I love evangelism. I love to teach it, write about it and be up to my neck in it. I have tried different methods, learned and used tools, even wrote a book about it. I love evangelism, but with it comes a danger that sometimes I forget that no one else needs Jesus as much as I do. I am a dirty, wretched sinner and I can’t do anything to save myself and I must have Jesus to lift me out of the pit of despair, I need Jesus.
I work with great guys, but many of them had to overcome some major troubles. I work with guys who have suffered from addictions to drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling and womanizing. I work with guys who have made mistakes that have cost them a great deal and had to pay for their sins in a way I’ve never had to do. They have to wake up every day with reminders of what they had done, and I am blessed to know that several of these guys have been rescued by the Redeemer. It would be easy to look down on them, because they had sins that were punished by society, but I need Jesus more than they do, because my sin is the most deadly of them all.
Where they have been humbled, I have found pride. Where they are low, I have elevated myself. They are grateful, but I can be spiteful. Jesus spent time with the sinners, because those who called themselves saints rejected Him, they didn’t think they needed Him. They were fine on their own. They grew up in the right home, had the right education and then had the right job and the right kinds of tassels on their cloaks. They didn’t even know that the pride in their heart was the sickness and cancer that would leave them in eternal darkness. More than the sinner, more than the tax collector, the prostitute or the beggar, they needed Jesus. They needed Him to pull them out of the tar pit of pride and arrogance, but the tar covered their eyes and made them blind to their own destruction.
Every day I wake up, there is tar that threatens to cover my eyes. I have gifts and talent, I am a smart guy and I have great problem solving skills. I have an advanced degree, I have abilities, so I often feel I can do it on my own. I don’t need anyone’s help, I don’t need support, I am gifted. I don’t realize that my gift is filthy rags, it’s slime covered filth and it keeps me trapped in a prison of selfishness and bitterness. I become engulfed in my own entitlement, and while the sinners are aware of the need for a savior, I can’t smell the stench that rises from my own life, so more than anyone, I need Jesus. I need Him to take my pride, cleanse me from my selfishness and my unrighteousness. I need Him to take my sense of sufficiency and remember that I am His and everything I do that is great is from Him. More than the gothic teenager, more than the drug using skateboarder, more than the gang member, more than the pervert, I need Jesus to show me my sin, because no one will boycott mine.
Her eyes still carry with them the pain of spending their fifth anniversary alone as John was gone. It’d have been one thing if he was working and they planned on rescheduling. But he wasn’t gone with work—he was gone with play. He’d gamble away his entire check and have nothing left—not even for apology flowers.
The wrinkles in her forehead tell you that this fifth anniversary wasn’t a lone occasion. She’s spent many nights concerned for her husband as he drank and likely found himself in the arms of other women. Pain had taken a toll on this woman, but there was a deeper joy and a determination. How hope was present in the heart of this woman still baffles to this day.
John, throwing his life away as he is, does have one thing going for him—a strong and committed woman. Even though his terrible habits grieve her to the bone, she isn’t going anywhere. And John knows this. And because he knows this he doesn’t plan on changing anytime soon. He’s resigned to the fact that she’ll just have to put up with his antics until she buries him.
Rita is also a strong woman. She isn’t going to respond to his neglect like a ridiculous little puppy, wagging her tail whenever her master comes home. She makes her displeasure with John quite obvious. She’d love to respond to him with affection. But she cannot do it while he’s acting like a fool. Nor is she going to shower him with assurances of her love for him. Her hope is that he’ll wake up from his slumber and actually begin responding as one ought to respond to such a deep love.
Finally, John got the hint. He became unsettled and realized that Rita’s affection is not what it once was. In fact he begins to wonder if she still loves him. He has suddenly came to his sense and what he sees is an icy marriage.
John was consumed with wondering whether or not his wife loved him. And so he came up with a plan. He’d dust off his VCR and pull out his old wedding video. As he watched it over and over again he became captivated by one part in particular—Rita’s reciting of the vows. He saw happiness in her eyes; eyes that he hadn’t seen in years. He kept rewinding that part. Slowly letting Rita’s words sink in, “I love you and will love you…” Over and over and over again.
John has taken great comfort in the fact that Rita has covenanted to love him. And though it didn’t necessarily feel like a loving relationship at the moment he knew it was true. It was still icy in his home but he could deal with it because he knew that deep down she loved him, and she loved him just how he was. Her love was settled.
John has decided to focus less and less on his hurtful habits. He reasoned that since they didn’t change her love for him it didn’t matter much anyways. Instead he’ll focus his attention on that VCR tape. Every day he’ll go and rewind that tape and play those words over and over again. He believes that the more he is convinced of her love for him and her covenanting with him, the more empowered he’ll be to rest in her love and lives as a free husband.
This is a profound mystery but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Some of you will quite likely read this parable and think that John has a pretty solid strategy. After all the way to be motivated for holiness is to become absolutely convinced of God’s love for us. The more we rest in His finished work the more likely we’ll be to respond in loving obedience.
And I’d be a fool to say that there isn’t great value in John going back and watching the video of his marriage. Such a thing is greatly empowering. And it can be helpful to be reminded that our righteousness is in heaven. We must never forget that because of our union with Christ our relationship with God is forever settled and determined. Remembering that is a great help.
Preaching the gospel to ourselves is a wonderful practice. Don’t hear me say anything different. We preach the gospel to ourselves and remind ourselves constantly of our union with Christ. There is nothing wrong or foolish with a man that watches his wedding tape to rekindle that love and affection. Or even to remind himself that his wife has covenanted to love him.
But there is indeed something foolish with a man that would watch such a tape and conclude that the only work he has left to do is to remind himself that he is married and in union with this woman. In the same way preaching the gospel to ourselves and reminding our hearts of our union with Christ is a tremendous practice. But part of that remembering our union with Christ is also reminding ourselves that we aren’t married to other idols and that we’ve covenanted with the Lord.
There is a difference between the Lord’s pleasure and his abiding and eternal love. If you flatten that distinction you’ll end up just as dense as the lug head in the preceding section that won’t acknowledge the one thing in his life causing the icy relationship.