Oh, Vineyard

As I sit here reflecting on what I have observed, my heart is heavy, and my soul is restless. I spent time this week in the place I will call home very soon. While the mountains in the background are beautiful, and Utah Lake mesmerizes with its majestic blue water, my heart is heavy for the lostness that wanders the parks and streets of this rapidly growing city. While Vineyard is still scratching to find its identity apart from the rest of Utah County, it is rampant with young families with a veil over their eyes that keeps them from the truth of knowing the Jesus who saves. 

In Matthew 23:37, Jesus laments over Jerusalem, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! While I am not Jesus and will never be able to see humanity’s total depravity, the way He does this verse resonated with me during my time in Vineyard. I want to bring the gospel to this community desperately and share the hope found in Christ alone. When you look at this quickly growing city, it seems so pristine and beautiful, but behind the manicured lawns and the immaculate parks, there is a heaviness in the air. Interacting with the residents of this community left my heart hurting because they were so kind and cordial, but the grip that the LDS Church holds on them is extremely tight. It could cost a Latter-day Saint significantly to break free from the Church’s grip because other members surround them, and they would be considered apostates. It could lead to losing friendships, expulsion from their university, or even being disowned by their family. While this cost is high, do not forget what Jesus said in Luke 14:33. The cost of following Christ is much, but the reward of being His disciple is more significant than any treasure you can possess on this earth. Matthew 13:44-46 tells us how precious the gospel is through the Parable of the Hidden Treasure & The Pearl of Great Value. It is worth selling all that you own. 

When I look at Vineyard, I see a city ripe with opportunities for great worship to occur and alter a city’s culture of pluralistic idolatry into devotion to the one true God. The people of this flourishing city need to see the treasure of the gospel to grasp what Jesus has given them. In my study of the word, I came across an interesting fact; the Greek word (kosmeo), translated make attractive is used of the setting of jewelry to display it in the most attractive way. This made me think about what it would look like if all the Christians in this community adorned their lives with the beauty of the gospel and stepped outside their comfort zone to share truth in love with their neighbors. Author Stephen Um writes in his book Why Cities Matter To God, the Culture, and the Church, “Engagement isn’t optional. What is optional is the type of impact one makes.” Um sees the type of impact the Christian will make in their city as optional, but not whether they will have an impact. J.I. Packer puts it this way, “Every Christian, therefore, has a God-given obligation to make known the gospel of Christ. And every Christian who declares the gospel message to any other person does so as Christ’s ambassador and representative, according to the terms of his God-given commission. Such is the authority, and such is the responsibility, of the church and of the Christian in evangelism.” 

What if every Christian took the words of these scholars seriously? Why do we, as believers, so often procrastinate taking the gospel forward? Jesus was clear in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples.” What are we waiting for? The enemy has time; he has been watching humanity waste time for thousands of years as souls are condemned to hell. While God is sovereign, He has chosen humanity as the vessel He uses to spread the good news of His redemptive plan. Our lives on earth are a blip in time, but we wait around to share the precious gift given to us. If only we could all have the courage of Paul when he rose out of the baptismal, and Luke wrote of him, “And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). This area is ripe with opportunity because it is pre-Christian because the LDS Church has reigned supreme here for so long. Jesus told the disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matt. 9:37). Utah needs workers, which were needed yesterday. 

In a city where so many have been taught that their salvation depends on whether they can maintain the laws and ordinances of the faith, there is no time for procrastination. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The people need this rest, for they do not know the Prince of Peace, but He promises to give rest to our souls when we take His yoke upon us. 

Pray with us that we will have the courage and the resolve to share costly grace with those who do not know Christ’s love and the peace it brings. Pray those who go with us understand the grace we are proclaiming, the type of grace that Dietrich Bonhoeffer labeled Costly Grace in which he wrote, 

“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Luke 9:23 calls us to deny ourselves daily if we are to follow Christ. While grace is God’s unmerited favor, it came with a high cost, and our lives should reflect this. May the grace of God be with you, and may the cost of which you were bought permeate your life.

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