In a recent CCFS Newsletter, I indicated that the long term vision of CCFS is to see lives transformed by the power of the gospel. This is the long terms aim after clients have left counseling. In 10, 20 or even 50 years down the road, where will individuals be at that point.
My hope and aim is for people to receive a workable degree of understanding that enables them to be on a pathway of thriving outside the counseling office long after we’ve met. What I want most for my client is to be less struck by the words of my mouth and more struck by the words of God. And through time, through the words of God, through the work of the Spirit, a soul transformation occurs that lasts into eternity.
One day we will die. This is an inevitable reality. In light of this reality, we need anchors to cling to that will support us to the end. The degree to which we can grasp our source of strength and appeal to this strength, transformation of the soul ensues. This is a transformation wrought by the power of the gospel.
OUR SOURCE OF STRENGTH
At some point with virtually all my clients there is a lingering question that gets raised: Who will be with me to the end when all others have failed me and let me down? Inevitably, at some point in counseling, clients rightly discern that they need someone much wiser than me as their counselor. They need something and someone who will actually lift their pain and burden, and to do so perfectly.
As this dynamic grows, I point them to the person who can help them beyond their greatest imaginations – Jesus.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Tweet
What are your current labors? What are the things that are heavy and weighing you down? Where in your life is your need for rest most pronounced?
Are you in a difficult relationship? Is your child not becoming who you envisioned they would be? Is your career not providing consolation you hoped it would. Has some sinful indulgence not only proven vain but are you now undone by guilt and shame that nothing seems to adequately alleviate or remedy?
If you can identify with this, Jesus says, come to me.
AN INVITATION: COME TO ME
This one verse outlines an invitation and a promise. This is perhaps the most important invitation we will ever receive.
But many of us do not readily go to Jesus. What prevents us from coming to Jesus? Maybe you have an idea that Jesus is too pure, clean and holy and that by drawing to him you contaminate him in some way and make him unclean? Or do we see Jesus as someone ready to judge before we can even appeal to the grace he seems to be offering? Maybe you think your pain, your burden, your sin is too much for him.
What if I told you that there is nothing that can separate the love of God for those who are in Christ Jesus? No sin. No burden. No dirty thought. No ugly deed. No unlawful act. Nothing.
There is nothing you can do that will make Jesus second guess his invitation to come to him.Tweet
A PROMISE: I WILL GIVE YOU REST
One of the greatest things we come to learn and enjoy after we’ve come to Jesus in our need is this: Jesus keeps his promises.
When we look at a passage like this, we do well to remember that this invitation isn’t blank. That is, he isn’t inviting us to come to him because he needs someone to commensurate with or so that you are not merely going it alone.
Rather, his invitation is undergirded by a promise; it is the Promise of Promises. It is a promise that if you do come, your life will be completely transformed. Jesus will give you something that nothing on earth can provide and no one can take away: Rest for your soul.
This is a great exchange – you go to Jesus with burdens, pain and sin, and in exchange, He gives you rest that reaches the deepest parts of you.
Perhaps the greatest barrier to your coming to Jesus isn’t that you’re unaccustomed to going to others with your problems (hence counseling). Rather, it is a fundamental unbelief that Jesus has what you need and what you most desperately want. Maybe you generally view Jesus as a nice guy, but you don’t necessarily see him as someone who can act in such a way so as to affect our soul in a meaningful and lasting way.
But the moment we come to believe that Jesus always keep his promises, our lives are never the same. Our burden and pain begin to grow dim in the light of his glory and grace which he freely offers to those who to him in faith.Tweet
What makes this invitation possible and his promise sure is the fact that he accomplished on the cross precisely what was needed in order for anyone of his day and anyone after him to come to him and receive the promised rest.
What did Jesus accomplish? In a sentence: He died, was buried and was raised to life by the power of God (1 Cor 6:14). The Apostle Paul explains it this way:
Because this gospel message is true, there is no problem, hardship, pain, difficulty or amount of suffering that we can endure wherein we are not helped precisely where need to be helped.
The power of the gospel is possible because of the person of the gospel – Jesus.Tweet
Transformation by the power of the gospel is a transformation wrought by the work of Spirit of Christ in us as we come to him according to his invitation.
Transformation by the power of the gospel bears certain kinds of fruit that enable us to know whether transformation is occurring; whether Christ is supplying our needs according to his promise.
TRANSFORMED BY THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL
There are many texts that can help us in our aim of learning what it means to be transformed by the power of the gospel, but I want to reference this text as a starting reference in Paul’s analysis of what the fruit of the Spirit produces as we are transformed by the power of the gospel.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.Galatians 5:22-25 NIV
Here is a visual aid depicting, in very broad strokes, the steps toward being transformed and what are the indicators of this transformation.
When we are transformed by the power of the gospel, we are able to do what seems impossible at first blush: Worship. Worship of Christ is the indicator that our hearts are being transformed by the gospel.
As our behaviors, our thoughts, emotions and motives; particularly in response to suffering, difficulty or any problem in life, grow in further alignment with the fruit of the spirit, we are worshipping God in real time.Tweet
CIRCUMSTANCES MAY NOT CHANGE BUT OUR HEART WILL
The fruit of the Spirit is the evidence of our transformation by the gospel. As we are further and further transformed, we are able to say in our heart and confess with our lips that relief from pain is less desirable than anything that threatens or compromises the coming and being near to Christ. We can quote Hezakiah for ourselves:
Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.Isaiah 38:17 (NIV)
As we come to Christ according to his invitation, we learn to trust his invitation on a daily basis, believing that he is able to provide the rest we need in midst of our distress. This is a new habit that must be developed and nurtured on a daily basis. And over time, God graciously supplies our need through the Spirit by making us new people even in our pain and hardship.
Problems may not go away or even diminish, but transformation in the midst of pain is possible, and it is better. When we cross over to the other side of suffering and receive restoration; when we have tasted anguish of soul by seeing up closely death’s rallying cry, we learn to appeal to God in new ways. On the other side of our suffering, we see God’s gracious hand differently. We see anew his hand as an ever present hand. We see with greater poignancy that we do not actually enter death unless he wills it. And inasmuch as he may graciously spare us for further service to his Kingdom, we are quickened with greater clarity how readily sin and pride lie at various corners of our hearts, deceiving us into believing untrue things of ourselves and of God himself.
Jesus offers a trustworthy invitation undergirded by sure promises which he secured by his own death, burial and resurrection. This is what it is to be transformed by the power of the gospel.Tweet