What consumes your thoughts and heart? A world polarized around conflict? Social media posts? Civil rights? Pandemic news? Or perhaps it is more personal: a loss, a diagnosis, a prodigal, unemployment, or a relationship you can’t make work.
Just like us, 1st century Christians lived in a world taut with fear, hate, and uncertainty. Many had to fight for their lives every day as they suffered persecution, torture, and displacement. Yet early Christians were renowned for their dynamic world-changing faith.
What purpose could make such challenging days, worth it? What was their secret to inner strength and peace despite the difficulty of their personal lives or the danger surrounding them? They needed something more powerful than positivity or solidarity to lift the heaviness of their hearts. Early Christians had gospel hope, and that changed everything.
Gospel hope is the good news that God so loved the world that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die to pay the penalty for our sin so that those who trust His death on their behalf can receive forgiveness, cleansing, and a new life with God.
Gospel Hope Transformed Their World
The gospel provided early Christians with Spirit-fueled power to persevere and grace-fueled love to share it with others.
This changed the way they viewed the issues of their day.
Looking through a gospel lens enabled them to understand the root cause of the evil playing out around them — sin — and its destructive effects.
Sin destroys souls, relationships, businesses, and nations. Sin is a terminal disease, and we all have it.Sin destroys souls, relationships, businesses, and nations. Sin is a terminal disease, and we all have it. Click To Tweet
“Sin” literally means, “missing the mark” of God’s perfect standard. It is refusing to submit to God’s authority over our lives, refusing to obey His moral laws, and refusing to love others. The result of this rebellion is “everyone doing what is right in their own eyes,” and eating the fruit of it, which is death. (Proverbs 14:12)
Sin is at the root of a broken world, but gospel hope provides the cure.Sin is at the root of a broken world, but gospel hope provides the cure. Click To Tweet
Like us, early Christians lived in a time of corruption, oppression, and tyranny, but looking through a gospel lens unmasked their true enemies:
- The world: The values and philosophies of the world’s system that are in opposition to God and His laws.
- The flesh: The pull of our fallen nature toward ungodly desires, thoughts, and actions.
- The devil: The enemy of our souls who seeks to destroy God’s people and kingdom.
Recognizing their true enemies led them to invest their energy in the right direction; sharing gospel hope to bring needed change.
Their greatest weapon was their faithful witness of God’s truth, love, and grace.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. II Corinthians 10:4 NIV
Because they knew their purpose, their lives impacted both their culture and eternity. (Hebrews 2:14-15)
Gospel Hope Transformed Their Lives
Just like you and me, early Christians also faced personal crises like heart-break, disease, and death. And gospel hope provided exactly what was needed there, too. Think of the apostle Paul who experienced pain, grief, and riots a’ plenty.
“…I have been in prison…flogged…exposed to death… beaten with rods…pelted with stones…shipwrecked…in danger from bandits, labored and toiled…often gone without sleep…without food…cold and naked…” II Corinthians 11:23-29
Paul intimately knew the wearying effects of struggle and suffering, but let’s look at it through a gospel lens:
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
We are hard-pressed on every side
but not crushed
but not in despair
but not abandoned
but not destroyed
…Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” II Corinthians 4:7-18
Gospel hope is powerful. It got Paul out of bed in the morning. It filled his thoughts and fueled his plans for each day. It framed his days with purpose.
It kept him on mission.
For Paul, any other focus was a distraction, no matter how urgent the cause because his purpose was to share the ultimate solution to all brokenness: gospel hope.
This means to effectively bring it to the world around us we must keep first things, first: knowing God and sharing Him with others.
Any other focus will drain our hope, peace, and ultimately our faith.
So the next time the fear pins you to your pillow and holds you hostage in your home; the next time personal pain or the news consumes you, remembering your purpose will hold you together. Gospel hope will empower you to swing your legs over the side of the bed, strap on those shoes, and get back in the race.
Like those early Christians, gospel hope can pump peace and purpose into our veins no matter the headlines or our present heartache. Because no matter what is going on in your life today you have a higher purpose to get you through it.
How to Know God by Greg Laurie
Sharing Your Faith 101 by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
“Making Your Time with God Really Count” – A simple approach I use to help me connect with God through Bible study and prayer
Featured image by Jon Tyson