The young Ivy League student wore a wide smile on her face and brandished a small plastic cup between her thumb and index finger. “I did it!” she joyfully exclaimed. At first I was confused. Sundays are grueling for me, as they are for many pastors. The whirlwind of worship that I so deeply enjoy begins with the alarm at 5:30 AM, continues through an hour of quiet meditation and prayer, followed by a brief spell with the band that we loosely refer to as “practice.” Videos, music, Word, and prayer typically make up our 9:15 worship gathering, a momentary respite, and then more music, Word, and so forth. Therefore, when I descend from the “pulpit” around 12:30 on Sunday afternoons my mind and body are always beginning to feel the effects of too much coffee, too little sleep, and the ebb of adrenaline that accompanies me throughout most gatherings slowly departing.
“Did what?” was my bumbling response to the smiling youth.
She repeated: “I did it,” and raised her plastic cup higher wiggling it back and forth.
It struck me, albeit gradually at first.. This young lady had been invited to BLDG 28 a couple of months before. She had sat in our student group, listening with rapt attention. That first evening she had posited her first query to me: “Why would anyone want to become a Christian?” I had tried to take my time, rely on the Word, and answer her questions as succinctly as possible. I’m sure I had plenty of blunders but she was gracious and hungry for truth and God seemed to use the words I muttered.
Over the weeks that followed this young lady began devouring resources I recommended, soaking up Scripture, and bringing question after question to myself or others within BLDG 28. She was invited into a home group, where, surrounded by believers, she experienced community and witnessed raw Christianity on display. Her coming to me following our second gathering this past Sunday morning was a colossal step. It was her way of declaring with joy that she had been roped in by Jesus and her life was forever altered by the absurdity of grace. I was ecstatic over her pronouncement of spiritual amnesty. I smiled with her, hugged her back, and welcomed her thanks.
Two days have passed since that young lady expressed her faith in Christ. As the hours have ticked by a deeper sense of awe has settled upon my soul. You see, if I had to spiritually define myself I suppose I would say that I am a recovering legalist, professing faith in sovereign grace alone as the catalyst and crux of salvation, yet failing at times to actually see and appreciate that miracle of grace. In all the rhetoric I, like many other of my Reformed brothers, exchange the veracity for the verbiage. I read a quote today by Augustine. The church father remarked: “Miracles are not in contradiction to nature. They are only in contradiction with what we know of nature.” This is incredibly true, particularly in regards to salvation. Yet, we can so intellectualize and compartmentalize truth that the objectivity of it displaces – at least in our warped minds – the subjective movement of the Spirit. In other words, we have everything so figured out (or at least we like to pretend that we do) that while we embrace the theoretical reality of the miracle of salvation, we can, at times, overlook it in practicality.
The awe that has been building within me, is an awe birthed by the simplicity that I learned in second grade Sunday school. God saves sinners by His Holy Spirit, in the blood of His Holy Son, through the proclamation of His Holy Word. Or, as Paul would put it: “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). I understand and fully champion the truth that the Sovereign has an elect bride that He has chosen, redeemed, and called to salvation. None but that bride will be saved. However, I also understand that God only saves folks through the faithful proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus. That proclamation does not have to be polished; nor does it have to be intellectually astounding. We open our fretting, maladroit mouths and declare Jesus dying, rising, and triumphant, and the Spirit takes those words and awakens souls to see and savor the beauty of Christ.
This week we celebrate a young women saved. Saved because God the Father wanted it so. Saved because Jesus died and lived again for her. Saved because the Spirit took the Gospel and with it woke her up. Saved because the church purposed to be the church for the glory of God and the good of others. Let’s continue pressing forward to herald this good news, and then stand in wonder as God uses the rambling of idiots – myself included – to transform sinners into saints.