Tag Archives: Gospel

Our fight for freedom

By Erica Fehr

Before we’ve even learned to walk, we humans begin fighting for freedom; first, in play but then more seriously as we object to authority, consequences, expectations, guilt, pain, doubt, anxiety, and death—the freedom wish list is very long.

But finding freedom is not simple. Restrictions often act as prison guards at opposite ends of our cell. We want to be free of obligations but if we don’t fulfil them, we’re weighted down by guilt. We want to be free of authority and rules and find ourselves paying penalties or facing retribution. Some freedoms we fight for have zero possibility of success, but that doesn’t stop us from trying.

Here we are, between the resurrection and Pentecost. The power of death and sin defeated by Jesus—grace and freedom the new reality as we’re filled with the Holy Spirit.

Grace and freedom are a big deal to Paul. He pulls no punches when the Galatians give up freedom in the Holy Spirit for a return to the law. “Who has bewitched you?” he says in chapter 3 (v. 1). “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Of course, this freedom doesn’t mean being able to act however they want, he reminds them (5:13ff).

But why, when we are so desperate for freedom, and we receive it in the Holy Spirit, do we need to be told to stand firm and not let ourselves be burdened again by slavery? Is it because law feels safer and understandable? Because trusting in the Holy Spirit for our righteousness is too slow, or it’s too hard to figure out if we’re making any progress? Maybe freedom just seems too…free.

In the case of the Galatians, Paul places the blame on people in their midst who are throwing them into confusion and trying to pervert the gospel of Christ: “Agitators” who have “cut in on them.” But he doesn’t let the Galatians off the hook. They need to take responsibility for holding on to the gospel they received and not trade it back in for slavery to the law.

Whatever or whoever it is, trying to lure us or frighten us back into slavery, Paul insists we hold on to the freedom in Christ. Hold on to the gospel that saved us and stay in step with the Spirit, loving our neighbour as ourselves.

Erica Fehr

In this issue of The Messenger the writers focus on themes of resurrection and Pentecost: preventing shame from keeping us enslaved by Ken Shigamatsu (p. 14), and again by Jesse Penner who reports on the SBC leadership conference at which Shigamatsu spoke; trusting God when obstacles are insurmountable by Andrew Dyck, p. 6, and loving wary neighbours by Heidi (surname withheld), p. 10 who lives and works in Spain.

Read Kevin Wiebe’s column too and have fun again. Read Karla Hein’s column and have wonder again. Read Layton Friesen’s last column as Conference Pastor—right to his surprising ending, and have…well, that would be a spoiler.

Peter Doerksen: Rooted in the Gospel —Rooted, Certified, Bearing Fruit

2018 Convention

by Peter Doerksen  

Session One: Is Your Faith Rooted in the Gospel? (Matt. 13:1-9)

We want to use roots and plant life as a word picture and explanation of what it means to be “rooted in the gospel.” We begin with the parable Jesus told of the “four soils” as found in Matthew 13:1-9. In Luke 8:11 Jesus clarifies that “the seed is the word of God.”

How does this parable relate to our question, “Is my faith rooted in the gospel?” Farmers, even gardeners, know that something can be done with nearly every type of soil. Hard soil can be softened by working it, especially after a rain. Fields that have rocks may still have good soil; obviously the rocks need to be picked in order to raise a crop. Thorns grow in rich soil, choking the seed that germinated just fine.

​ The gospel’s transforming impact on our lives may vary from instantaneous to years. I clearly remember the day I knelt in repentance and asked Jesus to be my Saviour at age 12, but the next significant step in my spiritual journey only happened at age 19.

Two significant struggles in my life were my anger and an addiction to pornography. I would hear testimonies of how people would come to Christ and were immediately released from their addictions. For me, it took approximately 10 years before I could say that my anger was under control and I was walking in victory with my addictions.

Growth Isn’t a Formula

The story of the Chinese bamboo tree illustrates for me that we cannot put growth in our faith into a formula. There are times growth happens overnight; at times it can take years.

The Chinese bamboo tree starts with a little seed. You plant it, water it, and fertilize it for a whole year, and nothing happens. The second year you water it, and fertilize it, and nothing happens. The third year you water it and fertilize it, and nothing happens. How discouraging this becomes!

The fifth year you continue to water and fertilize the seed. And then take note. Sometime during the fifth year, the Chinese bamboo tree sprouts and grows 90 feet in six weeks! Did the tree grow 90 feet in just six weeks? No, it grew 90 feet in five years. The gospel of Jesus Christ does change my life!

Session Two: Is Your Gospel Contaminated? (Matt. 13:24-30)

In the June 22 edition of the Edmonton Journal Paula Simons writes an article entitled: Bad seed: The mystery of Alberta’s rogue GMO wheat puts our reputation at risk. The article outlines how seven stalks of GMO wheat were discovered that were herbicide-resistant.

She noted, “GMO wheat isn’t dangerous to human health. It isn’t ‘banned’ in Canada because it’s risky to eat it. This isn’t like finding mad cows. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is fatal to humans. GMO wheat can’t hurt people. The threat it poses is economic.”

What is the problem? It was not registered/certified. The parable Jesus told in Matthew 13:24-30 illustrates that we have an enemy who will do anything he can to keep the gospel from bearing fruit.

Therefore, Paul’s words to the Galatians are still relevant today: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel —which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7 NIV).

The Centrality of Christ

Notice the words “deserting” and “turning” from the person and centrality of Christ, which results in confusion and perversion. The prophet Jeremiah describes the opposite: “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jer. 17:7-8).

Here we have words like “trust” and “confidence” both rooted in the Lord. The result is a faith that has no fear of the heat of adversity; it does not worry when drought comes. What a difference from the “different gospel ” to which Paul refers.

So, what is it that threatens to contaminate our gospel? One is that of taking God’s Word out of context. Paul reminds Timothy of how important context is. He says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Another is anything that threatens the centrality of Jesus. “Fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2) and “For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached” (2 Cor. 11:4) are good reminders that it is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is a telltale sign that someone’s gospel might be contaminated? Possibly it’s like the problem with the seven stalks of GMO wheat. It was unregistered. No one knows where it came from.

Which leads us to ask, “Does the gospel we preach have connections with the rest of the body of Christ? Is it ‘registered’?” The gospel of Jesus Christ is certified seed!

Session Three: Is Your Gospel Bearing Fruit? (Col. 1:3-14)

Why does the farmer sow seed? Why do we plant gardens? To harvest more than we planted! How disappointing to have a crop failure or like Emily said in the Convention promo: to pick what appears to be a delicious tomato only to realize it is rotten. Plants, fruit trees, crops need to do more than just look good. They need to bear fruit.

Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8).

The Gospel Produces Fruit

Faith rooted in the gospel will bear fruit! Colossians 1:6 says, “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing.” We are saved by responding to the call of the gospel, and then by responding to its call daily we will continue to grow and bear fruit.

2 Peter 1:5-8 says, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What is our part? Jesus said in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Peter Doerksen

The gospel of Jesus Christ produces fruit! My prayer for us is that we will “bear much fruit, showing ourselves to be his disciples” (John 15:8 paraphrased).

Peter Doerksen is the senior pastor of Vanderhoof Christian Fellowship in the central interior of B.C. He and his wife Martha have served in pastoral ministry since 1986. Peter was our 2018 convention speaker in London, Ont. This article is his condensing of his three messages.

Dr. Darryl Klassen: Teaching the Christ-Centred Gospel

by Dr. Darryl G. Klassen

EMC Convention 2016

For the past half-century or more the North American Church has promoted a gospel that emphasizes getting saved.

While salvation is certainly important, the focus on getting a ticket to heaven has left many wondering what value the gospel has for this present life. Do we give the impression that believing in Jesus is only about eternal life?

Somewhere in the history of our church-culture a shift has taken place that convinced us that we need to get people to make decisions for Jesus. But did Jesus say we should go and make converts—or make disciples?

The new Vision Statement for the EMC says in part, “We envision teaching the gospel with a Christ-centred approach to Scripture, affirming Anabaptist convictions.” If we are to take this vision to heart, we need to consider how we truly define “gospel.”

An Apostolic Pattern

To teach the Christ-centred Gospel we must follow the Apostolic Pattern handed down to us. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy we read about Paul’s intense concern that Timothy hold on to the gospel.

Paul knew that Timothy was struggling to preach the gospel of Christ according to the apostles’ teaching. Certain parties wanted to add to the gospel and to make it more relevant. Timothy felt this pressure and grew ashamed of the gospel.

It is no wonder then that Paul was quite blunt with Timothy and his timidity about the gospel. If the gospel appeared weak because Paul was in prison, Paul responded, “I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

So Paul writes to encourage Timothy, to bolster what is in danger of growing weak. He reminds him of the source of the gospel: “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13).

What the Gospel is Not

We struggle with similar temptations, and you would think that we would all agree on how we define the gospel. But I have come to discover that there is quite a broad spectrum when people speak of the gospel. We do not all agree.

What are some wrong conceptions of the gospel?

First, most of us have grown up with the conception that the gospel is about personal salvation. Second, our predominant understanding of the gospel comes from Paul’s letters where he presented the essence of the gospel as “justification by faith.”Third, if the gospel means justification by faith, why didn’t Jesus preach in those terms?

The end result is that the word “gospel” has been hijacked to mean “personal salvation.” This is why we focus on making a decision, why conversion experiences trump the process of discipleship, and why gospel as we know it is different than what it meant to Jesus and the apostles.

Credit: Jessica Wichers

What is the Gospel?

If you want a nutshell of the gospel, Paul told Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8). The gospel Paul refers to can be found more fully represented in 1 Cor. 15:1-5. These are perhaps the oldest known lines of the gospel. Before there was a New Testament, this was the gospel. For Paul, the gospel did not begin at Matthew 1:1, but in Genesis.

It was in this manner that Paul preached the gospel of Jesus. Every sermon in Acts and every New Testament writer saw this gospel as part of a larger narrative. What was that gospel?

The Story of Israel

The Story of Israel, or the Story of the Bible, begins this odyssey that is the Gospel. We know the essential parts of this story: Adam and Eve sinning, the calling of Abraham and the choosing of a people, Israel’s failure to be a missional people and testify to God’s purposes. The important thing is to note how this not only sets up the gospel, but is, in reality, “the good news of God” in that He kept speaking into our world despite the failure of humankind to obey His commandments.

The Story of Jesus

The story of Jesus is the story of God sending His Son to establish His Messiah or Christ, and to finally establish His kingdom. Now, we cannot understand this part of the story without understanding the Story of Israel. The Story of Jesus is first and foremost a resolution of Israel’s story, and because the Story of Jesus completes the Story of Israel, it saves.

Credit: Jessica Wichers

The Plan of Salvation

Then we can talk about the Plan of Salvation for it flows out of the Story of Israel as completed in the Story of Jesus. The Plan of Salvation is not the gospel. The Gospel cannot be reduced to four spiritual laws or five points. If we do, we will find that men and women will get “saved,” but they won’t have a clue about discipleship, or justice, or obedience.

Anabaptists believe that Christ is the centre of Scripture. If you believe that, then you will read Scripture with Christ as your lens. You will see that all Scripture speaks to the centrality of Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

Guard the Content

To teach the Christ-centred Gospel we must guard the content of this teaching. “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you” (2 Tim. 1:14).

How do we guard the gospel?

Entrust The Gospel

Entrust the gospel to faithful people who will carefully handle its truths. Paul tells Timothy, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). You are Christ’s representatives when you live your life with Jesus as Lord. In short, the Story of the Gospel continues with you.

Endure the Suffering

Endure the suffering that will surely come from holding to this gospel. The time that Paul predicted when people will not put up with sound doctrine seems constant in every generation. Sound doctrine, the true Gospel, does not resonate with those who have a different agenda. To suit their own desires they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn away from the truth and hold on to myths (2 Tim. 4:3-4). This is happening even within the Church.

The Gospel Story, that Jesus Christ is Lord, the fulfillment of all that God purposed for our lives, will be rejected by those who think it is too judgmental, too exclusive, too simplistic or too theological. Are you ready to suffer as Paul did for the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Credit: Jessica Wichers

Proclaim the Gospel

Faithfully proclaim the gospel story. Guarding the gospel is not achieved by burying it or keeping quiet about it. Proclaiming the Gospel preserves it as well as declares it. This is critical; in the face of a hostile world that cannot grasp its own lostness and a God who has entrusted us with this incredible message, we cannot be quiet.

Dr. Darryl Klassen

Into every facet of life, the messy and rough situations of marital breakdown, and personally self-destructive tendencies, speak Jesus as Lord into those places. “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word!” (2 Tim. 4:1-2).

Dr. Darryl G. Klassen is the senior pastor of Kleefeld EMC. This article is based on his message of Saturday, July 2, at the EMC’s 2016 national convention.