We Have Lost Our Faith in the Transforming Power of the Gospel
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.”
Power is the one thing that Rome boasted of the most. Greece might have its philosophy, but Rome had its power. The fear of Rome hovered over the known world that was under the Roman Empire’s despotic rule like a dark, deadly massive storm cloud.Yes, mighty Rome was a world conqueror that had its legions of mighty, ruthless soldiers stationed all over the known world.But with all of her military power, Rome was still a weak nation. The philosopher Seneca called the city of Rome “a cesspool of iniquity”; and the writer Juvenal called it a “filthy sewer into which the dregs of the empire flood.”
Knowing the inability of government force to change men and their culture, Paul was so proud and eager to take to sinful Rome the one message that had the power to change men’s lives individually and their entire culture’s corporately!
The Gospel of Christ is the power of salvation, bringing transformation to people and their cultures and societies. As every area of life - every relationship, role, institution, and aspect of culture, even the creation itself has been made subject to the wrenching and debilitating power of sin (Romans 8:20,21), so every area of life is amenable to the transforming power of the Gospel.
To our shame, we in the Western world have lost our faith in the transforming power of the gospel. Few Christians sincerely believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most powerful force on this planet. We are willing to give the gospel a certain relevance and power in a few scattered individuals, but what we see it do in a few, we do not believe it can do in the majority. In so thinking, we self-consciously believe that the forces of evil are too powerful to be dislodged, unbelief too stubborn to be overcome, and unbelieving human authorities too numerous and well organized to be resisted on a broad scale successfully. This loss of faith in the power of the gospel is outright rebellion against Christ, treason against our Prince, and faithlessness to our solemn charge. If Christ has given us a command and instructed us to have a certain expectation, not to obey and believe is sin, betrayal, and cowardice. The fruit of our unbelief is the pagan culture of these United States. Christ has not done a mighty work here in recent times because of our unbelief. We have a culture of our own creation, the creation of an unbelieving, ashamed, and compromised Church that would rather be tolerated, respected, and prosperous than confront wickedness in high places, call heresy, heresy, and unashamedly stand for Christ's interests regardless of how the newspapers, public, or even its members respond.
Which is More Powerful? The Fall of Adam or the Resurrection of Christ?
Ask yourself, with all the hope given to Christians in the Scriptures concerning the future of this planet, is the Gospel powerful enough to alleviate poverty, overcome racial hostility and conflict both inside and outside the Church, outlaw abortion, tear down same sex marriage, and restore true gender identity? Is the Gospel powerful enough to transform not just individual sinners but entire communities, cities, states, nations, and our world for the better?
A defeatist eschatology and a generally pessimistic worldview has created a weak and ineffective Church on earth. Not very long ago, it was Christians leading the world-changing and justice-seeking efforts. Today, the Church is barely noticed and Christians are making little effort to change that. This is not what we see in the pages of the New Testament.
In 2016, pastor, theologian, and seminary president, John MacArthur of Grace Community Church and The Master’s Seminary, spoke on a panel about the upcoming presidential election. When asked for his final thoughts on the election and what it meant for all parties involved, he said amidst laughter and clapping in the crowd, “We’re rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The ship is going down. All we’re trying to do is make the people more comfortable as it sinks but there’s one other thing we can do. We can launch the lifeboats and the lifeboats are the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Unfortunately, far too many believers have embraced a “sinking ship” eschatology for the world. The Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 has been interpreted to mean that we are to be “launching the lifeboats” and making the gospel of Jesus Christ that of saving a few for heaven while the majority sink into hell.
Does the Bible speak of a humiliating defeat of the Gospel before the Second Coming at the hands of Satan, demons, and sinful men or does it foretell of an increasingly greater victory over the forces of Satan and fallen mankind?
NO! The truth is that wherever God's children are faithful in preaching the gospel and pursue the cultural mandate, to apply God's truth to every area of life, civilizations and cultures are re-created because people's state of being is actually transformed by regeneration. We are God's new humanity in Jesus Christ and wherever God's people are, by the power and mighty working of his Spirit, the culture of Christ inescapably flourishes around them. It is this kind of faith that led the American Southern Baptist preacher, R.C. Campbell, some seventy-six years ago to write concerning the gospel:
“It has made conquest of individuals, communities, nations, and continents, and leapt across oceans. It has aroused the complacent, indifferent, and dying churches into virility. It has caused the breath of God to burn in souls and flame on lips. It has as its prime objective the salvation of the world. Think of the opportunity given by God to win the lost, convert sinners. reform communities, transform nations, revolutionize continents, and completely evangelize the whole world! It proffers salvation, radiates sunshine, binds broken hearts, opens prison doors, liberates captives, soothes sorrows, preaches the gospel to the poor, as it points to the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world. What did Carey do for India: Start paganism on a fast retreat. The progress of Christianity can be traced by the sacrifices of those who have given themselves for its promotion. The gospel is our supreme possession. Its power will destroy the babel towers of this world. It will send the fragments of pagan thrones and dictator crowns floating down the streams of decay. The world's security does not lie in great standing armies and navies, impregnable forts, fertile soil, gushing oil wells, bank vaults nor in vast undeveloped resources. Our security lies in the proclamation and acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“If we would see the Gospel have the kind of world-transforming impact it had in Paul’s day, we’re going to have to break out of the confines of our churches and look for ways to establish platforms for the Gospel in neighborhoods, coffee shops, bookstores, even classrooms and office conference rooms. There we need to engage in conversations, share testimonies, seek out discussions, offer to teach, and entertain the questions of any and all, just as Paul did wherever he went. The Gospel is like light, leaven, and salt. It needs to go everywhere, penetrate everything, makes its presence known everywhere in order to do the transforming work it is truly capable of doing” (T.M. Moore).
Lord, we, your people, desperately need revival and recovery of the whole New Testament gospel that alone can make men and nations whole! Hear my, humble cry and do it again, Lord.
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