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Guarding Against Being Church-Attending Idolator (via Jared Wilson)

Our human hearts were once described as factories that produce idols.
Jared Wilson points out that production can continue in the life of the Christian, and can occur in the settings in which we gather for worship each week.
From his post:

On Sundays, our sanctuaries fill with people seeking worship, and not one person comes in set to neutral. We must take great care, then, not to assume that even in our religious environments, where we put the Scriptures under so many noses, that it is Jesus the exalted Christ who is being worshiped.
Every weekend in churches everywhere, music is performed to the glory of human skill and artistry. Once upon a time, I sat through a little ditty in a church service in which the congregation was led to sing, “I can change the world with these two hands,” and the question struck me like a lightning bolt: “Who exactly am I worshiping right now?”
Likewise, every weekend men and women file into church buildings in order to exult in the rhetorical skill of their preacher, to admire him and think of their church as his church, not Christ’s church. Many of us file in each week to enjoy the conspicuous spiritual exercises of our brethren. We worship the worship experience; we tithe with expectation of return from heaven’s slot machine; we dress to impress; and we serve and lead to compensate for the inadequacies in our hearts that only Christ can fill. Every weekend, hundreds of preachers extol a therapeutic gospel from the pages of the same Bible where the real gospel lies. We Reformed are not exempt, as too often our affections are poured totally into doctrine with only vague admiration reserved for doctrine’s Author.
A church will become idolatrous in a heartbeat because it’s already there. So we cannot set our worship on autopilot. We cannot mistake the appearance of busy religiosity for worship in spirit and truth. We see in Exodus 32:5 that even the worshipers of the golden calf ascribed their worship to the covenant Lord Yahweh.
The gospel imperative, then, is to return again and again to the gospel indicative. Our first duty is “gospel obedience” (Rom. 10:16; 2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17), which is to stand at attention to Christ upon the gospel’s “ten hut.” Our hearts and minds flow through the rut of idolatry, but the deliberate proclamation of Jesus at every possible turn will force us off our idolatrous course. Martin Luther advises us:

I must take counsel of the gospel. I must hearken to the gospel, which teacheth me, not what I ought to do, (for that is the proper office of the law), but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me: to wit, that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel willeth me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.

Tim Keller elaborates: “So Luther says that even after you are converted by the gospel your heart will go back to operating on other principles unless you deliberately, repeatedly set it to gospel-mode.”
The proclamation of the good news of Jesus and the extolling of his eternal excellencies is always an interruption, always a disruption. It alone will bring the sword of division between where even our religious hearts are set and where they ought to be. For this reason, we cannot go about minding our own business any more. We must mind God’s (Col. 3:1-4).

Read the rest here.


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Where To Go On Mondays (via Jared Wilson)

There’s only one destination for a pastor on Mondays.
From Jared Wilson:

So there is water for you today, whether you push through on these difficult Mondays in the quiet of your study or the busyness of the visitation route or whether you take these Mondays off to recuperate at home. There is water for you at every moment, living water flowing freely from the pierced bosom of Christ. It is water to satisfy your thirsty soul, water to heal your ministry wounds, water to cool your heels, water to cheer your “Monday face.” Don’t look for it anywhere but in Jesus.

More here.


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How Christianity Flourishes (via Jared Wilson)

Christianity flourishes at the margins, not when it controls.
Jared Wilson:

Christian mission has always thrived by surging in the margins and under the radar. When we somehow get into positions of power, the wheels always come off. This is pretty much the way it’s always been. I once heard Steve Brown relate this story on the radio: “A Muslim scholar once said to a Christian, ‘I cannot find anywhere in the Qur’an that it teaches Muslims how to be a minority presence in the world. And I cannot find anywhere in the New Testament where it teaches Christians how to be a majority presence in the world.’”
Indeed, as Christianity spread throughout the first few centuries as a persecuted minority people, the conversion of Constantine paved the way for its becoming the official state religion of the Roman Empire by the end of the fourth century. That’s quite a turnaround for some backwater sect splintering off an oppressed Palestinian Judaism. But as my old religion professor in college, M. B. Jackson, used to say, “When everyone’s a Christian, no one is.” And once Christianity became the official religion, the church lost its prophetic voice and its vibrancy.

Read the whole post here.


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The Gospel Is An Exclamation Point! (via Jared Wilson)

Jared Wilson writes about a minor editorial change that J.I. Packer made to a paragraph composed by Wilson for a study guide.
And how the change makes all the difference:

There at the bottom of that page, as I was expounding on Romans 2:4 in a section of the study called “Gospel Glimpses,” I had written this:

In yet another wonderful affirmation of where the source of power to change is found, Paul reminds us in Romans 2:4 that “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” Not his law, not his berating, not his exasperation or his cajoling. His kindness.

Period. End of thought.
But Dr. Packer added one thin vertical pen stroke, turning my period into an exclamation point, and underlining it to show the change. It’s not’s God kindness — yawn — that leads us to repentance, but God’s kindness! Exclamation point!
As I looked at this correction, I couldn’t stop looking at it. And then I began to weep.

Read the whole post here.


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The Diverse Excellencies Of Jesus (via Jared Wilson)

From Jared Wilson.
Jonathan Edwards says that in Christ we find an “admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies.” These diverse excellencies are the sunbeams of his magnificence, finding their unity in him, as they — though disparate — converge and emanate back out to reflect the imprinting of the nature of God.
He is the Lion and the Lamb. He is the Lamb and the Shepherd. He is the Shepherd and the Warrior. He is the Warrior and the Priest. He is the Priest and the Sacrifice. He is the Sacrifice and the Victor. He is the Victor and the Servant. He is the Servant and the King. He is the King and the Convicted. He is the Convicted and the Judge. He is the Judge and the Advocate. Diverse excellencies, each pair juxtaposed yet complementary, finding their admirable conjunction in him.
Read the whole post here.


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Ten Reasons To Underprogram Church (via Jared Wilson)

Trying to lead a local church to have less organised activities seems to be a constant struggle.
Jared Wilson has an extended post which includes ten observations about the tendency to have lots going on.
Here’s a few of them:
2. Over-programming creates an illusion of fruitfulness that may just be busyness.
4. Over-programming runs the risk of turning a church into a host of extracurricular activities, mirroring the “type A family” mode of suburban achievers.
6. Over-programming leads to segmentation among ages, life stages, and affinities, which can create divisions in a church body.
10. Over-programming is usually the result of unself-reflective reflex reactions to perceived needs, and an inability to kill sacred cows that are actually already dead.

You can read the rest of Wilson’s post here.


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When Grace Is The Operating System (via Jared Wilson)

Jared Wilson affirms the presence of grace and law in the life of God’s people, but points out the vital difference when grace is the lived out experience through which every event is processed.

An excerpt:

The most gracious people you and I know are people who have had an experience of grace and fixate on grace. The least gracious people we know are people who may know about grace academically, “theologically,” but don’t seem the least bit changed by it and really have a fixation on the law. They have an inordinate fixation on who did what wrong and what they deserve.
The same dynamic takes place in churches. Where grace and law are taught academically but law is “felt” as the operating system of the church, you will likely have a stifling, gossipy, burdensome environment. Where grace and law are taught theologically but grace is felt as the operating system of the church, you will see people begin to flourish, breathe.
Read the whole post here.