The Washington Post reports that last night's 6.2-magnitude earthquake has killed at least thirty-eight people in central Italy. Today's New York Times has a heartbreaking story on the effects of Zika on the brains of Brazilian babies.
In the midst of all the bad news, I was excited to read some amazingly good news today.
American runner Abbey D'Agostino became famous for helping fellow runner Nikki Hamblin after both were tripped during a race at the Rio Olympics. Abbey was severely injured but finished the race. Now she and Hamblin are the eighteenth and nineteenth recipients of the Pierre de Coubertin medal. It is not awarded at every Olympic Games. Rather, it is reserved for the most exceptional displays of sportsmanship and the Olympic spirit.
Abbey explained her behavior during the race as an expression of her faith, and the world took note. There's something in us that responds to the God who made us.
I recently reread Alister McGrath's A Cloud of Witnesses, which profiles some of the greatest theologians in history. His chapter on Martin Luther contains the great reformer's insight that we should trust God's promises over our experience. McGrath describes Luther's conviction: "God promises to be present with us, even in life's darkest hours—and if experience cannot detect him as being present, then that verdict of experience must be considered unreliable."
The theologians McGrath surveys all agree on this central principle: Jesus is God, and he is real. He is a Person who is as alive and present in our world by his Spirit as he was in his flesh. He prays for us (Romans 8:34) and welcomes our prayers. He teaches us through the Spirit (John 16:14–15). He protects us on earth (John 10:28–29) while he is preparing our reward in heaven (John 14:2). One day he will come to take us from this fallen planet into God's perfect paradise (v. 3).
You probably knew all of that. Here's the question: When last was Jesus as real to you as the last person you encountered? When last did spending time with him in prayer, Scripture, or worship change something significant in your life? Did Jesus manifest the fruit of his Spirit in your life yesterday (Galatians 5:22–23)?
In short, when people see you, are they drawn to him?
Our culture needs nothing so much as it needs to see the reality of Christ in Christians. So ask Jesus to make himself real to you today. Then spend time in his presence so he can answer your prayer.
Oswald Chambers notes that God is found "in secret and nowhere else." He encourages us to "enter the secret place, and right in the center of the common round you find God there all the time." Then "get into the habit of dealing with God about everything."
As Jesus makes himself real to us, he will do "far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20). And others will see Christ in Christians and be drawn to him.
In every church I pastored, I asked that this Scripture be placed on the pulpit: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus" (John 12:21).
Publication date: August 24, 2016
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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