I’m not usually a sappy person, but when it comes to military members returning home to their families, I’m a wreck. I’ve watched countless videos of military mothers and fathers returning home to their children after being gone for several months to a year, and the reaction that each child has may be different, but it all reflects the same thing: joy.
As I sat through one, two…several of these videos, all I could think about was the look of joy on the faces of the children. What would it be like to be in that situation? To have been separated so long from one, or both, of the people who gave me life?
Then it hit me: This is what Christ wants from me.
In John 14:6, Jesus tells us that He is the only way to the Father. He is the only one that can recreate the bridge that we so rebelliously burned to the ground. Jesus stood before the world, as the returned military father does his child, and says, “Here I am. It’s me!”
We should look up, shocked yes, but in tearful joy and praise, scrambling over words, falling over every other person to get to Him, to touch Him, to bow at His feet.
But often times, we don’t. Why?
John Piper, one of the most influential pastors of all time, gave a sermon entitled “God is the Gospel” some years ago. In this sermon, Piper posed this question,
If you could, at this moment, go to heaven, free from debt, from sin, from pain, from all the ailments of the world, but Jesus was not there, would you go?
His fear is that the majority of churchgoers would say yes. My understanding of this thought is that, as believers in Christ, we always remember that every good and perfect thing comes from God (James 1:17).
We hope for the things that God has promised us. We want to delight ourselves in the Lord, only so He will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). Our focus is on the things and not the One who gives them, and that is a problem.
Not only does that reflect our sinful nature, it also, if I may make so bold a statement, shows that we do not understand the Gospel.
The gift of the Gospel is not grace, and eternal life with the Father forevermore. No, the gift of the Gospel is Christ. The gift of the Gospel is fully man and fully God, the One who told Lazarus to come out of the grace (John 11:43), the One who looked out among the people as He hung on the cross and asked the Father to forgive them because of their ignorance (Luke 23:34).
The gift is Him. It has always been Him. It will always be Him.
I began my time in youth ministry at Port City Community Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, and every year we put on our own summer camp, Fuse. We have a different speaker come in each year to create some diversity in who the students see, because seeing and hearing the same person every time can be a bit redundant.
I’ll never forget my last Fuse. The pastor of PC3 (as we called it), Mike Ashcraft, spoke, and the last night he did, he said something that shook me to my core.
He used a massive whiteboard, and over the course of the week, filled it up with his message material. The moment he finished speaking, he turned to the students and began to talk about the idea of blessings, and he said these words:
If God gave you every single thing that you asked for, all the gifts, relationships, things you wanted, but does not give you Himself then he hates you. But if God gives you nothing that you ask for except for Himself, then He loves you more than you will ever be able to comprehend.
As followers of Christ, we have to count the cost. Following Christ is no easy feat. Jesus himself said so. (Luke 9:58, 60)
So, we count the cost, but, do we realize who, not what, we are counting it for?
My prayer for you, for myself, and for those whom Christ is reaching for will understand that it does not matter what Christ gives to us, or takes away from us.
All that matters is Him. He is our salvation. He is our fortress. He is where we find rest.
It was, is, and will always be about Him.