By Josh Hall
It’s one thing to know what the gospel is and understand it intellectually, but it’s a profound mystery how it gets down deep inside of our hearts, the inner man. This is the mystery of the gospel.
I believe the Holy Spirit is doing this work, and He’s using gospel proclaiming churches to do it. I feel this sanctification every Sunday morning. Somehow, after the service is over, I know the gospel better; that is, I know Jesus better.
I came into church Sunday (in a state all too common lately) feeling burdened. I think I understand myself well enough to know largely why, stemming mainly from worldly idolatries common to many of us. These flared up because of life circumstances not going my way. Depression tends to exhume itself during these times and all too easily squashes the Truth that I know in my mind and heart. I end up forgetting about all of it and function in a state of self-willed dependence.
I know what the gospel is on Wednesday the same as I did on Sunday afternoon – but for some reason I don’t know it like I do on Sunday. This mystery of knowing is what I experience at the Village Church every week.
What got to me first this past week was the Old Testament reading. It was Lamentations 3:19-26:
Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
There simply could not have been a more poignant 6 sentences in all of language itself that more appropriately spoke to me personally in that moment, and continues to do as I write this.
Next, we sang “In Christ alone, my hope is found.” For someone who has lost hope, these are life giving words.
And then Rev. Curt Benham preached on 1 Timothy 3:14-16, “great indeed is the mystery of godliness.” He spoke about the reality of our forgiveness, and how our godliness is not wrapped up in ourselves, but in Jesus, and knowing this deep in our hearts, changes us. He talked about addiction, and how it’s a perfect picture of what it means to be a sinner. Maybe I’m not an alcoholic, but I’m certainly addicted to finding my identity in having a particular status in the work-world, whatever I define that to be. Unless I feel like I’m succeeding in the work I want to succeed in, I believe I’m worthless. I walked in Sunday morning hopeless—but I walked out mysteriously changed.
As the Apostle Peter wrote, my sinful heart week after week “returns to its own vomit” (2 Peter 2:22). But thanks be to God for a church that offers me the Feast (the bread and wine), is honest about my condition, and tells me the Good News.
God has simply ordained this church as a delivery system of his love in grace to my soul.
The Village Church, Vinings, Georgia, is a partner church of ADOTS. www.villagechurchvinings.org