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Checkpoint Summer 2021: With God all things are possible

CMS missionaries Peter and Terry Blowes have been ministering in Argentina for many years. Frequently in their university work they encounter the challenge of students who believe in God’s sternness and judgement, but not in his mercy and grace. Terry gives a recent example.

I was sitting in the loft area of the Economics Faculty café, reading Matthew 19 with four students. Two were committed Catholics and the other two were life-long
Protestants. We were reading of the rich young ruler and the sacrifice Jesus calls on him to, ”sell what you possess and give to the poor.” The disciples respond in astonishment to Jesus’ requirement and ask, “Who then can be saved?” In response Jesus says, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” As we approached the end of our study each group member shared their application. The two Catholic girls said, “I am going away grieving because I can’t live up to the standards Jesus sets.” I was then shocked to hear the two Protestant girls share exactly the same application!

Going away sad

One of the challenges we face is how our local students read biblical narrative, including the gospels. Time after time I’ve heard students say they will “go away sad”  after reading passages like the beatitudes. “How can we ever live up to Jesus’s requirement of perfection?” If the Old Testament law was impossible for the Jews to  keep (e.g. You must not kill), how much more difficult were Jesus’s commandments? (e.g. If you hate your brother or call him rude names you are worthy of hell! Matthew 5:21-22)

In Latin society it is the sad, dying Christ, who is the example of sacrificial obedience to God, that is most commonly seen. The God who is hard to please and always ready to condemn is the one people grew up with. Leadership is about being heavy-handed and discipleship is about subservience and losing your own identity. Sadly, these ingrained attitudes are just as present in the evangelical (Protestant) churches as they are in the rest of the society.

What are they missing?

To read biblical narrative well you must read each story within the bigger story. The gospels are marvellous examples of narrative—building suspense, involving the  reader and causing them to feel more and more hopeless—until the climax where the mystery is solved. The innocent one dies so the guilty can go free! God’s gracious love freely given to unworthy people.

As we teach our students to read Bible narrative in the context of the finished work of Christ on the cross, they begin to be free to love and serve with joy. The grace of God shows them how to be grace-filled people. It’s a message that leaves them, “walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8), not going away grieving and fearful of losing their salvation.

Grace applied

So, what was my application in the study of the rich young ruler?

I know I can never be good enough to enter the kingdom of God on my own merits. But Jesus said in this passage (Matthew 19:26) with God all things are possible. Jesus died to take the punishment for my sin, and I am forgiven by God. I have the assurance that the rich young ruler lacked, based in what Jesus did for me, not in what I do or who I am. I have been saved by his grace.

Please pray with us for the students of Argentina, that they would be overwhelmed not by the demands of the law, but by the greatness of God’s grace, and this would overflow to the wider church and community here.

PRAY

Pray that believers around the world (including in Argentina) would be fully convicted of the overwhelming mercy and grace of God in Christ.