The gospel changes our outlook.
Aaron T. Mueller
The following letter with a sizable amount of cash was placed on my office computer keyboard a few months back: “Pastor, please gift this money to the family who has a past due account. I’m not concerned about the tax deduction, so there is no need to record this anywhere for my purposes. I know the parents have struggles. The husband loves the outdoors and allows it to take him away from worship. It may even be that the couple has the funds and simply prioritizes and spends them on other things. Sadly, I once was like that. It wasn’t until I met my [Christian] wife, came to church here, and got into the Bible that I realized how blessed we are by the sacrifice Jesus made. I like to think it is because of God and our church that I am where I am today. I don’t know if this donation will help this family reconsider the love we have for them as a church, and in turn the love God has for them in Jesus. I like to think it will. Either way, please anonymously gift this to them.”*
What makes the difference?
Wouldn’t you be humbled to find, open, and read that letter? The giver was selfless and generous. The gift had no strings attached. The funds were offered without any expectation of results. Yet most revealing of all was why it was given.
The donor recognized a major change had taken place in his own life. That change, by his own admission, was his whole outlook. So much had changed: his priorities, life habits, time allocation, financial giving, his attitude toward God and the Word, and even his dealings with other people. How did that happen? Paul wrote, “For Christ’s love compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). The cause was the good news about Jesus. The gospel made all the difference by revealing God’s forgiving heart for sinners in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It also created faith, faith that grasped that truth about Jesus.
Without that good news, there is no difference. Paul writes the same, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22,23). When it comes to sin, the whole world has it and is accountable to God for it. Apart from Christ, no sin-debt can ever be met before God. That means generous people without Jesus, in spite of their earthly generosity, are still on the path to hell. Kind letters and actions without the kind of heart God shapes by his gospel still earn God’s wrath. The powerful gospel makes all the difference between sin and grace, hell and heaven, death and life.
It is dangerous to be indifferent to the gospel. Peter modeled that very truth when he stood by the fire as Jesus was on trial. Warming the body at the expense of the soul never turns out well. But warming the soul with the power of the gospel will turn out well, because the gospel makes all the difference.
The difference it makes
The difference the gospel makes in our daily lives is like night and day. Having a police officer tail you with the lights on is a very different scenario than having a police officer flip the lights on to lead your car safely to the hospital. Having the Lord actively pursue you with the law is very different than having him lovingly lead you forward in life by the gospel. Knowing by faith how God deals with us in Jesus Christ winsomely changes our day-to-day thinking from worldly to spiritual.
Scripture drives that point home in various ways. While a thief on the cross suffered the punishment he deserved, Jesus led his heart and mind to see what was right in front of him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). When a paralytic was lowered through the roof and placed before the Teacher, Jesus lifted his soul right up to his heavenly Father’s forgiveness, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). When the Ethiopian eunuch heard the gospel, he wanted more of it. He said, “What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). God’s people crave the gospel. They daily want to see heaven is their outlook through the forgiveness of sins Jesus won. Paul placed that same truth in front of the Philippians: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
Making a difference
The night-and-day difference shows itself in a joyful anticipation of heaven. Even more, it shows up on the calendar of events and priorities in our lives.
One of my elderly members frequently quotes her confirmation verses when I visit: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17). Those verses are set for her funeral text. It’s Jesus, not the world, who is to be her lasting confession. Even before she dies, she is confident she died to the world! She wants the miracle story told of how the gospel changed her thinking, her life, her will, and her choices. And it did just that. She raised her family in the Word and still daily reads the Bible. She gave one of her sons over to public ministry. Jesus was visible in her life and prioritized on the calendar.
By the gospel, Jesus is writing a very similar life letter to the world through your daily activities. Paul wrote, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God” (2 Corinthians 3:2,3). Can you see heaven in your future? Can that vision help you see the handwriting of God in your present? Take a look back over your years. Would your life letter look similar to the earlier one in this article?
We were all born apart from God. We confess with David, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). But the gospel changed us, and because of that our priorities also changed.
Growth is ongoing. Day after day, God works by his Holy Spirit in the Word to mature us, train us, and shape us for him and for his heavenly home.
And he’s not done. Until God puts his final punctuation on your life, let the gospel mark your life, your thinking, and your entire outlook. Make the gospel the difference.
Aaron Mueller is pastor at St. Paul, Howards Grove, Wisconsin.
This is the third article in a six-part series on the power of the gospel.
*Permission from the letter’s author was given for this article.
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Author: Aaron T. Mueller
Volume 105, Number 7
Issue: July 2018
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