One of my favorite things growing up was watching an old war movie on TV with my Dad. Some favorites that come to mind are "Missing In Action," "The Longest Day," "Uncommon Valor," and "Red Dawn." I loved the action, story, and exhilarating thought of fighting against evil in an all-out effort for victory. Looking back, I also loved it because I was creating memories with my Father. Just sitting next to him with a Dr. Pepper in one hand and a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll in the other was my little bit of heaven on earth.
My experience as an active duty Marine years later ruined all of my favorite war movies. Not only that, but it almost ruined any would-be future favorite war movie as well. My thoughts while watching a war movie now are as follows:
That weapon doesn't sound like that. Bombs don't do that. The uniform doesn't look like that. Marines are not that dramatic while that is happening. Marines don't talk like that. Blood doesn't look like that or act like that. Death doesn't look like that. Fear doesn't look like that. War is not that glorious. That is not what war even is.
Now please keep in mind, I did not experience even a fraction of what most experience in a combat zone. My engagement was mustard seed small in comparison. But the .001 percent that I was exposed to was enough to change everything. Just a drop of 100 proof USMC ruined every war movie. Now I am surprised when a war movie gets even close to getting it right.
Just one drop of 100 proof gospel has a similar but even more dramatic effect. Imagine growing up in the Bible Belt of the American South. Jesus is everywhere. He is on interstate billboard signs. Christian and Non-Christian bookstores will sell items with his name, and his cross stamped all over it. His image and the religion that invokes his name is marketed everywhere and invoked by all.
I reach adulthood, go to seminary, and run into individuals or better yet, God sent individuals with the actual gospel to me. I was shown that the gospel is not meant to be mixed with the law. That the gospel is all gift. It is a gift given to me when I did not ask for it, believe it, or even want it. The gospel is a one-way rescue by God, through Jesus, for sinners, courtesy of the Holy Spirit exploding faith into an individual who is hearing the good news. The death of Jesus Christ saves all by itself and by himself.
- Hymns and Praise songs are sung about what I am doing for God.
- Sermons are shrieked with all law and no gospel.
- Sunday school curriculum, Bible studies, Christian books, Christian movies, and youth group emphasis is all on the action of me and not Christ for me.
The gospel has made these thoughts come to mind:
The gospel doesn't sound like that. The law doesn't do that for the sinner. Where is Christ and him crucified for sinners in this sermon? Is there any mention of the work of Jesus at all? What I am hearing is a theology of glory, not a theology of the cross. Blood doesn't act like that. Death doesn't look like that. That's not what the Bible is saying. This is not even what Christianity is. This is not gospel; this is law. Where is the good news? Where is Jesus, and what is he doing in this teaching or singing?
The Christian faith does not revolve around me the Christian but Christ the Savior. One drop of the gospel ruined everything I knew in Christianity and exposed that what I was drinking was a flat, watered-down version at best. It was a mixed drink where I was the anointed one, and Christ was my side-kick.
I have been ruined by the gospel. Many hymns are now ruined, many sermons are now ruined, many doctrines I used to believe are now ruined. I pray that the gospel ruins you also. Drinks are on the house.
"Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14)