As I’ve already mentioned, I had a difficult conversation with a clergy acquaintance last week. He told me, in so many words, that he didn’t believe in many core doctrines and convictions of our Christian faith; that he doubted much of what the Bible teaches; and that he was perfectly O.K. with it.
At one point, I said, “Please don’t teach these things to your congregation!”—for their own sake, of course, but also for the sake of pastors like me and others who will have to come behind him and clean up the mess!
I was angry. “How dare he call himself a minister of the gospel when he doesn’t believe in much of what the gospel teaches!”
But then I thought of me…
Just last week, I was with a group of friends who were saying goodbye to our friend Steve, who was moving to the West Coast. Steve, a former Marine, gave each of us a “challenge coin” as a token of his friendship. One side of the coin was engraved with a smiling skull and these words: “Death smiles at everyone. Marines smile back.”
I’m sure there’s a sermon illustration in there somewhere, but that’s not my point. When he handed me the coin, he thanked me for my friendship and said, “Brent, you are consistently the nicest person I have ever known.”
I realized something yesterday: When he told me this, I didn’t take it as a compliment. Why? Because, from my perspective, he couldn’t have meant it. He knows me too well. I’m a horrible person.
Not that I consciously thought these words at the time. I didn’t have to… They’re part of a tape loop that’s constantly playing in the background of my thoughts. The volume isn’t usually turned up very loud, but it’s always there, whether I notice it or not.
Yesterday, when I did happen to notice it, I thought, “Why am I feeling indignant because my fellow pastor doesn’t believe much of the gospel, when I live as if I don’t? I preach this all the time: God loves us so much that he paid an infinite price to save us: by sending his Son to die for me on a cross. He exchanged his righteousness for our unrighteousness. He forgave us through our faith in Christ. He clothed us with his Son’s righteousness.
“As a result, it’s as if God the Father were saying the same thing of me that he said of Christ: ‘You are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.’ He made me part of his family. I’m God’s treasure, not his trash! Do I believe that or don’t I?”
So here’s what I’m going to do about it: I’m going to memorize several scriptures that teach the truth about myself (and each of us who name Christ as our Savior and Lord) that I outline in the above paragraph: Among them are the following: Romans 4:22-25; 2 Corinthians 5:19, 21; Galatians 3:13-14; Philippians 3:9; Psalm 103:12; and Isaiah 43:25.
This is my effort to apply the healing power of the gospel to a particular problem in my life. How can the power of the gospel heal you?