Faith becomes real when the gospel is received unfiltered.
Mockingbird’s Will Ryan on finding faith in his post-youth-group years.
I very much appreciated Will Ryan’s recent piece for Mockingbird, entitled, “Faith After Youth Group,” in which he reflects on growing up in and around the church, and how his faith didn’t become “real” until later in life. His “light-bulb-moment” occurred when a friend gave him a word of clarity regarding God’s glad tidings. He writes:
The Gospel isn’t Law dressed up. It isn’t a list of demands. It isn’t even just a fresh start to try and to live perfectly again.
The Gospel is Good News. It is forgiveness. It is redemption. It is life from death. It is a stop the voice in the back of your head that always tells you to do more. It must be heard afresh from someone else because we can’t convince ourselves of it. Dead in sin, we cannot pull ourselves out of our situation. Dead people can’t raise themselves, no matter how hard they try. Grace has to come to us from beyond ourselves. As theologian Gerhard Forde once wrote, Grace is not a mysterious supernatural power which operates somehow secretly behind the scenes. Grace is the divine pronouncement itself, the morning star, the flash of lightning exploding in our darkness which reveals all truth simultaneously, the truth about God and the truth about us . . .
It’s less about me striving, proving, pushing and more about accepting, receiving, and welcoming what God in Christ by the Spirit has done. It’s less about getting people to do what is best for them and telling them again and again and again, and one more time for good measure, that God loves them, is for them, and has freed them. All the rest will come in its own good time.
I resonate with Will’s words because I, too, have a similar background of being involved in church since infancy, basically. My grandad was a pastor for over five decades, and my dad has pastored the same church in South Carolina since the late 1990s. Even still, I confess that I had a similar sort of “gospel awakening” during my college years. I look back on those days as I worked through a bevy of spiritual and theological quandaries. I am thankful, though, that Christ’s Spirit works on and with such perennial screw-ups like myself. He’s promised to work on sinners just like me “until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
God assures us elsewhere in his Word that his Word never returns void (Isa. 55:11). Proclamation is never pointless. Persistence in declaring God’s gospel is rewarded in God’s work being performed in his people, in the ones he calls to himself. Sometimes that work doesn’t happen according to our timetable. In fact, it rarely does. But God’s gospel works in ways we can’t fathom or imagine. He performs his wonders through his pronounced Word. May God be praised for the faithful declaration and conversation concerning the gospel that impacts sinners and saints for God’s glory.
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
(William Cowper, 1774)
Be sure to read Will’s piece here. Grace and peace, friends.