The second day of Together for the Gospel proved to be for me an indicting exposure of the ways in which I functionally disbelieve the power of the gospel in everyday life. One of the sessions God used to accomplish this in my heart was given by Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman. The title of his message: Will Your Gospel Transform a Terrorist?
Taking 1 Timothy 1:12-17 as his text, Thabiti demonstrated how the Apostle Paul, before his encounter with Christ on the Damascus road, was essentially a terrorist. Ravaging the church, giving approval to the stoning of Stephen, uttering threats, and dragging Christians into jail, Paul was a violent enemy of Christians. Yet, in Acts 9, Christ radically saves him and sets him on a path of life-devoting faithfulness in his service. Thabiti confronted us with the reality that the reason we don’t bring the gospel to the people we consider to be the worst of sinners is because we don’t believe the gospel has the power to transform them.
To help us evaluate ourselves and move toward change, Thabiti gave us a list of nine things that would be true if we believed the gospel can transform a terrorist:
- We would place ourselves in close proximity to the worst of sinners.
- We would share the gospel slowly and clearly – our job is to release the gospel not try to rehabilitate it.
- We would redirect our fear from man to God – we would be more concerned with being faithful than being fruitful.
- We (preachers) would endeavor to preach the gospel in every sermon.
- We would be careful with new converts – many conversions are more like sunrises than Damascus road experiences.
- We would study the gospel in deeper and more varied ways – becoming life-long students of the gospel.
- We would preach in order to open eyes, not just transfer information.
- We would ask, “Is my confidence in myself or in the gospel?”
- We would preach so that people’s faith is in the power of the gospel and not in the power of men.