This is a beautiful piece of writing from Tim Challies on the Christian experience of pursuing Christ. Read it together with Andree Seu’s response to those who accused her of legalism when she recently wrote about “striving” for greater faith. I share Andree’s concern on this point. In all the commendable talk about Gospel-centered worship, Gospel-centered preaching, Gospel-centered churches, Gospel-centered leadership, etc., it is sometimes forgotten that there is such a thing as Gospel-centered obedience. In fact, is that not what the Gospel is all about – saving us from our sins? Here are some excerpts from Andree’s column:
I would not trouble you with a column responding to the responses except that it is so life-and-death a point, and the misunderstanding of it is so endemic and persistent. Is not confusion on this issue at the root of the prevalent tepidness, complacency, and defeat in our walk with Christ?
As for “grace”: Do the contenders of “grace alone” (when by it they mean, without works) even understand what grace is? Grace is the favor from God by which we are enabled to walk in His ways by His Spirit in obedience. Grace is a provision by which we may exercise faith in the concreteness of our lives.
Grace is more than that. But it is at least that.
How to organize your library
Pastors and students, if you want a guilt-trip, read Andy Naselli on how to organize a theological library. My only hope of attaining to this is in heaven. Seriously though, there are some good tips here. But don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress.
On the fundamentals of the faith, we should be bold as lions. We should not be timid and fearful, but dogmatic and certain. We have enough doubters and ditherers.However, what about issues of guidance? What about discerning the Lord’s will for a new church building or a new outreach program? What about giving counsel to those in complicated relationships? What about areas where there is no clear biblical instruction, or there are strong and persuasive arguments on both sides? Must a pastor teach his millennial view with as much dogmatic certainty as he does justification by faith alone? Should a parent be as decisive in guiding their childrens’ choice of a wife or husband as they are in calling them to Christ? Should this seminary student be recommended to that congregation? These questions seem to demand a combination of firm biblical wisdom together with a conscious awareness of, “I maybe wrong.” We don’t want to set ourselves up as infallible popes on every area of life, but neither do we want to present our answers and conclusions as mere guesses. Robert Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Sanford University, proposes that great leaders should be “confident but not sure.” He says, “I strive to be confident enough to convince people that I am in charge, but humble enough to realize that I am often going to be wrong.” Sutton recounts an interview with Intel’s then-Chairman, Andy Grove, who said:
None of us have a real understanding of where we are heading. I don’t. I have senses about it. But decisions don’t wait, investment decisions or personal decisions and prioritization don’t wait, for that picture to be clarified. You have to make them when you have to make them. So you take your shots and clean up the bad ones later. I think it is very important for you to do two things: act on your temporary conviction as if it was a real conviction; and when you realize that you are wrong, correct course very quickly.
This is one of the hardest balances to find in pastoral ministry, in parenting, and in the Christian life in general: to know when to be confident and sure, and to know when to be confident but not sure. Which areas are non-negotiable and which opinions can be “weakly held.”Temperament plays a large part in how we find the sweet spot. But find it we must, by knowing the Word and walking in the Spirit. Congregations, families, and relationships have been sunk by doubting and equivocating over non-negotiables. They have also been blown apart by over-bearing over-confidence that cannot distinguish between a fundamental of the faith and the color of the new church carpet.
The world’s largest art competition has been going on for the past few weeks in….Grand Rapids.Grand Rapids? Not Venice or Paris or Greenwich Village? Grand Rapids, Michigan? Yes, that’s right. Conservative, Reformed, traditional Grand Rapids has just hosted Artprize, the world’s largest art competition. This annual event has cash prizes totaling $450,000, with first prize receiving $250,000 (do I hear the sound of old paintbrushes being cleaned up?), most of it coming out of the generous pockets of Dick and Betsy DeVos. You can see the winners here. I’m not much of an art buff, but even I took my family on to the streets of Grand Rapids to view some of the 1400 exhibits showing in strategic places throughout the town. Much to my surprise, we had a really great time. The streets were packed with young and old. And most people looked kind of “normal”; not the usual arty crowd. And the pieces of art were (mainly) understandable; not the usual weird, incomprehensible, abstract stuff. Part of the reason for that was that the winners were all decided by public vote (you texted or voted online), and this clearly motivated the artists to produce works that would impress “ordinary” people. And most of the work was hugely impressive. The creativity, imagination, and ingenuity was fantastic. I found myself wishing I had more time to see more and appreciate more. Not quite sure what came over me.
But I also found myself thinking of how God’s image was being so clearly displayed in and through the art and the artists. In these beautiful, stunning, and eye-popping paintings, sculptures, and all sorts of varied constructions, I could see a bright shadow of God’s own creative genius and awesome creativity in the Garden.
So many of the pieces could form the basis of sermons and blog posts. But I’d like to leave you with one that was brought to my attention by Charissa Romens at the Acton Institute’s Powerblog. She writes:
Confess is a large board where people can anonymously write their confessions. Everything from the dark, to deeply personal, to lighthearted, to witty is posted on this public wall for anyone to peruse.
As I thought about this, I was also struck by the universal desire for confession. Wherever we look in the world we find this urge, this “instinct,” this compulsion to admit sin in a public way. No matter how hard we may try to forget, to hide, to cover-up, to deny, to blame others, to balance with good works, that sin or these sins keep bubbling up to the surface of our consciousness.But even when confession is made, most of the time it is misdirected to priests, counselors, psychologists, walls! As a result, there is no lasting sense of peace or forgiveness. And there is no power to change.
The greatest prize
This is where true Christianity has such a powerful and relevant message. If we confess our sins to Christ, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). I sometimes wonder if we underplay this basic and fundamental promise of Christianity. We can get so caught up in doctrinal controversies about justification, etc., that sin-burdened souls do not hear this simply profound promise. Confess your sins to Christ and you will receive full, free, felt, and forever forgiveness from all your sins.