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“There Is No Other Way To Be A Disciple Of Jesus Than To Be In Communion With Other Disciples Of Jesus” (via Fleming Rutledge)

An observation from Fleming Rutledge about the Gospel of John and how it demonstrates that while Jesus was relating to individuals, he was creating a community, a family, a body, branches joined to a common vine.

Taking the Gospel and the Epistles of John together, no writings in the New Testament are more concerned with the church than John. You wouldn’t necessarily notice this, however, if you read the Gospel without looking for it. Our typical American individualism tends always to focus on the single, supposedly autonomous person, so we typically read the Bible through that lens. And it’s true that for the first two-thirds of the Gospel, John features a striking number of personal, intimate conversations between Jesus and single individuals: the Samaritan woman, Nico- demus, the man born blind, Thomas, Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene. These stories stand out because they are beautifully crafted by John, a master dramatist. So, most people tend to read the Fourth Gospel that way. But the overwhelming emphasis in John is not on individuals, but on the organic connection that Jesus creates among those who put their trust in him. This theme reaches its apex in chapters 15 and 16, during the last hours of his life on earth, when he teaches, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5).
There is no other way to be a disciple of Jesus than to be in communion with other disciples of Jesus. Why do you suppose the Lord didn’t separate out each one of his followers, stand us up separately, pronounce us each a unique individual, and then bid us go off and create ourselves?
He did the opposite; instead of making us independent and self-centered, he makes us mutually interdependent and other-directed.

Fleming Rutledge, Three Hours, Eerdmans, 2019, pgs 31-32.


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The Legalist’s Spirit (via Sam Storms)

Legalism among Christian disciples is the product of misplaced or misundertood trust that diminishes grace.
From Sam Storms:

Legalists feel good when they can identify another person’s errors. It reinforces their feelings of superiority. They actually think themselves more spiritual, more godly, and more favored and loved by God.
There’s a flip side to the legalistic spirit. In addition to being quick and dogmatic in identifying the small and rare failures of others, the legalist never acknowledges his own faults and failures. To admit and confess to sin or misjudgment is to run the risk of losing power, losing face, or losing prestige.
What drives this spirit? It is the belief that one’s own efforts and achievements merit acceptance with God and approval from men. Instead of resting in Christ’s achievements, confident of what he has done for us, legalists redouble their own works and take pride in what they do in view of what others don’t.
Look again at Mark 2:24: “And the Pharisees were saying to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’” Or again, Mark 3:2: “they watched him closely” (niv). That’s the legalists’ spirit: always on the lookout for someone else’s sin; always scanning the horizon for someone’s failure to measure up to their rules, rules that aren’t in the Bible; always spying on the behavior and beliefs of the other person to root out the slightest deviation from their traditions. They nitpick and judge, nitpick and judge, nitpick and judge!

Read the whole post at the Crossway Blog.


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How Do We Engage With People On Sundays (via Ed Welch)

Ed Welch offers a simple suggestion to build relationships with those who gather together week by week as church.


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Worship As An Encouragement To Others (via Jared Wilson)

Gathering together with other Christians in worship is an act of encouragement to them.
And that’s before you even do anything else.
From Jared Wilson:

AS AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO OTHERS
Your church attendance is an encouragement to others. This is especially true in smaller to medium-sized congregations, but it’s even true in very large local churches where you may be tempted to think your absence would go unnoticed. Presence is impressive. When the saints gather, there is something spiritually helpful about the physical proximity of the brethren and even about the relative fullness of the sanctuary.
Even if you make the mistake of not talking to anyone, even if you don’t think you’re getting much out of the church or they’re not getting much out of you, your actual presence communicates to those around you: “This is worth it. You, brothers and sisters, are worth it.” Having pastored a church, I can tell you that while I didn’t get to speak to every attendee every Sunday, I was encouraged when I saw people loyally showing up week after week. I’m willing to bet your presence encourages your pastors as well.
This is to say nothing of the immense help and encouragement you can be when you actually reach out with kind words or a helping hand to the brethren you see week after week.

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The Comforting Church (via Christina Fox)

True Gospel comfort is meant to be shared.
From Christina Fox at the Gospel Coalition:

This story of gospel comfort in 2 Corinthians reminds us that we’re all united to Christ, and that when he is at work in one of us, it affects all of us. God’s grace multiplies as it works through the life of a local church.
The comfort God gives, however, isn’t for us alone. We can’t hoard it. The ways the gospel has changed us must be shared; the truth of who Christ is and what he has done must be voiced.
Based on this truth, the comfort we give to one another in the church isn’t the “you can do it” and “everything will be okay” comfort of the world. No, this comfort is honest about sin and its effects. It doesn’t sugarcoat or wish things away. Instead, it seeks hope and help outside of our own strength and in the only One who can save. It’s grounded in the glad news of who Christ is and what he descended to do.
What does such comfort look like in the church?

  • When the Spirit helps us put sin to death, we share that joy with other believers so they too can rejoice in the gospel’s power at work.
  • When we’ve endured a season in which God met us in our pain, we share it with other believers so they too can see God’s faithfulness.
  • When God provides what we need in the eleventh hour, we share that joy so others can know that God is Jehovah-Jireh, our provider.

When God strengthens us in weakness, when he heals and brings redemption, when he teaches us through discipline—in all these ways and more—we share that comfort for another’s spiritual good.
May our friendships in the church be unique. May they be marked by gospel comfort. And just as Paul, Titus, and the Corinthians experienced God’s comfort, may the gospel come full circle in our own churches as we witness and testify together to what our King has done.

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Being Both Spiritual And Religious

I’m discovering the writings of Winn Collier.
Here he examines the trope ‘I’m spiritual, but not religious’ and points out that while the idea has some attractions, ultimately its just too thin to sustain a soul.

An excerpt:

Abstract ideals don’t have the grit I know is required to save me. Rather, it is Jesus’ body broken in the bread, Jesus’ blood spilt in the wine. It is my actual neighbor actually sitting next to me (someone I may not like, if I just get to choose), as we eat and drink together. It is the songs we sing and the Scriptures we hear. It is our commitment to living in this actual world (not the idea of a world). To say I’m spiritual but not religious would be, for me, like saying I believe in community but don’t want a friend or I love the wild but would never actually set foot in a forest. I need the real stuff.
Jesus, the harshest critic of distorted religion in history, didn’t set up general spiritual concepts. Jesus got dunked in water, gave us bread and wine around a Table – and then said, “Keep doing all this. Together. In my name.”

Read the whole piece here.


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The Privelege Of Praying For Each Other (via Scotty Smith)

Scotty Smith leads us in prayer, giving thanks for the blessing of praying for others.

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. 1 Sam.12:23
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Heb. 4:16

Lord Jesus, with freedom, needs, and friends, we run to the occupied throne of grace today. No one understands our messes and meets us in our weaknesses like you. You are, indeed, a most wonderful, merciful Savior.
We pray for friends serving you in different contexts and cultures around the world—missionaries, teachers, and others. May the gospel be sweet and grace sufficient, encouragement palpable and hope fresh. Quicken our spirits by your Spirit to pray for these faithful, often weary, conduits of the gospel. We don’t see them often but don’t let us forget them for a moment.
We pray for parents nearing the end of their strength, patience, and wits. Few stories have the power to multiply our heartaches than when kids choose to live without boundaries, or without a heart, for you. Lord of resurrection power, reveal yourself, to those who seem allergic to your grace and love.
Jesus, we pray for friends who still affirm the gospel, but who feel (and live) like strangers to your reality and riches. Whatever the genesis of their spiritual crisis, come close Jesus. Renew, restore, and refresh our friends, we pray. Show us how to offer presence without pressure. If confrontation is necessary, may your kindness lead them to repentance.
Jesus, we pray for friends with health struggles, at-work worries, and/or relational challenges. Give us listening hearts, words from above, and non-spin hope for them.
Lastly, Jesus, we pray for ourselves. You know where we struggle the most and trust you the least. You know our prayer-fueling relationships and our most powerful temptations, our persistent fears and nagging weaknesses. Grant us the mercy, grace, and wisdom we need today. So very Amen we pray, in your loving and strong name.

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