Gospel Shock

The inventor of dynamite opened his newspaper one morning in 1888 and was shocked to read his own obituary. His brother had died, and a careless reporter had put the wrong man in the story. The incident left the man deeply disturbed for more than the obvious reasons. Through the erroneous obituary, he saw himself as the world saw him: a wealthy Swedish industrialist whose most enduring legacy was the invention of dynamite. Resolving to do something that would uphold his cherished ideals, he used a portion of his great wealth to establish prizes that would reward people whose work benefited humanity. The Prizes were first awarded in 1901; today, they are still considered one of the most esteemed honors in the world. You know them as Nobel Peace Prizes. The soul-searching that this inventor and businessman, Alfred Nobel, underwent as he reviewed his life is the same kind of self-examination Christians need to make regularly. Paul urged the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves!” (2 Cor. 13:5)
To look more like Christ in 2024, expect a shock to your system ahead. If you think about it, how often does spiritual lethargy creep in when smooth sailing best defines your world? Regularly. Whether we like it or not, equilibrium is enemy # 1 of Christ-likeness. To embrace that truth is to embrace the Gospel. It’s just the way things are.

White-knuckle prayers, on the other hand, meaning the ones characterized by deep groanings of lament when you have no place to go but God, only get tapped when things are really terrible. Desperation, church history has taught us, is one of the best breeding grounds for hungering for righteousness. Hungering nearing the point of death only intensifies the longer it goes. So it is with believers: As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? Ps. 42
A man fishing with zero success noticed a nearby woman reeling in one prize catch after another. Frustrated, he finally asked what her secret was. Her reply came with a question, “Are you fishing for supper or sport?” “I’m fishing for sport,” he answered. “Well, there’s your problem,” the woman stated. “I’m fishing for supper.”

Are you starving for the Gospel? Or is it more like an add-on from the menu, like an appetizer or dessert? Is 2024 to be your year of looking like our Redeemer for Whom He is and as He is? If yes, are you bold enough to pray this prayer: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.” (Philippians 3:10) Before answering, please study that verse to realize what you’re committing to. Notice what goes hand-in-hand with knowing Him: participating in His sufferingsbecoming like Him in His death. Now, to ask once again, can you pray that verse? Furthermore, will you?

I saw a devotion that said the mark of a great leader is the demand made upon his followers. The Italian freedom fighter Garibaldi offered his men only hunger and death to free Italy. Winston Churchill told the British people that he had nothing to offer them but “blood, sweat, toil, and tears” in their fight against their enemies. Jesus spoke of the necessity of total commitment: “One thing you lack. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Lk. 18:22 Talk about a shock to the system or a sudden disturbance in the equilibrium of something!

To sanitize an algae-laden swimming pool, you shock it. To jump-start a malfunctioning heart, you shock it. To reignite a broken spiritual life, a Holy Ghost soul shock works best. It’s just the way things are. But who among us is bold enough to pray for it?


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