The Beginning of the Gospel
by Tommy Overton
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Congratulations! If you are reading this article it means you have endured over 6 months of a global, historic pandemic. It is hard to define what our “new normal” is during this season but most of us feel restless, irritable, and tired. You may be one of the millions who are “zoomed out,” fighting off the “quarantine 15,” and have a beautiful collection of masks for every occasion. If you have children at home, then you are way too busy to read this article (we are praying for you).
As a result of God’s grace, we have made it to this point. Therefore, we must take time to reflect on all that our Lord is doing through this pandemic. What is the Lord revealing in and through you, our church family, and to The Church during COVID? “Don’t waste this pandemic” is a familiar exhortation from Pope Frances to John Piper. Let us encourage one another to not merely muddle through but rather to muse over what God is revealing to us through this pandemic.
Blaise Pascal knew the value of this. Pascal spent much of his life distracting himself from the weighty matters of God. But after God transformed his heart, this 17th century scientist, theologian, and philosopher made this observation, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Imagine what Pascal would say about us now with all our technology?
As you prayerfully ponder these questions, “in a room alone” you may become aware of some unwanted insights. A few examples from my own journal reveal many idols, selfishness, and a disturbing lack of love, to name a few. As we do life together in this pandemic, we see the darkness in others and in ourselves. We realize that we have more junk than we care to acknowledge but stop there. There are gifts around the corner.
The good news is that our Lord already knows everything about us. Psalm 139 is both comforting and unsettling about this reality. Let us rest again on the facts of the Gospel and how Christ has set us free to admit all our junk, sin, insecurities, anger, and more. We have Gospel freedom to be vulnerable like Brennan Manning, who said, “When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games.” Likewise, we can agree with the shocking confession of the apostle Paul, “…for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” along with the rest his words at the end of Romans 7.
Allow me to jump to the conclusion of this spiritual assignment “in a room alone” with the Holy Spirit. As we bring it all out into the light, we will find areas of sin and junk, but we will discover the love of our Father and His profound mercy and grace. Likewise, we may find new insights, vision, and calling that has emerged from a season of suffering through this pandemic.
Hopefully, you will find the gospel freedom that Jack Miller summarized in his famous quote. “Cheer up: You're a worse sinner than you ever dared imagine, and you're more loved than you ever dared hope.”
For those of you who get stuck in the quagmire of shame and guilt like me, then I have one final encouragement from Robert M. M‘Cheyne who said, “For every one look at your sin take ten looks at Christ.” This fall our entire church body will be immersed in Christ through the Gospel of Mark. It’s exciting to know that God has appointed all children, youth, and adults in PCPC to take many looks at Christ this fall through the Gospel of Mark. Therefore, don’t waste this pandemic but embrace all that God has for you for “such a time as this.”