Who First Showed Jeff Ballard the Power of the Gospel?
I still remember the way my eyes were opened and my mind was illuminated when Erik walked me through Romans 3:21-26. I was a junior at Indiana University, a relatively new believer, and Erik was a campus minister who had committed to meeting with me every week since the beginning of my sophomore year. That was twenty years ago, and I vividly remember seeing the power of the gospel for the first time. Erik patiently helping me see the beauty of Jesus, and how Scripture was God’s means of revealing this.
Relationally Sharing the Power of the Gospel
There are a few reasons why Erik was the primary person that God initially used to show me the beauty of Scripture. The first reason was that Erik cared personally for me. He embodied 1 Thessalonians 2:8 when Paul says, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
Erik shared both Scripture and his own soul with me. He was not just a campus minister, he became like family—like an older brother I could lean on, a father who taught me and encouraged me, a spiritual friend who pointed me to Jesus through many ups and downs. Erik loved me in such a way that when he told me about the love of Jesus, I knew it wasn’t just talk. I heard it from his mouth, but I also experienced it in our relationship.
A Life Devoted to Christ
Second, not only did Erik love me well, he deeply loved the Jesus to whom the whole Bible points. It was evident that Scripture wasn’t a dry book to Erik. It was the sustenance he lived on. As a result, Scripture oozed out of him, which was compelling for me. I wanted to be like that, too.
Erik’s passion for the Lord was incredibly impactful for me, and I was reminded of this during a difficult season a few years ago. I was wrestling with anxiety about the future and some significant decisions my wife, Kristen, and I needed to make. In the midst of this Kristen, was cleaning out our basement and came across a letter that Erik had written to me shortly after Kristen and I were engaged and right before we were to graduate from college. In it he wrote,
“Remember, there are no formulas to replace your day to day dependence on the master. Drink deeply from the overflowing fountain and forget the leaky cisterns. The Lord will abundantly supply your needs—for you and the one that is now looking to you to lead.”
In those few sentences, Erik packed in truth from John 15, John 4, John 7, Jeremiah 2, Philippians 4, and Matthew 6. And he did it in a way that spoke powerfully to my anxious heart. The letter helped draw me into fellowship with Jesus and give me confidence in his ongoing presence and provision. Though Erik died in 2006, his love for Jesus and the Scriptures are still speaking.
As I reflect back on Erik’s impact on me, what strikes me is how ordinary it was. Erik was a gifted man, for sure. But I wouldn’t say he had an extraordinarily charismatic personality. He didn’t have formal theological training. He wasn’t a great Bible teacher or public speaker. But he was filled with God’s Spirit, he loved Jesus and the Scripture, and he let that love overflow toward those around him. This is the ordinary Christian life that we’re all called to, and I am thankful that Erik lived this out well.