When you preach the Gospel, part two

Miss Part One? You can catch up here.

It’s been one of those weeks. Those weeks that run by you so hard, they knock the wind out of you as they push past your shoulder. Those weeks where I am cranky, and moody, and lonely, and my husband feels the brunt of all my angst-ridden figuring out of life. Those weeks where my intentions, and desires, and hopes and dreams gather dust as every day routine and exhaustion are the great materialistic consumers of my energy and will-power.

George MacDonald wrote that people preach best what they need to here most.

Those weeks. Those weeks where I desperately need the gospel.

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Because it was also this week that the snow fell, hushing the mad rush into a quiet rest, blanketing stress and madness and intentions and plans with glittering futility. A full stop. And it was also this week that the sun came out and glittered across the top of the snow, and an unexpected check came in the mail and the Gospel played out right in front of my crankiness, and I hardly even noticed it.

So here I am, preaching the Gospel to myself. Dwell here with me?

I wrote about how the Gospel means that you can kick off your shoes and walk on holy ground before the Lord of Heaven’s Armies without shame, because you are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. That is the blood and grace of the Gospel.

But this Gospel is so much greater and grander and more minute and infinitesimal. It reaches across the galaxies, but it also prods into every practical, tiny corner of the human life. This is why the blood of Christ has to become our lifeblood, because it changes every thing. Every breath, every moment, every worry.

It changes every thing because the final question has already been answered.

The final question about you, about me, has already been answered. The most important question. The question that answers all questions.

Am I secure? Am I safe? Will I be loved enough? Will I have enough? Should I be afraid? Who will take care of me? Who will notice me? Who will cherish me? How will I ever get past myself?

The final question is answered: you and I have been provided the blood of Christ, so that we may stand blameless for the Father, forever glorifying and being glorified in Him, in the riches of his love, the fullness of grace, and the security of his holiness.

There is no question that can be asked about you or me that is not answered in the Gospel.

Our greatest debts have already been paid. We have been bought, ransomed, freed.

Our greatest love-needs have already been filled. Someone has sacrificed everything for us.

Our greatest security has been sealed by the Holy Spirit.

We have the most loving care-taker, and we are the apple of his eye.

The loving Father, the holy of holies, will bring his children into his glory. This is the answer to all our questions, to all our worries, and fears, and insecurities.

Do we get this? The questions have all been answered with a great, resounding I AM.

And this means that all our worries and fears and anxieties, when held up to the light of the Gospel, dissolve into thin vapors. Because there is not a question that our hearts quiver at that will shake the Gospel.

No. Matter. What.

This is the Gospel. There is nothing that can happen, no question that can occur, no fear that can be fulfilled that will mitigate our final answer.

This is the Gospel. That will live, without anxieties or worries about today or tomorrow or any day, because all days have I AM and he loves us.

This is the Gospel. That the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has said yes to me, that he will bring me into his kingdom, into his greatness, into his glory. No bill, or loan, or fear, or insecurity, or conflict with my husband, or loneliness, or any other worry I can conjure up will ever change that.

This is the Gospel. We have the fullness of his riches.

And after one of those weeks, when the sun brings its mood-lifting Ds and the snow adds a quiet blanket over the anxiety of Long Island, there is a white hushing in my heart into quiet rest. There is nothing – nothing – in this world that can shake my God, and he is for me, and with me – and I have absolutely nothing to fear.

And I sleep, breathe easy and deep, in the freedom of a complete trust.

When you preach the Gospel, part one

It was the year I was bitter to go to school. This school, this campus that had shut down my vision, stolen my community, gated my home. This group of people whose values and structure and inside jokes and catch phrases were so new and different. Where the girls looked plastic pretty and boys wore their v-neck whites and we came in our sweatpants and ponytails, facing the day with our hair wet.

It was the year that I didn’t want to learn, or expand, or grow, or invite, or captivate. It was the year I wanted to curl up between heated blankets and shut out the world and drown my discontent and loneliness and fear and missing and longing in the mind-numbing pattern of ten-minute stories and thirty second commercial breaks.

It was the year I wished every moment by more quickly than the one before, the year I prayed would be over as soon as it started.

It was the year I closed the shutters on my heart, and battened down the hatches and stayed inside rather than facing the wind and thunder and fire-quake that precede the whisper of God.

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure. That he should plant seeds deep deep down in a darkened heart that would root through the soil and tear apart hunks of rock and break up the sidewalks of routine.

Their catch-phrase: Preach the Gospel to yourself every day. And as I laughed, and sneered, and thought it overly simplified and far too cutesy, God pushed the seedImage deep down, and in the water of his whispers and the light of his love, it took root.

It’s nearly three years now since that year, and this seed is tearing apart my life.

Preach the Gospel to yourself every day.

It’s a phrase that is so meaningful, only the Holy Spirit can interpret my groans. And so powerful, and so vast, that words typed too quickly on a screen can hardly capture it.

But I’m going to try to share with you anyway, not just once, or twice, but a whole week of sharing, so that maybe, just maybe, God will take these feeble words and paling adjectives and plant them deep deep in the darkened, calloused places of your heart. And maybe, in three days or three months or three years or three decades, the roots will be tearing you apart, allowing sunshine and rain and wind and storm and earthquake and the still small whisper into the place you have duct-taped shut.

And this is the Gospel: that the God of the Universe found himself most glorified when he sent his son as a sacrifice for our sin. That the Lord of Heaven’s Armies was honored, awed, lifted up, acclaimed, blessed, celebrated, commended, lauded, exalted, extoled, magnified, and all these paltry little synonyms we have, when he gave himself – for you, for me.

So that we might be blameless before him, standing before him as Christ stands before him. So that when his gaze passes over us, he sees the righteousness of Christ. This is the Gospel: that the glory of God is found when he loves us like he loves his son.

Do we get this? Can we take off our shoes, hold our breath, fall on the floor, be speechless? Can we be quiet? Can we stop our trying and our describing and all these silly words?

He is God!

And, O Lord, I am not worthy of your holiness.

Guiltless, I named this year – and here is where this preaching the Gospel becomes part of the rhythm of my every day life. Because do you know what my heart tries to convince me?

That I cannot walk to God without an honor and glory I’ve made myself. That I must feebly sew together the fig leaves of my self-constructed righteousness to love him, to be near him, to come to his throne.

And I pick up my sermon and turn to my heart and say:

Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God…for God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ…sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Do you see why my words are so feeble?

While I fail, grasp, am greedy, groan, moan, complain and fall, God looks at me and sees the righteousness of Christ.

There is nothing else to be done. There is nothing to do. The curtain is torn, the doors flung open to the Holy of Holies, and I, clothed with the white righteousness of Christ, may enter. At any time, after any failure.

No. Matter. What.

This is the Gospel. There is no guilt, no condemnation in Jesus Christ.

This is the Gospel. That I throw off my self-made shackles of shame and enter the throne room.

This is the Gospel. That the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is my friend, no matter where I stand in life, or how productive of a day I have had, or whether my check list is done, or my dishes are clean, or I’ve read the Bible only three days this week, or I forgot to pray for my friends.

This is the Gospel. I have been given the righteousness of Christ.

I stand guiltless before the Father.