It is my settled conviction that one of the most flagrant ways God’s people can insult Him is to make the stuff of the gospel boring. You’ve sat through church services like that and so have I. The content of the message is heavy, just barely relevant. You’re thinking the clock on the back wall must have stopped. But what happens in God’s house must be more than informative, it must be transformative. Only then is it worthy to be called gospel.
Hear it again for the first time. I mean, hardly has the Book opened…in the first three chapters…before two of the central characters have forfeited every gift a perfect God had chosen to give them and the beautiful narrative goes drastically askew. Read the story again – as though for the first time. Instead of giving them what they deserve, the Author-King gives them Himself. The Star-hanger agrees to jostle 9-months in the womb of an unmarried teenage girl before He appears. As a Lamb. You’d think we’d have a parade or a coronation; instead, we killed Him.
I am broken beyond words to read it again…for the first time. As though I’d never heard it. And I’m thrilled beyond expression to understand that the excruciating things He endured were for me. And you. He must really like us. I must hear that again every time it’s spoken so repetition doesn’t take the edge off. It must be said with passion. With awe. With astonishment. With tears so that every time I hear it I am hearing it again. For the first time.
Years ago I flew into a small airport on the island of Sabah in the south Pacific.
Bill Smith and his wife, Sue, were stationed there and he had invited me to visit a couple of remote villages with him. The next morning we started out in his rather geriatric Land Rover. We drove maybe 30 miles or more till the “road” became impassable, parked the vehicle, hired a couple of porters to help us with our load, and started up the trail. Two days later we arrived at a small clearing in the jungle.
After a couple of hours of tending to their medical needs – a toddler with a fever, a teen with an infected cut on his foot, an older gentleman with a foreign object in his eye – the chief called the villagers, maybe 60 or 70, together around the local fire pit. Through a translator, Bill launched into an amazing telling of the gospel story. I’ll never forget it. No one moved. They sat in wide-eyed wonder. They were hearing it for the first time and they were entranced; maybe stunned.
After half an hour or so Bill gave a simple appeal. I don’t know how many raised their hands, maybe half – my eyes were too full of tears to count. It was a new story; new to them. And it did in their hearts exactly what God intends it to do every time it’s told.
By Don Jacobsen