It was a wonderful opportunity. I was asked to participate in an open discussion about death and dying from a patient’s perspective. The event was held at a local medical college. It was the first ministry situation I had ever been in where I had sat between a rabbi and two imams.
My Jewish and Islamic colleagues were all very warm and articulate, but I had an unfair advantage: I came armed with the gospel. I carried something into the room that no one else had, and as the evening went on this message glistened with greater and greater beauty.
The men on either side of me were gentle and caring. They knew their faith well, but they had one distinct disadvantage: the only message they brought into the room was the message of the law.
The only hope they could give was the hope that somehow, someway, a person could be obedient enough to be accepted into eternity with God. The more they spoke, the more beautiful the gospel looked.
The most significant moment of the evening came when we were asked about what we would say to a family of someone who had committed suicide. It was at this moment that the gospel shined the brightest.
I said, “Suicide doesn’t change the paradigm. Think with me: who of us could lie in our bed during the last hours of our life and look back and say to ourselves that we have been as good as a person could be? Wouldn’t all of us look back and have regrets about things we have chosen, said, and done? None of us is able to commend ourselves to God on the basis of our performance. In this way, the person who has committed suicide and the person who hasn’t are exactly the same. Both of them are completely dependent on the forgiveness of a God of grace, in order to have any hope for eternity.”
You and I share an identity with the hypothetical suicidal person. Our only hope is God’s steadfast love and his abundant mercy. We cannot look to our:
- Ministry track record
- Theological knowledge
- Evangelistic zeal
- Faithful obedience
- Or anything else for that matter
We have one hope; it is the hope of which this wonderful old hymn sings:
Since nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garment white
In the blood of Calvary’s lamb.
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain;
He washed it white as snow.
After the panel concluded, I thanked the rabbi and the two imams and got in my car to drive home. But I didn’t just drive; I celebrated!
I was very excited as I thought about the evening, not because I had just been given a golden opportunity to preach the gospel message, but because by God’s grace, I was an undeserving recipient of the gospel message as well!
Paul David Tripp
- Where is God giving you opportunities to proclaim the beauty of the gospel message to those who don't yet believe?
- What are some fears and obstacles you have which prevent you from speaking boldly and frequently?
- How can you battle against the fears and remove the obstacles, allowing you to be used by God to be a light in your neighborhood?
- If you were hypothetically in your last hours of life, what would you be tempted to rely on for God's approval, apart from the righteousness of Christ? (Don't be too quick to default to a theologically accurate answer. Consider your life - right here, right now, today - and what you sometimes rely on to prove your personal righteous worth, either to God or others).
- How can you practically remind yourself of "Nothing good have I ... All to Him I owe"?