October 23, 2012 by Dwight Bernier
Bears and teddy bears are not the same.
Every night my oldest son, Nehemiah, goes to sleep with his “teddy”. He is really attached to him and will seek “teddy” out if he is feeling tired at all. He associates “teddy” with comfort and he never seems to get tired of having “teddy” join him in all aspects of life.
This summer my family went to an animal park in Maine. My wife and I told Nehemiah that there would be bears at the park which resulted in him not wanting to see anything else but the bears. When we finally arrived at the bear area, we saw bears that seemed to be much like the “teddy” that Nehemiah sleeps with. They appeared to be gentle, cute, cuddly, and were patiently waiting for the next person to throw food into their cage. Nehemiah wanted to touch the bears, but I explained to him this wasn’t possible because of the nature of the bears. It would have been bad parenting on my part in that moment to let Nehemiah think that bears exist to comfort him. My son needed to realize in that moment that bears can do serious damage and they aren’t meant to be played with. He needed to know that bears aren’t typically in cages, but are wild.
Timothy Treadwell, an “American bear enthusiast”, learned fatally what I was trying to convey to my son. Treadwell spent much time with Grizzly bears on their turf. He was caught on camera spending time with these bears much like Nehemiah spends time with his “teddy”. But on October 5, 2003, Treadwell experienced the unpredictable behavioral diversity of the bear. He was killed by the bears that he experienced being tame and cuddly. Tragically, Treadwell based the nature of the bear on his subjective experience of them, while forgetting what he undoubtedly once knew about the animal – that they are ferocious and powerful animals!
Often, our view of the gospel is as Treadwell’s was when he began his work. If we have been rescued from our sin and given new life by Jesus, then we understand the ferocious nature of the gospel as it broke into our lives and changed our hearts. Even though the change was radical, there is also a comfort that we receive from the gospel. Many new Christians often have an immediate zeal that desires for all people to know Jesus. Life has been radically altered for them. But for many that zeal slowly (or quickly) fades. Why? I think the answer is the same reason that Timothy Treadwell was killed – familiarity.
In becoming familiar with the gospel, we can easily forget the full nature of it. Many of us find great comfort in the gospel in our personal lives, much like my son finds comfort in his “teddy”. And the gospel is supposed to work like that. Jesus does comfort us, and the Spirit of God is called ‘The Comforter’ in John 14.16. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he tells us that God is the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” (1.3, 4). Clearly, God intends for us to find comfort in Him and the gospel.
But that is not the fullness of the gospel. The gospel is referred to as the “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1.16). The good news of Jesus does not come into the lives of people like a teddy bear, but rather bursts in ferociously like a Grizzly bear seeking to devour whatever lies in opposition to God. The gospel comes to a person who is an enemy of God, a rebel, spiritually dead, and it devours them, leaving a new creation who will eternally enjoy Jesus and bask in His goodness. When bears attack, they leave fatal damage. When the gospel attacks, it damages the flesh and gives real life.
The city I live in, Montreal, has nearly four million people inhabiting it. If statistics are correct, then one out of every 200 people that lives in the city is a Christian. My city is not the only needy city. Many need to hear of who Jesus is and what He has done for them in his life, death and resurrection. Many need to hear of the possibility of a new identity. Many need to hear of the comfort the gospel can give. And because of this great need, we must ask God to comfort us as we partner with Him on His mission, unleashing the ferocity of the gospel into the city, and fighting the familiarity with the gospel that becomes prevalent.
So how do we keep from becoming familiar with the gospel?
- Beg God to keep renewing the preciousness of the gospel in your heart.
- Remember who you were before the ferocious gospel broke into your life and changed you.
- Read Acts and see the wild way that God’s gospel attacked and comforted the world.
- Read biographies of people devoured and comforted by the gospel.
- Listen to stories of conversion & gospel renewal of the people in your community.
- Minister to others with the comfort that God has given to you. Many implications of the gospel are meant for others. As you see people being devoured and comforted by the gospel, it will excite you to beg God for His gospel to do this to more people.
- Keep begging God for your heart and the hearts of others.
May we not only use the gospel as a “teddy” to comfort us, but let it out of its cage to roam with us wherever God wants to use us, remembering that this gospel is ferocious and hungry for the glory of Jesus to be seen and enjoyed.