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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 24

Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 24

62.
Q. But why cannot our good works be our righteousness before God, or at least a part of it?
A. Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment of God must be absolutely perfect and wholly in conformity with the divine Law. But even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

63.
Q. Will our good works merit nothing, even when it is God’s purpose to reward them in this life, and in the future life as well?
A. This reward is not given because of merit, but out of grace.

64.
Q. But does not this teaching make people careless and sinful?
A. No, for it is impossible for those who are ingrafted into Christ by true faith not to bring forth the fruit of gratitude.


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Neither Spirituality Or Religion Is Ever Enough (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge skewers the central conceit behind the supposed superiority of being ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious’: they’re both manifestations of the same condition.
Humans need neither.
What they need is justification through Christ.
From Rutledge:

Spirituality, too, like religion, is essentially a human activity or trait that stands in stark contrast to faith. To put it in the simplest terms possible, spirituality is all too easily understood as human religious attainment, whereas faith itself is pure gift, without conditions, and nothing can be done from our side to increase it or improve upon it. On the contrary, we throw ourselves upon the mercy of God, saying, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
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…Human potential—which often takes the guise of “spirituality”—has itself become the object of worship.
So what is the antidote to the situation we find ourselves in, where in some places, attendance at “Celtic” services on Sunday evenings—with candles and chants and eclectic liturgies—far outnumbers church attendance on Sunday morning? Where so often, sermons are little more than assorted reflections having little to do with the biblical text? Where the high Christology of the creeds and councils has become mere “Jesus-ology”?
In today’s context, it is more crucial than ever to make a sufficiently sharp distinction between self-justification and self-sanctification on the one hand, and on the other, the utterly gratuitous, prevenient action of God in justifying humanity through his Son. The answer to our problem, then, is both simple and difficult: We need substantive, biblical preaching that drives home our need for justification through Christ.

Read the whole article at Christianity Today.


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A Menial Work, By Design (via David Powlison)

Although not central to the book’s theme, this tangental observation about pastoral life rings true:

…by design, ministry is menial work. It means being a servant, someone’s assistant, a helper. You are running errands. You lay down your life so that another person’s life might go better. Discontentment and complaining reveal pride, as if menial work were “beneath me.”

David Powlison, God’s Grace In Your Suffering, Crossway, 2018, pg. 41.

On to another day of service.


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Anxious Pastors Leading Anxious Churches (via Sarah Condon)

Local churches don’t need more people to come along to save them.
They have the task of sharing with others about the one who has already saved them.

From Sarah Condon:

The fact of the matter is that most of our ideas about how to fix the church are terrible, my own included. We over-exaggerate what we can do, and we forget that nothing happens that has not first be named by God. We figure that our ministry du jour will grow the church because we love our latest idea, and if we love it, how can anything be wrong? Well if we love it, then everything can be wrong with it.
All of this makes for anxious pastors leading anxious churches. When we do not care about the ancient of days God who we worship, when we fail to see his hand guiding us, then we have only ourselves, our egos, and our interests to fall back on.
I believe this description applies to a great many of our churches: nice places, full of kind people, who are told, Sunday after Sunday, that they need to bring more people to church or do more work for Jesus. It can feel like scrambling to please an absentee parent. Our anxious hearts suffer, all a while trying desperately to do more and more for God Almighty.

Sarah Condon, Churchy, Mockingbird, 2017, PCs 152-153.


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The Counter-Cultural Activity Of Going To Church (via Jared Wilson)

Gathering week by week is a work of service to your fellow worshippers and work of witness to those who do not believe.

From Jared Wilson:

One of the most countercultural things you can do is get up early on Sunday morning, put real clothes on, and drive to a church building. … In many regions of the Western world, church attendance is downright abnormal.
And so on the Lord’s Day morning, while all the other yards in your neighborhood are buzzing with lawn mowers, all the other kids are making for the swimming pool, all the other patrons of the coffee shop are lounging in sweatpants, you show your family’s otherworldliness in that moment that you dedicate to the countercultural tradition of going to church.
It’s not that you’re better than everyone else. It’s because you realize you may in fact be worse. When you back the family car out of the driveway on Sunday morning, you are telling your neighbors that you need Jesus and no amount of Sunday leisure can satisfy you like Him, that no rest is better than that which is found in Jesus, and that when the thin veneer of worldly frivolities starts to show a few cracks, you might be the kind of person they could talk to about the “alternative lifestyle” of following Jesus.

source


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Jesus And The Easter Effect (via Bryan Jarrell at Mockingbird)

An article at Mockingbird that reflects on the point that Jesus’ resurrection has a far more profound impact than someone simply coming back from the dead:

Reading the resurrection stories in the gospels, there are plenty of themes that the four authors want to emphasize. One among them is that the resurrection was a bodily resurrection—scars were preserved, fish was digested, hands were placed in wounds. Another is that the resurrection was an embarrassment to worldly powers, with heavy stones moved, Roman soldiers terrified, and religious authorities spreading cover-up propaganda. Equally as important to the story, however, is that The Resurrection is an act of divine love to the undeserved. Jesus appears to weeping women, terrified men, doubters, runaways, people who don’t know their bibles, and disciples who quit the business and went back to their day jobs. It’s almost as if a qualification for meeting with the resurrected Jesus is being a really bad disciple of Jesus.
Which is to say, The Resurrection isn’t just that someone rose from the dead. The reanimation of Lazarus didn’t inspire a women’s rights movement, nor did the resuscitation of the Rabbi’s daughter inspire a generation of self-emptying plague doctors. The good news is that the one who rose from the dead is, specifically and uniquely, Jesus of Nazareth, friend of sinners, love incarnate, son of God, and full of grace. It’s this particular Jesus that caused the disciples to reconsider time and space and Sabbath, and also, love and forgiveness and the entire nature of the divine. Replace this Jesus with anyone else, and the whole movement falls flat.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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Two Expressions Of A Grace-Filled Church

This morning it occurred to me that in striving to nurture a grace-filled culture in a local church that there are two expressions of grace required.
The first of those is a culture of grace that frees people to be who they are; liberated from carrying the pretences and masks of self-protection that make them appear as people who have it all together.
The second of those is a culture of grace that enables us to love and support each other when we find ourselves with all these imperfect people around.
Otherwise you encourage people to be themselves, only to find yourself frustrated that they won’t get their acts together.
A grace filled church: a place where people can be who they are – instead of who they think people want them to be; a place where people accept each other and love each other for who they are – not what we’d like them to be.