The Transforming Gospel
September 20, 2010 4 Comments
This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry youth group on Wednesday, September 15, 2010.
After reading Romans 12:1-8, it is evident that an encounter with the saving grace of Jesus Christ is a transformational experience. The first 11 chapters of Romans go into in-depth and intimate theological detail of what the Gospel is. So before moving on, let me summarize what the Gospel is:
a. Righteous Creator- God
b. Rebellious Sinner- Humanity
c. Resulting Punishment- Judgment
d. Redeeming Savior- Jesus Christ
e. Repentant Faith- Response
*Adapted from What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
Salvation (v. 1)
Initial Gospel transformation occurs at salvation. Salvation is the point at which an individual repents of all of his or her past sins and believes in Jesus Christ as his or her personal Lord and Savior. Why Jesus, and Jesus alone? Jesus lived a life that no human could never live in order to be a perfect substitute for humanity on the cross. Jesus rose from the grave, conquering sin and death. Jesus ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus calls us to Himself to redeem us from sin and spiritual death. Therefore, when Christ becomes a person’s Savior, that person should offer their whole person, body and soul, to Him as an act of worship.
Notice that Paul uses the phrase “living sacrifice” rather than “dead sacrifice” or “regular sacrifice.” Many of the people in the original audience for the book of Romans were familiar with the Jewish sacrificial system in which an animal was offered to atone for a person’s sins (though this was only a temporary fix). With the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, believers are referred to as a “living sacrifice” because 1) they are enjoy a new life in Christ free of spiritual death and 2) they will not be put to death like Old Testament sacrifices were because Christ is the fulfillment of the sacrifices (for more on how Jesus is a fulfillment of the sacrificial system, read the book of Hebrews). This is truly good news!
Often, in this new life, a Christian may experience problems in his or her relationship with God. I recently listened to sermon by Mark Driscoll entitled “Worship: God Transforms.” In his sermon, Driscoll proposes that whenever someone has a problem in life, the issue is always a worship problem. When an individual becomes a Christian, he goes from worshiping himself and his idols to worshipping and pursuing Jesus alone. In other words, at salvation, a Christian sacrifices his or her own desires and lives their life in an attitude of worship. This means that now, everything that a Christian does is to be done to the glory of God.
Something that is important to recognize, especially in modern Christianity, is that everyone’s testimony is equal in the fact that everyone who undergoes initial Gospel transformation is a redeemed child of God. Some testimonies are marked by dramatic life changes, some seem to be relatively unchanged (because they were ‘good’ people), but something each true conversion has in common: change. Change in what? Priorities, worship focus, lifestyle, and source of identity. (To see some examples of testimonies about the initial Gospel transformation at salvation, check out IAmSecond.com)
Think about this: What is your testimony of encounter with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how it has changed you? Do you even have a testimony? (Feel free to post your testimony as a comment, I’d love to hear it)
Sanctification (v. 2)
The second aspect of Gospel transformation is the idea of sanctification or continual transformation. How does transformation happen continually? Through growth in grace (Romans 8:12-14) and fighting sin. It comes with the power of the Holy Spirit and happens from the inside out. Sanctification is a daily battle and commitment to spending time with Jesus in prayer and Scripture reading as well as putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20).
When talking about sanctification in relation to verse 2 of Romans 12, it is important to point out that Christians are not to be pulled out of the world, but to live in it as transformed people. In His “High Priestly Prayer” shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus makes this clear as He is praying for believers in the years to come (John 17:14-19). It is pretty apparent that Jesus meant for His followers to interact with others in the world. He reiterates His intention for us to live life on a mission in the Great Commission prior to His Ascension into heaven:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
In verse 2, Paul mentions that, as a result of a transformed mind, Christians will seek to discern and do God’s will. Well, how does a Christian discern the will of God? Know His Word (aka the Bible)! It has been preserved for believers and is still living and active. The more time a person spend reading, studying, and memorizing it, the more he or she is able to discern what God’s will is for the lives of His transformed people. I could write a whole blog post on this topic, but rather than do that, I would suggest that you read a great book on the will of God called Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung.
Spiritual Community (v. 3-8)
Salvation and sanctification (the two forms of transformation) often occur in community. Out of the grace given to all believers, Paul exhorts them to be humble regarding their salvation and spiritual gifts. Why? Christians were once wicked sinners destined to hell just like all the nonbelievers around them. Christian community (most notably the Church) is important because it:
o Offers a place for believers to develop and contribute their spiritual gifts
o Provides encouragement in the faith to continue to be transformed and not conformed
o Gives Christians a place to grow (like a plant needs soil, water, sun to grow)
o Offers accountability, mentoring, and discipline
Paul outlines several ways that a Christian can contribute to the community of believers. Just because a believer isn’t particularly gifted in all areas doesn’t mean that he or she is not supposed to do some of these things that Paul lists. For example, all Christians are called to evangelism whether they have the spiritual gift of evangelism or not.
To wrap things up, take a look at Romans 12:9-21. The English Standard Version (ESV) has the heading for this section as “Marks of the True Christian” and I imagine other versions have a similar heading. Paul uses commanding language as a way to encourage his readers to live as people transformed by the Gospel in a world that is in need of Jesus. May that be a challenge to you and I. Live transformed.
Learn It. Love It. Live It.