There’s something of a collision occurring as I type this. I am listening to one of my favorite artists- David Gray- sing about the meaninglessness of life and the mere wishful-thinkingness of a God above. In a poetically matter-of-fact way, he concludes that his life is guided by nothing. About the prospect of life being directed by a divine being he says: “Maybe that would do me good if I believed there were a god in the starry firmament. As it is that’s just a lie and I’m here eating up the boredom on an island of cement.”
With Gray’s lyrics playing in my headphones, telling me God is a fairy tale, I can’t shake the memory of a story I heard just two days ago. My friend Rita stood in front of our church and told the story of her journey to faith in Jesus. It was incredible. It was a story of a person with honest questions and real struggles becoming convinced of the reality of Jesus as Lord and King of all. She wasn’t convinced by a book on Christian apologetics. Not by a talented preacher or musician tugging on her emotions. Or by a concert or a conference. People. Just regular people. One by one, she mentioned about fifteen people in her 5-minute story. The friendly person she met when she first walked into our humble little church service. The people who welcomed her into a small group where she could ask the questions for which she desperately sought answers. The person who lovingly confronted her when she began chasing after the empty things of this world. The person who listened and supported her without judgment when she came clean about the sins in her life. The person who became her best friend after she surrendered her life to Christ. And the people who have shown her the very nature of God through their friendship. Her faith in Jesus will always be inextricably linked to those people. Never will she be able to talk of her faith journey without mentioning them. With tears in her eyes Rita thanked everyone who played a role in her story. And rightfully so. It was a blessing to hear.
But what she knows and what God is impressing upon my heart now, is that her story is really a story of a God on mission. A God with a relentless passion for his creation. A God who refuses to disengage with us despite our attempts to ignore him or silence him. A God who pursues. A God who reveals. A God who, though utterly transcendent, humbly allows himself to be known through his people. A God who requires no amount of moral tidiness or religious regimen for entrance into his kingdom. A God who came not just to make us better, to give us a new perspective, or help us stop sinning. But a God who so transforms us that the closest analogy we can muster is that of being born all over again There is no other conception of a God like this but in Christianity. Only Jesus can work the transformation we need.
David Gray, it turns out, is wrong. God is far from a fairy tale. And his work is real. Lesslie Newbigin- probably my favorite author ever- once wrote about the power of a gospel-centered community to impact a world seeking life. He said:
How is it possible that the gospel should be credible, that people should come to believe that the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man hanging on a cross? I am suggesting that the only answer, the only hermeneutic of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it. I am, of course, not denying the importance of the many activities by which we seek to challenge public life with the gospel– evangelistic campaigns, distribution of Bibles and Christian literature, conferences, and even books such as this one. But I am saying that these are all secondary, and that they have power to accomplish their purpose only as they are rooted in and lead back to a believing community.”
I believe in Jesus for many reasons. One such reason is because he actually changes people. I’ve witnessed it. Real change. Deep change. Not a mere intellectual ascent to belief. The type of change that comes only by doing what Jesus taught: losing your life that you might find it. Rita surrendered her life. And she got in return Jesus’ life made alive within her. He died but yet lives still. And will forever. So shall Rita.