The Power of the Gospel, Part 11

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.”

The Gospel of God and of Jesus Christ is a Gospel of power beyond what the mind can conceive. We have forgotten that it is the Gospel that is powerful rather than our presentation of a message and so rely on our ability to talk people into things rather than the power of God in the Gospel to change human hearts. We have learned to rely on human rhetoric and talking people into things rather than relying on the power of God. We have learned to get people to change their behavior rather than to point them to God who can change hearts. The utterance of words in a prayer followed by behavior modification is a poor alternative to the power of God to change hearts.

The old self is, as Ephesians 4:22 sets out, “being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit.” The old self is in a continual state of corruption and needs a new heart rather than just some new behaviors. I Peter 1:14 says that obedient children are not “conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.” To put the matter plainly, the old self will always be the old self. It will always be in a state of corruption in accordance with its lusts of deceit. The old self will always be conforming to lusts that are in ignorance. Even if a person says a prayer and follows some form of behavior modification, unless the heart is changed that person is simply a religious person following the lusts of the hearts in ignorance of itself and so continuing on in a state of corruption.

The nature of a human being is that it seeks to keep its pain at a minimum and to maximize its pleasure. This is to say that all human beings are hedonists by nature. We make every choice according to what appears best to the soul and that which will minimize our pain and lead to our pleasure. For some people that means taking up religion and following an arduous path of stringent religious activity. For others that means giving self to what is known as living on the wild side. The latter group is living for the present pleasure and the former group desires to live for what they think of as a future pleasure though they obtain a fair amount of pleasure or contentment by the honor they obtain in their religious groups. Both groups, however, are still living according to self rather than living by a faith that lives by grace. Both groups are at war with God though in appearance one does not seem that way.

Virtually all of the ancient philosophies said something about the good life and what that meant. The Pharisees, on the other hand, also lived for their own pleasure and they loved the honor they received by being so stringent (outwardly) in their commitment to God. They took pleasure in men looking at them and honoring them when they prayed. They took pleasure in men looking at them and honoring them when they gave money to the poor and fasted. The secular philosophies led people to pursue pleasure in various ways. The Pharisees sought their pleasures in a different way and yet thought it would be good for eternal things as well.

What both sets of pleasure seekers needed was the Gospel. All need a new heart so that they may repent of seeking their own honor and pleasure and live to the pleasure and glory of God. The Gospel is one of great power because it takes sinners who seek their own pleasure and changes their hearts so that now they love God and seek His pleasure. The true evangelist is to go about sowing seeds knowing that it is the human heart that must be changed. The true evangelist knows that a human heart will deceive itself and others by making a profession of faith and yet not truly be converted. The human heart is in such bondage to self and self-love that out of love for itself it will make a choice and some behavior modification. “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14). There are those who make professions and yet without a changed heart the seed that was planted gets choked out with worries, riches, and the pleasures of life.

The seed of the true Gospel will bear fruit when it is planted in the soul by God. It is the Gospel which changes the heart and so the Holy Spirit is there and the fruit of the Spirit is love and joy. Those who have changed hearts have a different joy than the world. These are the ones who have food and joy that the world knows not of. These are the ones that have Christ the vine sharing with them His sweet nectar. These are the ones that know what it means to have the joy of the Lord in their souls. These are the ones that have the very joy of Christ in them. No longer is their chief joy and pleasure in the things of self, whether worldly or religious self, but now they have access to the true and living hope and joy of God in the resurrection of Christ who now lives in their soul. That is true power.

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