“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
“Oh, Jesus.” This has been my continual prayer this week. I’ve added to it occasionally but I keep coming back to this simple prayer. My heart is filled with grief for something that happened in my community last weekend. My friends have been affected. I have been affected. A dark cloud has descended on my world. Some would even go so far as to say that the Gospel has been affected but, while I understand their sentiments, the Gospel has withstood much tougher tests and transformed much worse situations than the one we have faced recently. The transforming power of Jesus will prevail. God can bring good from terrible things. Healing will come. Satan will not win.
After working for nearly ten years in the realm of “Christian Academia,” I’ve seen firsthand some of the standard dangers that can hide behind pages upon pages of reading and in the stress from life, work and tough classes. I am not saying that seminary is bad or that it is a dangerous place; my days as a student were full of wonderful growth and learning. But what I am saying is that, like with any other area, balance is needed. And also that often what God provides and intends as good things, Satan enjoys twisting into evil.
It is good to study about the Scriptures, to have a wonderfully thought out system of theology and to work through tough doctrines, such as the relationships between Providence and Prayer, or Human Responsibility and God’s Sovereignty, or the Hypostatic Union (Jesus’ humanity and deity), or the Oneness and Threeness of the Trinity. These are all fascinating and wonderful things, if and only if, they lead you to worship, in spirit and truth (John 4:23), the One True God.
Studying these things just to study these things produces all sorts of enticing footholds for the enemy—pride, self-righteousness, favoritism towards those who think the same way, and other sneaky sins. Once the enemy gains a hold he deviously leads his victim down varying paths of hopelessness, doubt, and confusion (or maybe arrogance, entitlement, and hypocrisy…) which can eventually (and terrifyingly) lead one to turn away from Christ.
If you find yourself in a place of just going through the motions or rarely finding yourself at the feet of Jesus in worship and adoration, then humbly throw yourself at His feet and beg Him to not let you go. (Not that He would ever leave you or forsake you (Heb 13:5), but I still think this is the appropriate reaction). Do not arrogantly take His grace for granted:
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:7-10)
My mantra to my friends here in seminaryland is to “cling to Jesus.” Only He can save; not the right doctrines, not knowing a lot about the Bible or the archeology that supports it, not the wonderful professors we have here, not a great church, not a moving song that touches every emotion you possess. Only Jesus. Only. Jesus. He alone is able to save (Acts 4:12) and only He is able to transform lives from the inside out (Rom 12:1-2).
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)