Sitting near the front of The Coop was a weeping 19-year-old man, who, for likely the first time, felt the intense gravity of the holiness of God. Robert Lane’s exposition of the Word of God from 2 Corinthians was used by the Holy Spirit to rend my heart, and draw me before the cross of Jesus.
Perhaps I was saved in the moment. I’m not altogether sure. In retrospect it is difficult to determine at what point between the ages of 18-21 I repented and believed the gospel. What I do know is that I’m following Jesus now, and what I am seeking to with my life is the result of a seed Lane sowed, and that the Spirit has nurtured and is continuing to grow into a fruit bearing tree. But I will speak more on that later…
As I wept, the intensity of God’s presence multiplied as Lane continued his sermon.
Again, my memories are fuzzy considering this happened 6 years ago. If you are reading Bobby, please forgive me if I butcher the story you shared.
I’m not sure if Lane was describing a dream or vision he had received, or if was merely a story he developed to illustrate the work of a missionary. The story was told with such conviction it felt like something that really, literally, happened.
Lane described a vast ocean beneath a dark, gloomy sky. What first appeared to be waves on this ocean were revealed to be thousands upon thousands of people drowning. A rock emerged from the depths, lifting some of the people out of the water to safety. Some of these people saved from death began to build on the rock and make their homes. They were finally safe, and content to live their lives on the rock. But some looked down from safety and saw that there were still thousands of people drowning. They climbed down the side of the rock and began pulling others out of the water. The ones they saved followed suit. Some of them opting for security on the rock, others expressing compassion toward their fellow-man by saving them.
The idea arose that they ought to maximize their efforts to save people. Using some wood, they constructed raft-like bridges to reach further out into the ocean. Their plan was successful, and they were able to save many more people. This continued for some time. But there was one man standing on the rock who looked upon the ocean full of dying people, straining to look out as far as he could. Before the outer limits of his gaze was a dreadful horizon: innumerable bodies sinking beneath the waves; hopeless. The bridges only reached so far.
He knew there were others out there beyond his sight, who couldn’t see the rock, and unwilling to look for fear of drowning. His heart broke for them. Taking a deep breath, the man dove from the precipice of the rock into the ocean. He began swimming as far as he could. He swam, and swam, and swam, until the rock was out of sight.
The others on the rock thought the guy was crazy, and didn’t expect to see him again. But after a while, someone spotted him swimming back! In one arm he was clinching someone, dragging them to the rock. They were safe. He then turned around, going back into the darkness.
By the end of the story I was broken. I was weeping uncontrollably at this point. “That’s what it means to look like Jesus,” I thought. “I have to forfeit my life so that I can find it.”
That was the beginning of an unexpected journey. At the time, I didn’t really know what to do, other than that I had to be the man in the story. I had to become him, because he looks like what Jesus did for me. Jesus, the only man ever worthy of honor and respect, the only man truly capable of slaying unbelieving hearts and the doubts of skeptics, left His home to plunge into the darkness to rescue me. At home He was safe with His Father. There were no fears, no disunity, and no lack of love. Yet He left because He loved His Father, and He loved the people who were made through Him and for Him, even though they hated Him. Jesus made Himself nothing. He became a frail jar of clay so that He could be broken to spare us from our sin and the wrath of His Father. Jesus suffered death to give me life. But He was no ordinary man. He was God in the flesh, and so He left the tomb. Jesus walked away from death, leaving my sin dead and buried forever. For that reason, I am confident that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord.
More than anything, I want to be like Jesus. In order to be like Jesus, I must carry in my body the death of Jesus, so that His life will be manifested in the lives of others.
Before Jesus left His disciples, He commanded them to go and make disciples of all nations, and to teach them to observe all that He instructed. That means the very command Jesus gave to those disciples is the command given to us in modernity. If you are a Christian, you are the Church, which means you are a missionary regardless of where you live, which means the weight that rests upon you is to tell the good news of Jesus and make disciples. My family is seeking to embrace that joyful burden as faithfully as we can, by the help of the Holy Spirit.
I spoke in Part I about the war between the will of my flesh and the will of the Spirit. Through the kind providence of God, the course of the war was dramatically changed forever. The will of my flesh is being conformed to the will of the Spirit because Jesus touched me while listening to Lane in The Coop. I am often failing, but Jesus is not often faithful-He is always faithful, interceding for my at the right hand of the Father. I am a child of God, and as His child, I’m going to lead my family in diving from the rock and swimming into a dark ocean. By embracing the death of our wills, and carrying in our bodies the death of Jesus, we have life.
Should the Lord allow us, my family will be moving to Khon Kaen, Thailand sometime between the summer and fall of 2017.