The Liberating Power Of The Gospel.
The Liberating Power Of The Gospel.
“We will proclaim this message of freedom until every man, woman, and child in the Greater Lansing Area has repeated opportunities to hear and respond to Jesus.”
Noel Jesse Heikkinen
Jesus Christ has set us free from the eternal consequences, guilt, and power of sin. No longer enslaved to our own sinful desires, we are set free to walk in step with the truth of the Gospel; we no longer live for ourselves, but for the name of Jesus, for the glory of God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Each of us has qualities about our personality–both positive and negative–that we are largely unaware of. These may even be defining characteristics but they are so much a part of who we are that we don’t see what everyone else sees. Local churches are the same, possessing positive and negative attributes that define their reputations in their communities even as they go largely unnoticed by the leaders and congregants alike.
A couple years ago, I had an “aha” moment because one of Riv’s defining characteristics was pointed out to me by one of our church planting residents. Luckily, this one happened to be positive. After a meeting, he matter-of-factly stated, “you guys don’t just preach freedom in Christ, you actually live free.” My first reaction was, “of course we live free, that’s the Gospel!” But as he and I continued to dialogue about it over his time with us, I began to see how rare that is in churches and with Christians today.
I was equally dense when we began the process of tweaking our Mission Statement awhile back. We were trying to find words to describe what makes Riv unique. Everything I came up with was basic Christian stuff that could and should be said of every church. That’s when one of the other pastors said something to the effect of, “we really should have something in there about freedom.” Fairly quickly, our new Mission Statement took shape and we all looked at it and said, “yes, that is what Riv is really about.”
Riverview exists to proclaim the liberating power of the Gospel as we grow, serve, and go.
Why is this freedom in the Gospel so important? Listen to the Apostle Paul to the church in Galatia:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
You see it? Freedom is what Jesus gives us (that’s the liberating power of the Gospel) and it’s also the result of that gift! Freedom is both the means and the end of the Christian life. We are set free so we will actually live free. Anything else is slavery!
We believe that Jesus Christ has set us free from the eternal consequences, guilt, and power of sin.
Sin is any failure to reflect the image of God in nature, attitude, or action. In other words, it is any time we are unlike God in any way. Sin has severely damaged everything in our world from the environment to relationships. It has dire consequences here on Earth and into eternity. But Jesus, in His sinless life, His death, and His resurrection1, has done away with the eternal consequences for all who believe in Him.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Bible2 is clear that this eternal life is one free from pain, sorrow, and suffering because there will be no more sin. It’s important to note that there are still earthly consequences to sin, those don’t necessarily go away. But they no longer define who we are. That’s why we are able to say that Jesus sets us free from guilt.
Think about the last time you screwed up and I mean royally screwed up. You remember that pit in your stomach? That’s guilt. In the Old Testament there were lots of ways people handled their guilt. One way was to get dressed up in sackcloth and rub some ashes on their face and to wail and mourn. Another was to fast from food for awhile. Another, and the most important, was to bring a sacrifice to the temple to atone for their sins.
In the New Testament, for those who follow Jesus, how do we handle our guilt?
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
You don’t need to handle your guilt because Jesus has already handled it. You don’t have to feel guilty because Jesus has already paid the price, given you His righteousness, and you can live in peace! Now that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t feel bad when we sin. It just means that when we feel bad we can understand that pit in our gut is just the longing of our sinful souls to be caught up in the positional righteousness we already possess in Jesus. He’s not worried about our sins! He has handled them and He is actively letting God the Father know that your sins have been dealt with once for all time.
Because of this reality, we can look at our sins differently. Instead of looking at them as inevitable and believing we will never get our acts together, we can remember that we now have Jesus’ righteousness and the power of sin has been broken. That’s why Paul can write:
…do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9–11
“Such were some of you.”
You used to be sexually immoral, but not anymore. You used to be a thief, but not anymore. You used to be a drunk, but not anymore. You were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus by the Holy Spirit! Sin no longer has power to hold over your head.
Jesus’ friend John said it simply:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
1 John 2:1
What is he saying? Sin has lost its power. You can choose not to sin now, because of Jesus. But you are going to sin anyway. And when you sin, Jesus has got you covered.
No longer enslaved to our own sinful desires, we are set free to walk in step with the truth of the Gospel; we no longer live for ourselves, but for the name of Jesus, for the glory of God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
There is a tense scene that plays itself out in the second chapter of Galatians. Paul recalls an incident where Peter acted hypocritically. What did he do? He was living out the freedom he had in the Gospel to eat what he wanted with whomever he wanted. The problem was some of his friends showed up and he switched tables, being afraid of what they might think. Paul’s response to him in Galatians 2:14 was that his “conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel.” When we really, truly, deep down get the freedom Jesus offers it sets us free to walk in step with the truth of the Gospel! We are free and we live free. We have been set free to live a new life, one that perfectly syncs with the law that Peter’s friends were trying to obey. Jesus said it this way:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.
As followers of Jesus, our lives have been turned inside out. We aren’t worried or obsessed with ourselves, but think of others. This is such a strange way of living that it can only truly be done through a life changed by the Holy Spirit so when people see this in us, it gives us an opportunity to point to Jesus and give God glory.
We will proclaim this message of freedom until every man, woman, and child in the Greater Lansing Area has repeated opportunities to hear and respond to Jesus; we will plant churches throughout the state of Michigan, proclaiming the message of the Gospel from there to our nation and world.
1 For further reading, see Pastor James’ article: Resurrection.
2 For further reading, see Pastor Steve’s article: The Bible.