I will readily affirm the truth of the Gospel. When asked–even when not asked but simply given the opportunity–I am glad to state that I believe that the good news about Jesus is “the power of God” bringing life and salvation (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18).
But then I bump into those hard situations–the challenging issues–of life. A friend’s marriage is in trouble, a relationship with another person has turned sour, business seems slow, children are facing critical decisions. I can feel spent, tired, overwhelmed. And it is right there that I wrestle with whether I will live in and live out the truth of the truth I affirm.
For me, this idea is anchored in Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
When it came right down to it, Paul lived the truth he affirmed. He anticipated that the truth of the Gospel would come with such a real demonstration of the Spirit and of power that those who heard the truth would be convinced of the truth because of that demonstration and would end up living out and living in that truth. Paul could admit his weakness and fear, but could also affirm he confidence in the “not-me-but-God’s-power” that comes through the Gospel. In other words, for Paul, the Gospel was not merely words, not just good advice, not simply a “program” that we try to work in the hope that our lives will get better. The Gospel is not a nice slogan. It is so much more.
For Paul, there was something in the Gospel that was life-changing. Perhaps it would be better to say that for Paul there was someone in the Gospel who actually should up, served, moved, poured out grace, changed lives. Something happens through the Gospel. The Spirit is there. We encounter God. There is a power that has far more impact than that of “good advice.”
That drives me to think about whether I live in the truth I affirm as true. When talking with that friend whose marriage is in trouble, will I hold out to him the truth that “Jesus changes hearts because He is a Savior . . . so let him change you,” or will I offer practical advice about managing his conflict with his wife in a more productive way? When wrestling with relational conflicts in my life with others, will I call out on Jesus who rescues me and changes me from the inside out through the power of the Spirit, or will I merely look for good principles for making friends with others?
Do I really live as if God is in the Gospel, that he chooses to press into our lives with the life-transforming power of the Spirit, that Jesus’ life and death and resurrection actually can and does change people?