Sunday, October 28, 2007

May the angels truly dance!

I thought I'll share this. A few months ago, I told the story of my good friend L and shared my joy at what I thought was his decision to turn to Jesus. To my embarassment, it turned out that my announcement was premature. My friend, L, told me that he didn't think he was a Christian yet, although he was "trying to be one". As we talked, it became clear that he still hadn't grasped the gospel yet, but was still hungry to know more.

L went back to his home country over the summer, but returned a couple of weeks ago. Today we met up to read the Bible together.
I thought that as I've been doing Romans in my Bible studies, we would turn to Romans 1:1-17, and particularly to bring out the nature of the gospel as Paul describes it in this letter. As a lead-in question, I asked, "So, what would you say, generally speaking, is good news?" He was slightly confused by my question, so I said, "I suppose if I got really good results in my exams, that would be an example of good news, wouldn't it?" He agreed enthusiastically, and together we thought of a few other examples: a good friend gets married, Manchester United thrashing Arsenal (what? that is good news!). I thought I'll push him a little more, and asked, "What about on a bigger scale, maybe? What would be really good news?" Now, at this point, I was thinking that he would reply along the lines of "the end of war" or something like that. He then trained his gaze meaningfully at me, rubbed his chin, and said, " You know what, BK? I know what was definitely the bestest good news for you. It's obvious. It was when you met and knew Jesus. There surely can't be any better news than that."

That answer probably accounts for the spilt coffee all over my Bible and jeans. Probably from all the tension of trying to keep my jaw shut.

We had a good time exploring what Paul says about the gospel, and it was great, noticing the divine origins of the gospel and its supreme subject matter: Jesus Christ. As we got to 1:16 and looked at it, I asked him (actually, this must be the Holy Spirit, since there's no way I'll ever be so bold!): "So, why do you think I want to tell you about Jesus?" And he went: "Because you're not ashamed?" (If I had more coffee I'd would have spilt it all. And I was thinking to myself: "Oh L, how wrong you are! I'm more ashamed than I care to admit!"). And he went on: "And you want me to believe in him because you know that's the best for me." Now at the is point I was thinking, who's really getting more out of our Bible-reading time here, me or him?

I was really happy that he seemed to grasp more of the saving work of Jesus. Even better was when we went to the evening service tonight, and I saw the sermon outline included "Denying the gospel" and "Living by the gospel". (It was on 1 John 1:5-2:2). At the end of the service, he told me that he had prayed to God, asking him to help him follow Jesus. And he said that there were less and less barriers stopping him, although there was still one significant barrier, which I wouldn't share here. We had a good discussion on forgiveness and how the gospel impacts us corporately, especially in the way Christians relate to others. He asked good questions and pushed me harder to think through some of my own assumptions.

I thought I'll share this simply as an encouragement to others, and to catch a glimpse of the glorious gospel we have. I know how difficult witnessing is, and I'm a wimp most, if not all, of the time. Yet I'm just stunned sometimes, even with Romans 1:16 being hammered into me, how dynamic, how powerful, how life-giving the gospel is. Please do pray for L that he would turn to Jesus. Only God changes hearts. And pray for me too. Even as I share this, I'm aware I have mixed motives, as if sharing this proves my Christian credentials or elevates my status or something. Instead, I turn to the words of that old hymn that it might prove true:

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory, this is victory.

...And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him, seeing only Him.

[Complete digression: This hymn has been set to a smashing new tune by Mark Peterson!]

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