Recent Posts
Lowell Brueckner

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Gospel Awakening


Rachel and Mike
This is the first message I have ever posted on this BlogSpot from our son, Mike. It was his opening message that he preached, after taking on the senior pastorate at Church of Hope in Elk River, Minnesota. Very early in his ministry, Mike was a chaplain in a Christian high school. Later he became a youth pastor and, as he states in this article, he was asked to take on the children’s ministry besides, in that same church. 

Here are a few words from Mike’s own personal testimony: “When people ask me where I’m from, I'm not sure what to say. I was born in Mexico. For the first seven years of my life, I lived in Minnesota, moved to Germany, lived there for twelve years and now I'm back in Minnesota. I spent half a year in Alaska, too. That's where I’m from.”

“I grew up on the mission field and I have to say that I wouldn't trade that opportunity for anything in the world. When I am asked what caused me to continue in God's work after leaving home, I have to agree with the answer that my older brothers and sisters give to the same question: It's the reality of God – it’s as simple as that.”
Preached on Sunday, March 5, 2017 by Mike Brueckner

Romans 1:1

1. Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.

The call to be separated. A few years ago, I began a study in the book of Romans with a youth group. In my study, I got halfway through verse one and I got stuck. Paul said, “I am called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ… I am separated to the gospel.” What does it mean to be separated to the gospel? It must be important. Jesus said in Mark, “Repent and believe the gospel.” When he sent his people out, he told them to go into all the world and preach the gospel. How many believe that Jesus is coming back again? One of the final signs of Jesus coming back, is that “the gospel shall be preached among all nations.”

The gospel means good news and is the one theme of the Bible.

The Bible is not a bunch of stories, talking about random things. The Bible is one story, from Genesis to Revelation. A lot of people get confused and frustrated, because as they start reading, Genesis, then Exodus and they get into Leviticus, and begin to think… Let’s try something in the New Testament. One of the reasons for their frustration is that they have been told that the Bible is random stories that can teach you different things about life. That is not the right approach to the Word of God.

The Bible is one story, revealing to us, who God is. How else would we know who He is? We learn who God is and what He is like. Then, it teaches the reality that we have sinned. We must not be afraid to use the word sin. We have fallen short of God’s glory. We are not okay and we need to know that. Then the Bible is about God pursuing us, so that we can have a relationship with Him. Ultimately, it’s all for His pleasure: “For his name’s sake” (v.5) If we try to put ourselves at the center of Christianity, we are going to get off balance... God is not simply saving people; that is not the ultimate that God is doing.  His ultimate purpose on planet earth, is to do a work, in which He looks amazing. He is saving people for that purpose.

Let’s go back to Genesis 3:14-15, because I want to show you that the message starts from the very beginning. It is immediately after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. It didn’t surprise God that this happened, He continues with Plan A and gives the message of the gospel. In Romans, we read about a seed: “The seed of David according to the flesh” (v.3). In Genesis 3:15, we read about the same seed, here called the woman’s seed, as God told Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.” Her seed was Jesus Christ, who would come 4,000 years later to live a perfect life that none of us are capable of living. He would die a death that you and I deserved, dying in our place and going into the grave. Then 3 days later, He conquered sin and death.

The Bible says that whosoever believes in Him, trusts fully in Him and Him alone for their salvation, recognizing what He has accomplished on their behalf, will not perish. That means that they will not go to hell, but be saved. It doesn’t say, whoever works and tries really hard. The gospel is good news and that is literally what it means. For anyone who will listen, God says in Genesis that this is what He is doing: The Seed that he is talking about is Jesus. “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Ge.3:15). Satan would bruise Jesus’ heel; that means that Jesus was going to suffer, but at the same time, He would crush Satan’s head. And He has done it, it is finished. He accomplished what He set out to do. We might not think that the gospel begins in Genesis 3, but it does, and God’s plan starts to unfold.

This is the message that we need to be separated to. This is the message that we are called to. We can put our names here, as Paul did, and say: “Hi, I’m John, Andrew, Angie, and I’m separated to the gospel. I have one message. That is what I am living for and it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ. The early disciples were convinced of this, so convinced that they gave their lives for it. Because they would not stop giving it, they were killed.

After Jesus was resurrected, He met with disciples on the road to Emmaus, and took them back to Moses, and told them, “This is about Me. All that Moses talked about, I fulfilled and completed.” Then at the end, He opened their eyes and they said to one another, “That was Jesus”. He wants to do the same in us. He wants there to be a gospel awakening in our hearts. This is what is happening from Genesis through Revelation.

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-10. “The gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved” (v.1,2) No matter what your condition is, the gospel is for you. The one who wrote a large portion of the New Testament is the one, who persecuted the church the most: “I am… unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (v.9). He encountered Christ, when he was on a mission to persecute more Christians. “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (v.8). He got knocked to the ground and God sent him in a completely different direction.

That is also your story, if you have come to Christ. You were going one way and God encountered you and now you are going in a different direction. See Paul’s humility; he says "I’m not worthy to be called an apostle." The only thing he can be proud of is a work that he didn’t do. “By the grace of God I am what I am” (v.10). He couldn’t save himself and neither can you. In this truth is the big difference between Christianity and every world religion. They all have one thing to say: “Here are the things you need to do to get on God’s side.” However, Christianity says, “You cannot get on God’s good side; you can’t get to God, it’s impossible.”

God knowing that you can never be good enough for Him, came to you in Christ. That’s the gospel. He did what you could not do for yourself; Christ took your place and your punishment. Because God is just, He does not simply forgive sins, sweeping them under the carpet. We might think that because God is a loving God, He will overlook what is going on in my life right now.

It’s not so. God would not be a good God, if He did that. He would be unjust. In our court rooms we look for justice and with God, justice is always served. So when justice was served and the wrath of God was poured out upon His Son, instead of you, God declares that justice has been served. What an amazing reality! Therefore, we can say as Paul, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” The gospel is good news.

The gospel means transformation.

Erica, Elayna, Mike, Rachel, Jaykin, Emily
Back in Romans1:16, Paul said, he was not ashamed of this message: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” He was confident in it. A supernatural thing happens in salvation. Paul knew that it was the only message that would transform people’s lives.

I was given a children’s pastor position in a church. Because I had never been involved in this before, I began to look into what we should teach in children’s ministry. I began to see what different churches use in their curriculum and I got in touch with a children’s pastor in California. He told me, “Make sure that what you use is gospel-based and not virtue-based.” I thought that that was interesting. What I had seen up to that point was all virtue-based curriculum. Let me explain: Virtue-based teaching shows the child that he should be honest, kind, and friendly. Is there anything wrong with that? No, of course not. So I wondered what he meant, about children’s ministry being gospel-based. What is the difference?

He told me: “If you teach them that they are sinners in need of a Savior, they will turn to Christ and virtue will begin to flow from them.” You might teach people how they should live their lives, but I want to try to show you, where that method fails. You fill a balloon with your breath and, in order to keep it in the air, you have to continually hit it upwards. The law of gravity will bring it down, but there is another way to keep a balloon in the air. How? Fill it with helium! Many times, Christianity is taught in that same way. The helium is the power of the gospel that sustains the balloon in the air. The gospel transforms the life, because the Spirit of the living God is inside. Whatever is done by a true Christian, is done according to his new nature. The new nature teaches the Christian to recognize his need for repentance and correction.

Virtue-based teaching or, by another term, behavior modification, will not last. It will always return to its nature. The person can put on a show for a time, but as Peter said, “The dog returns to its vomit. The pig will always return to the mud.” Until now, I have been in youth ministry. One of the hot topics concerns the question about why young people leave the church and how this can be resolved. Everyone has his own idea. Leaders say, we need more programs for them; we need more activity. They make it through high school, then come to college age and then you don’t see them after a while. Have we been teaching them behavior modification or have we preached the gospel to them?

Let me offer you what I learned. When I became convinced that I had not been preaching the gospel, the Lord dealt with me on this issue. I returned to the student leaders and asked them, “Can you explain to me, just what is the gospel?” Nine out of ten could not. That was not their fault; the fault fell on me. Paul said that he was separated to this message. Everything that he talked about flowed from this message, because he knew that is where the power to transform lay.

People, who have been taught virtue-based Christianity, might look good for a while, but when they are released into the world, they will be true to their nature. This is not a small matter; this is a big deal! Let me interject: You must understand that we are not talking about sinless perfection. Our young people, and all of us, are going to go through trials and be faced with temptations. We are susceptible and we will fail at times, but if your heart has been transformed by the gospel, you will be true to your nature. If you sin, you’ll repent and come back.

We must stay focused on the gospel. For many young people, the gospel is a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’. I asked older people, the same question that I posed to the youth, and a lot of them couldn’t tell me what the gospel was. At the very least, they were confused, even if they had an inkling of an idea. This is crazy! This was the one message that Jesus gave us to present.

We can talk about a lot of good things, but if we don’t focus on the main thing, we’ll miss the target altogether. If we want to see people come to Christ and be transformed, we dare not trust in gimmicks that feed the flesh, but do nothing for the soul. There is a lot of confidence in gimmicks and fads in our day and age. We better not go in that direction, if we’re expecting people’s lives to be transformed.  

Turn to 1 Co.1:18-24. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (v.18). Pay attention to this! If this message seems strange to you, it might be showing you the position you hold, or do not hold, right now before God.  Paul could have said, “I’m going to send out a survey to figure out what people want to hear. Then, I’m going to base our message on the things that people want.” We think things are different today, than they were then, but they’re not.

Paul was faced with the same culture struggles that we face today. The culture in his day was not more easily adapted to the gospel. See verse 22: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom.”  So we might imagine them saying, “If a church is coming into our community, we want signs and wisdom.” Does Paul appoint a committee to question, how to give them signs and wisdom? He did not. He said, “We preach Christ crucified”, (v.23) knowing that it was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. Paul knew he was going to get flak for it! However, to those who are being saved, whose hearts were being awakened to this message, it was transforming their lives. If we want to be part of something that lasts for eternity, we must get into this message. 

The gospel means sanctification

Basically, sanctification means growing in God, He wants you to grow in Him and become more like Him and that is His will for your life. In Romans 1:7 Paul addresses those “called to be saints.” One of the myths that we hear is that once you get saved, you move out of the message of salvation, into the deeper things of God. I propose to you today, that the gospel is the A to Z of Christianity and you never grow beyond it. You do grow deeper into it.

We understand that we are not saved by works, but here is something that we don’t often think about. You are not kept by works! Someone says, "But James says that faith without works is dead." True. Your actions will prove that you have been made alive by Jesus Christ. Works will naturally follow the heart that has been transformed by the gospel.

We are saved by grace and kept by grace, as well. Why wouldn’t we be? One of Satan’s tactics is to get us to raise our prideful head and say, “I did it. I can do this.” Then I start getting credit for what I do. No, it must all be God! He continues to do the work, as we keep our eyes focused on Him.

Paul lays out the gospel beautifully in Romans. He teaches who God is, who we are, what Christ has accomplished for us, and then he teaches about having faith. For 11 chapters, he pounds on the reality that this is all about Christ. When he gets to chapter 12, he writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God.” In other words, “in light of God’s mercy” - in still other words, “in light of everything that I’ve said up to this point, now I urge you to offer your bodies a living sacrifice”.

So what does Paul do? He continues to lay out the reality of the gospel and preach it to believers. His reason is that their hope and their confidence would not be in themselves. Everything else that he was going to call them into - the power to meet that challenge was found in the gospel. The reminder of what Christ had accomplished, that to which they had been awakening, continued to flow. The power to lay down their life as a living sacrifice, flowed from the reality of what Christ had already done for them. Otherwise, it is only behavior modification that doesn’t transform and doesn’t last.

We need to preach the gospel to ourselves every day, because we are susceptible to believing the enemy’s lies. We need to be reminded of the truth of who we are in Christ. It will propel us into holiness and to be more and more like Jesus.  If the world looks at us and the impression is, “This is what I have to do - this is my obligation, if I become a Christian”, that’s not attractive. But when they see people on fire for Christ, because they recognize that outside of a divine act, they could not be transformed. I don’t care if they’re brought up in church. I don’t care if they have been taught about the ‘bad things’, and told, “As long as you don’t get into this, you’ll be all right”… When they see that they are wretches and they understand, God saved them and they didn’t deserve what they have gotten, then grace becomes amazing.

When you put grace as the backdrop to our wretchedness, then grace becomes exciting. Your motivation from that point on is, “Whatever you want me to do, God, that’s what I want to do. I’m yours. Send me where you want me to go. If you want me to give something up, I’ll give it up. It might be a struggle, but You are worth it.”

The gospel is not only a message of salvation, but also of sanctification, becoming more like Jesus. Everything needs to flow from the fountain of the gospel. Keep your eyes on Jesus. The song …

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”

… that’s grace-driven effort! You do not overcome sin by saying ‘no’ all the time. You overcome sin, focusing on Jesus. You see Him as wonderful, beautiful, as the passion for your life. Then other things begin to wane and you think, “I was selling my life short by giving myself to those things. Why would I continue to do that? He is far more wonderful.” Now, that is attractive!


Post a Comment