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Friday, May 29, 2020

Editor’s Note: Pastor Scott Peterson is sharing daily devotions written by some of his favorite authors. These current devotions are written by Arndt Halvorson on the writings of P.T. Forsyth. Their biographies and any notes by Pastor Scott are listed at the end of the devotion.

When the Gospel Happens

by Arndt Halvorson

“If the classic religion is Christianity, the classic type is the experience of the redeemer. It is not the sense of the experience that is the main matter, but the source of the experience. It is not our experience we are conscious of, but it is Christ. It is not our experience we proclaim, but the Christ who comes in our experience”

–P.T. Forsyth

“Must we have an experience of Christ to be called Christians?” people often ask.

To which the Bible answers, “The question is phrased wrong. To know Christ is to experience him, since he is a living person, for as we know, anytime we say we know’ another person, we are saying we have experienced that person It is not that we ‘must’; we simply do.”

Of course there are many ways of experiencing someone. It may be a mental stimulus, an emotional response, or a moral challenge, to name the most obvious. What matters is that the God of Jesus is never neutral. As Forsyth writes elsewhere, “Each time we hear the gospel, something happens to us, either for the better or for the worse. So we need not look for an “experience” for the sake of the sensation. Rather, we focus on him.”

Most of us live our lives in the land between ecstasy and despair. We are given the gift of faith, which usually manifests itself as a kind of stubborn refusal to let the bleakness of unfaith prevail.

We live in his presence, that is. We study him. We “look to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,” as the letter to the Hebrews states it (12:2). He is the source of faith because he is its creator. He is the really real in this world of shadows. And who knows? This very day he may so erupt in our inner selves that we sing a song of hope which drowns the dirge of our misery.

Lord Jesus, you are the fairest, most reliable, most powerful of all the forces that seek to control us. Help us to relax in you, that we may live in and through you. Amen.“Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Peter Taylor Forsyth was a theologian, pastor, and educator whose fiery preaching and provocative writing stirred Great Britain from 1874 until his death in 1921. For a number of years after his death he was forgotten, but since 1940 he has been “rediscovered” and has been studied by many of today’s church leaders and theologians. Born and educated in Scotland, he combines Scottish toughness and gentleness, practicality and mysticism, with an openness to the world outside–mainly German, Scandinavian and French thought. Since he was a pastor for 25 years, he does not write to systematize his thought, but to apply it to our daily lives. Thus, his theology has a personal “bite” which gets us involved as participants, not spectators. His writings seem current, addressing the great questions of our time–such issues as authority, how to read the Bible, prayer, the cross and its significance and the call to holiness by a Holy God.

Arndt L. Halvorson (1915 – 2006) was my preaching professor at Luther Seminary where he taught homiletics (preaching) for 24 years.  When Arndt dressed-up he wore cowboy cut suits, with a string tie and cowboy boots.  He had a passion for the gospel and his bluntness in communication was engaging.  One day in my preaching lab Arndt said, “Some of the best sermons I ever heard were preached without notes.  And, all of the worst sermons I ever heard were preached without notes.”  –Pastor Scott

Photo: by Meredith Kilby from MLC’s “Light of Life:SIgns of the Savior” Music Camp Musical 2019