Standing in the yard across the street from Granville Cottage is a nine-foot tall bear sculpted with a chain saw. It’s pretty imposing and impressive and an interesting conversation piece.
A couple years ago our oldest son and his family came for a visit. I went out to the car to greet our grandson, little Kyle Kenneth. I got him from his car seat and started to carry him into the house.
“What’s that?” he said, looking wide-eyed at the bear in the yard.
“O, It’s just a bear,” I said.
He tightened his grip around my neck.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m tough. I’ll protect you.”
“I’m scared, grandpa.”
“It’s OK. I will protect you. He can’t hurt you. I’m here.”
“Grandpa, he’s coming to get us.”
“No. He’s not coming to get us, Kyle. He’s not a real bear. He is just a piece of wood. He can’t hurt us. He’s not a real bear.”
After that he kept a wary eye on the bear whenever we went out into the yard. In the daylight he was pretty bold, but in the dark he would stay close and cling to my neck when I put him in the car.
A few weeks ago he came to visit. I went out to get him. He’s older now—braver. He walked and I held his hand. On the way into the house he glanced over his shoulder toward the bear and said, “Hey, grandpa, that’s not a real bear. It’s not a real bear, grandpa. It’s not a real bear, grandpa, is it?”
I answered him, “No, buddy, it not a real bear.” But I don’t think he was talking to me. I think he was talking to himself. He was telling himself the truth. There must have been some inner voice lying to him and still trying to convince him that the bear was real and that he was in danger.
He was muttering the truth to himself—trying to calm his fears. “It’s not a real bear. It’s not a real bear. It’s not a real bear.”
For years well-meaning people have tried to construct schemes, initiate programs, institute religious systems, and discover “new” insights to help people in their struggles against guilt and shame and sin. Whole religious sects have sprung up promising to produce perfect families, holy lives and dynamic churches. They are fads and movements. They come and go.
Wherever God’s people get together and sing and pray and consider truth from Scripture some good things are bound to happen, but over the years I have noticed that there is no scheme or system or spiritual “secret” that is more powerful against sin and guilt, shame and self-righteousness than the gospel applied and continually applied.
We need a return to the gospel. I’m thankful for voices across our nation that are calling for a simple return to the simplicity of the gospel. I want to join them for the rest of my life and ministry. It is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation and it must not be diminished, neglected, distorted, ignored or replaced.
When voices rise up within you to condemn you or when you are tempted to rely on self-righteousness there is no way to improve on the simplicity of preaching the gospel to yourself. There are voices within you that would lie to you and drag you into error and bondage. Don’t listen to them. Speak and sing and murmur the truth to yourself. Preach the gospel to the lost. Preach the gospel to one another. Preach to gospel to your children. But most of all, preach the gospel to yourself.
June 26, 2011