First a Confession, then a great article.
I confess this is a blatant rip-off. My good friend Mack Tomlinson sent me this article by Ruth van Dyken which is taken from this month’s edition of Christian Renewal. I hope that is enough citation to deliver me from any concerns of plagiarism! I am passing on to you a wonderful report of God’s owning and using His clear Gospel Word.
A debtor to Mercy,
Pastor Scott Lee
PAUL WASHER PREACHING IN CANADA
Ruth van Dyken
Nearly 1000 young adults poured into Redeemer College on February 14th to hear Paul Washer. A former missionary to Peru and current director of Heart Cry Missionary Society, he spoke on “The Gospel and True Conversion.” Although the greying preacher’s personal appearance in slacks and a blue dress shirt wasn’t particularly noteworthy, his presence there in Hamilton was nothing short of remarkable.
A few days before, two feet of snow smothered Washer’s home in Virginia, throwing the “Old Dominion State” into a state of utter confusion. With Washer entrenched in a log cabin on the side of a Virginia mountain, he and his staff scoured schedules for a flight to Ontario. God makes a way for His people, and 3:00 a.m. on the very day of the conference found Washer with high boots, hunting clothes and suitcase in hand. After trudging several miles down a logging road he joined a congregant for a seven-hour car ride to Cincinnati, where a flight was booked for Toronto.
That set a tone for the evening, so manifestly a direct work of providence. Pastor Jack Schoeman of Providence Free Reformed Church in St. George ON opened the evening with prayer and the Parable of the Sower. Schoeman introduced Paul Washer, who is perhaps best known for “The Shocking Youth Message” delivered at a youth conference in 2002, since viewed over 1.2 million times on YouTube.
Washer took the podium and turned to I Thessalonians 1, stopping at Paul’s bold claim that he knew the Thessalonian brothers were chosen by God. This sure knowledge came, Washer clarified, not from divine revelation but from the perception of the Gospel’s power among them, both in its proclamation and its effects. The setting and nature of Paul’s arrival in Thessalonica makes this clear. In a context of fervent idol worship and sage-like Greek philosophy, Washer describes the apostle’s arrival on the scene: “bent over, aching, limping, with a bloody back and bloody feet.” There was no silver-tongued eloquence to woo them, no scintillating human power to draw them to their best life now; there was only the bare, scandalous Gospel calling them to a life of sacrifice. Yet Paul received divine strength to preach with boldness and power, and that was a sign to him that the Holy Spirit was moving and the Gospel was taking root. As Washer pointed out, the Master sends out His reapers with sickles when He intends to reap, and Paul was powerfully equipped for the task.
The Thessalonians’ response was the second reason why Paul was able to confidently declare them chosen of God. Paul burst in on their devout and consuming idol worship – yet when the truth was held before them, they embraced it with full heart and turned to God. Thus began the transformation of their hearts and lives.
Washer gave an example of transformation from his home, where coyotes attack flocks of sheep. How do you solve the problem of the coyote? You could shoot the coyote – that solves your problem, but not the coyote’s because he is dead. You could cage the coyote – that solves the sheep’s problem, but not the coyote’s as he will be pacing that cage, eager to lay his teeth into them. The only way to solve the coyote’s problem is one impossible to humanity, to change its very nature. Yet some “gospels” attempt to inspire people to cage their sinful natures: go to church, restrain your evil passions.
When God takes hold of a life, the results are nothing short of mindblowing. “God created the universe out of nothing, but when He makes a child of God, He takes a mass of radically depraved humanity and makes it into a servant of God.” His desires are changed, his very heart is changed.
“Has the Gospel come to you in power? Are you truly believing the Gospel?” Washer asked, pausing each time to search the eyes of the audience. “Do you look on God with true affection?” “Do you long for Jesus?” This life-changing regeneration and its resulting fruits are a sort of spiritual barometer, or in Washer’s words “a Biblical standard of how to know if you are converted.” This also is how Paul could say with complete confidence that these brothers were chosen by God. “If someone observed your life for six months, would they testify, ‘I know God has elected this one’?”
The Gospel transforms our lives. Washer told the story of a popular young man who turned to Christ. He immediately began to hand out tracts at his college, and his social profile fell from “big man on campus” to laughingstock for all. His friends took him aside one day and remonstrated, “Can’t you see that you’re ruining your life?” to which the young man replied, “What else can I do? Jesus saved my life – how can I not give myself to Him?” In Washer’s words, “If I spend the end of my life rotting in prison with my tongue ripped out, is [what Jesus has done for me] not enough to keep praising Him?”
The radical, renewing power of the Gospel doesn’t stop with our personal lives. No, it also has a transformative effect on our culture. The Thessalonians imitated Christ and the apostles, so sounding forth the word of the Lord across Macedonia, Achaia and, in Paul’s own words, “everywhere.” “Do you want to change the world?” Washer asked. “Then imitate Christ.” The evening closed most appropriately with “Amazing Grace,” and we parted, grateful that God had brought in a preacher down a mountain and across 1,000 snowy kilometres to deliver that which is truly the Good News, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in all its power.
Taken with permission from Christian Renewal March 2014