Archive for April, 2009

Prayer: Disciplined Duty or Legalism?

Here is a great post on the necessity of prayer by John Piper.  It is a great reminder that the life lived by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is not a life of free-wheeling spirituality, but one of running the race set before us.  Indeed, there is a key distinction to be made in our lives as Christians between disciplined duty and legalism.

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Again, A Ministering Community

The vision of Christ Church Conway is three-fold; we desire to be a worshipping-community, a ministering-community, and a transforming-community.  Being a ministering community requires us to get into the dirt of other people’s lives and still care for them.  Too often, our reaction is to recoil at the reality of life, especially life outside the four, safe walls of our churches. 

Throughout the Bible, ministry is presented as something that is inexorably messy.  In Genesis 3, God came into the Garden of Eden to deal with Adam and Eve who were now clothed because they desired to exalt themselves to God’s position.  When Moses returned from the meeting with God on the mountain, he found that Aaron, Israel’s priest, had led the people in building an idol, the golden calf.  God sent Nathan to call David, the King of Israel, to repentance after he got Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, pregnant and had Uriah murdered to cover his own tracks.  God called Hosea to marry a prostitute in order to show his people what he was doing for them in redemption.  The religious right of Jesus’ day repeatedly rebuked him for eating with tax collectors and sinners.  Jude compared ministry to snatching people out of a fire and dealing with garments stained by the flesh (dirty underwear is the idea). 

Ministry, applying the healing balm of the gospel to each other’s open wounds, is a filthy but God-glorifying proposition.  We are required to be involved in each other’s lives in intensely personal ways.  We refuse to let one another dwell in sin.  Out of a desire for God’s exaltation and love for one another, we spur each other on toward love and good deeds.  We weep with those who are weeping, mourn with those who are mourning, and rejoice with those who are rejoicing.  Ministry requires us to be fully involved, not comfortably involved.  The gospel does not call us to flee from the reality of life in a sinful world, but to face it head on with the whole truth of the good news of Jesus Christ.

In the late 1800′s and early 1900′s houses were frequently set up in big cities that would take in prostitutes (often pregnant), give them a place to live, help them find work, and help them set up an adoption or adjust to being a mom if that were a need.  Marvin Olasky gave a brief account of such houses in his article, “Lessons from the past” (World, January 17, 2009, 32-35.).  He wrote, “One woman who went to Chicago’s Erring Women’s Refuge said it was the ‘first place I ever lived that any person cared enough about the salvation of my soul to make it a matter of interest to me‘” (emphasis added).  What a great picture of ministry!  The gospel was being lived out and proclaimed not only out of a hatred for a person’s sin, but also, and perhaps chiefly, out of concern for the person’s eternal soul.  Paul conveyed a similar idea when he wrote, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2.8).

Simply getting into the dirt of other people’s lives is often the easy part.  Secretly, we love getting the scoop on the sins and struggles of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances, and even people we do not know.  We gobble up celebrity smut in any form.  We propagate rumors to offset our own failures.  We justify ourselves by recalling that “Holy Henry,” who is obviously more sanctified than we are, committed some wretched act and is still considered saintly.  We should not seek dirt on others to make ourselves look clean by comparison.  We should be in the lives of others because we love them with the love of Christ and desire that they know the true and living God who saves his people from their sins through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of his people and rose again that we may have life, and when we find that they are hurt, broken, suffering, sinful people, we should stay in their lives pointing them to Christ.

Understanding the reason for which Christ came helps us tremendously in ministering the gospel to those around us.  Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9.13).  Three points are clear from this passage.  First, if you fancy yourself a righteous person, then Jesus did not come for you.  Second, if you are a sinner with no hope before the holy God of all creation, there is a Savior for you, Jesus Christ the righteous.  Third, if you claim to be in Christ, then you know that you are a dirty rotten sinner.  Rejoice in the grace of Christ; do not pretend that you have it all together.

Being a ministering community requires far more of us than we dare to imagine.  It requires loving the unlovable, touching the untouchable, and reaching the unreachable.  It also requires honesty.  We do not desire to be a ministering community because we have it all together.  We desire to be a ministering community precisely because we do not have it all together, but we all together have Christ.

 

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