The Power of the Gospel, Part 9

Romans 1:16 – “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.”

It must be a continuing source of amazement to us that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. The omnipotent God who brought all things into being by an act of His will and by definition is in the heavens and does what He pleases (Psalm 115:3) is the God whose power to save is described in the Gospel. When people water down the teaching of depravity, they are also watering down the nature of the Gospel and the very power of God. The Gospel is no longer thought of as the power of God for salvation, but it is thought of as within the power of the person to do what s/he needs to do to be part of salvation. The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of God is a Gospel of a power beyond what the human mind can conceive and we must be careful not to treat it as some common thing.

Ephesians 2:3 describes the lost sinner: “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” The sinner that Ephesians 2:1 describes as dead in sins and trespasses is one that lives in the lusts of the flesh. The whole life of the unbeliever is one that is lived in the lusts of the flesh. All that the unbeliever does is to indulge the desires of the flesh and of the mind. The unbeliever follows the desires of his or he flesh and mind and so is in the loving bondage of self. This is a slavery that the unbeliever cannot extricate him or herself from and does not want to be delivered from. This is slavery to self and the unbeliever loves self with all of his or her heart, mind, soul, and strength. The unbeliever, simply out of self-love, will make religious commitments and even a lot of moral and behavioral modification. But the unbeliever cannot deliver self from self. As long as the self is the intent and purpose of the action, self is an idol. The self is the motivation and the goal of each action. The self is the energy and strength of each action. As long as a sinner is not delivered from self, that sinner is in utter bondage.

The very nature of the unbeliever, as Ephesians 2:3 points out, is that of a child of wrath. The nature of the unbeliever is to live in unbelief which means that the unbeliever is living with the wrath of God abiding upon him or her (John 3:36). It is not in the power of a sinner to change his or her nature. As long as the unbeliever is in the power of self, that unbeliever will do nothing but follow the self which is to be a child of wrath. When self is our idol and we do all for self, then we do all out of love for our idol and idolatry is that which God’s wrath is upon. The problem of idolatry is not that the human soul serves other things, but that it uses idols to denigrate the being of God and then to serve itself. The real idol of idol worship is the self. God has been brought down to be a little god and self is trying to manipulate god for the purposes and loves of self. By nature, then, human beings are given over to the power and love of self and all that they do is in loving slavery to self-love. Human beings look to self for strength to do the desires of self and so all they do is for self and from self.

When Christianity loses sight of the glory of God and of what sin really is it degenerates into nothing more than a religion of self wrapped in the teachings about a God that serves us. It becomes a system of rituals and of ways that man tries to please God in some way in order to please self or for self-preservation. Scripture warns us very clearly that men will be religious for self and will do anything for self. The Pharisees were examples of that and indeed the nature of all unbelievers is that way. Apparently there were some who even tried to die in the name of Christ and yet did not have true love. I Corinthians 13:1-3 alludes to this and there were some reports that this was a problem in that people wanted to go straight to heaven. But the root of what they were doing was an attempt to earn salvation by their own suffering and death. That is nothing but self in the guise of religion.

Who can deliver us from this body of sin and of death? Who can deliver us from this great burden of the slavery to self and its selfish desires and loves even when the outward appearance is that of being a great servant? It is only Jesus Christ Himself who can deliver a human being from such an awful bondage. It is only Christ in the Gospel that promises to deliver from sin. What can take away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can change my heart from being in slavery to self to be in loving bondage to the living God? There is no power that can do that but the power of the living God in Jesus Christ. How we denigrate the Gospel of God when we think and talk of it as just a little message that a person only needs to pray a prayer over. No, no, and a million times no. The Gospel is the power of God to save and is not in the power of man to do so. It is to His glory and His glory alone.

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