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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


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Becoming A Christian Is Not Tantamount To Becoming An Extrovert (via Sammy Rhodes)

Sometimes I feel the effective Christian life is confined to one personality type. Or, at the very least, that it’s not fair that one personality type seems ideally suited for reaching out.
Sammy Rhodes gives some relief with an observation that the Good News is embodied in a community of all types of people.

One line in particular has stayed with me. “Becoming a Christian is not tantamount [to] becoming an extrovert.” We could also add that being a Christian is not tantamount to being an extrovert, yet a casual visit to almost any Christian gathering could lead you to conclude the opposite. This varies from group to group, but the pressure is there. Typically this is because we’ve exalted a method (or methods) over the message.
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If you have a method or formula more than you have a message or truth, then you implicitly rule out all the person— ality types that can’t pull off your method or formula. If you have a message, however, then you invite all kinds of personality types to embody and reflect that message through a variety of different gifts and methods. This is exactly what Paul was getting at in 1 Corinthians when he compared the church to a body, with different members being like different parts of the body, all working together with none being more important than the other. How beautiful are the feet that bring good news, Isaiah tells us. But where would the mouth be if the feet couldn’t take it to places where it might be heard? Where would the feet be if the brain couldn’t tell them how and where to walk?

Sammy Rhodes, This Is Awkward, Thomas Nelson, 2016, pg 132, 133.


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The Gospel In Jeremiah (via Graham Goldsworthy)

At MGPC we’re setting out on making our way through Jeremiah on Sunday nights. This follows on from Psalms and John’s Gospel.
Graeme Goldsworthy identifies the Gospel in Jeremiah.

We should not be put off by Jeremiah’s reputation as the gloomy or “weeping” prophet. He has much encouragement to offer the faithful. To be sure, he is remarkable for the way he reveals his feelings and the torment of his soul. This is not surprising given the nature of his message and the constant opposition by most of his fellow Israelites. Yet, even his experience of this sadness and his suffering are a foreshadowing of the anguish of Jesus as he faces even more harrowing torments, again from fellow Israelites, that lead to his death on the cross. Redemption comes through pain, not through avoiding it. The gospel is foreshadowed by Jeremiah’s message and his personal involvement in it. By his words and suffering he points to the sovereign grace of God in his control over world history and his faithfulness to his covenant that will be fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Source.


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Sometimes We Forget We’re All The Wrong Sort Of People (via Larry Parsley)

In a book of devotions drawn from the Gospel of Mark, Larry Parsley reflects on the observation that Jesus attracts the wrong sort of people, and sometimes some of us can forget that we’re the wrong sort of people too.

Parsley concludes his devotion with a story that most pastors have experienced in one form or another:

Years ago, at a heated church business meeting, an older man rose to take issue with our pastor and the many changes he had made to reach people who don’t go to church. This man complained how new neighbors from highly churched backgrounds were not interested in our church anymore. And then he leveled what he must have thought was his most devastating indictment: “Since you came to be our pastor, the wrong kind of people are coming to our church.”
Exactly.
Jesus, thank you for welcoming the wrong kind of people…like me.

Read the post at Mockingbird.


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Seeing Love Through Different Lenses (via Heidi Tai at Gospel Coalition Australia)

There are times when I wonder why I scan through so many online articles.
Then I read one like this.
Heidi Tai writes about a loving across generations and cultural expectations.
And the difference that Jesus can make in bridging those gaps.
Just go and read it.
Maybe have a tissue or two around, as well.

Growing up, my dad and I saw the world very differently. Coming from two different generations and cultures, we would clash for many years to come. As I became a teenager, our relationship became a battleground between Eastern and Western values. He would fail to meet my expectations of a loving father, and I would fail to meet his expectations of a respectful daughter. While I longed for love to be expressed through the Western form of affection and affirmation, Dad expressed love through his Eastern lens of provision and sacrifice.

Read Closing The Cultural Gap at Gospel Coalition Australia.


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What A Local Church Really Needs (via Premier Christianity)

Churches can have all sorts of assumptions about what the people who visit or regularly attend them want, and then tailor themselves to meet that felt need. And then share the Gospel. Sort of a Jesus ‘bait and switch.’
This post doesn’t take issue with excellence, but makes a heartfelt observation about what is important.
From Kimberli Lira at Premier Christianity.

When I walk into church I am not paying attention to the décor. I don’t want to smell freshly brewed coffee in the lobby. I don’t want to see a trendy pastor on the platform. I don’t care about the graphics or the props on the platform. I am hurting in a way that is almost indescribable.
Since my husband died, my days are spent working full time. My nights are spent homeschooling and taking care of two young children. I don’t have shared duties with a spouse anymore so everything is on my plate. When I go to church I desperately want to hear the Word of God.
There are days when the tears won’t stop and a trendsetting church is not what I need.
This is not a criticism of churches that have coffee bars, nice lighting and catchy sermon titles. But, in everything that is done, we need to make sure that Jesus is at the centre. It is also a reminder that there are hurting people sitting in your congregation.
There are people whose marriages are crumbling, people whose finances are deteriorating, people whose children are rebelling and people like me, whose husband has passed away after a brutal fight with cancer. And these people are not impressed with the stage lighting. They could care less about the coffee flavour. They don’t need to be pumped or hyped. They need Jesus.
My social media feeds are full of churches boasting about the trendy new initiatives they have begun. Their coffee bars and lighting don’t appeal to me.
I want to see how Jesus has changed a person’s life. I want to see the power of prayer. I want to see how the Word of God can be applied to life. I want to see how Jesus can help the hurting. I want to see how Jesus can heal the sick. I want to see how a broken heart is restored. I want to see how mourners are comforted. I want to see how lives are restored.

Read the whole post here.


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The Royal Wedding Sermon

People have asked me from time to time what I thought of the sermon that was given during the recent royal wedding.
I have a few observations.
One train of evangelical thought is that the preacher gave an introduction to the Gospel, laying down a number of threads that could later be drawn together in a full Gospel understanding. Such a sermon is an exercise in restraint, not saying everything, but just saying enough to point the way. It is a technique that preachers committed to the Gospel sometimes use in public contexts.
My perception of the message is that a very skilled and committed communicator took the opportunity presented to him and actually gave the entirety of his gospel message. He didn’t hold anything back, and what he said is the sum total of what he believes the good news to be.

Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He didn’t . . . he wasn’t getting anything out of it.
He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the wellbeing of the world . . . for us.
That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centred. Love can be sacrificial and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives and it can change this world.

“Love can be sacrificial and in so doing, becomes redemptive”
Trying to be charitable by maintaining he chose not to say it all, instead of simply accepting that everything he did say was all he has to say, is a work of unnecessary condescension.

Now, if that is the case, my observation about the sermon is that it sort of reminded me of this message, wherein the preacher says much the same thing and takes considerably less time to say it.