We have been in South Africa for almost four months. My (Zach) heart is full this evening. I have a lovely wife who is my best friend, I have two growing boys who are absolute joys, and I have a job where I am challenged, encouraged and also where I can provide for my family. All of these things (and many more – more than I can count) are earthly blessings given only by God that I do not deserve for one second. It is all because of God’s grace, and I can take no credit for any of them.
Eleven years ago (June 2013) I had just finished my sophomore year of high school and I was dead in my sin...lost, insecure, attempting to climb the social ladder but failing, saying a million curse words to “be cool”, the list goes on and on…but the Lord used a Young Life leader named John Aderholt and a few high school soccer guys to bring me to Young Life camp where I heard the gospel for the first time. Now, did lights go off in my mind and heart when I heard the good news that Jesus died for sinners and I was one of them? Absolutely not. I was confused. It was too good to be true. I was used to working my butt (or, shall I say “bottom” since we are teaching Bruce to use that word as it is a little more wholesome) off in life for everything that I had received in life, and I did not understand grace. My eyes were not yet opened to the glorious gospel.
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
You may ask – what is the gospel? I enjoy Mark Dever’s (a Baptist pastor out of Washington DC) brief explanation. “The good news is that the one and only God, who is holy, made us in his image to know him. But we sinned and cut ourselves off from him. In his great love, God became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law himself and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn and trust in him. He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice and that God’s wrath against us had been exhausted. He now calls us to repent of our sins and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God.”
Over the next two years, I changed slowly. The Lord in His mercy allowed me to be accepted into Grove City College (a conservative Christian college north of Pittsburgh) due to me being a tall, left-handed pitcher. At the end of my senior year of high school, there came to a point (after getting drunk for 3 days with some buddies and puking near a toilet on the morning of the fourth day) when I had to make some decisions. Feeling empty and ashamed, I asked myself a few questions…What is the purpose of my life? If I say that I am a Christian, then why am I not acting like one?
I was wasting my life. I deserved death. But God. God had mercy on me, and He opened my eyes to the Savior, and I am eternally grateful. Over the last nine years, He has led me on a journey that I never could have dreamed of. I may share more of that journey at another time. Until then, God is good. Trust him.
“God without Christ is no God. And a no-God cannot save or satisfy the soul. Following a no-God will be a wasted life. God-in-Christ is the only true God and the only path to joy.” I took this nifty note from “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper. It is a great book!
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:1-10)
P.S. Here are a few pictures of the Hillegi. Enjoy!