and asked, “Are you sleeping? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you won’t fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Mark 14:38) Yes, it could have been me that Jesus found asleep. For how many times have I started to pray only to have my mind wander and become distracted after only a few minutes?
In this verse it tells us how we should approach evangelism and share the Good News of Jesus with others. It’s about being encouraging not convicting…listening not preaching…and having conversations not sermonizing. It’s also about not having an “us versus them” mindset, but rather thinking “we” as a group. Finally, it’s about living with integrity but also being vulnerable and transparent about our own struggles. For none of us is a perfect Christian without faults and flaws. And when we can show this side of us…we become more believable.
For most people, when they read this verse, they think it’s all about money or material possessions. But I would challenge you today to be generous with yourself. It means blessing others with your smile and giving them the gift of a cheerful heart. It means seeking out the good in someone, and then of affirming and encouraging that good. For when you sow generously of yourself…others can not help but see the outer reflection of an inner attitude of Christ’s love.
With each temptation, the devil offered Jesus a shortcut…a way to compromise and thus circumvent God’s plan. So anytime our own impatience tempts us to not wait but instead run ahead of God…we’re playing right into the same scheme. Now none of us like to wait…we all want immediate gratification, so when offered a shortcut, we usually take it. But within that shortcut can hide compromise, risk, and loss. I Corinthians 15:58 encourages us to, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” In God’s perfect plan there are no shortcuts, and even though we may feel impatient when waiting on the Lord…we are to stand firm, fully committed and trusting in Him.