There are some big events in life that serve as “game-changers” for us. When you move out of your home you become responsible for everything. When you get married your life becomes orientated to another. When you have children, especially in the early years, everything revolves around caring, providing, and enjoying the babies.
But all of these pale in comparison to the ultimate “game-changer” — conversion.
When we become Christians everything changes. Our relationship with God changes from enmity to peace. What we love changes. Our orientation from selfishness to service changes. Our goal in life changes. Everything changes.
But how about how we view those who have yet to believe, what changes here?
The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1 that the gospel brings a debt. Does this strike you as odd? In one sense the gospel removes a debt. Jesus died on the cross to pay our debt (Rm. 6.23). This is gloriously true! However, there is another debt that comes. This is a debt to unbelievers.
“I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.” (Romans 1:14)
In the context of desiring to reap a harvest among the Gentiles, Paul states that he wants to come and preach the gospel in Rome. One of the reasons why he wants to bring the gospel there is because he is under obligation. This word obligation could also be translated as “debt” (i.e. ”forgive us our debts” Mt. 6:12). There are a few different ways to be in debt. You could borrow money and then you would have to pay it back. Until you did you would be in debt. There is another way, and I believe Paul has it in mind here. Let’s say party 1 gives you (party 2) a sum of money and instructs you to bring it to party 3. Once it is in your possession you are in debt to party 1 to bring it to party 3.
In Paul’s mind he understands that he has been entrusted with the gospel (1 Thess. 2.4) for the purpose of delivering it to the Gentiles. Therefore, he is in debt to them to deliver the gospel goods to them.
Do you think like this? Do you feel this burden?
Regrettably many Christians disconnect from the world around them. Citing holiness and disgust over a sinful world they separate themselves from those who so desperately need the gospel. When we do this we miss the fact that the gospel that calls us to holiness also calls us to mission. We are actually in bondage to those around us. Evangelism is just as much an implication of the gospel as having joy, peace or hope. We are here in this world for the purpose of glorifying God in the advancement of the gospel (Mt. 28:19-21).
If we are looking at the world with contempt and as a result have our evangelism on mute, perhaps a visit to the gospels would help us to turn up the volume. When we come upon Jesus in Matthew’s gospel we see him spending himself for souls. He is fixed on teaching the gospel to everyone he can.
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:35–36)
When Jesus surveys the crowd he does look down his nose in disdain or contempt. And, if there every was someone who had the right to do this it was Jesus. He is the infinitely holy, second person of the Trinity! He has never sinned and is the eternal delight of the Father. But when we are given insight into his heart we find that he has compassion upon them. What is the driver behind compassion? It is love. Jesus loves the lost. He understands that they are “harassed and helpless”. He sees the condition of sin, the suppression of truth, the corruption of religious systems, the emptiness, the guilt, and the hopelessness. He knows the answer is the gospel. This is why he “went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.”
If we are going to be faithful witnesses of Christ then we must remember this. The gospel changes our status with God but it also changes our status with the unbelieving world around us. The gospel removes a debt with God and brings a debt to our neighbors and the nations. We go from being in partnership to bondage to our former colleagues in the industry of sin. We want to get the gospel to them. We owe them.
We begin to love the lost like Jesus when we realize that we were once lost and Jesus loved us.
The gospel is the ultimate game-changer.
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