Here is the gospel: Man is hopelessly, eternally lost. Left to his own devices, he will not only destroy himself, but everything and everyone around him. But on a cross hung a bleeding, dying Savior who said, "I am doing this for you." We are saved through the shed blood of Jesus.
In a perfect world, Christians would be people without any disagreements. Unfortunately this isn’t a perfect world, it’s a fallen one, and even the Church sees its share of conflict between members. Pastors argue, Churches split, and professed Christians hold grudges against their brothers and sisters. This last one is something I particularly struggle with. A few years ago I was in a really bad place; I was feeling hurt and angry because of something some other Christians had said to me.
Christ lists three ways people show their ill-feelings toward others. Cursing indicates verbally denigrating others and working to destroy their reputation; gossiping. Hatred implies an active, passionate feeling against another. Spitefully using and persecuting means continually at war with, harassing, always being on another's case.
He also specifies three ways a Christian can combat these actions. We can bless, meaning giving good words for bad. We can also do good for our enemies, not merely restrain ourselves from retaliation. Lastly, we can pray for them and for their welfare, asking God to change their hearts so a two-way love can exist.
This is a major test for God's children. God wants us to do this so that we may resemble Him—be in His image—because this is the way He is. If a man has this love, he is like God. God shows us His love in this very manner. Despite what we do on His great green earth, the sun still shines, the rain still falls, and He is constantly providing for and working toward our salvation.
However, salvation is not the product of good works. We come into the world with a corrupt nature, and all our wrongdoing is born of a heart turned away from the Lord. Because we are sinful people, we sin. It's that simple. The good news is that in the salvation experience, we are given a brand-new nature (2 Cor. 5:17). Our sin is wiped away because Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for us. From the moment we trust in Him, the Holy Spirit dwells in our heart so that we can live righteously.
The whole system of Christianity rests upon the fact that “Christ is risen from the dead;” for, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain: ye are yet in your sins.” The divinity of Christ finds its surest proof in his resurrection, since he was “Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” It would not be unreasonable to doubt his Deity if he had not risen. Moreover, Christ's sovereignty depends upon his resurrection, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.”
There are people in our world who have lived their entire lives by selfish and evil means. It's as if something good was left out of them, and they are incapable of doing what is good. The way we deal with people like that is to forgive them and vow we will never be like them. Evil people are not to be hated, but pitied. They are our mission in life. Lives devoid of the Good News are lives not worth living. Reach out to people who do wrong through your prayers. They need them most of all.
While the enemy may make a last-ditch effort to discourage you and to divert the plans God has for your life, he will not win.
When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, He secured the victory for us. Jesus’ triumph over death also gave us the victory over death’s grip, both here on earth and in eternity. No longer do we have to be held in bondage to sin on earth. No longer do we have to pay the price of death for our sins on earth either.
Jesus’ sacrifice covered it all.
God loves you and when you place your faith and hope in Him, He will deliver you from all the wiles of the enemy. The victory has already been won!
God promises us in the gospel that He will not only forgive and cleanse us, but also be with us. There is instant access for those who trust in Jesus to the Presence and glory of God. As we worship, pray, read the Scripture, walk in Christian community, we sense that we are not alone. And never will be again.