A radical change began in my life in January 1983. That evening, I became aware of my sinful nature and need of a Savior, and I entered into a personal relationship with Jesus. The transformation that began in me has continued to this day and will until the day I pass into eternity. Yet most people do not like change. In fact, Mark Twain said, “The only people who like change are wet babies.” When we let God into our hearts, however, life change is a natural response to the love and grace we have received. I have found that God works differently in each of us and our stories of gospel transformation are unique—but for everyone, the foundation of gospel transformation is the decision to trust and treasure Jesus as our only hope to rescue us from our separation from God. In our ROOTS Track booklet at church it says, “When we behold God and fully believe the truth about who he is, what he has done and our new identity in Christ, it transforms every area of our life.” I hope that my story is an encouragement to you as you consider or begin a life of gospel transformation.
Paul David Tripp in his book New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional says, “If you are God’s child, the gospel isn’t an aspect of your life, it is your life; that is, it is the window through which you look at everything.” I was amazed and thankful for this new window to view every aspect of my life. However, it was also a little scary at first—after 32 years of life I now had a new paradigm to view faith, marriage, parenting, work, finances, recreation, success and truly every part of my life. I was a school principal at that time and my job responsibilities did not change, but to me I had a new boss.
In Colossians 3:22-24 it says:
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
To be honest, I had never thought of doing my work as if I was working for the Lord. I had always viewed myself as working for a school district, kids, parents, my family, my future, my reputation and success. Over the next 23 years of my school career I changed districts or buildings four times, and every time I spent time in prayer before making any of those changes. Prior to that gospel transformation I simply did whatever I thought I should do, without considering what God desired.
God not only changed my perspective, He also brought about transformation in every aspect of my life. In the introduction to the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible it says, “His love empowers the transformation of our lives from the inside out.” This was especially true when it came to spending time in God’s Word. During the first 32 years of my life, I never just sat down to read the Bible on my own. Through His love and amazing grace, I suddenly fell in love with His Word—a place where I could learn more about God and the plans He had for my life. During the first four years of my relationship with Jesus I read the Bible cover-to-cover three times. It was not out of duty or guilt, but rather because I was hungry for His Word and a chance to better understand His love, grace and forgiveness. I began to read Christian books, listen to Christian radio and television programming, and regularly attend Bible studies, including a men’s prayer group that met weekly for 17 years at 6:15 on Saturday mornings. Believe me, getting up at 5:45 a.m. on a Saturday was a major inside-out change that only happened because of His love.
I could also immediately see how gospel transformation impacted my life by looking at my day planner, my checkbook and my priorities. Certain times were now marked out first in my planner such as Sunday services, Bible Studies, prayer meetings and date nights with my wife and children. Our giving to the work of God changed from somewhat nominal to a “cheerful tithe and offering.” Without the Holy Spirit drawing me to the Lord, I can promise that never would have happened. God was really changing my heart to treasure what He treasured. I was also suddenly concerned about the salvation of family, friends and others that the Lord brought into my life. I found myself wanting to share the Good News of Jesus with everyone. I talked to, prayed with, sent lengthy letters and shared books and articles with family and friends because I desperately wanted them to know the love of my amazing Savior.
The transformation that occurred in me was so powerful because it was motivated by reciprocal love. I was filled with gratitude because of all that Jesus had done for others and me on the cross. The ESV Gospel Transformation Bible says, “When we love him rightly, we delight to walk with him in every dimension of our lives. Only the grace of God ultimately displayed in the provision of Christ for sinners can stimulate such loving obedience.” We are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30), and when we do life change follows.
The ESV Gospel Transformation Bible puts it another way:
“If we only or primarily obey God to avoid consequences and/or to gain rewards, then selfish love motivates us more than love for God. Relishing the gracious provision God has made for us despite our sin and inability stimulates true humility, gratitude, sacrifice, obedience and praise. We live to honor God in response to the love he has shown us, more than living for the sake of earthly priorities. Heaven’s priorities become our own because expressing love for the One who first loved us becomes our greatest delight and deepest satisfaction.”
A concern I have, which is shared by Tripp in his book, New Morning Mercies, is that some people make the mistake of looking at gospel transformation as simply an “entrance” and “exit” thing—coming to a relationship with Jesus is the entrance and the exit is spending eternity with Jesus in heaven. Tripp says, “They don’t understand the radical, mind-changing, and life-altering ‘nowism’ of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They don’t grasp that when they came to Christ, it wasn’t just their past and future that changed; no everything in their lives right here, right now changed.”
When we realize how the gospel changes everything and how much God desires to transform our daily lives, we will look to His Word for wisdom and direction in everything we do. Where do you turn for wisdom and direction? If you don’t yet turn to God, my prayer is that you would earnestly seek Him and realize your need for a Savior—the one who loved you so much He sacrificed His life to cover your sins. He is not only interested in saving you and giving you the promise of eternity, but he desires to radically impact every aspect of your life on the road to heaven. Over 36 years later, saying yes to God is still the best decision I’ve ever made.