The Powerful Gospel

Knowing brothers, beloved by God, that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but in power and with the Holy Spirit and with full conviction . . . And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the Word in much affliction , with the joy of the Holy Spirit so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  For not only has the Word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.  For they themselves report . . . how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessolonians 1:4-10).

This is the Apostle Paul’s commendation of the Church at Thessolonica.  In these few short lines, we see the power of the gospel to save sinners from idol worship, to grow saints in holiness, and to give the Church a blessed future hope!  All this and more happened to the recipients of this letter from Paul; and it all happened “because our gospel came to you . . . in power.”

We so often forget the very real power of God’s good news that He saves sinners by grace through faith in the perfect life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.  Recently, a member of the church I serve sent me a testimony to how God had been and continued to change her through His Word and Gospel.  Her testimony was a real “pick-me-up.”  I was reminded why I get up and do it all again each day, regardless of how tired I am and how messed up the world (and often the church) is.  I share it below with her permission, and with names changed or just removed.  The names are not the point anyway.  This could be anyone!  The only Name that really matters is the Name of Jesus!

I’m just going to come out and say it. My view on female/male relationships is not the healthiest.  My parents divorced when I was 3. My father was in and out of my life until I was in middle school when I finally told him to stay away. My mom lived with a man until I was in 8thgrade and finally married him after his credit was good.  She divorced him when I was in college.  She remarried the man she left him for and stayed married to him in an unhappy marriage until she died.  I have never been on a real date that didn’t start with or end with sex, save one and I felt awkward and backwards doing it. My mom did not allow me to date until 16 and even then she guarded that door fiercely. She didn’t do it in the name of protecting my heart or leading me to honor God, she did it because she was afraid of the bad things I would do like getting pregnant or getting a disease and ruining my life. When I finally escaped to college I created a long list of sexual partners, not boyfriends, not lovers. I was nothing more than a free prostitute. I married the only man who pursued me even though I knew him to be a compulsive liar and unable to provide for a family. He was little more than a stalker but wanted more from me than sex. Before we married I got pregnant and had an abortion. Initially I didn’t intend to do that, but my mother pushed hard for it.  Falling back on my feminist upbringing and not the Holy Spirit who was begging me not to do it, I did it. Later I married him so we could get student housing at IU and kept it secret for at least 6 months. I divorced him after our first child was born because one night he threw a baby swing and stroller at her and me. Physical violence was a normal part of our relationship and not one sided. I left him for his best friend who I lived with for 3 years before we married.  Not once did I consider what God wanted for me in this area of my life until I met my current husband. By the grace of God only, I am now married to a loving, honorable, godly man who adopted my daughter and who I have 2 other children with.   I struggle daily with sin in this area of my life and struggle desperately to be a godly wife to him. I fall short often, but my motivation to keep trying is to honor God and that shift in paradigm has changed my life and how I do relationships.

Some might wonder how I can come clean with this kind of confession.  Well first, although I feel sorry for my actions, I don’t feel guilt. I am a new person in Christ. I am freed from guilt. It has taken a long time to get to that place. I also don’t think my story is all that different from others and I want other women to know Christ redeems the worst sinners. I am from a broken generation—a generation that has no idea how to have intimate relationships. How in the world are we to teach our children how to have relationships?

This precious sister then went on to show how God was teaching and guiding her to raise and teach her own children a new and better way – the way of Christ.  By God’s grace in the Gospel, the generational cycle of spiritual poverty will be broken!  Oh dear friends, Jesus saves!  Say it out loud today – “Jesus saves!”  Tell a lost co-worker today – “Jesus saves!”  Speak the words to the hurting, the broken, the lost, the dying, the desperate, the prideful, the greedy – “Jesus saves!”  

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

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