March 27, 2013

How can lives be changed?

News this week tells of two boys who tried to rob a woman who didn’t have any money, so they shot and killed her baby. I’ve not heard it yet, but have little doubt that some will blame lack of education for this tragic event. Others will cry for more gun control, or blame social services. Some might even blame the mother for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Law, philosophy, morals and education have failed to restrain and reform a world full of sinners. Yes, there are decent folks, but when push comes to shove, most will look out for themselves even it hurts someone else.

The good news is that one Person looked out for us at great cost to Himself so that we might be the kind of people God intended when He created us.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16–17)

The Gospel is not about self-reform, pulling up my boot straps, being taught a new way to live. It is God’s power that changes lives for everyone who believes it. The Gospel is also a revealed thing, something Christians know because God opens our eyes and hearts to know it, and in the process, He does a marvelous thing.

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)

This does not make me perfect. Until I see Jesus face to face, I’m also stuck with my sinful nature. This is the part of me that can resist God and fall short of loving others. But now I can choose to follow Jesus because He gave me a new nature. My old life has gone and I can obey commands in the Bible and be what God intended. He says of me that I am “the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).

Today’s devotional says it too: “No principle in the universe can be brought to bear with such weight as the gospel.  Nothing can develop the principles of humanity if not the gospel. Millions of women and men have been changed, redeemed, purified, saved. The gospel is powerful enough to overcome all the tendencies of sin. It will unclench the hands of greed, silence the blasphemer, make pure the corrupt heart, and stop the strut of the arrogant. There is not a grasp on gold or pleasure that the gospel has not the power to break. And there is not a sinner who, if he or she fairly comes under its dominion, will not become holy.”

Yet the oddest thing happens. Even though the Gospel changes lives and subdues our strongest propensities to sin and harm others, people resist it and would rather go their own way. That might be their own moral way (“I am a good person and don’t need changing”) or the other extreme (“No one, including God, is going to tell me what to do”) with many variations in between.

Imagine if that were not the case. Gone would be our vain systems of morality, but also the world’s most gigantic schemes of corruption. Instead, thousands of sinners would be humbled and changed into holy people. The difference would change persecutors and blasphemers to people who see Jesus and are awed, saying, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” 

Most of the world, from the dearest souls to the thieves and murderers of babies have no idea that the Son of God is available to them. Jesus can lift them out of whatever holds them into a life filled with light that can shine forth His goodness. How vital that I, along with others who have been transformed by His saving power, shine the light we have into dark places and not hide it under any petty selfishness that belongs to that old life for which Jesus died.

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