Thursday, March 31, 2016

Logic Versus Spiritual Discernment

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
John 7 John 8 John 9 Numbers 35 Numbers 36 Psalms 66

I have often wondered how I might have responded to Jesus had I been present during His incarnation and seen Him and heard Him in the flesh and observed His miracles and listened to Him teach. Would I have been like the religious leaders of that day and rejected Him because He did not observe the traditions of the Jewish religion? How would I have known He was really the Messiah and not just an imposter? The question is still valid today as we seek to recognize true teaching from false teaching, or true teachers as opposed to false teachers.

John chapter 8 offers clues to how we are to know truth from untruth. Chapter 8 gives accounts of oppostion Jesus encountered with the religious leaders over His true identity. Their argument that Jesus was an imposter had several points. Among them was the fact that they knew where Jesus was from and who His family was. If He were the true Messiah, they claimed, they would not know where He was from. He would have simply appeared. But in this argument they did not recognize His virgin birth. Other arguments against Jesus' identity as the Messiah included their claim that He broke the Sabbath with His healings and the unorthodoxy of His teaching. Though they did not voice it, they would have no doubt included in their mental arguments against Him the fact that He did not give them the respect they thought He should.

Counter arguments by those who thought Jesus might truly be the Messiah included His miracles and the authenticity of His teaching. In response to the Pharisees' unbelief, a man for whom Jesus had restored sight said to them, " We know that God doesn't listen to sinners, but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He listens to him. Throughout history no one has ever heard of someone opening the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He wouldn't be able to do anything." (9:31-33)

On both sides, however, these are arguments of logic, and in the midst of these arguments Jesus seems to be saying that recognition of His true identity will be discerned spiritually and not through logic. When logic is involved there is always room for doubt, for the logical arguments do not fully address all the questions. But with spiritual discernment there comes an inner "knowing" which comes to us by God's Spirit which infuses an inner recognition.

At the center of Jesus' responses to the doubters was the statement, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, because I came from God." (8:42) In other words, if one is truly following God and communing with Him and desiring to obey Him, they will recognize through spiritual discernment what is true and what is not. As long as we try to approach truth only through logic we will never quite get to the truth. There will always be doubts that hold us back. But when spiritually discerned, there will be a "knowing" that puts the doubts aside.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Filling the Spiritual Void in Us

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
John 6

"In contrast to animals, which have only physical urges and desire, human beings crave spiritual fulfillment as well. When this spiritual need goes unmet, humans feel vague unrest. While hunger, thirst, or the sex drive are easily identified, spiritual craving is harder to recognize and fulfill. People may feel that something is missing, but not know what that something is." (Abraham J. Twerski, Addictive Thinking)

People turn to any number of practices to fill this spiritual craving or unrest. Many turn to drugs or alcohol or sex only to discover that they do nothing to solve this unmet spiritual need. Jesus offered the woman at the well living water that would forever quench her spiritual thirst and fulfill her spiritual need. In chapter 6 of John's gospel, Jesus offered a crowd of over 5,000 people, "living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever." (verse 51) Speaking metaphorically, Jesus told them He was that living bread. "Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (verse 54)

As so many do, though, many in this crowd to whom Jesus was speaking wanted physical bread that would perpetually meet their physical hunger, rejecting the fulfillment of their spiritual hunger that only Jesus can meet. Initially, this was the response of the woman at the well. She wanted physical water that would perpetually meet her physical thirst and save her from going daily to the well to draw water.

May we quit settling for poor substitutes that only mask, for a time, the spiritual unrest that is within us. May we reach out to the only One - Jesus - who can truly meet that spiritual need and discover that all other needs become less significant when the spiritual need is truly met.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Spiritual Avoidance

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
John 5 Numbers 34 Psalms 65

John chapter 4 gives the account of a Samaritan woman Jesus met at a well ourside her hometown and offered her living water. She tried to fill the spiritual void in her life through a string of illicit affairs. Chapter 5 of John describes another way people attempt to fill that spiritual void in their lives while avoiding the very One who can fill it.

Jesus encountered the religious leaders of his day who attempted to fill their spiritual void through a pursuit of scripture and adherence to rules. But it had become a substitute for pursuing God. Jesus told them, "You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them," but they ignored the truth to which scripture pointed them, for the scriptures testify of Jesus and they would not accept Him.

Their actions showed that they did not really love God whom they claimed to love through all their religious activity. If they loved God they would have accepted His Son who He sent for them. But they were more intent on accepting glory from each other than the glory that comes from God. They wanted to fill the spiritual void with religious activity without accepting the One who could actually fill that void. They wanted it their way rather than God's way.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Life-giving Water

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
John 4 Numbers 33 Psalms 63

The question, "who is Jesus?" takes on significance only when the question is personal rather than religious. Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman at a well just outside her hometown. She became intrigued when He offered her water which would quench her thirst forever. Her first thought, though, was of the physical benefit. If Jesus gave her water which would keep her from ever getting thirsty again, she wouldn't have to keep returning to the well to haul water home. But Jesus was more concerned with her spiritual thirst. This was the thirst she kept trying to quench in destructive ways.

To press toward her spiritual thirst, Jesus asked the woman to bring her husband back to Him for this was the root of her problems. She had been married 5 times and was currently living with a man to whom she was not married. She had been trying to quench her spiritual thirst in non-spiritual and destructive ways. But when Jesus revealed her past to her, she knew He was not speaking of physical water and that He could do what He claimed He could, give her water that "will become a well of water springing up within (her) for eternal life."

Thursday, March 24, 2016

God Is Love

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
John 1 John 2 John 3 Numbers 31 Numbers 32 Psalms 64 Proverbs 20

Scripture tells us that "God is love." (1 John 4:16) He is the definition of love for us. A check of the dictionary definition of love shows a wholly inadequate description when compared to God's defintion. As a noun, the dictionary defines love as, "an intense feeling of deep affection." As a verb love is defined as, "a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone)." God defines love only as a verb, and one of the best descriptions of his love is found in John 3:16: "For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Compared to John 3:16, the dictionary definition of love is laughable. Feelings and attachments are not a part of God's definition, only actions. This is not to say feelings and attachments are not involved in His definition. But they are not primary to His meaning of love. For God, love involves giving, and it is no small thing that He gives. It is His Son He gives - the only Son He has. Furthermore, God gave His Son to those who were undeserving. It was not based on merit nor was love given toward God from those to whom He gave. The result is new life for the recipients of God's love. While God's form of love may benefit Him to some extent, the primary benefit is toward those He loves.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

God Alone

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
2 Timothy 3 2 Timothy 4 Philemon 1 Numbers 27 Numbers 28 Psalms 62 Proverbs 19

The writer of Psalms 62 gives us the only perspective that will not fail us. He says, "Rest in God alone." It is only God who is our true source of hope. This doesn't mean we don't place our hope in other people or things. We do. But sooner or later they fail us and then where is our hope? Unless we at some point come to place our hope in God we risk coming to a time when all hope is gone. We only have to look to an increasing suicide rate to realize that this occurs for more people than we might imagine. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there are on average, 117 suicides per day in the United States. That is a lot of lost hope.

The psalmist learned to make God his refuge at all times. If God alone can save us eternally, it makes sense the He alone can rescue us from life's challenges.

The psalmist points out that men are only a vapor, here one day and gone the next. Not much security in placing our trust in people. The same is true of wealth, he says. If we place our trust in wealth we might turn to oppression and robbery to gain it. But wealth is not our hope so he says to pay no attention to it. Our only recourse, then, is to trust in the Lord, and Him alone.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Correct Teaching

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
2 Timothy 1 2 Timothy 2 Numbers 25 Numbers 26 Psalms 61

Paul advised Timothy, his son in Christ, regarding his role as pastor. Among other things, Paul counseled him concerning sound teaching. He was to teach the word of truth correctly which called for diligence on his part to stay focused on the word of truth. He needed to be continually immersed on the word of truth so that his mind and actions were guided by it.

By contrast, Timothy needed to avoid "irreverent, empty speech, for this will produce an even greater measure of godlessness." (2 Timothy 2:16) There were those in the congregation who had deviated from the truth and had turned some from the faith. Timothy needed to avoid any such talk for it was like gangrene that spread through the body infecting and killing healthy tissue. This would be the effect of such teaching on the church. Though Timothy might not be able to stop those who promoted this false teaching, he could hold himself apart from it and set the example and he could promote teaching of the truth to counteract the false teaching.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Christian Conduct

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
1 Timothy 4 1 Timothy 5 1 Timothy 6 Numbers 23 Numbers 24
In chapters 5 & 6 of 1 Timothy Paul instructed Timothy concerning general conduct and practice within the church.
  • Respect for one another: Others are to be respected treating older men and women as fathers and mothers and treating younger men and women as brothers and sisters.
  • Support for widows: Paul outlined a church welfare system for widows with implications for broader application of welfare. The church is expected to provide assistance for those who are genuine widows. This meant the widow has no other family members on whom to depend. If she has other family members, they are to provide for her and not the church. Furthermore, an age requirement of 60 years old is placed on those widows the church should help. These principles have a two-fold purpose: first, the church has limited resources and cannot provide for all who might request it, and second, providing for those who have other options, such as marriage, encourages idleness and self-indulgence which can lead to various sins. Paul taught that the first responsibility for care falls on the family and not the church.
  • Accusations against church leaders: Though Paul didn't condone misconduct among church leaders, neither did he condone false accusations against them. Therefore, an accusation against a church leader should not be accepted and acted upon unless there were more than one witness. Accusations brought by only witness are to go no further.
  • Caution in appointing church leaders: Timothy was counseled by Paul not to be too quick to appointment anyone to leadership in the church. There needs to be time to observe a person, allowing them to prove their true character.
  • Conduct of workers toward their bosses: Those who work for others are counseled to regard their bosses as worthy of respect. The motive for this is not based on whether or not the boss deserves the respect but on upholding God's honor. The Christian worker represents God and it is God and His teaching that will be "blasphemed" should the Christian worker be disrespectful toward his boss and not be a good worker.
  • Pursue the fruit of the Spirit: The overarching principle concerning our Christian conduct is based in the fruit of the Spirit. Paul instructs all Christians to pursue "righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness." (1 Timothy 6:11)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Legitimate Use of The Law

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
1 Timothy 1 1 Timothy 2 1 Timothy 3 Numbers 21 Numbers 22 Psalms 60

"The law is good, provided one uses it legitimately," writes Paul in 1 Timothy 1:8. There was a tension in Paul's day, as there continues to be today, about the role of the law under the rule of grace. "For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God's gift." (Ephesians 2:8) So does this mean we forget about the law, that it has no place under grace? As a result of such questions some tend to edge out grace and living by faith in favor of living by the law. This was the issue about which Paul was instructing Timothy. "Yes, the law is good," he said, "but it must be used legitimately."

So what is the legitimate use of the law? His answer to this was that, "The law is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious." (Ephesians 1:9) One does not become righteous by the law nor does he maintain a life of righteousness through the law. This is all a work of God's grace through our faith in Christ Jesus. And when we live out a life that reflects the life of Christ, it will by all means be according to the teachings of the law. But Christ is our guide rather than the law. What Paul was saying to Timothy was that “God did not give the Law to save people, but to show people how much they need to be saved.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Overcome By A Strong Delusion

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
2 Thessalonians 1 2 Thessalonians 2 2 Thessalonians 3
Numbers 19 Numbers 20 Psalms 59

Some seek the truth concerning God and salvation, while others pursue ideas without a desire for learning the truth, or they just simply never concern themselves with God's truth. For them, either truth as an absolute does not exist or is not of consequence. While this lack of interest in truth may seem harmless, it is actually very dangerous.

Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:11 that those who do not have a love for the truth will be given by God a "strong delusion" causing them to believe what is false. This is the first danger. This lack of interest in the truth leaves a person susceptible to "all kinds of false miracles, signs, and wonders, and with every unrighteous deception." And because of a lack of interest in the truth "God sends them a strong delusion so that they will believe what is false." They are then unable to recognize truth even if confronted with it. Instead they are captured by what is false.

The second danger in pursuing ideas without an interest in the truth, or simply giving truth little consideration, is that one can perish spiritually, never coming to an understanding or acceptance of God's salvation. In 2 Thessalonisans 1:7 & 8, Paul says, "at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels," He will take "vengeance with flaming fire on those who don't know God and on those who don't obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." The "gospel of our Lord Jesus," is the truth of which he has been speaking. By ignoring this truth and considering it to be inconsequential and being given a "strong delusion," such talk of God's vengeance at Jesus' coming seems to them to be unworthy of a loving God and hateful for anyone to even mention. In their delusion, they have become blinded to the truth.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Walking as Members of the Body of Christ

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
1 Thessalonians 4 1 Thessalonians 5 Numbers 17 Numbers 18 Psalms 58 Proverbs 18

In chapter 4 of 1 Thessalonians, Paul speaks to the Thessalonians about their "walk" - that is, their conduct as a follower of Christ. The first thing he addressed was their sexual purity. Coming from the heathen background that they had, they did not have the teaching or strong influence toward being faithful to their marriage vows. Paul wanted them to know that this was an important area of conduct in their walk.

In this passage Paul's main point was that since they now belonged to the Lord they should be more concerned with pleasing Him than themselves, and sexual impurity was not pleasing to Him. When writing to the Corinthians he gave more detail. In 1 Corinthians chapter 6, Paul spoke of the body of the follower of Christ being members of the body of Christ. Then he raised the question, "should I take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?" Answering the question, he said emphatically, "Absolutely not!"

Then Paul gave this description of what was involved with sexual impurity for the believer:  "Do you not know that anyone joined to a prostitute is one body with her? For it says, The two will become one flesh. But anyone joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee from sexual immorality! "Every sin a person can commit is outside the body," but the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body." (1 Corinthians 6:16-20)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Look of the Devout

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
Colossians 1 Colossians 2 Colossians 3 Colossians 4 Numbers 13 Numbers 14 Psalms 56

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul described for them what it looks like to be a follower of Christ and what it does not look like.

In chapter 2 of his letter, he told them what it does not look like, and that is it does not look like a set of rules, exotic philosophies, or keeping of traditions. He told them not to be taken captive through philosophy and empty deceit, nor to be caught up in such practices as circumcision. Neither does it have to do with "food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a sabbath day." (Colossians 2:16) Instead, they were to walk in Christ just as they received Christ, and that was by faith.

Paul then described in chapter 3 what it looks like when we walk in Christ by faith. We put off the old man and no longer lie to one another. Neither are there differences between "Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all." Furthermore, we are accepting of one another and forgiving of one another, relating to each other in love. In all our relationships we will act toward the other as if it were the Lord to whom we are doing it. This is true between husband and wife, children and parents, parents and children, and employees and bosses.

Our love for the Lord and devotion to Him is evident, not through what we know and the rules we keep, but through our demeanor and how we relate to others.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

God Alone

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
Philippians 1 Philippians 2 Philippians 3 Philippians 4 Numbers 11 Numbers 12 Psalms 55

In Psalms 55, David called out to the Lord for help because he was being terrorized by those who were out to get him. They were trying to bring disaster down on him and "terrors of death" swept over him. (Psalms 55:4) He was gripped by fear continually at the threat they posed against him. David wished he could just fly away like a dove and escape the threats, but it didn't happen. Then he wanted to flee far away in the wilderness but that didn't happen. Next he wanted to be sheltered from the attacks but that didn't happen either.

When David couldn't escape his situation, he asked the Lord to defeat his enemies, confusing their speech so they couldn't make accusations against him and praying that death would "take them by surprise." (55:15) God did none of these things for David. Finally David realized that God, Himself, was sufficient. It wasn't escape nor defeat of his enemy that he needed most, but God's grace that he needed. He continually took his problem to the Lord and was comforted in that God heard him. He was comforted also in that in the end he would be exonerated and his enemies humiliated.

So David's counsel to us is to "Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will support you. He will never allow the righteous to be shaken." Though God may not remove us from our trouble and may not remove those who cause our trouble, we can be assured that God will keep us safe through the storm and in His timing will bring about justice with the wicked.

David's lesson from his experience was the same lesson Paul learned when he asked the Lord to remove the "thorn" in his flesh and it was not removed. The lesson was that God's grace is sufficient. That His power is perfected in our weakness. Paul concluded that, "I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may reside in me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Walking in the Light

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
Ephesians 4 Ephesians 5 Ephesians 6 Numbers 8 Numbers 9 Numbers 10

Becoming a follower, or imitator, of Christ is to accept a different paradigm. It is not just changing the set of rules by which we live, but adopting a whole new worldview. For some, becoming a follower of Christ is about a lot of does and don'ts and not having fun anymore. But the true follower of Christ knows that it is not about a set rules but about a relationship with Christ. It is about doing some things and not doing other things becomes that is what one wants to do, not because they have to. It is about a whole new outlook in which one doesn't stop having fun but has a different perspective about what is fun.

The true follower of Christ will say that they have more fun as a follower than they did before following Christ. The fun they now have is lasting and has no regrets. It is never harmful to themselves or others nor disrespectful of anyone. There are no downsides to their fun, only upsides. This is not to say the follower of Christ never has any problems or troubles. They do, but not as a result of their "fun." Troubles are a natural part of life, and they have them just like anyone else. But they also have God's Spirit living in them to guide them, give them wisdom, and help them endure through the trouble.

The apostle Paul, in the 4th chapter of Ephesians says that the followers of Christ walk in light rather than in darkness as they did prior to following Christ. This light casts a different perspective on life than they appeared in the dark. The fruit of the light, he says, "results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth--discerning what is pleasing to the Lord." (Ephesians 4:9-10) By contrast, he says the works of darkness are fruitless. (4:11) He further contrasts the two saying that walking in the light is to walk in wisdom while walking in darkness is unwise.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Is World Peace Even Possible?

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
Ephesians 1 Ephesians 2 Ephesians 3 Numbers 6 Numbers 7 Psalms 54

In chapter 2 of Ephesians, Paul tells us of life and peace we can have in Jesus. Apart from Him we are dead in our trespasses and sins. People get hung up on the idea of being sinners, saying, "But I don't lie or steal and I haven't killed anyone." Sin is defined primarily in our relationship with God and whether or not we are in agreement with Him or disobedient to His will and purposes. An example of this is Adam and Eve, the first people. Of all the trees God made and placed in the Garden of Eden, God told them, "You are free to eat from any tree of the garden." But He added, "You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." (Genesis 2:16, 17) Sin entered the world when they disobeyed these instructions and ate the forbidden fruit. They didn't hurt anyone, they didn't steal or kill. They simply disobeyed God and this is called sin.

Apart from Jesus we are all dead spiritually in our disobedience to God's will in our life. We want to live our lives apart from God and do what we want to do. In that condition we interpret God's will as restricting us from all that is good and fun in life. But the Creator of the universe, and our Maker, wants to guide us to live fully the life He intended for us. But we, like little children, want to live it the way we want to which is not always for our good. In fact, it is quite often not for our good. Like the child who wants candy instead of nutritional food and ends up with a stomach ache.

But God, through His mercy, provided a way for us out of our sinful condition. Through Jesus the separation between us and God is mended enabling us to live a life in agreement with God, the life He has intended for us. When we come to Christ through faith we are given new life, but we are also given peace. Peace with God, peace within, and peace with our fellow man. The basis of our peace with our fellow man is our common relationship with Christ. It is a kindred spirit we find that we have with others who might be very different from us otherwise. It was this common bond with Christ that in Paul's day brought a bond between Jew and Gentile. This bond and the peace it brings is only possible between a people who have a common faith in Christ.

The common idea at Christmas time when we celebrate the birth of Christ who is the "Prince of Peace," and sing of "Peace on earth and good will toward men," is that this is all about world peace. But this is not the primary focus. Its primary focus is peace between God and man. From this relationship with Christ peace can flow to our fellow man. Apart from this relationship with God made possible through Christ, true and lasting peace with our fellow man is not possible. World peace is only a fantasy as long as there are those who do not recognize Jesus as Lord.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Freedom Through Enslavement

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
Galatians 4 Galatians 5 Galatians 6 Numbers 4 Numbers 5 Psalms 53

All of us are slaves, whether by choice or by default. The question is whether or not we have masters who are concerned for our well-being. Unlike some forms of slavery, though, we can choose to whom or what we will be slaves. But first, we must recognize our slavery and wish to change it.

We are all born into slavery to sin. Jesus said that "Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin." (John 8:34) Though this sounds as if we are given a loophole in Jesus' statement and we are only slaves to sin if we commit sin, none of us are free from sin. As Paul said in Romans 3:23, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." In an effort to break free from this slavery to sin, some turn to the law or to religion and unwittingly become subject to another form of slavery. This form can place a heavy burden on a person and yet not free them from their slavery to sin. Whatever form this slavery takes, the person is caught in an endless cycle. Though both law and religion promise to provide forgiveness for sin, neither gives one power over sin. So a person is caught in an endless cycle of sinning and working to gain forgiveness. Meanwhile, there is no promise of salvation in this form of slavery for should one die before gaining forgiveness for sins committed, they are lost.

But thank God, a third option is available to us. Through faith in Jesus Christ we have forgiveness for sin once for all. His death atones for all sin, past, present, and future. When by faith we receive His gift of forgiveness, His Spirit comes into us giving us power to overcome sin. No, we do not become perfectly sinless, but we are no longer slaves to sin, and when we do sin He is ready and willing to forgive us when we confess it and repent of it.

Paul spoke of being a slave of Jesus Christ, but it was not a slavery that was forced upon him but something he freely chose. It was through this form of slavery that Paul - and all of us - become truly free. Free from sin and free from all forms of religion that falsely promise something they cannot provide. Neither do they provide freedom from sin or true forgiveness.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Foolish Gospel

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
Galatians 1 Galatians 2 Galatians 3 Numbers 2 Numbers 3 Psalms 52 Proverbs 16

"I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing." (Galatians 2:21)

Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, was chiding them for turning aside from faith through Christ as the means for salvation and turning back to the law. They had responded to Paul's preaching of the gospel and were now being influenced by Judaizers to embrace another "gospel," though, of course, there is no other gospel.

This tension regarding the gospel continues today. The tension may or may not involve faith in Christ versus the law, but it involves adding other components to the gospel, or even making the gospel unnecessary.
There have always been those who find the gospel to be foolish, as Paul wrote, "we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles." (1 Corinthians 1:23) There must be more to it than simply placing our faith in Christ's death and resurrection, it is reasoned. And every effort to devise a more reasonable "gospel" shifts the effort back to man instead of what God did through Christ. We like having the control and defining things in our terms. We like things to be "reasonable" to our ears. We will say on the one hand that God is all-wise and all-knowing, and on the other hand that He is not wise enough to devise a plan for salvation that is better than we can come up with ourselves.

But whatever direction one might go with the matter of salvation, it all comes down to Paul's statement in Galatians. To paraphrase it we could say, "If righteousness comes by any other means, then Christ died for nothing."