“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” (Romans 1:16)
What is the gospel? It has been many things to many people down through the ages. It has been the basis for religious denominations, churches, theological debates, and a set of “rules” that must be followed in order to “please” God and get to heaven. In fact, much of the time it has become something that God never intended it to become.
God’s intent in sending Jesus was to break the curse of sin and bring freedom and deliverance to the captive, and to give us access to His Kingdom. It is the “good news” of our salvation; salvation and freedom from every work of the enemy (I John 3:8, Galatians 1:4). If this were not the case, then what are we preaching? What is the purpose, if there is no true power?
God is opposed to bondage, hardship and suffering; if this were not the case, then He would have these things waiting for us in heaven. “Well, Brother Tom, are you saying that there is no suffering involved in living for Jesus Christ?” Listen, we must first understand what Biblical suffering is, and what it is not, otherwise we can be deceived by religious spirits that are sent to steal our God-ordained destinies.
There is a “martyr” syndrome which is an insidious form of the pride that is at the root of religious control and bondage. Jesus warned us about the subtlety of this spirit which was the driving force behind the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:6, Colossians 2:18).
A person under the influence of this spirit will blaspheme and not even realize it; they will blame God for the trouble and destruction that comes into their lives as a result of demonic attack, disobedience, fear or unbelief. After all, if God “allowed” it to “teach them something,” then it absolves them of all personal responsibility, and makes a way for the devil to continue to operate covertly, unchallenged. These attitudes serve no other purpose other than to draw attention to the “sufferer,” and away from the Lord (Philippians 3:19, Colossians 2:18). So what then is biblical suffering? (I Peter 4:9)
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, our President and Congress declared war against the nation of Japan. Why? Because our nation and our way of life had been attacked. Our Declaration of Independence declares that we have been endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights; among these are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is the stance of our government (at least that of our founders), yet our government sent approximately sixteen million of its people to fight in a brutal war that claimed the lives of almost half a million American soldiers. Of those that fought, many were captured, killed and tortured as prisoners of war, and many are still missing without explanation. Is this the will of our government, or the American people? No, of course not! It is a consequence and fact of war; of battle against mortal enemies that seek to destroy us.
The mission of our soldiers was not to “suffer,” but rather to take and defend territories, and to accomplish their mission. During World War II, there were strategic assignments that were crucial to the security of our nation and that of our allies, and there was a price to pay for executing these missions. War is difficult, and there are casualties, but there are also awards and medals given for exceptional service and valor, but cowards and traitors are court martialed, and then shot or imprisoned (Revelation 21:8). Our eternal God is no less righteous than our government. The will of God is that we live a “quiet and peaceable life” (I Timothy 2:2-3), just as it is for a righteous nation to live at peace; howbeit this is not always possible.
We have a responsibility in this life to be a soldier (II Timothy 2:3-4), and because we are in a (spiritual) battle, there will be hardships and difficulties; there is a mission that must be accomplished, but in knowing the will and character of our Commander, we will not be fooled by the enemy. In regard to our natural government, the Code of the United States Fighting Force states, “If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape.” This is also the will of God for His army; we are never to allow the devil to gain even one inch of territory, but are to resist him steadfastly in the faith (I Peter 5:9). God has, as a natural commander would also, one primary objective; total and absolute victory.
God has given us exceeding great and precious promises (II Peter 1:4), but they are realized in our lives only by faith. It is Satan’s objective to bring deception and religious doctrine in order to make the Word of God of none effect; in other words, cause it to be without effect (power) in our lives (Mark 7:13). It is his objective to cause us to either doubt God’s promises, or to be ignorant of them altogether (Hosea 4:6).
Satan’s lies can be very subtle, especially where religious ideas and doctrine are concerned, and our churches are full of them. For example, well-meaning preachers have stood up and declared, “We have no guarantee of tomorrow!” But barring the return of the Lord, having “no assurance of our lives” is part of the curse (Deuteronomy 28:66), but many have not known that. We have been redeemed from the curse of the law by the blood of Jesus Christ! (Galatians 3:10, 13) This lack of assurance applies only to the unbeliever, who is under the dominion of Satan (John 8:44, II Timothy 2:26). God has promised us long life! (Psalms 90:10, 91:16, Nehemiah 8:10)
We have been redeemed from sickness and disease, poverty and destruction, and furthermore, there are no such things as “accidents.” “Accidents” are created by the devil in order to steal, and to kill and destroy, and there must be an opening (Proverbs 26:2, Hosea 4:6). “Well I don’t believe that!” But listen, Jesus is our example! He gave us an example so that we can walk as He walked. He never had a Camel accident! He was never sick! He never went hungry or went without clothing and basic necessities. “Well what about the Apostle Paul?” “He was shipwrecked, and…?” That’s right, and these were not accidents, but a result of aggressive, demonic attacks launched against him to steal the revelation that God had given him, and to stop his ministry (II Corinthians 12:7, 11:23-29). But God delivered him out of them all (II Timothy 3:11, 4:18, Psalms 34:19).
This indeed is the gospel, the good news of our redemption; eternal life, deliverance for the captive, the opening of the prison to them that are bound, and healing and restoration for the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1-2, Luke 4:18-19).