Sobremesa xxi.

Greg's Story...

I grew up in Menomonee Falls, WI… Linda, in St. Paul, MN. We met in River Falls, WI, 30 miles from St. Paul. I was studying at the university… Linda was visiting friends. We were married there in March, 1970.

We came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior in the summer of 1972. We had purchased a farm, 15 miles west of Merrill, WI. It covered 80 acres… it came with a big house, barn, granary and tractor… all in a state of abandon.

But we saw our future there… we dreamed of getting back to the land… an organic food farm… the freedom of self-sufficiency… a small community of others who shared our vision… and most of all, a measure of inner peace which constantly eluded us.

The 60’s had a great impact on us. We were both avid readers: classical literature, Russian authors, philosophy, contemporary poetry, Tibetan mysticism, Zen Buddhism — particularly authors D.T. Suzuki and Alan Watts. During that winter, we took turns reading out loud until we finished Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. Our reading blended well with the huge snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures taking turns on the other side of the window.

The more I applied myself, the more a sensation of despair overtook me. I became aware that I was utterly incapable of attaining harmony with God… with truth… or with self. I studied some Baháʼí writings a friend had given me. I even tried reading the Bible, which was about as satisfying as deciphering a Mayan hieroglyph.

By the end of that winter, we began investing in livestock for our farm. We bought a goat… a good package deal that included two kids and a daily portion of milk. The man selling them was a Jesus follower and pastor of a nearby mission church. Total price: $25.00. At that time I was working as a milkman for a local dairy. We agreed to give him $5.00 every payday until our debt was cleared.

So guess what he talked about during our visits? He was never imposing, though… he didn’t have to be. We were quite generous with our questions and objections, too.

Little by little, the simple testimony of what God had done for us through the sacrifice of his Son won us over. Everything wrong in us could be defined with a single word: sin. Everything we lacked could be found in a single person: Jesus Christ. It wasn’t long before we opened our hearts to this message and surrendered our hearts to him.

That summer was the turning point for our lives. It became clear to us how mistaken we had been. Deifying self in our search for a meaningful life was an untenable posture. True meaning does not come through our own efforts… even less by denying or emptying ourselves. Real life is ours when we receive what is lacking. When we welcomed Jesus Christ into our lives, the emptiness within was filled.

“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Colossians 2:9-10, NKJV)

Why is it that only by Jesus Christ can we be filled and made complete?

He is the only door into the kingdom of God because only he was capable of opening it. He is God the Son… co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit… as thoroughly God as the Father and the Spirit. His sacrifice on the cross was unique… authentically vicarious. Yes he died because he “so loved the world.” (John 3:16) But what he accomplished benefits us because his sacrifice was the direct, complete payment for our sin.

And this didn’t come out of nowhere. It was in fulfillment of ancient prophecies recorded in the Old Testament… like this one from the prophet Isaiah nearly eight centuries before it happened:

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace…All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6, ESV)

Jesus’ own words brought down hatred and mockery upon him.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, ESV)

“I am the way” … The ranting of a lunatic? The lies of a charlatan? Or, God incarnate proclaiming absolute truth? Jesus is God or he is nobody. No middle ground… no other choice.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul declares:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18, ESV)

No one else could have done this. And there is no need to repeat it. You can’t perfect perfection — one sacrifice, one time, and for all. The last thing Jesus said on the Cross was, “IT IS FINISHED.” Putting down his life and taking it up again three days later was precisely what he had promised to do; he left no room for doubt about who he was and what he had come to do for us.

Because of his sacrifice, we have been granted the offer of forgiveness… the hope of a life worth living… the certainty of being with God forever.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28, ESV)

Ask yourself the same question that troubled Pontius Pilate. You will never face a more important one. Your future and your eternity will depend on your answer.

What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ? (Matthew 27:22, ESV)

The Apostle John declares:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:18, ESV)

At this point in my life, it is even more clear to me that the decision we made that summer on the farm was the most important one we would ever make. It had the greatest impact on our lives. It radically changed our future. How could we have imagined going to other countries to share this good news with others… invest in lives wooed by the call of the same Spirit… see believers formed into groups worthy of being called churches?

We went through a lot of experiences and trials… we learned a bunch. But we never regretted our initial decision to give ourselves to Christ… and to personally embrace his call to go and make disciples of all nations.

And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO PREACH THE GOSPEL OF PEACE, WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!” (Romans 10:15, NKJV)