Changing the World One Heart at a Time

The gospel has the power to change individual hearts. By changing individual hearts, the gospel can create lasting change in this world.

Changing the World One Heart at a Time

June 11, 2020

I love inspirational stories. Especially those tied to the gospel. Because by changing the hearts of individuals, the gospel powerfully changes the world.

The lives of both Peter and Paul testify to the transformative power of the gospel. Two brothers, James and John, also experienced gospel-inspired heart changes.

In Mark’s list of the twelve disciples, we learn Jesus gave these two apostles the nickname, Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). Although the passage does not explain why they received this name, we do have some clues.

As the time for His crucifixion drew near, Jesus began His journey to Jerusalem. Due to their intense hatred of Jews, the Samaritans in a nearby village denied Him lodging. When James and John heard of this, they desired vengeance:

When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village. (Luke 9:54-56 NIV)

Such a harsh reaction seems out of place for a disciple of Jesus. But an event in Jewish history most likely inspired the brothers’ request. 

In the Old Testament, the King of Samaria defied the prophet Elijah and sent groups of soldiers to seize him. Elijah responded by calling for fire which consumed two groups of soldiers and their captains (2 Kings 1:1-12). James and John must have felt the Samaritans of this village deserved the same punishment.

In response, Jesus rebuked James and John for their lack of love. Instead of the Old Testament law of “an eye for an eye”, Jesus called His disciples to love their enemies (Matthew 5:38-45). The two brothers still did not understand Jesus’ ministry of love. 

As Jesus continued to press on toward the cross, these two brothers made a request which once again highlighted their lack of love for others:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10: 35-37 NIV)

James and John envisioned an earthly Kingdom with Jesus as its leader. As loyal followers, they believed they earned the right to special honors, specifically to sit at His right and left. They still operated under a worldly view of authority where followers serve leaders.

Jesus responded by correcting their misunderstanding. Not only did He create a Spiritual Kingdom, Jesus redefined greatness. Those who aspire to be great in His Kingdom must become servants (Mark 10:41-45).

These snapshots paint a picture of zealous, fiery men who had a limited understanding of the gospel of love. Many point to these examples as rationale for their nickname. But I think Jesus had another reason. Like Peter’s nickname (the rock), their nickname may have identified who they would become after the gospel changed their hearts.

The Greek word for thunder is bronté. The crowd following Jesus used the same word to describe the voice they heard from heaven (John 12:29). I can’t help but wonder if their nickname described the kind of voice they would have for Jesus as missionaries. They would retain their zeal, but it would be tempered with love.

Both brothers preached fearlessly for the gospel. As James preached in Jerusalem, he attracted the attention of Herod and became the first apostle to die for the cross (Acts 12:1-2).

Although John suffered persecution for his faith, most scholars believe he died of natural causes as an old man. Over time, his ministry became characterized by loving service. Only his gospel describes  the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus (John 13:1-5). Of all the disciples, Jesus chose John to care for His mother after His death (John 19:26-27). John’s New Testament letters remind us of Jesus’ love for us and call us to love others in the same way (1 John 3:16-18).

The zealous man who once called for the fiery punishment of others became known as the “Apostle of Love”.

As the gospel changed their hearts, James and John changed the world. The impact of their teaching continues to be felt today.

Lasting change begins by changing hearts.

As I continue down this road less traveled, I pray to advocate for lasting change by sharing the gospel with others. Wherever the road leads us, I pray we will all witness the power of the gospel to change the world.

Changing the World One Heart at a Time

June 11, 2020

The gospel has the power to change individual hearts. By changing individual hearts, the gospel can create lasting change in this world.

I love inspirational stories. Especially those tied to the gospel. Because by changing the hearts of individuals, the gospel powerfully changes the world.

The lives of both Peter and Paul testify to the transformative power of the gospel. Two brothers, James and John, also experienced gospel-inspired heart changes.

In Mark’s list of the twelve disciples, we learn Jesus gave these two apostles the nickname, Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). Although the passage does not explain why they received this name, we do have some clues.

As the time for His crucifixion drew near, Jesus began His journey to Jerusalem. Due to their intense hatred of Jews, the Samaritans in a nearby village denied Him lodging. When James and John heard of this, they desired vengeance:

When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village. (Luke 9:54-56 NIV)

Such a harsh reaction seems out of place for a disciple of Jesus. But an event in Jewish history most likely inspired the brothers’ request. 

In the Old Testament, the King of Samaria defied the prophet Elijah and sent groups of soldiers to seize him. Elijah responded by calling for fire which consumed two groups of soldiers and their captains (2 Kings 1:1-12). James and John must have felt the Samaritans of this village deserved the same punishment.

In response, Jesus rebuked James and John for their lack of love. Instead of the Old Testament law of “an eye for an eye”, Jesus called His disciples to love their enemies (Matthew 5:38-45). The two brothers still did not understand Jesus’ ministry of love. 

As Jesus continued to press on toward the cross, these two brothers made a request which once again highlighted their lack of love for others:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10: 35-37 NIV)

James and John envisioned an earthly Kingdom with Jesus as its leader. As loyal followers, they believed they earned the right to special honors, specifically to sit at His right and left. They still operated under a worldly view of authority where followers serve leaders.

Jesus responded by correcting their misunderstanding. Not only did He create a Spiritual Kingdom, Jesus redefined greatness. Those who aspire to be great in His Kingdom must become servants (Mark 10:41-45).

These snapshots paint a picture of zealous, fiery men who had a limited understanding of the gospel of love. Many point to these examples as rationale for their nickname. But I think Jesus had another reason. Like Peter’s nickname (the rock), their nickname may have identified who they would become after the gospel changed their hearts.

The Greek word for thunder is bronté. The crowd following Jesus used the same word to describe the voice they heard from heaven (John 12:29). I can’t help but wonder if their nickname described the kind of voice they would have for Jesus as missionaries. They would retain their zeal, but it would be tempered with love.

Both brothers preached fearlessly for the gospel. As James preached in Jerusalem, he attracted the attention of Herod and became the first apostle to die for the cross (Acts 12:1-2).

Although John suffered persecution for his faith, most scholars believe he died of natural causes as an old man. Over time, his ministry became characterized by loving service. Only his gospel describes  the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus (John 13:1-5). Of all the disciples, Jesus chose John to care for His mother after His death (John 19:26-27). John’s New Testament letters remind us of Jesus’ love for us and call us to love others in the same way (1 John 3:16-18).

The zealous man who once called for the fiery punishment of others became known as the “Apostle of Love”.

As the gospel changed their hearts, James and John changed the world. The impact of their teaching continues to be felt today.

Lasting change begins by changing hearts.

As I continue down this road less traveled, I pray to advocate for lasting change by sharing the gospel with others. Wherever the road leads us, I pray we will all witness the power of the gospel to change the world.

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