This morning, I went to church. This is a typical Sunday morning activity for me and for other people who follow Christ. It’s kind of just what we do. I’ve been doing this my whole life. When I was younger, it’s because, by the grace of God, I had no choice (which I’m now very thankful for). Now, I choose to spend Sunday mornings worshipping with other believers and learning from God’s Word.
This particular morning, the guest speaker at our church spoke about The Gospel, which is a pretty great topic for a Sunday morning if you ask me. He delivered an inspiring, convicting, and grace-filled message about moving from a posture of consumption (a conception of Christianity in which we merely partake in Christian activities to “get filled up”) to a posture of faithful presence (following the call of Christ into the surrounding community and bringing the Gospel to the lost and broken through word and deed). I was inspired and moved throughout his message as he beautifully articulated the recent meditations of my mind and heart. One of those, you know, “this guy must have read my mind before going to the pulpit” kind of sermons.
He slipped in one phrase, though, that really captured me.
“A Gospel that doesn’t interact with strangers and outsiders is no Gospel at all,” he said gently.
This is a hard and inconvenient truth. It implies the risk of my safety, my security, my comfort. But it’s true. To experience the fullness of the Gospel, we must risk. We must defy social norms. We must travel beyond the borders of what we already know.
Isaiah 61:1-3 says:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”
If we settle for a Gospel of consumption in order to salvage some type of control over our own security, I fear we won’t see the good news reach the poor, or the captives set free, or the bound escape their shackles.
If we settle for a Gospel of consumption, we’ll stare at our own reflections as we look down into our wells full of “the oil of gladness,” wishing we had poured it out when the time was right.
If we settle for a Gospel of consumption, to whom will we proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor but ourselves?
If we settle for a Gospel of consumption, we’ll be safe. We’ll be secure. We might even be happy. But we’ll never experience the true Gospel joy that floods into the heart when a captive is set free.
It just so happens that right now, the captives are knocking at our door. They’re begging for the oil of gladness to replace the smell of the burning of innocent flesh. They’re begging for the garment of praise to replace the deafening sound of bombs that’s too quickly becoming normal. They’re begging to wear a beautiful headdress to replace the ashes that already cover them in sorrow.
I know we’re scared. I know we don’t have the money. But I also know that if we follow Jesus into the unknown and the impossible, He will show us something we never expected to see. He will turn ashes to beauty. He will provide the oil of gladness instead of mourning. He will cloak us – and others – with the garment of praise.
We’ll suffer along the way. In fact, that’s inevitable (see 1st Peter). Our comfort and our security will be compromised, but our joy – and the joy of the captives – will multiply into eternity.
To my fellow believers: fear is real, but we already have the antidote. In fact, we’ve got an eternal supply. We can choose to simply consume our faith, or we can assume a faithful presence. If the latter becomes just what we do, we’ll hear these familiar words:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40)
Then the feast will begin, and we will not merely consume… We will, for the rest of eternity, be fully consumed by the love that risked all of its comfort so that we would truly live.
beautifully stated Nate 🙂 the world needs people like you. lately, most people who call themselves ‘Christians’ keep their beliefs in their pockets–take it out when they need to and put it back hen they dont. they dont realise it’s something we should embrace every second of our lives. so i praise God for people like you, who is not just a believer but a ‘disciple’
“If we settle for a Gospel of consumption, we’ll be safe. We’ll be secure. We might even be happy. But we’ll never experience the true Gospel joy that floods into the heart when a captive is set free.”
This is the very things that so many of us wrestle back and forth with in our faith — do I settle for the happiness that I already have, or shake it up and get uncomfortable in order to experience pure, irreplaceable joy? I really believe that the idea that “Christianity is boring” stems directly from the former [settling for your current happiness]. That’s where complacency sets in, yet we’re often too fearful to step-out in this thing we call faith do to anything about it.
Thank you for the reminder that sometimes [many times] fear will be evident, but that we can use it as motivation rather than a deterrent.
You hit the nail on the head! You’re very welcome and thank you for the additional wisdom!
Hi Nate! Good stuff. I’m still trying to figure out where I am on this issue. My heart says let them in, but I feel like I’m being too naive. A question: Where do we draw the line between Syrian refugees and Mexican immigrants? Do we deny people free entrance to our country until they are so desperate that they come over with nothing except the clothes on their backs? I’m not sure–as a Christian–where to stand in all of this.
Excellent food for thought, man. This is a lot to pray about and meditate on.
Glad you thought so! God Bless.
hi Nate, just next to my own house a new house for refugies is planed.. and i really hate this idea. and now i chanced to find your comment and it realy gives me food for thought.
I really believe that the idea that “Christianity is boring” stems directly from the former [settling for your current happiness
Hey wait, Ribbon! Don't leave without exnpiinalg the Australian toe flushing thing! Why just a toe? Do you have a push button flusher that's impossible to get with a whole foot? Is that it? And good luck with the loot!
Following Jesus is the greatest adventure we have this side of Heaven. It is no accident when we become aware of someone’s need- there are no accidents in the Kingdom. It’s a divine invitation to act.
Reblogged this on Helping the Crippled 2 God Community Organization.