Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More on individual destiny

"...most of us are nobodies from the world’s point of view. We live and die in a long chain of humanity but there is not much that anyone will remember of us as individuals. At the same time, without us, future generations will not be born and the legacy of the past will not be preserved. We are part of a great cloud of witnesses, a long chain of faithful people who have lived for God in the place where he put them. Even if we know little about them we owe them a great debt of gratitude for their loyalty and perseverance when they had little or nothing to gain from it or to show for it...there is a purpose in our calling that goes beyond ourselves. Even if we are not 'glorified' and leave little for posterity to remember us by, we shall nevertheless have made an indispensable contribution to the purposes of God in human history." -- Gerald Bray

A Member but not Messianic. Favor not Fame. Grace not Glamor.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Re: the cult of celebrity in evangelical churches

What is celebrity but the elevation of gifts over character? How many times have we seen this? "You can't question So-and-so's character (or ministry\calling) because he is so gifted and successful!" Gifts are wonderful when they are used to the glory of God, but it is character which determines the effectiveness of any church or of any school. We will stop exalting talented ministers without regard for truth or character when we demand that preachers give us Christ and the Scriptures rather than anecdotes and jokes, when we recover a sense of the glory of God in worship and put away our crass desire for entertainment, and when we trust God to give growth to the church rather than put our faith in men and programs. -- Tom Chantry

Monday, June 28, 2010

An unmessianic sense of non-destiny

The belief that we are each special is, by and large, complete tosh. Most of us are mediocre, make unique contributions only in the peculiar ways we screw things up, and could easily be replaced as husband, father or employee, by somebody better suited to the task. The mythology nevertheless helps to sell things and allows us feel good about ourselves; indeed, the older you get, the more things it sells, from gym memberships, to cosmetic surgery, to hair pieces, to botox injections; but it is just mythology - the whole of human history so far strongly suggests that, as you get old, you cease to be as cool, and that you inevitably find that life just isn't as sweet as it was when you were eighteen.

As I look round the church, it strikes me that far too many Christians have senses of destiny which verge on the messianic. The confidence that the Lord has a special plan and purpose just for them shapes the way they act and move. Now, just for the record I certainly believe each individual has a destiny; what concerns me is the way in which our tendency to think of ourselves as special and unique (which we all are in some ways - D.N.A. etc.) bleeds over into a sense of special destiny whereby the future, or at least the future of myself, comes to be the priority and to trump all else.

Put bluntly, when I read the Bible it seems to me that the church is the meaning of human history; but it is the church, a corporate body, not the distinct individuals who go to make up her membership. Of course, all of us individuals have our gifts and our roles to play: the Lord calls us each by name and numbers the very hairs of our heads; but, to borrow Paul's analogy of the body, we have no special destiny in ourselves taken as isolated units, any more than bits of our own bodies do in isolation from each other. When I act, I act as a whole person; my hand has no special role of its own; it acts only in the context of being part of my overall body. With the church, the destiny of the whole is greater than the sum of the destinies of individual Christians.

This is an important insight which should profoundly shape our thinking and, indeed, our praying. My special destiny as a believer is to be part of the church; and it is the church that is the big player in God's wider plan, not me. That puts me, my uniqueness, my importance, my role, in definite perspective. The problem today is that too many have the idea that God's primary plan is for them, and the church is secondary, the instrument to the realization of their individual significance.

The West worships the individual; from the cradle to the grave it tells us all how special and unique each of us is, how vital we are to everything, how there is a prize out there just for us. Well, the world turned for thousands of years before any of us showed up; it will continue turning long after we've gone; and even if you, me, or the Christian next door are tonight hit by an asteroid, kidnapped by aliens, or sucked down the bathroom drain, very little will actually change; even our loved ones will somehow find a way to carry on without us. We really are not that important. So let's drop the pious prayers which translate roughly as `Lord, how can a special guy/gal like myself help you out some?' and pray rather that the Lord will grow his kingdom despite our continual screw ups, that he will keep us from knocking over the furniture, and that, when all is said and done, somehow, by God's grace, we will "finish well" despite our best efforts to the contrary.

So then please realize early that you are not actually the messiah and you have no special destiny which sets you apart from everybody else. The former is Christ alone; the latter is primarily reserved for his church. We all need to cultivate a certain unmessianic sense of non-destiny which will make us better citizens of the kingdom.

adapted from an article by Carl Trueman

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"Risk" & "Intimacy"

I saw this little tidbit expressed on the web today:

"High risk equals high intimacy. Low risk equals low intimacy. Which would you rather have?"

Sounds like stuff from "Wild At Heart."

Now whether it refers to intimacy with God or others, (knowing the person and their church background, it is likely the former, but could include the latter as well,) what is the Biblical basis for this catch phrase? Where is "risk" in Scripture? And where is this emphasis on "intimacy" found in the Bible? And doesn't this idea presume "earning" or conversely "not obtaining" closeness with God? "Gotta work hard and strain to be tight with God!" Also in terms of God or Jesus taking a risk for intimacy...well the idea is ridiculously absurd. God doesn't take chances.

Risk = exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance.

Which would I rather have? I guess I'd rather have perfected love.

the answer:
(1 John 4:18) "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

(Heb 12:2) "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

(Rom 5:3-5) "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; {4} perseverance, character; and character, hope. {5} And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

Of course, with the Gospel, we are freed from the fear of being ridiculed or hurt by others, since we already have the favor of God by Grace.