Tuesday, February 16, 2010

An anemic Gospel... part 2

A.K.A. "The death of idolatry and the discipline of the Lord."

It is hard to talk about sin in a say that doesn’t immediately refer to something you do. Let’s do a little word association. I say a word and you say the first thing that comes to your mind. I say “sin” and you say what? Murder, malicious talk, porn, fornication (not that anyone uses that word anymore), hitting your brother?

Ok... so that is how my 3 year old understands sin... “Don’t push Ben.”
And although it is that simple it is not that simplistic... that is only half of it.

If we only see sin as the “bad stuff we do” then we only need a “gospel” that meets our surface needs (
see my last post).

For every action described as “sin” in the scriptures there is a root which is far more sinister. And that root is idolatry.

On top of that... it’s no wonder we, so often, have no category for suffering, hardship, and discipline in our understanding of “God”... and it’s no wonder that I seek after the wisdom and maturity of a tested and seasoned man-of-God and yet desire not the testing nor the seasoning (or tenderizing as might be necessary for the “tough meat” that I may be).

As I mentioned in my earlier post, the past couple of years have been a journey of being humbled while learning what it means to put the flesh to death and much has that has happened under the radar in the deep recesses of my heart... slowly being exposed to more and more light.

A little background...

A few months ago Pastor Matt Chandler spoke at a training “Boot Camp” I attended in Louisville, KY. If you would like to listen to his teaching (and I would strongly encourage you carve out 47 minutes and buckle up) you can hear it

But one of the biggest challenges for me came from a text many of us have read a lot... and until then I had not fully understood.

Hebrews 11. This is often called the “faith” chapter. It speaks of the saints who “by faith” trusted God even though they couldn’t fully see the promise of God realized. It reads like a roll-call of epic heroes who did unbelievable things and serve as the "IT" guys of our faith history.

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Rahab... "And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection." (Hebrews 11:32-35a)

The problem is... we too often stop reading right there... in the middle of verse 35. The anemic gospel points at that list and says, “See! This is all that God intends for you if you are really a Christian. You will always defeat sickness, and foreign enemies, and lions and always cheat death...” and we leave it at that.

As Chandler says it, “...we’ve held up guys who have put armies to flight and we have held up guys who have shut the mouths of lions and said, ‘this is normative’.”

The reality is that there is another part to verse 35 and to the rest of the chapter:

"Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:35b-40)

You see... I want the life of Hebrews 11:32-35. That’s the ministry that I want. Because of the flesh that still wages war in my heart and rises up against Christ’s sanctifying work in me I desire putting armies to flight and shutting the mouths of lions... not for God’s name to be made greater but for my name to be made greater. Idolatry.

You see, the remedy for me is a full Gospel.

Hebrews 12 is a very familiar passage but has been shaking my self-righteousness to the core:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

I have a new desire of late... I just want to play my part well. I want to run the race set before me... looking to Jesus...

I want to be the kind of man who, like Chander says, “the man that loves Jesus Christ deeply, when he’s getting overrun... when he’s getting overrun by the army he’s able to say, ‘if this is my role in the furtherance of the Kingdom, Praise Your name.’”

You see... if we have an anemic gospel we will always see all hardship and suffering as anti-us and not-from God. Not that all hardship is because of sin or discipline... like God is waiting for us to sin to that he can punish us... but that is for another post... and another day

(If you want to read/listen some challenging thoughts on God's Sovereignty and Suffering check out HERE and HERE).

But if we have an anemic gospel we will NEVER see hardship and suffering in this life as tools for our sanctification and testing and we will NEVE be joyful in being counted worthy to suffer for his name sake... and many times... it might do us well to consider our current struggles in that light.

What is interesting is that Matt Chandler has become a reminder and a fresh dose of “full Gospel” in recent days as I have been tracking his ministry in the midst of cancer treatment. Just a few weeks after this conference, this past Thanksgiving, Matt was diagnosed with a brain tumor that was very aggressive. Much has been said about this whole situation but his response to the whole thing has been one more example for me of being the man who would play his part well for the furtherance of the Kingdom and for God’s glory.

There is a great article on Chandler
HERE and you can read some updates from his church HERE.

All in all... I want to play my part well. I want to run my race faithfully. I’ll trust God for the rest.

Soli Deo Gloia.

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