Monthly Archives: March 2017

The Transforming Gospel

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The late Charles Colson was notorious for being President Nixon’s “hatchet man,” “a dirty tricks artist,” and for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.  But later on in life, he became primarily known for founding Prison Fellowship, an outreach to inmates, as well as, Breakpoint ministries, a popular weekly radio broadcast.  What caused this radical transformation in Colson’s life was the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel is a powerful and transforming reality.  When an individual hears and embraces the Good News about Jesus Christ, their life is immediately and eternally changed.  This Truth is apparent in Mark 2:1-12.  Through Jesus’ interaction with a paralytic, this man’s life was spiritually and physically transformed.

Mark 2 begins with Jesus preaching to a mass of people that swarmed upon the disciple’s house where he was staying.  At this same time verse 3 reports that a group of men carried a paralytic to this house with the hopes of Jesus healing their friend.  Unfortunately, due to the crowd, they were prohibited from getting inside.  Determined to reach Jesus, they made their way to the roof.  There a hole was created big enough for the four men to lower the paralytic down into the house and into the immediate presence of Jesus.  It is at this moment in the paralytic’s life when he was powerfully transformed.

Upon seeing the situation unfold in front of him and being impressed by the men’s faith, verse 5 records that Jesus simply turned to the paralytic and said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  With this straightforward comment, this cripple’s life was transformed spiritually.  In that exact moment he went from being a sinner, who was a child of wrath, into a forgiven saint, who is a child of God.

God’s transformation originates in the spiritual realm. Specifically, in order for true personal transformation to occur, sin needs to be eliminated.  This can only occur through a individual’s faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to “take away the sins of the world” (Jn. 1:29).  The Scriptures declare that those who believe in this Gospel are indeed “a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

After spiritually transforming the paralytic, Jesus sensed the religious leaders criticizing the legitimacy of his actions.  In order to verify his claims, Jesus responded in verses 10 and 11 by countering, “‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ – he said to the paralytic – ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.'”  With this straightforward comment, the paralytic was transformed physically.  In that exact moment he went from being a cripple, who was dependent upon others, into a healthy and active individual, who could take care of himself and even others.

Spiritual transformation always manifests itself.  Those individuals who hear and embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ; their lives – in some way, shape, or form – will come to express their faith.  This is trajectory of every believer.  Christians will be transformed physically.  Romans 8:29 states that Christians are currently being “conformed to the image” of Jesus Christ.  As sin is identified and removed, new Christlike traits are applied and cultivated in believers’ lives.  The following verse, Romans 8:30, furthers this Truth and states that Christians are destined for glory.  All believers will be resurrected from the dead in the future.  And just like the paralytic, all evidences of sin will be removed at this time and their physical bodies will be transformed and made imperishable, glorious, and powerful (See 1 Cor. 15:42-29).

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful and transforming.  It transforms individuals both spiritually and physically.  As the Gospel removes sin and molds people’s lives into the image of Jesus Christ, others will take notice.  And as with the paralytic, people will notice their transformation, be amazed, and say “we never saw anything like this” (v. 12).

 

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The Gospel Demonstrated

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Many people are oblivious to the Gospel.  They are not knowledgeable of the Good New’s content nor are they aware of its relevancy.  As a result, the Gospel is absent in many forums and, even when present, it is often misunderstood or goes unnoticed.

In Mark 1:40-45 a report is given detailing Jesus’ healing of a leper.  Through their interaction, the Gospel is applied to this outcast’s situation and demonstrated in a very powerful way.

The Gospel presentation begins in verse 40 with the leper’s request to Jesus, “If you will, you can make me clean.”  This desperate appeal is based upon two realities.  First of all, the leper affirmed his sorry state.  He recognized that he was ‘unclean’ and could not remedy his own situation.  The second reality that the leper recognized was that Jesus was capable of saving him from his horrendous condition.  With these two matters in mind, the leper humbly approached Jesus with his bold request.

The leper’s request demonstrates the beginning of the Gospel.  The Gospel begins to take root in the life of the person who recognizes that he is a sinner and in desperate need of a savior.  In some ways it could be said that the Good News actually begins with bad news for mankind.  As Romans 3:23-24 affirms, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  The person who accepts the reality of his own sinful depravity and Jesus’ redemption is primed for the Gospel.

The Gospel was further demonstrated in Jesus’ powerful response to the leper’s request.  In verse 41 Jesus’ love was put on full display when he reached out, touched the outcast’s unclean skin, and healed him.  With this shocking gesture, Jesus sacrificed his status of being ‘clean’ in order to cure this desperate man kneeling before him.

Jesus’ response to the leper’s request reveals the heart of the Gospel.  Jesus’ love for God’s people was demonstrated perfectly when he assumed their depravity and died on the cross for all of their sins.  As 1 Peter 2:24 declares, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed.” At the core of the Gospel is Jesus’ sacrificial love.  Through his death, God’s people have been saved from their sinfulness and made clean.

Instead of obeying Jesus’ instruction in verse 43 to remain quiet, the healed man disobeyed by telling everyone what happened to him.  His excitement drew so much attention that Jesus was forced out of the towns he desired to ministered in.  This final remark states that Jesus and the leper had literally switched places.  Jesus, who was ministering in towns and villages, was cast out to the “desolate places” (v. 45).  And the leper, who was an outcast, was healed and welcomed back into society.

The conclusion of Jesus’ interaction with the leper beautifully demonstrates the result of the Gospel.  Jesus and God’s people have switched places.  Jesus left God his Father, lived a life of perfect righteousness, yet died a sinners death.  On the other hand, God’s people were depraved sinners, yet made righteous and reconciled to God through Jesus’ substitutionary atonement on the cross.  This is the Truth that 2 Corinthians 5:21 proclaims, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The Good News is apparent in this account.  Through Jesus’ interaction with the leper, the Gospel was demonstrated in a very powerful way.  One cannot read this report and overlook the message that it proclaims.  Through Jesus death, sinners are forgiven and made righteous.