Jesus said in Matthew 16 "...I will build my church..." This is a promise that we as believers can bank on. And this is a promise that ministers of the Gospel cling to. Jesus' gospel is power to salvation. Every day we get to experience this transforming power in our lives. And every so often He blesses us to experience firsthand as someone else experiences it for the first time.
A couple weeks back we were able to have a young couple to our house for supper. Along with this young couple, we had our favorite old couple - Lawrence and Tricia Dargie. Pops and Trish have become close friends of ours. They often fill the role of surrogate grandparents for us here at The Village, since we live so far away from ours. These two don't fit the typical mold of elderly believers. They only came to Christ a few years ago and have the deepest passion for knowing Him more dearly every day.
The young couple, Gladston and Mallory, have only been attending church with us since January 12th. They were invited by one of the faithful youth at our church (cool story...more on that another time). At supper that night, at our prompting, Gladston began sharing his story. He related how he had grown up in church but during his teenage years really moved away from scriptural teaching and pursued his earthly passions. After a few years he realized that the things he was worshiping did not truly satisfy him as he thought they would, so he began again to read God's Word and attend church. He said that overall, looking back over his life he could see that he had been a pretty good person.
It was at this point in the conversation that Trish interjected. When Gladston said "Overall I'm a pretty good person" she vehemently disagreed. She said, with no room for doubt "Gladston, you are not a good person."
"I'm sorry, mom?" he responded.
"You are not a good person," Trish said. "You are wicked."
To which Gladston, a bit taken aback, replied "Maybe I said it wrong, english is not my first language."
Then Trish said to him "It really doesn't matter what language you say it in. You aren't a good person."
(For those of you who know Trish, you can probably hear her say it in her thick British accent. And for those of you who do know her, let me assure you, it didn't come across as the least bit offensive.)
Gladston looked a bit confused, so I jumped in to help explain. We all got out our Bibles and read from Philippians 3. Gladston was familiar with the story of Paul, how he had persecuted, even killed Christians, how he was miraculously converted and how he became the greatest missionary EVER! I asked Gladston if, pre-conversion, Paul was a good guy or a bad guy. Like all of us, he assumed Paul was a bad guy. But then we read his autobiography from Philippians 3.
In this passage Paul establishes his own worldly righteousness (an oxymoron, I know). From a human perspective you couldn't get more righteous than Paul. Like tightening concentric circles he shares his qualifications. But like those concentric circles, Paul's righteousness in himself was like a noose tightening around his neck. Eventually Paul testified that the law was in him, a ministry of death. He learned that he could never keep the whole law so his righteousness was polluted. In fact, he says, "whatever could be considered gain to me, I count it as loss...more than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, so that I might gain Christ. And be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, but the righteousness of God that comes on the basis of faith."
You see, as sinners we all stand deserving judgement. How can we offer God our righteousness when it is polluted, when it is nothing but filthy, bloody rags? It would be like me coming to NASA asking for a job because I can make a paper airplane. They would laugh me out of the room.
That night we had the privilege of going to Scripture with both Gladston and Mallory. God offers us His righteousness because our own just doesn't cut it. The transaction that takes place when God puts our sin on Jesus and Jesus' righteousness on us is called Justification. And according to Luke 18, Justification takes place the moment an individual falls on their face before God and says "God, have mercy on me. I'm a sinner." At that point, we receive our introduction into the salvation so lavishly offered by an extravagant God. He spares no expense for us.
We eventually made it to Matthew 7:13-23, where Jesus describes the broad road to Hell and the narrow road to Heaven. He also describes the final judgement, where millions will be shocked as they stand before Him, requesting entrance to Heaven based on all the service they've done on His behalf. His response? "Get out of my sight. I never knew you!"
I challenged Gladston and Mallory both, that if they had never entered a personal relationship with Jesus through repentance, they needed to do so.
The conversation then carried on into other veins. About 30 minutes later, out of the blue, Gladston says "You know that challenge you gave us? Why would I wait until I get home? I don't even know if I will make it home tonight. Wouldn't I want to remember the night that I passed from death to life, that I did it here with you all with me as witnesses?"
Wow! What do you say to that, other than "DO IT!"
At that point we all stood and prayed together, with Gladston leading the way. Jesus is building His church. And the gates of Hell is powerless against His regenerating power.
Praise Jesus with us for both Gladston and Mallory. They have continued to be faithful in church and just this past Sunday Gladston approached Pastor Josh and me about being baptized. Pray for Mallory that she will respond as her husband has. Keep them both uplifted in prayer, as they have 2 small children and have many struggles, especially financially. God continues to work, in spite of us. It is so good that this work is His work, because we are in no way sufficient for it. But we have this treasure in broken clay pots, so that the excellency of the power may be of God, not of us!