mgpcpastor's blog


Leave a comment

The Endless Self-Justifying Life And The Gospel (via J.D. Greear)

Finding security in our ability to successfully construct a life is destructive of relationship because others who do not conform to that from which we derive security detract from our assurance of security.
In the Bible it’s as old as Cain and Abel.
From J.D. Greear.

St. Augustine said that before they sinned, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed because they were clothed in God’s love and acceptance. One of the first effects of sin after the fall was a sense of shame over their nakedness. They had always been naked, but without God’s approval, now they felt naked.
That’s a picture of the human race: We feel exposed, unacceptable, and ashamed. Our whole lives are spent as a quest to re-clothe ourselves. We’re always looking for what sets us apart and makes us “right.” We’re always looking for something to validate us, something to prove that we’ve earned our place in this world.
But apart from Christ, whatever we turn to for our justification becomes a snare.
Worse, it becomes a point of division in our communities—and in the church. If I’m trusting in my parenting to be made right, then I need to be a better parent than you. If I’m trusting in my moral goodness, then I need to present a better picture of holiness than you. If I’m trusting in my group of friends, then I automatically assume that we are the good guys and they are the bad guys.
Thank God justification doesn’t work this way. It is given to us freely as a gift in Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul says, “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By one of works? No, on the contrary, by a law of faith” (Romans 3:27 CSB).
The gospel eliminates boasting, not by telling us to stop boasting, but by undercutting the very basis of pride: We aren’t saved by anything we do. We can’t keep the law. We can’t make any claim to success on our own virtue. At our core—at our best—we are a race of miserable failures. There is none righteous, not even one.
In fact, we are so bad, Jesus had to die to save us. And that destroys the basis of pride.

source


Leave a comment

The Quiet Of Easter versus Performance Almighty

It interests me watching modern evangelicalism struggle more and more about what to do with Easter.
Good Friday was a spiritual pause, a pause that lasted until the acknowledgment of resurrection on Sunday morning.
Now any thought of pause seems something to be avoided and Good Friday seems to be identical to Easter Sunday.
How can you pause and rest in God when the focus is on the productivity of your own response to grace.
We can never allow the weekend that focuses on resting in the work of God to become the primary example of a never-ending striving to perfection.
From David Zahl.

Faith that more often than not begins with an admission of losing and need morphs into a hectic competition for spiritual justification, in which we baptize our busyness with religious language. Before we know it, God has ceased to be a good shepherd and turned into the Taskmaster-in-the-Sky, or worse, another name for the persecutor within. “I just couldn’t keep it up anymore!” is the refrain I’ve heard from many a refugee from performancist churches.
If there’s a difference today, it has to do with the vanishing of outlets where the pressure of perfection might be vented. It’s easier to develop a sense of enoughness, for example, when your pool of peers is in the hundreds rather than the millions, when the primary venues of comparison close shop at 5:00 p.m. Similarly, it’s a lot harder to recover from a youthful indiscretion when the internet has made the record of your adolescence permanent and searchable.
Capital-R Religion once provided a space to come clean and maybe even be absolved of shortcoming and guilt. Church wasn’t busy. If anything, it was boring and full of silence, a respite from the noise of daily demand, a local repository of peace and forgiveness. The good ones at least.

Source


Leave a comment

Why Church Should Be Nothing Like Cross-Fit (via Connor Gwin at Mockingbird)

I’ve been dabbling a little bit in personal fitness for a while now, so I’ve got lots of respect for those who exercise.
This article by
Connor Gwin on Mockingbird
interacts with popular thought about why gyms and exercise fill a space in some modern lives that used to be filled by church.
It wants to tease out that the thought that people can find more personally meaningful “content and wisdom and community” in gyms is because the church has been conditioning them to expect the wrong thing.
There are texts in the New Testament that utilise athletic metaphors, but they are not based so much in self-improvement as they are in increased resting in the finished work of Christ in order to grow more like him.
From the article:

What troubles me is that we so easily make the jump from church to gym.
This argument of the Vox article starts from the assumption that religion and religious institutions are “providers of content and wisdom and community.”
From the outside, this is an easy assumption to make. Those of us within the church can fall into this trap too easily as well. The church is not just a provider of content and community. Ritual is not “this really helpful way of making people think of something greater.” The church and the rituals contained therein are forms of participation in reality as opposed to the delusion of my own sinful understanding.
The church does not exist to “make people better” like CrossFit. The church exists first and foremost for the worship of Christ and the proclamation of his Gospel. This sole focus serves to remind people who they are and to proclaim the Good News that we cannot make ourselves better but there is One who makes us whole.
The church is not a provider of spiritual wisdom, but foolishness. It does not exist for improvement or even growth. Saying that CrossFit is the logical home for those who no longer darken the doors of the church is an indictment of the church more than anything.
It shouldn’t be an easy walk from the pew to the weight bench, but it is made easy by a Christianity that looks more like a spiritual fitness program than a Gospel balm.
Any mention of “nones” and someone will mention the “dones,” those who are burned out and tired of giving their all to the church. For the “dones,” the prospect of endless burpees sounds better than one more sermon about the next political issue they need to care about or the next moral ladder they need to climb.
What is happening in the church when the Workout of the Day sounds like better news than the Gospel?
Jesus is not a personal trainer or a guru espousing wisdom. Jesus is Lord, and he calls to each of us, saying, “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.”

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

Christianity As Identity, Not A Magic Potion (via Sarah Condon)

From Sarah Condon’s book Churchy.

Everyone has wounds from childhood that will follow us into the grave. Christianity is not a magic potion to make our pain vanish. but it will tell you to whom you belong. That is the best way I can describe “putting on the armor of Christ” (Ephesians 6:11) We are not necessarily fighting a battle with other people so much as fighting our own well-developed patterns of self-loathing sin. … Jesus interrupts this destructive cycle. He puts a safeguard around our hearts and whispers, “Remember, you are mine.”

Churchy, Sarah Condon, Mockingbird, 2016, pg 36.