What if CNN or Fox News broke a story with the headline, “ISIS Leaders Becomes a Follower of Jesus and Ends Terrorist Activity”? Would we be shocked? Would we doubt the headline?
Paul writes in the first chapter of his missionary support letter to Rome that God’s power for salvation comes from the gospel (Romans 1:16). But do we believe this?
Evidence of the power of the gospel is found in the change it brings about in the lives of individuals, in communities, and in society at large. Because we so often forget, we must constantly remind ourselves of the power of God found in the gospel. The good news of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection on behalf of sinners is good news because it announces forgiveness of sins. But that is not the only element of the good news. In fact, many unrepentant sinners see no need for forgiveness. The good news of Jesus offers more than forgiveness of sins. The gospel brings genuine transformation.
We fight for the gospel because the gospel alone brings genuine change. Christians show the power of God and the gloriousness of his gospel when we present ourselves to the world as followers of Jesus who have experienced true change. When preachers proclaim a gospel of forgiveness that does not tell the unbeliever how the gospel brings change, few non-Christians will find that sort of gospel very attractive.
In his first letter to young Timothy, Paul gives proof of the change the gospel brings (1 Timothy 1:12–17). He shows how the gospel changes our stories. Paul shows how our stories of change exalt the grace of God and point to Jesus because it is only by God’s grace in Jesus that any sinner can experience transformation. In case we forgot, Jesus made it clear that he came for the sick, not those who are well (Matthew 2:17). If we are sick, and Jesus offers true healing change, then we can expect to see fruit from that transformation. Paul says the same thing to Timothy, and he provides his own story of change as proof.
A temptation for many preachers is to preach a hard gospel that offers forgiveness of sins, but no transformation. But the powerful gospel of Jesus offers more than forgiveness (though never less). The announcement of Jesus’s defeat of sin and death through his own death and resurrection actually brings transformation. The announcement of the king brings changes for those who become part of his kingdom.
Preachers, let’s make sure we do not preach a forgiveness-gospel devoid of any promises of change. For Jesus himself said we would know his followers by the fruit they produce. Let us preach Christ, and let us do so by preaching his powerful gospel that brings actual change.
If CNN or Fox News breaks a story about a hardened rebel who trusts Christ for salvation, maybe you will doubt. In the end, we will know if it is true by the fruits produced. But don’t doubt because you think it can’t happen. Oh, it can. Because God’s amazing gospel brings forgiveness and change.