What Food Is For

Soul. Body. Soul

1 Comment

Metabolizing the Gospel

A lot of digital ink gets spilled about the dangers of seminary life – that so much time spent in study of languages, theological systems and preaching mechanics risks the disengagement of the heart, even as the mind works overtime. There’s a similar risk in Christian blogging. For people who are gifted at writing, it can be easy to interact with a Scriptural passage or topic with mental gifts and typing strength, and bypass the heart and soul altogether. I come from multiple generations of preachers and writers, so I‘ve seen this tendency in action. I’ve also experienced its bad fruit, and I’m loath to reproduce it. Consequently, one of the prayers I pray regularly is that there is never a digital disconnect between what I write and what is actually going on in my so-called “real” life. God is always faithful to answer.

Case in point: I wrote last week about tasting the goodness of God in the bitterness of life because Psalm 34 is a favorite passage of mine, and because I had had my own share of David’s experience in the week leading up to it. I ended the post with (in hindsight) a somewhat Pollyana-esque flourish about being confident that no matter what the week brought, I knew I would still taste the goodness of God in it. I decided to expand on what I wrote in a talk I gave to my womens’ Bible study the following week, in conjunction with our study of Galatians 5 and the fruit of the Spirit. David models how the best fruit is often borne out of suffering, and so I ended my talk in somewhat the same spirit that I ended that post, with a rousing exhortation from 2 Corinthians 1 that our suffering may feel like death, but that’s only because God is preparing us to experience his resurrection power in the midst of it.

Fifteen minutes after we closed in prayer and I was the last to walk out to the dark parking lot, God gave me my first opportunity to make sure I believed what I’d just taught by way of a very flat tire. Thanks to the common graces of cell phones, AAA and a dear friend who lived mere minutes away, I was able to laugh the affliction off as light and momentary – an ABC after-school-special class teachable moment.

As it turns out, that was only the warmup. Last week has, in a lot of ways, even harder than the one I last wrote about. In the midst of some great things (one which I’ll talk about in a moment), I’ve experienced rejection, betrayal and provocations to all kind of sin, many of which I resisted through God’s power, and some I did not. Twice in the last two weeks I have been lead into some difficult situations at my school, one involving cheating, and another involving racist speech so unashamed (and initially so unchallenged) that my heart is still heavy – over that and everything else.

Last week’s lectures at school have focused on the physiology of digestion and cellular metabolism – the mechanical and chemical process of transforming the food we eat into the building material of our cells, and into the energy they need to function. It’s eye-crossingly complicated at times. It’s, well, earthy. But it’s also spectacularly beautiful. We who began as earth, now take the stuff of the earth into us so that it becomes us.

As I’ve thought over the events of this week, what has comforted me is how the truth’s of God’s Word and the good news of the gospel didn’t just interrupt my thoughts and actions in the midst of my circumstances; they intervened in them.

In the midst of earthly rejection, I meditated on Jesus’ rejection, which grants me acceptance and adoption by my Heavenly Father.

When betrayal tempted me to anger and unforgiveness, I remembered Jesus’ willingness to be betrayed and pay for my own betrayal of him through his death on the cross. 

When I lamented my weakness and inability to love or to overcome my own sin, I have repented of my presumption that my strength was ever sufficient in the first place, and have asked God to give me His power instead, the power that raised His Son from the dead, declaring victory over my sin and the sins of the world.

The study that began with my mind and my strength is moving into my heart and soul. I am metabolizing the gospel.

The more meaningful and transformative the gospel becomes to these moments of daily life, the more I long for women to experience that same transformation themselves. Knowing the gospel is essential, but it’s not enough. It’s knowing how the gospel changes the way we see our circumstances that it begins to change us. It’s not enough for us to learn about the gospel. We have to learn how to metabolize it as well.

Moving the truths of the gospel from our minds to our hearts and actions is the focus of a new web project I’ve been helping my good friend Wendy Alsup with. I found Wendy’s blog several years ago in the midst of a season of great struggle. What she wrote about, and the way she wrote about it, ministered to me greatly. Over the months, Internet interactions evolved into phone calls and then visits. Today, she is one of my dearest sisters in the faith. Wendy models what it means to work out what the gospel is working in.

The Gospel-Centered Woman project was really born out of our desire to help other women, individually and especially corporately, through their own churches, to experience the same kind of transformation we’ve experienced in our own hearts, on our own, and together. I’ve written a little more here about what we’re trying to do, and also what we’re not, because the Internet being the Internet, that needs to be said too. I hope you’ll be blessed by what you find there and that you’ll tell others about it.

You’re very welcome to leave comments below about articles you’d like to see, questions you have, anything you think might be an asset. Also, if you’re a fellow blogger or writer who we’ve interacted with in the past, and we haven’t yet contacted you yet, it’s because kids and husbands and real life ministry, not because we’re trying to be any kind of exclusive club .

At. All.

So please – if you have ideas or pieces you think would fit, get in touch with us. Those ideas are likely the same ones we’ve already talked about contacting you about, but just haven’t been able to yet. 🙂