The Thessalonians were transformed by the Gospel
|Our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. (1Thessalonians1:4-10)|
The action reverts some sixty years behind enemy lines in the aftermath of D Day. A crack commando under Captain John Miller is despatched to rescue Private Ryan. They do just that with great loss of life. With his dying breath, Miller whispers "James earn this. Earn it."
The film ends with the aged Ryan repeating his plaintive plea to his wife, whereupon he salutes the grave of Captain Miller, having lived his entire life under the oppressive burden of seeking to prove himself worthy of the sacrifice paid to secure his freedom.
What a contrast to the power of the gospel of God's free grace enunciated by Paul: our sin transferred to Christ and his perfect righteousness counted in our favour. This is no legal fiction as some suggest. That is to misconstrue the heart of God, the nature of sin and the majestic mystery of the atonement where wrath and mercy meet at the cross.
Rather this is the heart of the gospel, changing our status from a child of sin to a child of God. Deserving judgement, we are declared not guilty. Not simply granted amnesty. Not even placed on probation. We walk away free, whiter than snow.
But there is more. The divine judge does not merely say, 'You are forgiven. You are free to go.' That would leave one a spiritual orphan. With tender compassion and infinite love he turns to the erstwhile accused in the dock, 'I want you to come home with me. I want you to be son, my daughter. I want to share my home, to bear my name, to be heir of all I possess.'
This is the gospel, the good news: God's divine transaction, his great declaration as to what he thinks of us. Not only forgiven. That would be grace. Divine love goes beyond that. Adopted by God, united to Christ, we are joint heirs with Jesus with all his rights and privileges!
Two different hymn writers say it better than I ever can:
I dare not trust my sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus' name
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand!
Upon a life I have not lived
Upon a death I did not die
Another's life, Another's death
I stake my whole eternity.
Alan Cameron, Evangelical Christ-follower, husband to Cecile, father of three twenty somethings