How many times had my faithful parents told me that Jesus loves me? That he died on the cross for my sins? That I only had to ask him into my heart. And done? And furthermore, how many nights, cuddled up in my red aluminum bunk bed, had I asked Jesus into my heart? Countless. But that Sunday was different. The charismatic preacher began to share the good news of Jesus, and I felt the presence of God and I understood for the first time that I was a sinner in need of a Savior.
That was my point of salvation.
Fast forward 20 1/2 years. I am now a wife, a mom of three boys, a nurse, and a wanna-be speaker. I went to Sunday School, then youth group, then my college ministry, and now lead a 7th grade small group two times a week. I have my daily quiet times, including my ol' prayer journal. I have seen a revival in high school, I strongly considered over-sea missions, and married a youth pastor. I don't say swear words, out loud. I memorize Scripture with my 3 year old. I pray for my best friend as she struggles with infertility. I pray for Matt.
I desire God's glory. In my heart, in my home, and in the hearts of teenagers in South Denver. I want to please the Lord, I want to encourage Matt, I want to inspire my sons. I want to learn more about the Bible, I want to pray with faith, I want to learn to teach the Bible with the power of the Holy Spirit.
I want...I try.....I dream....I plan...I want....I try....I dream....I plan.....
A few weeks ago, Matt and I started reading this:
My...everything, is being shook. Shaken. Shooken.
It's as if I had never heard the gospel before. I am only in chapter 4, but I MUST process what I am learning, thus, this blog post. :)
Kraft talks about how we make this huge mistake in believing that the gospel is most important at our point of conversion, and then dwindles in importance from then on. He refers to the 'universal glaze' that settles over Super-Christian eyes when the gospel is preached. ( I think he's been creeping on me!) He takes us to Scripture, when Paul is talking to the Romans. He claims that Paul did not preach the gospel as the entry point into Christianity, but as a way of life. And here is Kraft's thesis:
"Very soon after our conversion, the life-giving melodies of brokenness and faith unintentionally get drowned out by a growing and incessant drumbeat that sounds so spiritual: 'Just try harder, just try harder.' The cadence of this drumbeat begins to drive our spiritual life. 'You were broken, but now you are getting better."
Ho. Ly. Cow.
I had not realized that in my heart of hearts, I believed the gospel is of little importance to me now. Sure, it was important to me that Sunday morning 20 years ago. But, wow, now...after 20 years of Steve Green songs and small groups, now...I'm ok. I mean, really, I'm not...that bad. Right?
Which leads me to chapter 2. "The Melody of Brokenness."
I have heard a handful of wonderful sermons on the Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, specifically the phrase "poor in Spirit." But this time, it came at me with such gusto that only the Holy Spirit can be to blame. I was paralyzed on the page where Kraft quipped "You are a lot more sinful than you realize, Rebekah." Just kidding. My name was not on the page. But it should have been. Luckily, I eventually stopped re-reading that sentence so I could come to this:
"We want to be noticed, to be affirmed, to be valued, to be worshipped, to be in control, to be comfortable, to be successful. These are not just casual interests--very often they drive our lives."
I do not mean to be downer, And the last thing I'm grasping for is petty compliments or reassurances. As I sat on this truth, I saw my heart for what it is. I saw that STILL, I am so undeserving of the grace of God. I am undeserving of his love and his salvation. I realized that the drumbeat of my churched, youth grouped, small grouped self-effort was muting out the beautiful melody of the gospel. That still, after 20 years, I need grace! I still need the gospel.
(If you have a certain perception of me that you would like to retain, you should skip the next paragraph.)
Oh the truth that is in that statement: I want to be noticed, affirmed, valued, worshipped! As messed up as it sounds, I believe that at times, I want to be godly because that means success! Does that makes sense? I want godly children because that means successful parenting. I want teenage girls to like me because that will make Matt look more successful (whoa, that was honest to be on the internet!) I wake up craving comfort and success. My every decision is rooted in Rebekah-ness. I lust after popularity and favor and reputation.
Do I really understand that God would NOT love me more if I never yelled at Micah, or never scoffed at Matt, or never flattered someone of influence? I mean, don't I believe that God's love is unconditional? Do I?
But what came next is the best. This realization did not leave me in despair. The growing awareness of my sin and my self-absorption did not bring with it a cloud of depression. Instead, it's as if the melody of brokenness was turned up a bit. I felt lighter almost, as if I wasn't carrying the burdensome weight of self-effort. As if by letting go of my own attempts to be holy, and dropping the drumsticks that marched "just try harder, just try harder" brought me relief. I almost wonder if I have fallen for this lie that I could hide my secret sins of prejudice, pride, and pride and pride from God. And now, it's not a secret anymore. He knows. That's why he saved me. That's why the truth of the Gospel is for every day.
The gospel means life to the poor, sick, alcoholic who needs healing.
The gospel comes in power to the calloused, bitter, divorcee who needs hope.
The gospel brings satisfaction and comfort to the teenager drowning in insecurity and depression.
But the gospel also means life, and power, and satisfaction and comfort to those of us who have heard it and believed it for 20 years. Have we forgotten the height from which we have fallen?
Does a glazed-over look settle on your face when you hear the term "the Gospel?" Has the "Good news of Jesus" carried less and less weight since your conversion? Instead, has there been more weight on improving your spiritual walk? Do you think that God will like you more if you go 48 hours without gossiping, complaining, or eating carbs? ;)
Well, then you should read this book. (Quote from old school "Reading Rainbow", obviously)
Why? Because the God of this gospel is Love. He is not a taskmaster or slave driver who's affection can be earned. He is such a gracious God, and when I soak up his grace-based gospel, I feel like a joyful light-hearted 7 year old.
Matt and I have been dreaming a lot. And praying a lot. We so desperately crave a movement of God in this area, and we believe it's coming! We want to be part of something big! We have ideas, we have passion, we have vision! But it seems like, for the time being, God's got us on the operating table. He's going deep, he's pulling out the secret sins and the caustic pride, and he's pouring Truth over areas deadened by self effort.
And I'm in no hurry to hop off the table.