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TEXT: Romans 1:16
SUBJECT: The Gospel Changes Everything #1: Introduction
This afternoon, with the Lord's blessing, I hope to commence a new study and discussion called The Gospel Changes Everything. The big idea may be hard to apply, but it's easy to explain. Here goes:
The Gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation and 'salvation' is the believer's whole life.
In short, the Gospel fixes what's wrong with us. It removes some problems, 'going to hell', for example. Other problems remain with us-like cancer or divorce or unemployment-but the Gospel enables us to live happy, holy, and hopeful lives in spite of them. It has the power to change every person who believes it, every family, and every church.
What is the Gospel? It can be looked at in two ways. Narrowly, it is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is how Paul describes it in I Corinthians 15-
Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures.
This narrow definition fits into a bigger picture, a picture that doesn't begin on the Day of Pentecost, but on the First Day of Creation. It goes something like this: (1) God made everything good, including mankind, but (2) mankind fell away from God, ruined himself and everything else, and (3) God promises to fix things, the fix is already underway, and one day it will be completed to perfection.
The Gospel, therefore, is not about we do; it's about what God does. It is not, therefore, a command or a series of helpful hints: it's an announcement.
Until we announce the Gospel to ourselves and others, the solutions we offer will be partial and temporary, at best, and, more often, ineffective and frustrating.
The secular solutions to spiritual problems are easy to see through. I am thankful for medication, including the drugs that help people with serious and sometimes life-threatening mental problems. If I had to choose between taking antidepressants and taking my life, I'm taking the pills! But, as useful as meds can be, they do not take away the sin of the world-and we know they don't. Our danger is not giving up the Gospel for Valium.
It's giving up the Gospel for the Law! Like the Galatian heretics, we think-
Having begun in the Spirit, we will be made perfect through the flesh.
Let me offer a scenario. Tom is a 45 year old father who is having problems with his 16 year old son, Frank. After months of squabbling, they go to their pastor for counseling.
What's the problem? Tom says the boy is disobedient and disrespectful. Frank says his dad is mean and unreasonable. After hours of listening, the pastor concludes: they're both right. Tom is a harsh man and Frank is a defiant boy. Now what?
He takes them over to Ephesians 6:1-4-
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.
And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
He starts with the son: 'Frank, the Lord wants you to obey your dad, and to show him the respect he has coming. Lately, you haven't been doing that. I want you to apologize to him now, memorize vv.1-3, and when you're tempted to smart off at him, recite the words in your mind and ask God to help you live by them. If He gives you the help, go to your room and thank Him for His mercies; if you fail, go to your room, confess your sins, and start over.
Tom, your sarcasm is making it hard for your son to respect you. You need to apologize to him for it, memorize v.4, and when you feel it coming on, recite the verses in your mind, and speak to him in a way he's likely to respect. And remember-
A soft answer turns away wrath,
But harsh words stir up anger.
This is the sort of Biblical counseling serious pastors offer, and though God sometimes uses it to effect change, it is not Biblical!
Ephesians 6:1-4 are not rules hung in the air! They're rules hung on the Gospel! They only 'work', in other words, when they're read in context.
Let's go back to Tom and Frank.
Why is Tom so hard on his boy? Maybe it's because he wants his wife to think of him as 'a strong man', but when Frank defies him, he looks 'weak'. What does Tom really want? He wants his wife's acceptance-and to get it, he's willing to lose hurt his son and sin against his God.
What does the Gospel say to Tom? It says he is-
Accepted in the Beloved.
Not 'accepted' because he's a perfect father or a manly man, but because by faith he is 'in Christ' and therefore, acceptable to Gad as Jesus is.
Once he realizes this, he will quit browbeating his son, and ironically, he will win his wife's heart. The Gospel fixes Tom the mean and unreasonable dad.
What about Frank, the son? Why is he so bitter against his dad? Maybe it's because he wants to be loved and feels he isn't.
What does the Gospel say to Frank? It says God-
In love predestined him to the adoption of sons.
In other words, God loved Him before He made the world and owns him as a beloved child.
Once he realizes this, he will stop being so sensitive to his father's every imperfect word or look or tone of voice. The Gospel fixes the resentful and defiant son.
As for the rules, they're still in the Bible, but there where God put them in the Bible, Ephesians 6:1-4 which follows pages and pages of what God has done for Tom and Frank and all His people.
To help us live Gospel-centered lives, let's do three things:
Remember what the Gospel is: An announcement of what God has done for us, and done it all by grace.
Meditate on the Gospel and ask God to show us how it works in the practical details of life.
Apply no rule in the Bible without first remembering it can only be read in the context of the Gospel.
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