My third semester at Oklahoma wrapped up a little over one week ago, marking the halfway point of my time in Norman. In the second half of the semester, I led a Bible study in the baseball locker room, and my grades finished favorably, so the Lord certainly blessed the end of 2019. There is so much for which to praise Him — I am getting some discipleship in with one teammate over break, and another is getting baptized in January when the semester begins!
I recently wrapped up Peter Williams’ short yet scholarly and helpful book Can We Trust the Gospels? Most of my encounters with these types of resources are long and heavy, which isn’t necessarily a negative thing. However, I do think the church desperately needed a resource like this one and hope it becomes a popular read in the church, particularly amidst much spiritual confusion and secularism in the West. On another note, I have been reading Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, a great fourth century book that really makes your soul rest in the truth of how “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). Just a book or two more before New Year’s and I will match my book number from 2018.
Because of my inclination to getting done as much as I can and not finding time for much-needed solitude and reflection, coming home for break has felt more stressful and restless than my time in Norman. Between Christmas, the LSAT to study for, workouts, throwing, reading, and, most importantly, spending time with the people I love, chaos has defined much of my break thus far. Time in prayer and in the Bible have often been my only times of slowness in the day. Luckily, two recent events have helped me find rest in Christ and better follow Paul’s command to “not be anxious about anything” (Phil. 4:6).
Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “We need to hear the gospel every day because we forget it every day.” Some might think that this is a preposterous notion — how could we as Christians forget what has changed us forever? But our actions show otherwise, and Luther is right. And it just so happens that the Lord uses my teaching or discipleship time, when I’m speaking, to draw me in near. A friend and I were at lunch, discussing the gospel and looking at Scripture, when he interjected and asked, “but how do you know if you’re worthy?” This sort of question excites me, because it provides the opportunity to exalt God and discuss His goodness. I said, “this is the gospel: we aren’t worthy, we aren’t worthy one bit, but God shows His grace and mercy in still providing a path to reconciliation with Him through Jesus. We are imperfect, unrighteous. The righteousness we need for a right relationship with God comes from Jesus, not from ourselves. Our righteousness is given to us from Jesus. But we aren’t worthy.” Because my natural inclination is toward legalism rather than toward Christian antinomianism, I needed to hear my own words, that righteousness is an external acquisition that cannot be produced within. Sometimes I can’t help but agree with a faithful friend, who often says, in a positive light, “the gospel makes no sense.”
What is great about the good news is that God sovereignly directs it to be proclaimed in places of wealth and comfort and also in places of depression and darkness. This truth was more than evident this past Saturday when I got the opportunity to go on Prestonwood’s Gift of Light prison trip to the Michael Unit. We were able to provide gifts to prisoners in solitaries and then also interact with some who were involved in the prison ministry and chapel. Toward the end of our time there, we even were able to see the prisoner chapel band perform a couple of Christmas worship songs, which was an incredible experience. One prisoner in a solitary told a mentor of mine, “I want to believe. But it’s so hard in here. How do I believe?” Additionally, many prisoners there have come to faith in that place due to the work of the Spirit through churches like Prestonwood. As Advent and Christmas have passed and we enter into the church season of Epiphany, this holiday season has reminded me of two verses:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (Is. 9:2)
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn. 1:5)
He is good. He is enough.