There’s so much that I want to say about Oxford and Cambridge, so I will probably make a few different posts, each just talking about something God taught me, or an experience I had.
Probably the most defining thing about my entire time with the international outreach was the people who were on team with me. At the beginning of his letter to the Phillipians, Paul tells them that in all his prayers for them, he always prays with joy because of their consistent partnership in the gospel. Partnership in the gospel… man, what it is to know the feeling of being part of a group of people working together to share the gospel, and encouraging each other in that! I’ve never enjoyed anything so much! And it’s not that they were all super-Christians or anything, they were just normal people, but people willing to seek God and say “yes!” to Him! All it takes is surrender, because when we put ourselves in a position of truly saying “Your will be done, Your kingdom come” we start to see just that happening! And isn’t that what we really want anyway? Yet so often that’s not how we live. So often that’s not how I live.
I feel like the biggest thing God did in me at OIO/CIO is expose and take down allot of the barriers in my heart keeping me from surrendering my life to Him. Probably the main thing holding me back from this was how much of my self worth I placed in how other people perceived me, and therefore how much of my life I devoted to projecting a “better” image of myself. So, at the cafes each evening we would run an optional bible study working through some key passages from the book of Luke. One evening part of the passage was talking about this one time when the religious leaders were taking Jesus to task for hanging out with “tax collectors and sinners”, basically the bad people in society. And Jesus turns to them and says “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” I think what Jesus is getting at here is not so much that there are good and bad people and he has come to help the bad, but that there are those that know their sin, and there are people who try to hide it, even from themselves, and he has come to save the ones who will face their sin. I was talking with one of my friends recently and he was saying how he loves to spend time talking to homeless people and just hanging out with them, because they are some of most honest people he knows. They know their brokenness, their addiction or whatever, they are confronted with it every day; it’s what keeps them where they are. Now, the question is, are we any different from them? Am I any different from them? Maybe the only thing that separates the bum on the street from the banker in his office is how well they know themselves. Both are imprisoned by their sin, it’s just that one of them sees the bars, and the other doesn’t want to; he tells himself he’s fine. So when I try to gain other peoples approval and praise by devoting myself to making myself look good or righteous, I’m almost telling other people “I don’t need Jesus, I’m not sick. Look, see how good I am.” In my actions, I’m in just as much denial as the banker! There is a conflict between what I believe and how I act. Even though my theology and my heart says “yes, I have a problem, I need Jesus”, I’m still effectively trying to persuade people that the opposite is true! What is not at conflict with truth then, is not to proclaim my strength, but to proclaim my weakness. And when we face our weaknesses, we can give thanks to the one who gives us strength, in accepting the fact we sin, we can finally accept God’s gift of love and mercy and forgiveness. Until we reach the place where we stop striving to make ourselves better, make ourselves look better, we can never fully accept what Jesus is offering us. Jesus said “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” This is what he offers. We just have to accept that we need it.
So this is really a big thing that God did in my heart. I feel that maybe the process of God changing me into the man he made me to be is the process of Him exposing and leading me out of all the different ways my life contradicts what I believe. And how patient and gentle He is to do that at a pace that I can handle! I still have so far to go, but His hand upholds me. His wisdom guides me. His forgiveness gives me hope. He washes and bathes this broken man, and is slowly making me new… Glory :)