How should we live in community with one another?

Doug Wilson on Understanding Gospel Logic:

As we consider the meaning of the death of Jesus—intended by God as the death of all envy—and the power of His resurrection, intended as the basis for the proclamation of the gospel of life, what should we do? In the light of this, how should we live in community with one another?

Here is a fundamental rule of thumb to test whether you are living in accordance with gospel logic. What is your attitude toward people who excel you in anything? . . .

Read the rest . . .

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Sermons are important but insufficient for your church

The excellent book on church ministry, The Trellis and the Vine, includes a chapter entitled “Why Sunday Sermons are necessary but not sufficient.” 

Sound like heresy?

Sermons are needed, yes, but they are not all that is needed…

To say that sermons (in the sense of Bible expositions in our Sunday gatherings) are necessary but not sufficient is simply to stand on the theological truth that it is the word of the gospel that is sufficient, rather than on any one particular form of its delivery. We might say that the speaking of the word of the gospel under the power of the Spirit is entirely sufficient—it’s just that on its own, the 25-minute sermonic form of it is not.

We say this because the New Testament compels us to. As we have already seen, God expects all Christians to be disciple-makers by prayerfully speaking the word of God to others—in whatever way and to whatever extent that their gifting and circumstances allow. When God has gifted all the members of the congregation to help grow disciples, why should we silence the contribution of all but one of them (the pastor), and think that this is sufficient or acceptable?

In his fine book on preaching, Speaking God’s Words, Peter Adam… concludes that:

…while preaching…is one form of the ministry of the Word, many other forms are reflected in the Bible and in contemporary Christian church life. It is important to grasp this point clearly, or we shall try and make preaching carry a load which it cannot bear; that is, the burden of doing all that th Bible expects of every form of ministry of the Word.

Adam goes on to define preaching as the “explanation and application" of the Word to the congregation of Christ in order to produce corporate preparation for service, unity of faith, maturity, growth and upbuilding”. But he points out that Sunday preaching is not the only way to address the edification of the body:

While individuals may be edified in so far as they are members of the congregation, there may well be other areas in which they need correction and training in righteousness which they will not obtain through the Sunday sermon, because by its very nature it is generalist in its application.”

…Sunday is not the only place where the action is.

John Piper, certainly no opponent to the preaching of the Word, agrees that it is not enough:

What does it mean to “accept Jesus”?

  • Ray Ortlund:

  • “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9

    You and I are not integrated, unified, whole persons. Our hearts are multi-divided. There is a board room in every heart. Big table. Leather chairs. Coffee. Bottled water. Whiteboard. A committee sits around the table. There is the social self, the private self, the work self, the sexual self, the recreational self, the religious self, and others. The committee is arguing and debating and voting. Constantly agitated and upset. Rarely can they come to a unanimous, wholehearted decision. We tell ourselves we’re this way because we’re so busy with so many responsibilities. The truth is, we’re just divided, unfocused, hesitant, unfree.

    That kind of person can “accept Jesus” in either of two ways. One way is to invite him onto the committee. Give him a vote too. But then he becomes just one more complication. The other way to “accept Jesus” is to say to him, “My life isn’t working. Please come in and fire my committee, every last one of them. I hand myself over to you. Please run my whole life for me.”  That is not complication; that is salvation.

    “Accepting Jesus” is not just adding Jesus. It is also subtracting the idols.

    Parenting Is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths

    Walt Mueller via Vitamin Z:

    Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and GuiltI knew more. . . alot more. . .about parenting before I ever had kids myself. Then I had kids. Then I had teenagers. Then I got to the age I’m at now. Along the way, reality came at me through experience, and then even more importantly, God’s Word.

    My own personal history from one who was sure of and dependent on the "foolproof" stuff I once believed. . . to sure of the ignorance of the "foolproof" stuff I once believed and currently experiencing the joy and freedom of riding along while God’s at the wheel. . . has been quite a journey. Early in the journey I immersed myself in every Christian parenting book I could find. I was in search of the foolproof formula that would enable me to become the perfect parent raising perfect kids. I don’t know how many books I digested before giving up. I’m glad that it didn’t take too long to realize that those books leave you feeling quite beat up. I stopped reading them. Why? Because as your eyes are locked on the pages, they’re also locked on your own heart. And what you see on the page doesn’t mesh with the complex darkness that exists inside, which explains why the formulas don’t lead to fruit.

    Now, I run into parents each and every week who are looking for the "how to." It’s not there. Rather, I’m convinced that our certainty, joy, and wisdom as parents is dependent on who we believe. If there’s a secret, it lies in knowing, worshiping, following, and believing the One who made us for Himself. It comes in bathing ourselves in the truths of His Word. I was reminded of this yesterday when our pastor preached on the Resurrection from Matthew 22. The answer Jesus gave to the ignorant Sadducees applies to all of us and our confusion in life. . . even when it comes to our misplaced priorities and beliefs regarding parenting and our kids. Jesus said, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God" (v. 29).

    If we only knew the Scriptures we would see that many of our parenting beliefs and practices are about replacing the Creator with created things. . . including our parenting skills, our twisted beliefs, the family, and even our kids. They can all become idols.

    So for the last few years I’ve been committed to answering the question, "What’s the best parenting book I can read?" with this simple answer: "The best parenting book I’ve ever read is Paul Tripp’s "Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens, Second Edition (Resources for Changing Lives)" For one, Paul gets the Creator and created priorities right. Paul knows how sinful we and our kids really are. Paul knows how dependent we are on God. Paul knows that there are no foolproof formulas. Paul knows because he knows the Word, and he’s been through it as a dad. It’s a great book.

    This morning I finished a book that joins Age of Opportunity on my list. A few weeks ago I mentioned Leslie Leyland Fields’ article – "The Myth of the Perfect Parent" – in Christianity Today Magazine. The article was full of truth that is liberating to those of us who have bought the lies. It made me want to hear more from this mother of six. She sent me a copy of her book, :"Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt"Now I’ve got a number two on my list. Fields addresses each of the 9 myths straight from the Scriptures in a way that leaves readers wondering, "Duh, how did I ever miss that?!?" She busts through the myths by taking us into a deeper understanding of the sovereignty of God and His grace in the lives of fallen humans who cannot save themselves.

    The myths (and idols!) Fields’ says we believe? . . .
    1. Having children makes you happy.
    2. Nurturing your children is natural and instinctive.
    3. Parenting is your highest calling.
    4. Good parenting leads to happy children.
    5. If you find parenting difficult, you must not be following the right plan.
    6. You represent Jesus to your children.
    7. You will always feel unconditional love for your children.
    8. Successful parents produce Godly children.
    9. Why God is not limited by imperfect families.
    Do you scoff at any of these myths? Don’t. . . until you’ve read the book.

    “But I Am Glad…”

    IMonk:

    Some Christians love to talk about the sins of Obama or gays or the mainstream media, but get really animated when I suggest we need to talk about our own, even if they are listed in the Bible dozens of times.

    If the Gospel isn’t grabbing you by the real sins in your real life, just exactly what is the Gospel doing for you? Or you with it?

    I don’t like the fact that I can give a really good talk on prayer when I rarely pray.

    I don’t like it that I can read Matthew 5:23-24 and, as far as I can recall, never take a single step toward obeying it.

    I don’t like that I can sin and then condemn someone else’s sin in almost the same breath.

    I don’t like it that I’m convinced people need to understand me, but I take so little time to understand others.

    I regret that I’ve spent so much of my life seeking to make myself happy in ways that never led to real happiness at all.

    I don’t like it that I’ve accumulated so much stuff I don’t need, and I’m so reluctant to give it away.

    It causes me real sorrow that I’ve said “I love you” far to little in my life, especially to the people I love the most.

    I don’t like the fact that some of my students think I’m a hero, when I’ve done nothing more than be an unprofitable servant.

    I hate the difference between what I know and what I do.

    I hate the fact that I can use words like “radical” describing what others should do in following Jesus when I’m the first one to want to play it safe.

    I don’t like that part of me that thinks everyone should listen to what I say.

    I wish I could see myself as God sees me, both in my sinfulness and in the Gospel of Jesus.

    I regret using so little of my life’s time, energy and resources for worship and communion with God.

    I despise that part of me that always finds fault, and uses that knowledge to put myself above others.

    I am embarrassed by the words I use that come so easily from the tongue but have little root in the heart.

    I regret taking so few risks in the cause of living a God-filled life.

    I despise the shallowness of my repentance for sin that has caused hurt and pain for others.

    I don’t like that part of me that can make up an excuse, even lie, almost endlessly in the cause of avoiding the truth and its consequences.

    I don’t like that I can talk of heaven in a sermon or at a funeral, but very little of me wants to go there.

    I regret that I have loved my arrogant self far than I’ve loved my self humbled in Christ.

    I regret that so much good advice, good teaching and good example was wasted on me.

    But I am glad . . .

    “Zero Tolerance”

    Something I’ve thought about. Chris Anderson expressed it better than I could have said it. Priority examination and sacred cows.

    “Why Satan fears small churches more than megachurches”

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    Tim Chester:

    Here’s a quote from Organic Church (p 211-212) by Neil Cole. It’s a story that made me cry when I first read it.

    While doing some teaching in Japan, I had a dream that Heather, my daughter, started a church. In the dream, a room was full of young people who were all seriously worshiping God. When I returned from the trip, I mentioned it to her just to let her know that she was on my mind and in my dreams while I was away.

    The next day she said, ‘Dad, my friends all want to do it!’ ‘Do what?’ I asked. ‘Start a church.’ I told her that she would have to do most of the work, and I would coach and lead only a little. She said that was fine. The next day she arranged a house to meet in, picked a night of the week, and found a worship leader; flyers were soon being passed out to friends on campus.

    After the church had been meeting for several months, I met with these students and we all sang praises to the Lord. I felt the Lord’s pleasure. I asked the students what was the biggest church they had ever been to. Living in Southern California there are many options of megachurches, and a number of churches were mentioned, ranging in size from two thousand attendees to more than fifteen thousand.

    I then told them that I think Satan is more intimidated by this little church of fifteen high school kids than by any of those Godzilla-sized churches. They all sort of chuckled and looked around the room at one another with smiles.

    I showed them why I thought this way: ‘How many of you think you could start a church like one of those megachurches?’ No one raised a hand. I asked, ‘How many of you think you could start a church like this one?’ and all raised their hands. I asked them to look around the room at all the raised hands, and I said with a new found soberness, ‘I assure you, Satan is terrified by this.’