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Posts Tagged ‘Humility’

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)

I recently watched a sermon by Matt Chandler that has caught me in some interesting tensions.  In his sermon, Chandler offers a “test” by which one can know that they have really grasped the Gospel (my words, not his; and to be fair, the following loosely paraphrases his point, which was not the main point of his message).  The test boils down to this:  Do you approach God any differently on a good day versus a bad day?

Consider the bad day:  You wake in the morning with a complaining, ungrateful heart, skip your morning devotions, back slide into one of your recurring sin patterns, wimp out when you feel like you should share with the stranger sitting next to you on the bus, and short change your family in favor of watching the Bruins game, eventually falling asleep discouraged and convicted by your sin.  In every regard, you blow it.  Now, consider the good day:  Your morning is marked by a powerful encounter with God through His Word, you meet a friend in need and bring them encouragement and truth to help them through their hard time, you lead that stranger on the bus to Christ and plan to meet them at church that week, and you skip the Bruins game to finish your translation work for the sermon series in Hebrews, but only after you’ve spent another hour in deep, soul-satisfying prayer, and have given a month’s pay to a missionary couple heading to Bhutan.  In every regard, you “nail it” (to use Chandler’s language).

After either of these days, do you approach the Lord in prayer with any more or less confidence that He hears you?  Loves you?  Delights in you?  The short way of presenting this “test” might be: “How does your performance affect your posture to God?”  If you get the Gospel, Chandler says, it doesn’t.  You know that it is not by your righteousness that you have God’s ear, but by Christ’s, and you know that your righteous works “are as filthy rags” anyway, so on either day, you are equally confident and aware of God’s love, acceptance and attention.

On the surface, I like this “test.”   I think it illustrates the point of being saved by grace through faith quite clearly.  While I do take it as a mere illustration (i.e., not a systematic, precise, delicately nuanced description of our lives in Christ), it leaves me dealing with all sorts of tensions, some of which are quite  illuminating.  To throw out two:

(1)  Confidence and humility.  While we may approach God with confidence (on the basis of what Jesus has done for us), scripture testifies that we must also do so humbly (e.g., Lk.18:9-14, 1 Pet. 5:6, and about a million other places).  I think this is a tension for me because I’m not used to being confident without being prideful, or at best, confidence is often the slippery slope that leads me to pride.  Perhaps the reason here is that my confidence is often misplaced.  After all, one usually has a basis for one’s confidence.  Mine too often falls on my own ability or performance.  Don’t blink, because we’re right back at the Gospel again:  It’s about Jesus; who He is and what He’s done, not me.

(2)  Pleasure and displeasure.  Certainly God does not delight in my sin.  Yet, even though I still sin, in Christ, I’m white as snow.  So God takes pleasure in me as I’m in Christ, yet displeasure when I sin (which is quite often).  This tension can probably be filed in the (bulging) “already/not yet” folder, but for now it leaves me in an interesting place:  Do I not feel guilt and shame when I sin?  Am I not overjoyed when I experience victory over my sin?  So how could my good and bad days look the same with respect to my posture towards God?  Here, I think my tendency is to confuse emotions with reality.  I can feel ashamed and guilty as I approach God on my bad day, yet I remember that in reality I’m free of all guilt and shame.  I can feel joyous on my good day, yet I remember that in reality I’ve nothing good in myself; it’s all thanks to God.

Here are two examples of how the gospel changes everything.  To point (1), Confidence and humility can co-exist because the confidence is placed in someone other than ourselves.  For point (2), our standing before God doesn’t require us to trivialize sin, nor does it require us to exalt ourselves.   We can be simultaneously sorrowful (“I’m a sinner!  Forgive me!”) and joyful (“Praise be to God that I’m forgiven!”), or, joyful (“I spent my entire day helping the poor!”) and humble (“Thank you God for giving me a heart for the poor!”)

In all, I’d say Chandler’s “test” probably does require plenty of explanation and refining if we want to carry it beyond illustrative purposes; It’s certainly not meant to answer the question of one’s personal salvation (i.e., “I failed the test!  I must not be saved!”).  But as a point of meditation, or a question to ask yourself, it can be helpful, revealing, convicting and encouraging all at once, much like the Gospel itself.

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Chided again by Danny’s subtle wit, I thought I’d finally post something.  For spite.

This summer I joined a church planting team sent from CFCF to plant a church in Waltham.  The River Church, now a little over a month old, is therefore my new church home.  Being part of a church planting team has been an exciting experience, for sure.  There is always a certain excitement that comes from beginning something new; building something from the ground-up.

Naturally, all of us on the core team understand that Christ is the one who builds His church (c.f., Mt.16:18), and we’re not starting something new so much as continuing in a faith already thousands of years old.  Still, there are the brick and mortar decisions: What does our corporate worship service look like?  What are small groups going to look like?  Where do we meet?  How do we reach out to the community? Etc.

The overwhelming emotion I’ve experienced throughout all of these decisions is one of humility.  It is easy to talk about what a corporate worship service should look like, (doubly-so in the accountability-free, anonymous cocoon of the internet), but very difficult to actually plan for a time of corporate worship.  There is always in our lives the tension of what ought to be and what is.  Our tidy monographs on the church (some of which I’ve written), often seem far less useful when we’re dealing with real people and real circumstances.

All this to say that my church planting experience thus far has reminded me of the charity with which we should discuss, philosophize and even criticize the church in America.  We tread this space often on BBG, hopefully with due humility.  I think said charity ought to wax even larger when discussing matters with which we are not intimately involved.  To use the worship example again, criticism of corporate worship practices are much more weighty if they come from people who are actually involved with a corporate worship team in some way.

This doesn’t mean that a non-participant has nothing meaningful to say.  A single pastor can provide sound marital counsel to a couple.  However, nothing beats real experience for seasoning this counsel with charity and grace.  This pattern has repeated itself throughout my life:  As I thought ahead to marriage, there were certain things I thought I’d never do; similar thoughts ran through my mind as I looked forward to the birth of my first child.  As much as my pre-marital, pre-parental self might have confessed that marriage or parenting are difficult things to do, it has taken my experience of them to really appreciate just how difficult.

The experience-induced slice of humble pie oughtn’t dull our ideals, however.  Indeed, when the rubber met the road, I was not the husband or parent I thought I’d be.  (My wife and I often laugh at our pre-parental discussions on child-rearing; all of which were held in the quiet of our living room as we anticipated a restful night of sleep.)  We can still strive towards our highest ideals.  Sometimes, though, life gets messy and we realize that we forgot to kiss our wife good-bye, sat our son in front of the TV so we could get 15 minutes of quiet, and haven’t posted to our blog in ages.  Here’s to trying our best again tomorrow.

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Still Alive; Still Not Posting

If for no other reason than to prove that I’m still alive, and haven’t been fired by Danny for my recent, flawlessly executed anti-posting campaign, I thought I’d add a link to show that I’m at least doing something this summer:  Follow this link to a sermon I preached this past Sunday at CFCF.  Note that you can also get CFCF sermons via podcast on iTunes (just search CFCF Boston).  The latter may be the better choice, since you can’t download the sermon on our church’s website, but only listen via a browser plugin.

For extra credit, you can comment on why this post is ironic at best or hypocritical at worst in light of the sermon.

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