The External Consequences of the Gospel
This is part two of three articles on the consequences of the Gospel
As a Christian, I find much fruit in looking back on my life to see where the Lord has taken me. I have found great pleasure in remembering the immeasurable goodness, grace, and mercy that I have been shown. That being said, it takes a lot of personal effort to get in the right head space to actually do this work of remembrance. Looking back on salvation is not something I do nearly as often as I’d like to, but I know there is so much joy in it. This is what David prays in his prayer of forgiveness and lament in Psalm 51:12 when he asks the Lord to not only cleanse him, but “restore to me the joy of your salvation of me.” As I sit here now, I am even more convinced by God’s all-encompassing work in saving me from darkness and into light; from evil and into goodness; from sin and death and into a regenerated life. When I came to know Christ as my Lord and Savior, I experienced the amazing consequences of the Gospel.
In fact, there were, are, and always will be consequences to this Gospel because this Gospel is intentionally consequential. The Gospel of Jesus transforms rebels into allies, enemies into friends, sinners into saints. The Gospel transforms us in three primary ways: internally, externally, and spiritually. Behind all of this language of transformation, we see God’s heart for making us new in the death and resurrection of Jesus is that He desires our lives to reflect His own life. However, in order for that to happen, He lays our path by giving us a commandment as old as the Exodus, “…love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” (Mark 12:30). In the last installment of this three-part series we looked at the internal consequences of a new heart and a new mind giving us a brand new sense of affections and belief to actually live this way. In this article, we will discuss the external consequences of the Gospel by talking about how God gives us a new soul and a new strength.
A Transformed Soul
One of the most confusing terms in both the Bible and the modern world of today to define is the word “soul”. For some, this word denotes an inner being inside each human that stays bottled up inside of us until we die and then it just floats up to Heaven. For others, it constitutes a hyper-spiritual reality that the human being exists in both the material plane of existence as well as some mystical plane of existence. The particular reason this term is so hard to nail down is that all throughout history, the actual word itself has changed in its definition and in its usage. In other words, what the Ancient Israelites thought of soul, what the Ancient Greeks thought, and what modern philosophers think of soul are all slightly different. In order to see what it looks like to see, hear, and know about our transformed soul, we are going to start in Scripture to see what it really means. In Old Testament Hebrew, the word for “soul” is nephesh. The most common usage of the word nephesh in Scripture is actually used as a synonym for “throat”. Now before getting to confused, let’s just think about the importance of your throat as the pathway for water and food as well as the place where one of the most important arteries in your body exists. In one sense, it’s just the place where you swallow stuff, in another sense it is the very location where your life is sustained. That’s why the Hebrew language often means nephesh as a way to refer to the whole human being. This is what Dr. Tim Mackie says about the word in his aptly named Bible Project video, “People don’t have a nephesh, people are a nephesh,” (Mackie, BibleProject Soul). So for the purpose of this article, when I say soul I want you to think about a more generalized sense of the whole human being in its entirety. So now, what does it mean to have a transformed whole being?
A Transformed Whole Being
To have a soul that fully and completely loves the Lord we must devote our entire physical existence to the Lord. Everything from our first morning breath as we stretch our arms above our head, to our daily steps as we walk up the staircase to our 8am class or our job. A transformed physical being has very little to do with some sort of special change in your physical appearance, although it might. For example, if before you came to know Christ, you dressed in a certain manner that you now view as dishonoring to God, unkind for others, and/or entirely self-centered, then you might decide to make a physical change as a symbol of your new life. Or perhaps you’re like me and you decide that your new life in Christ will have the addition of Bible-inspired tattoos as an external, artistic depiction of your new internal reality. Those examples aside, the idea of a transformed physical existence is not really about your appearance. Rather, it is about how you might choose to live your life now that comes in direct opposition to your former way of living. This is not something you can simply wake up one morning and try hard at, but is something that you cannot possibly do by your own ability. In order to have a transformed physical life, we need something outside of ourselves to provide us with direction on how to live in a new way. This is the work of the Spirit as He changes our affections (internally) it will change our actions (externally). We have to commit ourselves to His work in our lives and surrender ourselves to the Lord every day. As we pray and lay ourselves down, God will be faithful to change, shape, grow, and transform us in our entirety. How can you pray for a new soul? Are you willing to let God actually transform you completely and cause your new life to be lived in new ways?
A Transformed Strength
When I came to faith in late high school, I had a very misguided understanding of strength. Through sports, movies, and misunderstood Bible stories I believed ultimate strength to be the stuff of legend like the story of Samson from Judges 13-16. With this view in mind, having a transformed strength would have essentially led me down a path of my needing to be a Marvel superhero or a character in a video game. This is not the Bible’s perspective on strength. Rather, the word that Jesus is using Mark 12 is something that is less about muscular ability and more about the fullness of the whole being. Where soul is about the physical being and the efforts of man, strength is about our intended design of full life set up by God. The concept of soul is something humans can pinpoint, the concept of strength (Hb. meod) however, is something that we cannot necessarily identify. A transformed strength is a transformed understanding of the entire human life. God designed mankind specifically as His image, yet because of our commitment to sin, humanity became marred and lost sight of how we were designed to live. In the plan of God; however, He knew we would choose sin and not Him, so He had to actually love us first in an indescribably sacrificial way so we would never mistake His commitment to us. God used His strength, the fullness of love and intention for humanity to save His people and transform their lives. Jesus died for you. Jesus’ blood was shed for you. Jesus laid down His strength so that you could finally have strength. To have a transformed strength is to finally have your intended design returned to you in salvation. To have a strength that is being transformed in you daily is to take part in the process of sanctification which is the lifelong process of being made into the image of Jesus. When you are saved you are given the ability to live into your intended human nature and when you commit your whole life to God, you are being transformed every day to kill the old self and bring to new life the intended human life. .
There is much beauty in knowing that the God of the Universe orchestrated an eternal plan of salvation that although grand in size is so intentionally personal. The external consequences of the Gospel are that God changes our whole being, daily. In saving each and every one of us, God intends to make us new on the inside and on the outside. God will change your affections, your beliefs, your hopes, your actions, your life, and your whole human purpose. God does this because it is has always been His plan to save us and transform us so that we might work alongside Him to push back darkness and usher in the kingdom of light. As you learn to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you must understand that God is the primary actor of change in your life, but that you still have responsibility to submit and commit to Him. I pray that God would help you to give your whole self to Him forevermore.