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Gospel

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Religion or Relationship?

Illustration: Conversation with friends about what Christianity really is.
Neither word is strong enough to fully describe what Christianity is all about.

Religion

Quickly brings up the concept of works. Legalists adhere to a checklist of rules and rituals that become an external duty, leading us to look for salvation through works. What we are left with is all bones, no blood, no life, no moving flesh.

Relationship

Relationship can fall into the same traps. We begin looking for salvation in the next feel good experience, going from one mountaintop to the next when God doesn’t deliver what we expect Him to. This leaves us with a short-lived and shallow pile of mush that has no structure in which to thrive.

Truth

The truth is, Christianity is not only a religion or a relationship, it is both. One without the other would be false representation of not only Christianity, but the character of God himself. It is because of the relationship we have with our Father (speaking, listening, knowing Him), that we do the things we do. We experience both religion and relationship, but it’s not about either one. It’s about the Gospel.
This is called

Gospel

Only the Gospel fully encapsulates what Christianity is.
The first thing Jesus says as He begins His ministry:
Mark 1:15 NKJV
and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Mark 1:15 NKJV
and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Mark 8:35 NKJV
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.
Jesus equates the Gospel with himself:
Mark 10:29 NKJV
So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s,
It is the power of God:
Romans 1:16 NKJV
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

Today’s Reading

Mark 8:
Mark 8:34–38 NKJV
When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
This is Jesus’ call to commitment. The people don’t know what’s coming. Even His disciples aren’t ready. But Jesus lays out three things that one must do if they really want be with Him.

Deny Yourself

This means giving up your life for His glory. Your dreams, goals, family, friends, money, vehicles, home, spouse, everything that you think is yours, you must be willing to let go of.
Illustration: My journey to be a Pastor. I gave up much to follow Him. Although I believe I am where I’m supposed to be, would I give even this up for Him?
There’s a lot of people sitting in churches this morning that can pick their church apart and tell you everything thats wrong with their church, but they don’t tithe, serve, volunteer, or show up to things that they don’t like. They are caught up in the lie that the church is there to serve and entertain them.
What if Bellview was no more? What would you do? Would you look for a church that had everything you enjoyed so that you could sit there every Sunday and feel good? Would I? Or would we ask God where He wanted us to go and how He wanted us to serve?
What if Bellview was no more? What would you do? Would you look for a church that had everything you enjoyed so that you could sit there every Sunday and feel good? Would I? Or would we ask God where He wanted us to go and how He wanted us to serve and work and love and share?
Being a Christian means denying yourself and living for the glory of of our Lord.

Take Up Your Cross

The crucified were made to carry their own cross. This made it easy for people to identify them which left them open to ridicule and shame. There were people who began to follow Jesus because they thought He would establish a kingdom in this world in which they would receive power and favor.
Thats not exactly what they got was it? Instead of overthrowing the rulers and kingdoms of the world, Jesus willingly carried the cross to His death.
Are we willing to do the same? Do we carry our cross daily into the world so that everyone knows who we are? Or do we set it down and tuck it away until its time to come back to this building?
Being a Christian means taking up our cross so that there is no mistake about our identity in Christ.

Follow Me

Jesus says, go where I go, do what I do. Follow me. The first two challenges are personal. Denying yourself is about your heart, taking up your cross is about your identity, but follow me is a challenge for movement and impact. Whoever desires to come after me must follow me.
We can have a heart for Christ as we sit in church, we can identify as a Christian without actually having to talk to people, but its impossible to go where Jesus went without living the way He lived. And when we live as He lived, we will go where He went and be where He is!
Illustration: Talking to a friend about the homeless. Wasted lives.
It’s easy to say that those people are wasting their lives, but I will tell you this morning, there is no life more wasted than that of a Christian who never lives and shares the Gospel.
When the Gospel becomes what Christianity is all about, we will go from asking how many people we can get in our Sunday school classes to how many seeds our church can plant. Our churches will no longer rely on programs to attract people, but will see people come to know Christ because of the way we live. Our families will become churches and our church will become a family.

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