How do you allow an event, that took place 2000 years ago, to shape your inner emotional and existential life? You don’t have to be in ministry for long before this becomes a recurring question that you hear. Ok granted, the word “existential” doesn’t come up all that often in questions ordinary church people ask me, but the idea does. There’s a nagging sense, in many, that the gospel is an intellectual reality that they’ve made peace with, but they just don’t feel its force in a subjective way. “I believe the gospel in my head – I just don’t know if it’s gotten hold of my heart”.
The answer that I tend to give to folk is something I’ve been trying to develop over a period of time, learning from Scripture and the insights of other pastors. I’d still like to sharpen it more, but here’s the second (see the first here) in a number of suggestions as to why an individual might be having a hard time existentially relating to the gospel:
2. You need God to do a supernatural work deep within you
I didn’t think too carefully about order when I started writing this series. So at the moment the order is random but if truth be told this one should probably come first.
When the apostle Paul expounds on the gospel in Romans 5 he makes a very poignant statement about our subjective experience of the hope of the gospel in verse 5. He says, “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” Now whether you consider yourself charismatic or not, I’m not sure you can read this verse to say anything other than that the Holy Spirit subjectively and supernaturally impresses the love of God upon us (BTW – if you’re not at all charismatic know that this is the way the Puritans read this verse – see Richard Sibbes). At its core, our subjective grasping of the objective gospel is a supernatural affair. God has to pour his love into your heart by his Spirit.
The implication is that the only thing we can do here is get on our knees and pray that God would do that supernatural work in our hearts and that he would do it in increasing measure. So pray, pray, pray.