Maybe it was my particular route. I was traveling overseas, and the miles leading to the international border were littered with trash. The roadside was grimy, dirty and depressing. The buildings were unkempt and the streets were filthy. But as soon as I crossed the checkpoint, I noticed a difference.
On the other side of the border, the landscape was sparkling and well-kept, with scenic views in all directions. The homes were pristine. Even the weather seemed better. I could see that my “new country” was flourishing, and my spirits soared.
That’s the same difference we see when we give our lives to Christ. As we receive Him as Savior at Checkpoint Calvary, we cross the border into a new life. The Bible says we escape the dominion of darkness and become citizens of His Kingdom (Colossians 1:13).
We can tell the difference at once. Evangelist D.L. Moody once said, “I remember the morning on which I came out of my room after I had first trusted Christ. I thought the old sun shone a good deal brighter than it ever had before—I thought it was just smiling upon me.”
These are not superficial differences. The Gospel doesn’t merely help us turn over a new leaf. We’re born again; we become new people. The Gospel is God’s power in concentrated form, and it changes us, imparting Christ’s own nature. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). There’s a New Testament phrase that sums this up: But now …
- “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2: 13).
- “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Romans 6:22).
- “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8).
- “Once you were alienated from God. … But now He has reconciled you” (Colossians 1:21-22).
- “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).
- “I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25).
When we experience the power of the Gospel, we become But now people. We were lost, confused, hell-bound, alienated from God, groping for answers when we didn’t even know the questions. But now we are children of God, members of the body of Christ, citizens of Heaven with one eye peeled to the Eastern sky for His return. When the cross of Christ enters our lives, it comes with But now differences. Our guilt is washed away.
We turn from old haunts and habits and establish new values. With God’s help, we clean up our lives and begin to worship Him. We go to church, read our Bible and learn to pray and to share our faith.
A “But Now” Joy
For me, one of the biggest differences of the power of the Gospel has been in my daily attitude. I’m prone to melancholy and anxiety, and without the Lord I’d face a losing battle with despondency. But biblical promises are like the crook of the Shepherd’s staff, reaching out, snagging me and pulling me onto the sunny side of the path. This is a constant But now blessing.
One night, for example, I was pacing around and trying to ward off a panic attack when I picked up my Bible and opened to 1 Peter 5:7, a verse I’d previously memorized. I saw a word I hadn’t noticed before—all: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
That little word all made the promise all-inclusive. No problem was too small for His notice and none too large for His power. Instantly, a tide of relief spread through my mind and lifted my spirits.
That’s not an isolated case. Day by day our emotions are buoyed by the Lord’s presence and promises, and it makes a difference in our attitudes. The Gospel remolds our personalities from the inside out. The Holy Spirit develops the psychology of Christ in us—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the byproducts of the Spirit’s working in us as He conforms us to the image of Christ (Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Corinthians 3:18). What a difference it makes in our relationships at home, work and school; in our ability to care for others; and in our morale as we obey the command to “rejoice always.”
A “But Now” Job
The power of the Gospel also gives us a new cause in life. As 2 Corinthians 5:14 says, “The love of Christ compels us.” We realize we have work to do. Once we lived worthlessly, but now we’re busy with eternal tasks. We’re obedient to our heavenly calling of sharing Jesus.
If you find it daunting to witness to others, remember that it’s a team effort. You don’t have to throw, catch, run, tackle, punt and score all by yourself. When someone comes to Christ, it’s through a chain of witnesses that often stretches back many years. We can all be links in the chain of someone’s story, though we may not know about it until Heaven.
Recently, a pastor in Ohio told me of the many people responsible for his conversion. Aaron had grown up in a broken home with little Christian influence, though sometimes he was taken to Sunday school or vacation Bible school. Occasionally, he attended church with his grandmother, a godly woman who prayed for him. When bored, he watched preachers on television.
When he was a teenager, Aaron’s life crumbled into self-destructive habits, and he found himself in jail, where a pastor visited him. Nothing seemed to help, and upon release he resumed his downward spiral. One night when he was 21 and partying with a cousin, Aaron said abruptly, “I’m tired of living like this. Tomorrow I’m going to give my life to the Lord.”
The next morning he got up and dressed, never thinking of his vow the previous night. As he descended the steps, he stopped in his tracks. He remembered his words and realized it was now or never. He walked down the steps, across the street, and knocked on the door of a Christian he knew. That man had the joy of helping Aaron pray to receive Christ as Savior.
Think of the various ways—over many years—in which Aaron was exposed to the Gospel: His grandmother prayed for him; the children’s workers occasionally taught him at church; the preachers on television proclaimed the Gospel to him; the pastor visited him in jail; and, finally, a neighbor reaped the harvest.
We must not get discouraged when we don’t see immediate results from our work for Christ. The Gospel is powerful, and it does work even when we don’t see it. Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6, NKJV). The whole operation doesn’t rest on you or me, though we have a vital part to play.
Our job is to share our faith, planting Gospel seed, inviting others to church, sharing literature, supporting ministries, giving out Bibles, working with children, or doing whatever the Lord leads day by day. Once we had no eternal purpose, but now we’re part of God’s everlasting work. And our labor in the Lord is not in vain.
What a difference it makes when we cross the border at Calvary. Our attitudes are altered and our life-agenda is re-made. We have a new joy and a new job. We discover truths to believe, promises to claim, commands to obey, disciplines to guard us, and a Friend we never knew. All that and Heaven, too. The personal impact of the power of the Gospel is nothing less than amazing grace: “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”
Robert J. Morgan is an author and pastor of The Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tenn., where he has served for 30 years.