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Pastor Zach Terry is driven by a desire help people achieve their maximum life through Jesus Christ. He is known for his ability to teach complex ideas in simple terms with practical implications for daily life.

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary selected him as the recipient of the Westminster John Knox Press Award for excellence in preaching and teaching the Christian scriptures. In 2016 he was honored as one of the Connect Faith’s, “Agents of Change“.


Mar 5, 2018

What causes a person to change radically and deeply from the very core of their being? And, what causes that change to last?

We all have theories, maybe they aren’t developed or written out, but they are there non-the-less. If you want to know what your personal theory of change is - look at: 


  • How you Parent 
  • How you Criticize 

Different THEORIES exist concerning how people change:

  • Shame - That is guilt and fear motivates change. This parent tends to shame their child into change. Putting them in an emotional if not literal, “time out”. 
  • Reward - That is, if I do this I will get a reward. This person tries to obey God because of a cost benefit analysis. God has to bless me. The fact is, there are blessings to obedience. But be careful with this. It has a tendency to cause you to make God a genie in the bottle that is there to serve your true IDOL. 
  • Pride - You are better than that. You come from a better family, you were raised better. Do you parent that way? 
  • Mysticism - That is somehow God is going to zap you. The problem with Mysticism is that I am not at all responsible. If God wants to change me, he must zap me. You can hear this in prayers. 


Those are NOT the primary means that God uses to change us. But rather - God changes us through the Gospel. 


Now when I say the Gospel what comes to mind? Several years ago Dr. Grey Allison asked the students of Mid-America Seminary that question and he got a variety of answers. Some said it was basically the bible, others it was a style of music. But Dr. Grey showed them how the essence of the Gospel is found in

TEXT: 1 Corinthians 15:1–4 (ESV)

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,


That is what we would call the MICRO or SPECIFIC gospel. The MACRO Gospel refers to God’s plan to set right all that went wrong in Eden and it does cover the whole story of God throughout human history. But it’s climactic focus is still the cross. 


So in what way does God change people through the Gospel? Some would say - the Gospel communicates those elementary aspects of Christianity. It’s the front door of faith. It’s the abc’s of christianity. But what I want this church to know is that IT IS SO MUCH MORE. The Gospel is the front door, the living room, the kitchen, the roof and the floor. 


Colossians 2:6 (ESV)

6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,


So what you will notice is that the NT writers constantly point back to the Gospel as a source of direction and motivation or power for change. 


NOW I could give you tons of examples but let me show you three that are of supreme importance. Notice how the Apostles dealt with three of life’s most difficult issues: Marriage, Money and Sex. 


EXAMPLE: Marriage and GOSPEL

Ephesians 5:25–27 (ESV)

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,


Do you see it - look at the Gospel and draw implications for how to treat your wife.


Paul didn’t use guilt or fear to motivate… look at these pitiful people.
2 Corinthians 9:15 (ESV)

15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!



In Corinth sexual immorality was rampant. It was the most normal thing in the world for them to consort with prostitutes. How will Paul motivate them to stop? 

1 Corinthians 6:13–15 (ESV)

13 …The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!

DO you see how the essence of the Gospel is the way of Change?

That is what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)

18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.


OK, but HOW does it happen? Three ways - 

  1. The Gospel is an Effective Counterweight 

You see this all throughout the scriptures - 

Isaiah was a proud, accomplished man - when he sees God, he falls down and trembles. 

Jeremiah was a fearful man - when he sees God, God tells him stop trembling.

James 1:9–10 (ESV)

9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.


NOTE: Both are brothers, one tends toward pity,  the other pride. Notice how each one uses the Gospel differently. 


  • The poor/pitiful - focuses on the aspect of the Gospel that says, “although you are poor in this world, the King of Glory died for you and he gives you a home in Heaven”


  • The rich/proud - focus on the fact that you were so sinful that the Son of God had to die for you to save you, despite your wealth


Do you see how it works? The Gospel counters the excesses of your heart. 


To the PROUD - the Gospel says, “remember what your sin required”

Get rid of: Well, I’m from a good family, I went to a good school, I worked hard, I studied, look at all I accomplished. 


To the PITIFUL - the Gospel says, “remember that Christ loved you so deeply, so wonderfully, that he was willing to suffer Hell for you”. 


Get rid of: Self pity, inferiority complex. 


Do you see - the Gospel produces BOLD HUMILITY. 


If you understand the Gospel

  • It destroys pride because I was so sinful Jesus had to do this for me
  • But it also destroys pity - because he was willing to do this for me. 




Not only does the Gospel is an Effective Counterweight…

  1. The Gospel is a Healthy Motivation 


ILLUSTRATION: Dick Lucas noticed how Jesus used the Gospel as Healthy Motivation in the sermon on the Mount.

If you read it at face value it seems to be very disjointed, all over the place. That’s not uncommon with Hebrew sermons. The key to interpretation is the final verses. When you come to the end of the sermon the conclusion is very clear - There are two roads, two paths, two trees, so there are two ways. So Jesus says, “In summery you can live like this or like this”. 


SO, “if the conclusion of the sermon is that there are two ways, then you will find the two ways scattered throughout the sermon” 


But he noticed that Jesus wasn’t contrasting: 

  • Those who pray, with those who don’t pray. 
  • Those who give, with those who don’t give. 

But rather - both pray, both give… The difference is what Motivated them to pray or give? One is a business transaction, the other is because of who you know God to be.


If you only obey because it is a sensible business transaction, life will inevitably bring you into a temptation that causes you to compromise to the very core. The enemy will make it seem as those the stakes are too high. 


BUT, if your obedience comes from being convinced to your core of the truth of the Gospel - even death itself won’t tempt you to compromise. Why? Jesus was raised and so will I be raised. 


If God loves me enough that he would not keep Jesus from me, why would he keep anything good thing that I need out of my life. 


See how that effects HOW you pray? I can assume God will answer my prayer and if He doesn’t either - it isn’t good for me, or he has something better. But it’s not that he doesn’t love me that’s settled. 


Not only does the Gospel is an Effective Counterweight…

The Gospel is a healthy motivation… 

  1. The Gospel is a More Powerful Affection


Psychologists have discovered that people never really break bad habits, they can only replace them. In order for you to BREAK a current habit, you need a WEIGHTIER replacement, a more glorious replacement. The Gospel is the only thing that Weighty.

Romans 2:4 tells us that the kindness of God is meant to lead us to repent or change… how does that work? 


ILLUSTRATION: Thomas Chalmers, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection” 


It is seldom that any of our bad habits disappear by a mere process of natural extinction. At least, it is very seldom that this is done through reasoning…or by the force of mental determination. But what cannot be destroyed may be dispossessed. One taste may be made to give way to another.


So a young man that idolize pleasure may cease from seeking it because he discovers that it drains him of his wealth. So his love for wealth drives out the idol of pleasure. 


Perhaps then his love of money is driven out by his worship of ideology or politics. He is willing to give up his money for his new Idol influence and superiority. 


This is the way the heart operates. The old IDOL must be conquered by the new one. 


When the Gospel is believed it becomes the weightiest of all potential realities. 


By the way, one of the best ways you can be certain that you are saved is when God moves from the realm of concept to reality. Has that happened for you? Because if it has - all these other things begin to shake. 


The more you think on who God is and what he has done through the Gospel the more old idols are expelled. That’s how change happens. 


ILLUSTRATION: In 1999 there was a movie called, “Three Seasons”. You’ve probably never seen it. It was shot in Vietnam.

It’s about this Rickshaw rider (which is one of those cycle taxis). His name was Hai and Hai is on the lowest part of the social food chain. At one point he gives a ride to this beautiful woman named LAN who has just finished her job at one of the nicest hotels in Hanoi. He is smitten by this woman, so every day he goes to this same spot to give the same woman a ride.

Eventually, he realizes that she is a prostitute. As he gets to know her she tells him how she wishes she could afford to stay in that hotel without having to “Work” and order room service and just enjoy a good nights sleep. 


Then one year there was a race, for all of the rickshaw riders. To make a long story short…Hai wins the race. He wins. He gets all this money. Now he can actually do something with his life. Now he can actually be the person that God has created him to be. He can go do something. He can go learn a trade. He can get out.


What do you think Hai does with all the money? He gets a room at this expensive hotel, which took almost all of his money, almost all of his money. He tells Lan, you know, I want to purchase a night with you.

The cinematography of it, it just shows them entering this room and it's a beautiful hotel, and you're expecting things are going to get steamy.... All of a sudden he stops her and he reminds her of their conversations. "Hey, do you remember how you told me on the way home back to your house that your dream was that you would stay in a room like this, right." She's like, "Yeah," "And that you would be able to sleep and not be kicked out in the morning and order room service, right?" She's like, "Yeah." He goes, "I remembered that." 


Then he's like, "Sit down on the bed," and he just talks to her. Before you know it, she's asleep on the bed. Morning and he's in a chair and she's in the bed. She wakes up, and he's got room service there, so they have breakfast together. Then he takes her home. 


He doesn't see her for many weeks. Always there at the hotel waiting for her, waiting for her. Finally, he just gets up the nerve and he goes to her house. She's comes in the window and she's yelling at him, "Get away. I don't want to see you." He's like, "What?" Finally, she explains. "I can't do my job anymore. I can't go back to that lifestyle, because of you, you ruined me.”


See what happened was Lan was loved unconditional and it caused her to see that she was truly valuable and not just an object. 


That's why she was a little bit upset. "What else am I going to do?" She couldn't go back to her life of sin because someone had loved her.

Somebody had used their power to love her, and honor her, and meet her in her brokenness, and it changed her. That is good news.

That's what happens when you experience the gospel. That's our message that we get to share. Loved despite our imperfections, adored as a son and daughter. That's got to be real in here, good people, if we're going to share it with people out here.


HAS THE GOSPEL RUINED YOU? Are you unable to go back into your own life because of a greater reality?