We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world – John’s Gospel
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing – The prophet Zephaniah
A good friend of ours, someone our age died recently. We mourn with his wife, with his family. The speed at which he was taken took our breath away, and I found the nature of death very confronting. I managed to see my friend in the last few days, and as ever his humour was high. We quipped about a few things and talked openly about life in the presence of God. I got to pray with him and his wife.
Since then, I have been amongst a great deal of people it seems, who are bent on self-destruction; consuming drugs at an alarming rate, prone to violence or just generally careless about life itself. Just last night, a woman stepped from the shadows and asked if I would walk her across the road. Likely younger than me, she had an amputated arm, and had already suffered a stroke, and what I thought would be a 5 minute jaunt turned into a half hour mission. Along the way, she spoke of violence, drugs and alcoholism, with 2 children taken away into foster care. When we got there, she lit up a fag as I prayed for her. What struck me though, was the bravado, arrogance even about the way she lived. A life rapidly careering towards death. She is not alone, or even unusual, we know many people who exist in the same vacuous, vacant state. Death will come fast for many.
As I have been pondering about this, I reflected on the immense variance Jesus makes in the entire equation. He is all the difference.
The church at large, has shifted it’s focus far too much toward what is happening in this life; we discuss maybe too much, the kingdom here, the community here, Jesus solving our problems in the here and now. Yet, far and away the greatest achievement of Christ, was his conquering of death.
This world needs saving above all else; I’m not that convinced the condition of the world is ever going to change, even in our Christian communities. From the Old Testament, through to the early passages of the Gospels though, Jesus is announced to us as the one who will save us. In particular he will save us from our sins, which means he will save us from the terrible judgement of God that is coming upon the world. God promises those who believe, an eternity in his presence.
The difference in outcome between the death of my friend, whose hope was set on salvation through Christ, and the woman I met last night, whose hatred of all that was good is immense. She faces total separation of God for all eternity, whereas my friend is merely changing address. He will be more alive than ever.
This means two things. Firstly, it means the Gospel message is hard nosed and raw. It demands action on our behalf to come to God on our knees and ask for his forgiveness. There is absolutely nothing passive in the Gospel, nothing at all. It cost God everything, and the alternatives are unbearable, beyond imagination. We have softened it, watered it down at our peril. In spite of this, the message has not changed, it starts with repentance.
Secondly, it demands that all those who say they believe, us, must do something about it. We cannot take our salvation and pack it away tidily in a suitcase. In our lives, it demands action. I have heard so many, witnessed far too many who do so little with the Gospel in their lives. I am saved, why should I worry?
Friends, if that is your Gospel then it is no Gospel. It is not the Gospel Jesus lived. Every day that goes by, without our having advanced the cause of Christ – you and me, is a day in which the Devil and all darkness has scored.
Even if people do not respond, our job is to make sure they hear from us – everyday, at all times and all the time, that Jesus came to save us from our sins. We do not know where our witness will end in someone else’s life.
Strangely God seems to be willing to take the risk that we will be good messengers of his message – that is, Salvation is found in no one else. Let’s get to it.