Thursday, July 26, 2007

A letter I received . . . please read

I received a very kind farewell letter from a bright 15 year old boy yesterday. He said very kind words and I nearly cried. I thought I'd share what this young man said in his closing paragraph. Remember he is only 15 and I'm pretty sure his father has little interest in God.

"I have come to realize in these past few months that if everyone on Earth is to become a believer, it will not be through lectures. It will not be through pontifications and sermons and dusty old chapters in the Bible. It will be through the believers, not the belief. The day-to-day observation of people who turn the other cheek and love others as themselves that will testify that something extraordinary is happening inside of them. In our modern world, when we have become so jaded that we are always asking where the miracles are, we have lost sight of the miracles around us. Perhaps to forgive those who have wronged you and to sacrifice yourselves for others is more amazing than parting the Red Sea."

Oh, that these words would be true of my life.

4 comments:

Scott said...

Wow Matt. That is amazing insight. I agree, I pray that those things could be evident in my life and when I fall short, I pray that others forgive in this manner. Nice playing golf with you yesterday!

Jack said...

Hate to be a curmudgeon, Matt, but I think your 15-year-old correspondant is way way off. "Dusty old chapters in the Bible" is really disrespectful of the Holy Spirit, and contrary to what the boy claims, Romans 1:16 says that the Gospel -- "the belief" -- is the power of God unto salvation. It's a good thing that the Holy Spirit converts us by convicting us about the message, since none of us are good enough to merit being followed. A belief shouldn't be considered the truth because of the person who holds it. Thinking this way, this boy could just as easily end up as a Mormon.

Anonymous said...

Jack,

If it was a "message" that was only needed, why did Jesus come in the flesh? We are the abassadors of reconciliation! The Bible is alive, active, and carries the eternal Word of God. But a primary reason people pick up the Bible is b/c of the testimony evidenced in the lives of those who have been changed. The Gideon's Bible is interesting b/c someone thought it had value to put in every hotel room in the world. Don't you think that's what makes people so curious about its content?

Be careful where you choose to be a curmudgeon (especially when it's going after the budding thoughts of young people). . . you don't want people digging through your sermons, blogs, etc. always looking for the mistakes that linger in any man-made expression of faith. We need to be careful not to be grumblings and fault-finders. Obviously our attempts to explain the faith will not quite hit the mark, but when a young boy recognizes that his life is as much a testimony to the gospel as arguments and words on a page, I think we should rejoice and not scorn.

Jack said...

Yes, I'm criticizing the statement, and it deserves it. It's not scorn. You do me a wrong to say so. t's more correct to say that I hope someone will pastorally correct this youthful error.

Jesus came in the flesh because Adam's sin had to be undone by another representative man (Romans 5). Blood had to be shed in order for propitiation to be accomplished. God converted people for millennia without the Lord materializing in the flesh.

God converts the elect by His own power (faith is a gift, and people have no natural ability to trust in Christ, John 6:37, 44, 65), and so he is never dependent on us, His human instruments, even though He uses us. He can do whatever He needs to do with or without us. So we should make nothing of ourselves.

King David says that the scripture teaches that it, the Scripture, converts. Paul said this very thing, in 1 Cor. 3:7 -- that he and Apollos were nothing, and that God alone causes the seed to grow in people's hearts (cf. "But it is God's doing that you are in Christ Jesus", 1 Cor. 1:30).

Thousands have been converted by Bible reading alone. Others, like myself, have come to Christ by a combination of Bible reading and hearing the Gospel through the media. I became a Christian at the age of 14 after hearing the Gospel preached by Billy Graham on TV. I didn't know who Billy Graham was. I had no 'personal relationship' with Graham, and didn't know any Christians.

The Scripture, applied by the Holy Spirit, is the converting force, Psalm 19:7. Paul implied that the Gospel could save people, even when it was preached by people who had evil motives in their hearts (Philippians 1:14-18). Paul traveled as a missionary church planter all over the Roman Empire, and the Holy Spirit converted thousands of people through his less-than-stylish preaching (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

So what I warn against is any disparagement of the Word of God. Our personal conduct can credit or discredit the Gospel, and I certainly agree with that. If that was the boy's intent, and he miscommunicated in his enthusiasm, then I can very much "Amen" him. But personal conduct never converts anyone. The world is full of "nice" people who believe in faiths other than ours. God's Word should never be pitted against personal conduct, let alone God's holy Word ridiculed as a "dusty" old book, and to say that people aren't turned to God by "the belief" is not Scriptural.