Here is another story of how God is working through VI. My boy, Tom Tom, shares how he’s been rocked by the gospel…
Over the last couple months the gospel has been rocking my world in some crazy and exciting ways. Coming into a deeper understanding of the gospel has lead to some changes in my life, as well as a heavy and deep pursuit of Jesus. I am daily feeling in my heart the depth of my sin and depravity, as well as the abiding joy and hope and peace the cross has brought me. I read the book of Mark right before Christmas and just finished Prodigal God a couple weeks ago. I was blown away by what I read in Mark about Jesus teaching the Pharisees, and Prodigal God really showed me a side of my prideful, legalistic nature that was difficult at times to stomach.
Probably the passage I was blown away by the most in Mark is in chapter 7 where Jesus references Isaiah and says, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” He follows that up by explaining that the rebellious and sinful nature of the heart of man. I remember that as I read that I was floored. I have been in church since I was very, very young and have worked hard within myself to hold to the right focus and the correct ways of living, but I wondered how much of it was done out of response to the gospel and how much of it was done just as holding to a tradition, or worse yet, the approval of other men. Recognizing that Jesus is the only one who can change my heart and that he does that through the gospel message being preached and being applied to areas and circumstances in my life really allowed me to examine my heart and my selfish and approval-based motives. As I read on, I came to Mark 8 where Jesus talks to his disciples about coming after him and how that works. As I let that idea sit with me and wash over my mind and heat, it showed me that, as much as I fought against it outwardly, I was, in many ways, using Jesus as a means to something rather than pursuing him as ultimate. I so often seek after cheep idols instead of giving Jesus the place of king in my life.
Prodigal God rocked my view of the gospel in light of my legalistic, arrogant nature. Some quotes that really got to me and were, at first hard to deal with were:
“Being an older brother Pharisee is a more spiritually desperate condition.”
- “Sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life.”
- “The resentment you have towards others is your own fault. It is caused not by the prosperity of the other person, but by your own effort to control life through your performance.”
These are just a few of many that were hard to take in that rocked me, but I was shown my elder brother Pharisee mindset in a way like I had never recognized it before. Basically, I was hit with the fact that I get my worth and significance from being a good and nice guy. I default to the mindset that, because I serve God and work hard to do things I think please him, I should receive blessing and favor in the things I want. God becomes a genie I control by my good works and no longer means anything to me as a Savior, a King, and a Righteous Judge that lovingly and graciously gave himself for my desperate, sinful condition. I become easily embittered when others are succeeding where I’m not and where others are finding God in the midst of their daily pursuits. I was not finding God because I was not looking for him, I was just looking for his blessing and favor in the circumstances of my life.
Coming out of the break into my final semester of college, I feel called by God to a few things but one thing very specifically. This semester, I am committed to learning and understanding my identity as purchased for me by Christ, and not as something I have earned by my own merit or deeds. In reality my merit or deeds could never earn me anything, but that doesn’t mean that my mindset won’t default to that place where I believe whole-heartedly that it does. By God’s grace and his grace alone I have been redeemed into his family as a servant, learner and missionary. I want to lead and serve and work out of the fact that my identity is solely based on grace and I don’t have to earn it. I can be passionate and pursue a calling, and a purpose for my life, all the while recognizing the wonderful and merciful provision of Christ. I don’t fully grasp that yet and I know that I won’t over night. But I know my understanding will increase more and more in the same way it began: In faith that God’s work in the cross was enough to accomplish my complete and total redemption and that it will be enough everyday for the rest of my life.