Every church and ministry contextualizes. The question is what culture and which year?
Every church and ministry contextualizes. The question is what culture and which year?
People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.
American evangelicalism has not done a great job at making Jesus the point of the enterprise of faith. We take the Gospel notion of “faith alone,” a belief many Reformers died contending for, and make it about us. We turn perseverance into personal empowerment and sanctification into self-improvement. We’ve made religion a bad word by turning Law into legalism and grace into license. We made Jesus our buddy, our co-pilot, our sidekick. We don’t have sin — we have “issues.” We say we have bad habits rather than admit we have sinful hearts. We look to Scripture in general as a toolbox of pick-me-up quotable quotes and to the Gospels specifically as a chronicle of warm-fuzzy behavioral aspirations. We forgo Christian repentance and gospel proclamation in favor of the culture war against gay marriage, evolution, atheism, liberalism, America forgetting her heritage, what-have-you.
But if the point of any of it is not Jesus, it will not, cannot, and does not work.
The biblical way is not to present us with a moral code and tell us “Live up to this,” nor is it to set out a system of doctrine and say, “Think like this and you will live well.” The biblical way is to tell a story that takes place on solid ground, is peopled with men and women that we recognize as being much like us, and then to invite us, “Live in to this. This is what it looks like to be human. This is what is involved in entering and maturing as human beings.” We do violence to biblical revelation when we “use” it for what we can get out of it or what we think will provide color and spice to our otherwise bland lives. That results in a kind of “boutique spirituality” – God as decoration, God as enhancement.
Of course, we do not use the word cool to describe greatness. It is a small word. That’s the point. It’s cheap. And it’s what millions of young people live for. Who confronts them with urgency and tears? Who pleads with them not to waste their lives? Who takes them by the collar, so to speak, and loves them enough to show them a life so radical and so real and so costly and Christ-saturated that they feel the emptiness and triviality of their CD collection and their pointless conversations about passing celebrities? Who will waken what lies in their souls, untapped — a longing not to waste their lives?
One could easily cross out young from the phrase young people because I think what Piper describes applies across the board to millions and millions of everyday people. Just replace CD collection with gadgets or clothes and substitute politicians for celebrities.
It’s never occurred to them to live any other way. That’s why it’s so important to push back against triviality with the fullness of the Gospel. Not so that we can be “good” Christians and stake our identity to a moral code, but so that we might live for the only thing that truly matters — the glory of Christ Jesus.
I had a rough week a few weeks back. Between things at work and at home and at church, I was frustrated with lots of things – but mostly just frustrated with my own inability to do things right. It seemed like no matter what I did or how hard I tried, things just weren’t going right for me. So, there I was at the end of the week – just a frustrated dude driving to work on Friday morning (exactly what the world needs). As I dodged traffic, I was praying and thinking about what my problem was and then it dawned on me – I’m a failure. And I got the biggest grin on my face and I realized (once again) how good Jesus is. Hallelujah – I’m a failure.
Let me explain.
I’ve heard plenty of sermons wherein well-intentioned preachers urge their listeners to get serious about doing X, Y or Z. As the sermon usually goes, once you can get XYZ down pat, voila – you’ll be a better Christian. The XYZ can be anything – prayer, devoted bible study, healthy relationships, etc. All of which are very good things in and of themselves and certainly worthy of exhortation. But I think that such sermons border on becoming holy self-help seminars and miss the point of the Gospel completely.
Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that we could be “good Christians.” He died and rose again so that we might become the righteousness of God We are saved by grace because there was no way in hell (literally) that we were ever gonna get their on our own.
So, if we really believe that it’s God’s grace that makes us followers of Christ and nothing we could ever do, where do we get off thinking that we can do anything to make us better Christians? Because, no matter how hard you try or how good or bad you are at doing the XYZs, you will always be a failure as a Christian. Go ahead and say it: “Hallelujah – I’m a failure.”
Until you do that, you’ll always be living like you’re trying to earn something you can never get and will never live like Jesus is really the Lord.
Little girls have a way of greatly impacting the amount of extra time one has for extracurricular activities like blogging. But at the same time, they also have a way of casting certain aspects of life into very sharp focus – even at three months of age. In any case, this is something that I’ve been thinking about and meaning to write about for quite a while now …
I don’t know why we can read the same words in the Bible over and over and then one day things just click and all makes perfect sense. A simple turn of phrase that previously seemed content to fade into the crowd can suddenly burst into a room, gushing with the beauty of the love of God and demanding nothing short of stunned silence on our part. I presume it to be part of the more mystical  side of following Christ – the Holy Spirit picks and chooses times to reveal things to us for reasons that may of may not ever become clear .
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
When I heard him read that, the second half of the verse stopped me in my tracks. I’ve read 2 Corinthians multiple times but can’t ever recall paying particular attention to that verse. But the implications and meaning of the first half of the verse didn’t hit me until last week while listening to Mark Driscoll.
Read the first half of that verse – particularly “he made him to be sin” – I don’t think that statement is any sort of literary slight of hand. It’s meant to be taken quite literally. Christ became sin.
Are you a liar? Christ became a liar. Are you an alcoholic? Christ became an alcoholic. Are you a pervert? Christ became a pervert. Think about that – if that statement doesn’t make you squirm, then you don’t fully understand the gravity of what Christ did on the cross. To glibly say “Christ took away our sin” makes it sound easy and clean and just another day on the job for Jesus. But to say that Christ became our sin – our lies, our deceit, our perversions – is to recognize the weight and guilt that fell on him. He didn’t co-sign a loan for us – he became guilty of every sin that we have committed.
That’s the weight of the cross. And taken on it’s own, that simple statement is quite overwhelming. The enormity of it demands from us a response. But before we can respond, we inevitably ask “Why?”. Christ became our sin on the cross; he died; he rose again. But why in the world would Jesus do that? What was the point?
The simple answer is to say “so that our sins might be forgiven” – which is correct. But, again, oversimplifies the enormity of the situation. And this is where the second half of the verse comes in and we discover the glory of the cross.
It says: “… so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Christ didn’t go to the cross so that we could say we’re sorry and get off the hook and become buds. Through him, we actually become righteous. He doesn’t make us just good enough to get into heaven. We literally become the righteousness of God.
Pay attention to the end of that statement. Not righteous – but righteousness itself. And not just righteousness, but the righteousness of God. We assume Christ’s righteousness, just as Christ assumed our sin.
Mindblowing, isn’t it?
: I mean “mystical” in a most literal sense – things having an importance that is not immediately apparent or obvious; that are beyond ordinary understanding. See Phillipians 4:7
: And I don’t think it’s a new thing. There are several times recorded in the gospels that Jesus told the disciples something that to us (with a death/burial/resurrection + 2,000 years) seems mindblowingly obvious. But, as the gospel writers tell us, the weight and meaning of Jesus’ words was withheld from them.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Being a follower of Christ is not a simple exercise in thinking the right things theologically. Rather, it demands loving Him and following Him with all of your heart, soul and mind. Or as one commentary rather wordily puts it: with perfect sincerity (heart), utmost fervor (soul) and the fullest exercise of an enlightened reason (mind).
Leave any one of those things out and you are left with distorted image of Christ, which in turn shortchanges your relationship with Him.