WWJD or WDJD? The Church and the Gospel

Many people in recent years have latched onto the saying of “What would Jesus do?”. Now, there is nothing wrong with this. After all, in 1 John 3:14 it says “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.”. So it’s important that we keep the love Jesus showed during His ministry foremost in our minds. This Love is, after all, the centerpiece.

But isn’t it important to understand what Jesus actually came to do, complete, and fulfill during His ministry so we understand more fully what Love this is that God has shown us through His Son Jesus Christ? I think it is.

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If we are to show the Love of Christ to the world, doing what Jesus would do, then we need to know where that Love originates from. What is God’s Kingdom about? What is the foundation that Jesus laid for the church while He was here? When we throw out there, “the Gospel”, do we really understand what that is? Is it really just that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, died on a cross, and rose again on the 3rd day according to the scriptures and that’s it? It seems to me the last part of this statement may be the most important – “according to the scriptures”. Why does it say this? Is there something more we need to be cognizant of and also have the burden of relaying to others? The simple answer is yes. But of course, nothing’s completely simple… The more complicated answer lies in looking at the scripture texts themselves which we will do shortly.
Many people ask me how I arrive at my thoughts and beliefs on what the scriptures say, because frankly, much of it is at odds with what most of “institutional Christianity” believes and teaches. My simple response is I study my Bible. I recommend to people they start like I did. Go by what Jesus Himself says. (Now a word of encouragement and advice here. If you don’t have a study bible that has scripture references that cue you to know when someone speaking in the NT is quoting someone from the OT, you need to get one. It is paramount to your correct understanding of much in the NT.)

Jesus inaugurated His ministry publicly when He stood up in the synagogue in His own home town and read from Isaiah 61.  Here is the actual passage:

Isa 61:1-2  The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; (2) To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.

This passage is deep with meaning and implications for both the Jews of Jesus’ day and should have a lot of meaning for the church today.  But how many times have we heard a sermon on this?  how many times have we heard this explained in our churches?  This is, after all, what Jesus says He came to do “according to the scriptures”.

Let’s look even further.  There are many passages in the OT that tell of the coming ministry of the King, the Suffering Servant, the Righteous Ruler, but this Isaiah passage Jesus specifically used to announce His ministry.  Why?  Let’s look at the entire passage and see:

Isa 61:1 – 62:12 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted ; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted , To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners ; 2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God ; To comfort all who mourn, 3 To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. 4 Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, They will raise up the former devastations ; And they will repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations. 5 Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks, And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers. 6 But you will be called the priests of the LORD ; You will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, And in their riches you will boast. 7 Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, Everlasting joy will be theirs. 8 For I, the LORD, love justice, I hate robbery in the burnt offering ; And I will faithfully give them their recompense And make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Then their offspring will be known among the nations, And their descendants in the midst of the peoples. All who see them will recognize them Because they are the offspring whom the LORD has blessed. 10 I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God ; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise To spring up before all the nations. 1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, Until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, And her salvation like a torch that is burning. 2 The nations will see your righteousness, And all kings your glory ; And you will be called by a new name Which the mouth of the LORD will designate. 3 You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, And a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4 It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,” Nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate “; But you will be called, “My delight is in her,” And your land, “Married “; For the LORD delights in you, And to Him your land will be married. 5 For as a young man marries a virgin, So your sons will marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So your God will rejoice over you. 6 On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen ; All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; 7 And give Him no rest until He establishes And makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. 8 The LORD has sworn by His right hand and by His strong arm, “I will never again give your grain as food for your enemies ; Nor will foreigners drink your new wine for which you have labored.” 9 But those who garner it will eat it and praise the LORD ; And those who gather it will drink it in the courts of My sanctuary. 10 Go through, go through the gates, Clear the way for the people ; Build up, build up the highway, Remove the stones, lift up a standard over the peoples. 11 Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth, Say to the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your salvation comes ; Behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.” 12 And they will call them, “The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD “; And you will be called, “Sought out, a city not forsaken.”

Naturally, this is a prophetic passage.  There are 2 things very worthy of note.  first, this passage realizes a list of things God says will come to pass when He establishes His everlasting covenant.  Second, in Luke 4:21, Jesus says “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your ears.”  So let’s list off some of the fulfillments we see in this passage.  I will not list off everything as this post would go on forever since there is a lot said.  We will focus mostly on the 1st and 2nd verses and point to some major themes in the others.

1.  Good news would be preached to the meek (humble).

2.  The brokenhearted would be bound up.

3.  Liberty would be announced to the captives, and not only that, but they would be released for a “prison” of sorts.

4.  The acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance would be announced.

5.  A series of things would be given to those who mourn – beauty instead of ashes, oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness.

6.  This series of gifts are given for a reason.  So these people would be called trees of righteousness or the planting of the Lord.  This would glorify God.

7.  These people would re-build the wastelands and would no longer be recognized as “Desolate or Forsaken”.

8.  These people would be called Priests and Ministers of God.

9.  These people would be known amongst the Gentiles and recognized throughout the world.

10.  These people would be recognized as “Redeemed of God”.

11.  God will not rest until His righteousness shines forth brilliantly among the nations.

12.  These people will be clothed with the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness.

Now, this prophecy has a lot more to say, but there are some key points I would like to hit upon in this post.  What we need to determine and think upon here is shouldn’t we be discussing these things in church?  And if we don’t, why?  What impacts can this prophecy and the correct understanding of it have on how we walk with the Lord?  Well, here are some thoughts…

1.  Good news would be preached to the meek or humble.  This goes straight to the heart of why I’ve created this post.  What is the Good News?  This passage of Isaiah mentions nothing of Jesus coming in the flesh, dying on a cross, and rising on the 3rd day.  Don’t get me wrong, that too is very important to understand.  But I think it’s like discussing what you did versus how you did it.  And I think God not only wants us telling people how how He accomplished this everlasting covenant, but what it means to His people and His creation.  Again, what does “according to the scriptures” mean?

2.  The brokenhearted would be bound up.  In the context of this passage, binding would mean to heal.  So Jesus came to heal these people.  Heal them from what?  Heal them when?  If we are healed as believers, does that mean something different than just forgiveness which is emphasized in our churches today.

3.  Liberty to the captives is announced and they are released from the prison they are being held in.  If captives refers to us (I don’t think anyone debates this), then what are we captive of?  And if we are released, what are we released from?  Is it the fear of God’s wrath we are being held captive by?  Is that the prison we are released from?  That’s what you hear in most sermons today!  But it’s not true…are we not in our current situation due to the Fall of Adam and Eve?  What were the consequences of this Fall?  Maybe this has more to do with what we are captive too and what we are released from.  And maybe, just maybe, understanding this has a big impact on the perspective the church should have and how we understand the salvation of God.

4.  What is the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance?  Is the acceptable year of the Lord the present day church age?  Is it the future?  The same could be asked of the day of vengeance.  Or does that refer to an event in the past versus the future?  Maybe the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD?  All valid questions.  Most people in our churches today have not even heard Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in 70AD, a very significant historical event that significant passages of scripture may refer to.

5.  The passage in #5 above is a list of blessings that God has given His people.  You can ponder these on your own.

6.  We are called to be trees of righteousness and the planting of the Lord.  This glorifies God.  This one poses some interesting challenges in church today.  If you believe we are still sinners in thought, word, and deed every day (as many are taught today) then how are we to be trees of righteousness that glorify God?  Is God glorified through our sin?  Paul says, “May it never be!”  If we are not really righteous, but just considered righteous, how do we glorify God to the nations?  If we are still utterly sinful, what do they see different than they see in themselves?  Does God ever say He just “considers” us righteous, or does He actually say He will make us righteous?  If so, what are the implications of this?  Does a church promoting acceptance of sin mislead people with false information?  What would change in people if they heard the good news that God actually came to clean us from sin, not let us wallow in it?

7.  These people would re-build the wastelands and would no longer be recognized as “Desolate or Forsaken”.  What does this mean?  Later in this same prophecy, God declares He is making all things new.  He also says He will make a new heavens and a new earth.  Is this a future event or something present?  Something similar is said in Revelation 21.  Ask yourself how many of these things could be present activities and how many are definitely future activities?  Could understanding these things create more urgency in our walk with Christ?

8.  These people would now be the Priests and Ministers of God.  In the OT, the priests were a class of people chosen to communicate the truth of God to the common people.  This prophecy announces a change to that.  It declares we are ALL now priests of God.  If this is so, how does this affect our view of organized church?  Does the organized church today represent this new priesthood, or does it look more like the old covenant priesthood with a chosen few everyone should listen to?  Are we honoring God when we organize our churches this way or do we anger him?  Should people blindly follow an individual or do they have an obligation to search these truths ourselves?

9.  These people would be known among the Gentiles and by all the nations.  What is this saying to us?  Is it referring to missions type work?  The great commission perhaps?  How important is it to God that this happen?  What do other scriptures say about this?  How much do we hear this discussed in churches today?  Or do we hear that all we need to know is John 3:16?  How much money do our churches spend on buildings versus spreading the gospel and taking care of the poor among us?  Do we think God is happy with this in our churches?

10.  If these people are recognized as the “Redeemed of God”, how are they recognized?  What makes them different?

11.  What does it mean God will not rest until His righteousness shines forth brilliantly among the nations?  Does that involve us somehow?  If so, how?  And again, if we do not consider ourselves to be under any different obligation in our behavior than the unsaved, how then does His righteousness shine forth through us?  What do the scriptures say?

12.  Do our garments of salvation and robes of righteousness equate to just a figurative thing in the here and now?  Or did the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ affect a greater change than that of the Old Testament animal sacrifices?  Did you know the answer to that question is in the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament?  If not, why don’t you know that?

We need to face some realities in our churches today.  Our current organized church structure has failed to a large degree in discipling people to follow Jesus Christ.  The statistics speak for themselves.  Abortions are on the rise, materialism is rampant (even in the church), and the divorce rate of “believers” is as high as those outside the church.  And yet we have not reflected, we have not repented, and we have forsaken the ways of our Lord.  We don’t even care enough to talk about it.  Ever try to have a conversation with someone in your church or even your pastor about these things?  Try it and see what happens.  You will probably be disappointed.  But take heart, find other genuine Christians, and start real ministries that DO follow scripture.  You will be blessed by the Lord and all will recognize you as being a true follower of Jesus Christ when they see the fruit you bear.

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