Last night was the first stop in the Passion 2016 World Tour here in South Africa, at the Loftus stadium in Pretoria. The event was sold out; there were about forty thousand people gathered there to praise Jesus. It was an awesome sight.
We got there early and had a nice, if slightly distant, view of the stage. At about 19:30 the event really kicked off. Praise and worship, led by amongst others Chris Tomlin, followed by a – I’m going to say “sermon” – from Louie Giglio. Pretty sure it was meant just for me, sorry everyone else! He spoke about how these labels we get in life aren’t the last word on us. What is, is the word “tetelestai” – “it is finished”.
This message was something I really needed to hear. Though I know leaving the Methodist Church was a good decision – the right one – I can’t pretend that the event itself and the things leading up to it didn’t have a negative impact on my relationship with God. Your church life and your relationship with God are like two tidal pools next to each other. There is invariably splash back between them, and mostly that’s a good thing: a good relationship with God equals a fulfilled church and missionary life equals a good relationship with God. But when your church life is poisoned, and a wave comes rolling in… Well, that poison spreads. The same is true about your relationship with God: if it’s not at its best, your church life can suffer.
So I really needed to hear again that this whole terrible thing isn’t the last word on me. It isn’t the last word on me as a Christian, as a church goer, as someone pursuing a calling to serve God. What it is a last word on, is religion – earning salvation. What it is a last word on is sin and death. What it is a last word on is the heavy burden of shame.
Passion has reminded me how good, how great, how merciful, how loving, how powerful our God really is. Good Good Father has been playing in my head – You’re a good good Father, it’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are. And I’m loved by you – it’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.