The Internal Consequences of the Gospel
This is part one of a three-part series called “The Consequences of the Gospel”
A few months after my twelfth birthday, my dad tragically passed away from a heart attack. In the blink of an eye, my life was truly altered. At this point in my life, I was not a Christian and had only heard of Jesus because I lived in a town steeped in cultural Christianity. A month later, I was introduced to Jesus by a skinny-jean-wearing, metal-music-loving, skater kid. It took a few years, but one Sunday morning the Lord opened my ears to hear Him, my eyes to see Him, and my heart to fall deeply in love with Him. I had heard the Gospel for the first time and in a blink of an eye, my life was altered forever. As I grew in my knowledge and love for God, a lot of new realities began to sink in: I saw my desperate need for a Savior, I saw my need fulfilled in Jesus, I saw His sacrifice on the cross my for my sin, and I saw the gift of the Spirit to give me new life. I could sense my old self vanishing as my hopes and desires began to change. I could feel the new blood, the blood of Christ, coursing through my veins. It seemed that I truly was becoming a new creation. There were consequences that came from being brought out of the kingdom of the world and being brought into the family of God. There were consequences to this 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, saints in to sinners. The Gospel transforms us in three primary ways: internally, externally, and spiritually. In this article, we will discuss the first of those three transformations: internal. As we begin, we need to see that in God transforming us through the Gospel, He is actually calling us into a dramatic new way of living
The Call of Transformation
As believers of Christ’s finished work on the cross, we take part in an interesting spiritual dichotomy. We are simultaneously transformed already and yet still being transformed every day. We are a whole new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:17), yet we will not come into our fullness of creation in this lifetime (2 Cor 3:18). We are called to know and understand this dichotomy, to know and understand who we really are. To truly understand our new identity, we must learn the identity of our creating and sustaining Father. In knowing God, we see that He places a unique call on our lives. This call is as old as Moses (Deut 6:4-9), but as true today as all of the words in God’s inspired Bible. The call of new living for the transformed child of God is to “…love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” (Mk. 12:30). This call is given not just to Christians, but to all people created in God’s image (all of humanity; Gen 1:27). That being said, when Jesus spoke those words He knew that nobody would be able to actually do love like this because nobody actually had the power to fully love anything outside of themselves. So, Jesus went to the cross in the ultimate form of heart, soul, mind, and strength love and He did so on behalf of all humanity. Christ willingly died for selfish sinners so they could be forgiven of their wrongs against God and in so doing He transformed them through a new relationship to God. In this relationship we are seen as justified, regenerate, sanctified, and Spirit-indwelled children of God. For the believer reading this today, this was that moment when God drew you near, opened your eyes, caused you to see Him clearly, and then saved you. This was the transformation that you always desired yet could not accomplish on your own. It all began when God gave you a new heart.
A Transformed Life
In a physical/biological sense, the heart is the life source of the blood in the body. With each doublepump of the heart, blood is moved from head to toe which allows muscles to operate, nerves to function, and the body to live. In light of that, if you were given a new heart, then it would pump out a new blood the likes of which your body has never known. As the new heart pumps blood all throughout the body, there is an overwhelming sense that going back to the old blood, the old ways of living, would not only be dissatisfying, but potentially quite dangerous. This is reminiscent of the parable in Mark 2 when Jesus says that “no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins – and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins,” (Mark 2:22). Knowing that new life exists right before our eyes yet turning back to dead living is both unwise and destructive. It sounds silly, but we do this when we choose to participate in things that we know are sinful, when we fall back on old patterns and habits, when we minimize our deceitful actions, when we gossip and start rumors. To live with a new heart, with new blood is to commit ourselves to this new life knowing that it may not be easy to resist the old life, but that it is guaranteed to be better. I pray that you might see the newness of life that God, through Christ, has caused in you to know fully that God is doing active work in your life to propel and compel you to Him.
A Transformed Affection
In a spiritual sense, a new heart also causes new affections to arise. With our old heart, we used to “fall in love” with all sorts of things. For a time we may have fallen in love with anything from sports to hobbies, from people to pornography, from partying to illicit substances, from music to video games, from fashions and trends to lingo and jargon. The reality is that our version of “love” wasn’t love at all, but actually the shifting winds of hopes and desires. At times, we knowingly and unknowingly believe that things can bring us that special type of love that we have always longed for. Yet, within our old heart is the living proof of our maligned ideas of love, within our old hearts, sin lived rent free. The old heart is where sin originates in all of us (Gen 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Mk 7:20-23). The truth for all of us is that we need something new to be placed inside us that can serve as a new soil for a new type of life to take root. Thankfully, when the great heart surgeon gives us that heart transplant, He rips out the dead tree, the rotting roots, and the wicked fruit and gives us a new seedling in its place. In one sense, He is giving us a new heart, in another sense He is planting watering, pruning, and tending to the new tree of life within us. With patience, prayer, and praise, our affections will be re-ordered, our desires are re-wired, our hopes are re-oriented, and our love is re-centered. Upon salvation, the great heart surgeon transplants within us a brand new heart that fills our whole body with new blood to transform us completely into a new being. Let our affections be stirred by the character and quality of God and let those stirred affections help us to be new every single day. I pray that we would have the understanding of Peter in regards to this great heart-transformation, “so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions, but for the will of God,” (1 Pt 4:2).
A Transformed Mind
Another element of internal transformation is the way the Lord but the Spirit renews our mind. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,” (Rom 12:2a). If we are to love the Lord with all of our mind, then we must begin by knowing that we cannot accomplish this great calling by using the old mind. The foundational neurological wiring of our mind apart from Christ is profoundly self-centered. I am not making an aggressive statement of selfishness (although true in all of us) but rather stating that there is a self-saving, survival instinct in all of us that sometimes creeps up into non-survival situations. This self-preservation instinct may cause us to say something we regret as we focus solely on our own opinions and predilections. It might cause us to pursue our passions and dreams with no regard for what God has for us. It may even cause us to think or believe something about God that isn’t actually true of Him because of the way it fits our own viewpoints and philosophies. We need a renewed mind because it transforms our neurological pathways and rewires them into healthy routes of Christ-centric and others-focused thinking and believing. A renewed mind operates under the counter cultural assumption that while self-focus can be important, it should not be the default mode of using our mind. To love the Lord with all of our mind is to think about Him correctly, believe in Him relentlessly, and trust Him completely. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can now use our mind to its fullest capacity and actually pursue Him intellectually. We don’t just take other people’s thoughts and import them into ourselves, we use the brain He has given us to test every idea and thought we hear. We can now think critically about how the timely social issues of the day intersect with the timeless truths of Scripture. With a renewed mind we can do everything from dealing with emotions in a healthy way all the way to writing theologically dense articles to grow our intellect. Having a mind that loves God all the way is a great gift and one that we should cherish as it goes us deeper and wider into our love for Him. I pray that as God transforms your internal nature, your affections, and your mind, that you would pray for God to continually renew your thoughts, motivations, and beliefs.
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 consequence of the Gospel is that God changes our whole being, daily. In saving each and every one of us, God doesn’t intend to just place a saving mark on us and then leave us alone until judgment day. He isn’t simply bringing us onto an elite team or club and then letting us do whatever we want. Rather, in saving us, God is holding us in His arms and helping us to fight off the kingdom of darkness. The internal consequences of this Gospel cause our very DNA to be altered as we receive our new heart and new blood. He grows our heart by transforming our affections to want what He wants and He re-wires our mind by renewing it so we would use it to better know and love Him. That being said, while God transforms us internally, He also transforms us externally and spiritually to love Him more.
Read Part 2 of 3 “The External Consequences of the Gospel” in the Gospel Consequences series.