26 Feb 2015 by Jason Law CM –
Christianity is about many things. Above all, it is about a saving relationship with our Father in Heaven. Centering on this are two facets; the Gospel and Faith, and as Christians, it is very important that we understand their roles in this relationship. Recently, Pastor Mayumi Yamazaki shared an in-depth message in JCM Agape Network about these two aspects of Christianity.
Paul’s Letter to the Romans
Pastor Mayumi’s message was a study on Paul’s letter to the Romans, specifically the purpose he wrote it, as outlined in Romans 1:16-17. Through Paul’s letter, we can learn three central meaning to Faith and the Gospel. Paul’s life, evident through the way he opened the letter, was imbued with a faith that is not ashamed and one that has power and righteousness. Pastor Mayumi imparted that just like a cord of 3 strands that make the strongest ropes, these 3 aspects of faith must be the foundation for every Christian.
Not Ashamed of Our Faith
In Romans 1:16, Paul opens his address to the Romans by stating that he was not ashamed of his Christian faith. It clearly must have been of importance to him since this was one of the very first statements he made to them. Why did Paul have to emphasize this? If we study Paul’s life, we will understand this in a profound way.
Paul’s life was not one that was free from trouble. He was imprisoned in Phillipi; almost killed in Damascus; had to counsel a heavily-persecuted church in Thessalonica; and was declared a blasphemer, stoned, and left for dead in Iconium. In 2 Corinthians 11:20-32 Paul gives us a picture of the trials he had to go through. He knew that the Christians had to persevere against all odds in coping with immense challenges, and that they were a despised group of people.
Paul was human and had to go through the same struggles. Living in difficult times, he knew the risks and dangers the Christians had to face with daily. Why did Paul write to the Romans in such a way then? Pastor Mayumi imparted an important fact about Paul; Paul was aware that the Roman Empire was a pagan one, but he also knew that it was the most powerful kingdom on earth at that time.
Paul wanted to make an impact for the Lord in writing to the Romans, and in doing so, he steadfastly emphasized the purity of the Gospel of Christ. He did not whitewash the conditions the Christians of his time had to live with, yet despite it all, he was not interested in earthly might and power. Paul emphasized the importance of the Gospel message, and testified that it was of such significance that it was worth going through anything for.
Pastor Mayumi shared that as Christians, what is our response? Are we unashamed in sharing about the Gospel? People seldom accept the Lord straightaway, and we often need God’s wisdom to share His word. Does that set us back? Do we compromise and inject the Gospel with a false motive when we share about it to others? We need to restore the meaning of Christianity, which is not only about blessing, but primarily about Christ, His work, the cross, and redemption. These are 4 aspects we cannot exclude whenever we are sharing about the Gospel.
The Power of the Gospel
What gave Paul such courage and strength to endure? It was not his personal capacities. In verse 16, Paul recognizes the Gospel as the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes – the Jews and the Gentiles. The Gospel has a power to bring blessing and transformation into the lives of others, but there is another side to its power that is often ignored. Hebrews 4:12 states that the Word of God is a double-edged sword possessing the power to convict.
As Christians, we should not dilute the message of the Gospel. The process of repentance brings salvation and awareness of our relationship and dependence on God. It also brings direction into our lives and the recognition that every good work and blessing in it comes foremost through a holistic relationship with God. Pastor Mayumi communicated that the process of atonement and sanctification is a daily one and that the ones who recognize this are blessed.
Like consuming treated or untreated water, the things we absorb daily may not be visible to the naked eye and must be handled with trust or discernment. Equally, when we receive water from restaurants and as guests in friends’ houses, we automatically take them in trust that the water is safe to drink. Do we have the same faith and trust in God?
First comes supernatural faith and belief in God which brings salvation, and everything else flows from this. The good works we produce are not of our own strength but of the work of the Spirit. Good works such as these are lasting and the marks of a presence of genuine faith. Such is the power of the Gospel.
The Gospel and Righteous Faith
What does it really mean to have a righteous faith? The word ‘Righteousness’ is derived from the same essence as found in the Greek word ‘Dounamis’ which is where the English word ‘Dynamite’ comes from (“Dynamo” was derived from “Dounamis” and then evolved further into “Dynamite”). This brings most to mind power.
Pastor Mayumi shared that no matter how one may argue about God, He is still the Almighty, and in Romans 1:17, Paul recognizes that it is through faith that every righteous person has life. Each follower of Christ must possess a genuine faith in God, for a righteous life is produced by such a faith.
Pastor Mayumi conveyed that every human wants to better themselves; it is something that is implanted by God into us. However, like many other things that have been given to us in love, such as free will, emotions, and relationships, we need to handle such a desire through a God-conscious worldview.
Very often, as we try to better ourselves, we make mistakes and it is how we respond that makes a difference. When we focus on our guilt and respond wrongly such as giving excuses or blaming others instead of taking responsibility, we set ourselves back. Conversely, when we think too highly of ourselves and fall into complacency or self-righteousness.
Through the Gospel, God teaches us through His infinite wisdom the best way we can live but all of us go through a period of wanting to analyze and fitting God into our reasoning. True righteousness comes from recognizing God for who He is in our lives and living those lives out, according to faith in both His providence and authority.
Who God is to Us
Pastor Mayumi shared that to many people who are not Christians, the idea of God coming as a human and making the ultimate sacrifice for us is an absurdity. As Christians, however, we know that this is the power of the love of God.
One day, God is coming back to meet us again. In the intervening time, much as anything that needs to be learnt or trained in, we must daily work out our faith, not because we doubt Christ of His salvation work, but because we want to be ready to meet Him in an appropriate manner when He comes. We need to learn how to recognize the authority of God in our lives.
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NOTE: Pastor Mayumi delivers her sermons in both Japanese and English. Recordings are available on CDs and obtainable through JCM’s website at http://www.jcmagapenetwork.com/ or their Facebook page at /JCM-Agape-Japanese-Church-in-Malaysia. Japanese Church Agape Network is located at Menara 1MontKiara, Mont Kiara.