To understand how good this news is, we need to first understand the truth about ourselves.
Bad News, Good News
The Bible tells us that God created us in his image and designed us to reflect his perfect love and character by living according to his commands (Gen. 1:26-click on citation to see Bible passage). But everyone on the earth has fallen short of that perfection. Instead of living for God, we have lived for ourselves (Rom. 3:23; Isa. 53:6). We have loved and served worldly pleasures more than we have loved and served God. We have repeatedly broken his commands and pursued our own desires and goals. As a result, God’s justice requires that we pay for our sins by being eternally separated from him (Matt. 25:41-43).
But there is good news. God is radically relational and perfectly wise. In his great love and mercy, he sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins by dying on the cross (John 3:16-17). He then raised Jesus back to life to prove his divinity, show that his sacrifice paid our debt in full, and open the way for us to be reconciled to God and enjoy him forever. This mercy overflows in a series of repeated relational blessings.
It starts when Jesus makes us God-aware by sending the Holy Spirit to renew our hearts and minds so that we can know, value, and love God (Acts 26:15-18; Eph. 3:14-19, John 14:15-17; John 14:26; John 3:3; Eph. 4:22-24; Titus 3:5).
As we become aware of God’s love and mercy, we are moved to become God-engaged. His grace enables us to worship him in spirit and truth, to glorify and please him with faithful trust and obedience, and to delight in imitating him (John 4:23-24; Ezek. 36:26-27; John 8:29; John 14:23; Rom. 12:2; Eph. 5:1).
God-awareness also opens the way for true self-awareness. As we come to know the holiness of God, we are able to know ourselves more accurately. We see our sin and realize how empty and miserable we are when we live for ourselves (Job 42:1-6; Isa. 6:1-5; Luke 5:8). This leads us to humble ourselves, turn from our self-absorbed lives, and trust in Jesus as our Savior (Rom. 2:4; Acts 16:29-34).
But God also opens our eyes to see his many blessings: he has forgiven our sins, credited us with Jesus’ perfect record, adopted us as dearly loved children, and entrusted us with gifts and opportunities to know and serve him (1 Cor. 1:30; 1Cor. 6:9-11; Rom. 8:15; 2Cor. 5:17; John 1:12-13; Eph. 2:10).
God-awareness and self-awareness lead to self-engagement. As we are filled with God’s Spirit and united with him through Christ, we are inspired and empowered to break free from the slavery of sin, to develop self-discipline, and to grow in godliness (John 1:12-13; Rom. 6:5-6; Titus 2:11-12; Gal. 5:22-23; 2Pet. 1:3-8). Our old habits do not die easily (Rom. 7:15; Rom. 7:21-25), but God promises to steadily transform us into his likeness (2Cor. 3:18; Phil. 1:6).
As God fills us and gives us the heart and mind of Christ, (1 Cor. 2:16; Gal. 2:20), we are freed from seeing ourselves as the center of the world and enabled to become other-aware. We start to listen, understand, value and care for others! As we develop compassion and understanding, their joys become our joys and their sorrows become our sorrows (Rom. 12:15-16; 1Pet. 3:8).
This growing other-awareness spills over in other-engagement. As the Holy Spirit changes our hearts from being self-absorbed to being God-absorbed, we are freed from the desire to manipulate others to get what we want. Why? Because we see that we already have the best of the best in Christ! We learn to find our greatest joy and fulfillment in loving him and the people he has placed around us (John 13:34). Thus the gospel results in relationships that are characterized by the same compassion, kindness, gentleness, and forgiveness that God has shown to us through Christ (Col. 3:12-17; Eph. 4:30-32).
A Free Gift
God offers all these blessings to each of us as a gift. We don’t have to clean ourselves up to earn them. We must simply admit our need, trust that Jesus’ death and resurrection have saved us, and then follow him as Lord of our lives (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8; Acts 16:30-31; Rom. 10:9-13; 1John 2:6).
But mental assent alone will not change your relationships. Many people who say they believe in Jesus have not truly made him the Lord of their lives. They still live according to their own desires, ways and agendas (Gal. 5:13-15; 1John 2:9-11). As a result, they are not growing into his likeness or relating to others like true disciples of Christ (John 13:34-35).
If you are such a person—or possibly a new believer—pray that God would fill you with his Spirit, transform your mind through the daily study of his Word, and give you a deeper understanding of the gospel and the life-changing power he offers to all who trust in Christ (Eph. 1:16-23).
– Ken Sande
Note: My thanks to Rex Clark, an elder in my church, who alerted me to this way of correlating relational wisdom to the gospel.
- If you’ve not already done so, click on each of the Scripture citations as you read this post so you can read each of the associated Bible passages. Are you surprised to see how biblical it is to describe the blessings of the gospel in terms of relational wisdom?
- Summarize in your own words how the gospel overflows in the form of God-awareness, God-engagement, self-awareness, self-engagement, other-awareness, and other-engagement. How can this understanding change all of your relationships?
- How could you use this presentation of the gospel to explain relational wisdom to a Christian friend?
- How could you use this presentation of relational wisdom to share the gospel with an unchurched friend?
Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.
© 2014 Ken Sande
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