I was reminded today of the simple truth of the gospel. The good news about the love of God for me demonstrated in the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth is so rich and deep and wonderful that I need to hear it and think of it everyday. It is as wonderful as falling in love again and again and again. It consumes me. At least it should.
As a pastor, it is easy for me to lose sight of the simplicity of it all, the beauty of it all. I spend much of my time studying and reading in order to be prepared. I worry about “Auburn Avenue” theology and Bethlehem Baptist’s admission of infant baptizers and Jehovah Witness theology and Mormons and Roman Catholics and on and on and on. I am prepared for debates which I will likely never have. I do not want to be caught flat footed. Not for my sake, but for the sake of those I am charged to watch over. I want to be ready; I want to be faithful.
In all of this study and preparation, it is easy to lose sight of the good news. This causes despair and fatigue. I lose sight of the gospel because the church members do not respond as I wish they would, or we do not see the conversions I’d like to see, or when my devotions dry up like a river bed. This is a common experience for everyone I believe. Here’s what your list of troubles may look like: You worry for your lost son; you struggle in your marriage; you struggle with a lost parent; you struggle to pay the bills; you struggle with past sins that haunt your life, and etc.
Paul, Peter, Timothy, Luke all felt this way at times. They got discouraged. They felt the bleakness of despair. So how did they climb out of such a dark hole? Look at this quote. Revel in it. Wash in it.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 3:18-4:1)
How did Paul not lose heart in the face of rejection by his countrymen, beatings, being stoned, being shipwrecked, being a prisoner, and ever losing his life? He said he did not lose heart because he remembered the mercy of the cross. Paul saw a crucified Messiah. He knew that the Messiah groaned for him. When people beat Paul and scorned him and mocked him and treated him cruelly, Paul needed something powerful to drive away despair. His solution was to turn to the truths that he could not deny: the gospel of Jesus Christ had changed him, was changing him, and that Jesus Christ was crucified on behalf of Saul of Tarsus. This was enough to keep him from losing heart.
So dear reader, when the cold shadow of despair steals over your soul, remember these words, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). The Father gave you His Son, the most valuable treasure in the Universe. By comparison, the world and its fullness are nothing. Sometimes, I must remember to put down my book and let go of my conflicting thoughts and think, “The Son of God bled for you, therefore you should not lose heart.” I remember reading a book that admonished me to preach the gospel to myself every day. I think that is very, very good advice, don’t you?
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