It is that time of year to think about how we make improvements in our lives over the next 365 days. We are told that we, as Americans, will collectively spend 10 Billion dollars to improve. These dollars will be spent on infomercials, motivational speakers, personal coaching, holistic training, self-improvement books and audio books, public seminars, weight loss programs (including surgery) and stress management programs. I would also add to this list the expenditures on counselling and even the popularity of TV counsellors. Yet I find it interesting that there is not one mention of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
I can understand those that do not yet know Christ pursing these avenues for self-improvement. Let me also clarify that I am not speaking against any of these avenues to get help. What I am pointing out is that many followers of Christ are missing the opportunity to release God’s power in their life to bring about real change. I am reminded repeatedly of how a relationship with Jesus Christ can help us improve all areas of our life.
The Gospel is, in its simplest form, the message of Jesus. Paul identifies the core of this message in 1 Corinthians 15 as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Most evangelical Christians understand that understanding and accepting these truths is necessary to becoming a follower of Christ. They might also understand that when they “accept Christ” that there is a spiritual change in their lives. The Apostle stated it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) While many would acknowledge that a personal relationship with Christ initially changes us they fail to grasp how this relationship continues to transform us.
I was recently reminded of this truth while studying Romans 1:16. It is in the following verse that the Apostle makes a profound statement about why he is not ashamed of the gospel when he states, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,” (Romans 1:17) It has been said that the theme of the book of Romans is summed up in the phrase, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed.” Righteousness is the conformity to a certain set of expectations, which vary from role to role. Righteousness is fulfillment of the expectations in any relationship, whether with God or other people. I have already alluded to one aspect of righteousness where a sinner’s sin is transferred to Christ and through Christ’s death on the cross His righteousness is transferred to the believer. This is what happens when a person initially accepts the Gospel. They are transformed through the power of God working in them. I deal with this is greater detail in my message here on why the Gospel matters.
What followers of Christ often miss is that this same transforming power is available to them through their whole life! This is a second aspect of righteousness, that our earthly lives now reproduce Jesus’ character in us. We reveal Jesus by the lives that we live and the choices that we make. That is what Paul is communicating in Romans 1:17 with the phrase “from faith for faith.” I am reminded of a continuous circle where the righteous begins with saving faith, but continues to grow with living faith. The last part of verse 17 I believe says it all, “as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”” (Romans 1:17) The help we really need is not to surgically or otherwise change our appearance but embrace who we are in Christ. The help we need in broken relationships is to implement Biblical practices. Our victory over bad habits is found in cultivating self-discipline by growing stronger in Christ. This is how the “righteousness of God is revealed” in your life by demonstrating your trust in God by putting His truth into practice! This is why the Gospel Matter, it changes you and it continues to change you.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson