As their baptism progressed– with this young lady believer from a Muslim background sitting in the pew between Ruth and me– I noticed Samira beginning to fidget, twisting, turning, and rocking backward and forward. It was as if she was having an anxiety attack. In a quiet whisper, I asked her if there was something wrong.
Samira tugged on the sleeve of my jacket. She whispered forcefully in my ear: ‘I cannot believe this! I cannot believe that I have lived long enough to see people being baptized in public. An entire family together! No one is shooting at them, no one is threatening them, no one will go to prison, no one will be tortured, and no one will be killed. And they are being openly and freely baptized as a family! I never dreamed that God could do such things! I never believed that I would live to see a miracle like this. ‘
I couldn’t help smiling as I turned my eyes back toward the baptismal at the front of the church. A few seconds later, I noticed Samira glancing around the congregation, looking confused and [a] little troubled. When she caught my eye she leaned toward me. ‘Why aren’t all the people standing?’ she wanted to know.
‘What do you mean?’ I whispered back.
‘Why aren’t all these people standing and cheering and clapping at such a miracle from God? I think that I am going to burst with joy! I think that I am going to shout!’
-The Insanity of God, Ripkens, 320
How did so many Russian and Ukrainian believers remain strong in their faith through almost a century of communist persecution? How did they learn to live and die like they did? Time and time again, I heard the same words: ‘We learned it from our mothers, our grandmothers, and our great-grandmothers. We learned it from our fathers, our grandfathers and our great-grandfathers.
-The Insanity of God, Ripken, 178
I was with yet another group of believers listening to their stories of prison, persecution, and God’s provision for His people. Once again I was struck by the power of the testimonies and stories that I was hearing. As we came to the end of our time together, I asked: ‘I just don’t understand why you haven’t collected these stories in a book? Believers around the world ought to hear what you have been telling me here today. Your stories are amazing! These are inspiring testimonies! I have never heard anything like them!
An older pastor reached out and took my shoulder. He clamped his other hang tightly onto my arm, and looked me right in the eye. He said, ‘Son, when did you stop reading your Bible? All of our stories are in the Bible. God has already written them down. Why would we bother writing books to tell our stories when God has already told His story. If you would just read the Bible, you would see that our stories are there.”
He paused and then asked me again, ‘When did you stop reading your Bible?’
Without waiting for me to answer he turned and walked away. There was no friendly smile, no encouraging pat on the back, and no kiss on the cheek.
His convicting question still echoes in my mind.
-The Insanity of God, Ripken, 179
I remember the day like it was yesterday, Nik. My father put his arms around me and my sister and my brother and guided us into the kitchen to sit around the table where he could talk with us. My Mama was crying, so I knew that something was wrong. Papa didn’t look at her because he was talking directly to us. He said, ‘Children, you know that I am the pastor of our church. That’s what God has called me to do– to tell others about Him. I have learned that the communist authorities will come tomorrow to arrest me. They will put me in prison because they want me to stop preaching about Jesus. But I cannot stop doing that because I must obey God. I will miss you very much, but I will trust God to watch over you while I’m gone.
He hugged each one of us. Then he said: ‘All around this part of the country, the authorities are rounding up followers of Jesus and demanding that they deny their faith. Sometimes, when they refuse, the authorities will line up whole families and hang them by the neck until they are dead. I don’t want that to happen to our family, so I am praying that once they put me in prison, they will leave you and your mother alone.’
‘However’, and here he paused and made eye contact with us, ‘If I am in prison and I hear that my wife and my children have been hung to death rather than deny Jesus, I will be the most proud man in that prison!’
-The Insanity of God,
You always respond to the preaching of the gospel. The Puritans would say it this way: the same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay. Do you hear what they’re
Where the gospel is preached and we hear about our guilt and we hear about this great salvation and we go, “Okay, let me enter into that. Let me wrestle with that. Let me seek out counsel. Let me submit, get help, ferret this out, wrestle with this,” then you move toward what Christ has offered to you. Where you refuse to walk into that, you refuse to dig into that, you make yourself indifferent toward the preaching of it, you literally are taking steps toward a hardening of your own heart,which makes frivolous, surface-level, evangelical weekend church attendance a terrifying thing because you’re fiddling around with damnation. Are you tracking with me?
This little game we’re playing of, “I go to church,” and we show up completely unmoved, no real desire to submit our lives to the Lord, repeatedly hearing the gospel and doing nothing with it is literally taking steps toward the ongoing hardening of our hearts toward the things of God. It is a foolish game to play with your soul. Our God will not be mocked! He is not going to be mocked. You’re not going to play games with him. He can’t be deceived. You’re not tricking anybody.
Matt Chandler, Acts (Part 2)- The Church is Born
You’ll never find an obligation that isn’t closely associated, in its context with a gospel declaration. The Bible never starts with what we need to do; it always begins with what God has already done. To get it the other way around makes Christianity just another self-help program, just another curriculum of self-improvement. Self-improvement for the sake of self-improvement is not the gospel; it’s not biblical Christianity. And yet so many people, both inside and outside the church, think that’s what Christianity is all about. Jesus or no Jesus, we just want everything to be clean and safe. Jesus or no Jesus, we just want our kids to behave and to achieve. Jesus or no Jesus, we just want our marriage to be easy and personally fulfilling.
Most of us become guilty of this Christless Christianity because we look at the Bible and we see all of the imperatives without first being washed by the indicatives. We spend more time asking what would Jesus do instead of what did Jesus do.
We have to keep reminding ourselves of the difference between moralism and the gospel. We have to keep remembering that the reason Christ came was first of all not to make bad people good but to make dead people alive. If we forget that, our Christianity will turn out to be Christless.
Jesus + Nothing = Everything
Tulian Tchividjian, 154
The gospel frees us to realize that, while we matter, we’re not the point.
The gospel frees us from the debilitating frustration of not getting what we think we want, because the gospel shouts to all of us that life isn’t about our comfort, our ease, our preferences; it’s about God and his glory, his gospel, his church, his way, his kingdom. It’s about his Son, Jesus, reigning as king.
Jesus + Nothing = Everything, 122