20110119

I had a train of thought... but it looks more like the escape scene from "The Fugitive" now

This past Sunday in church my mind was running 90 miles per hour.  We are going through a revisit of our Mission Statement as well as messages on encouraging the congregation to "deeper and wider". 
For a long time i have struggled with 'man-centered' sermons.  Ones that talk about what we need to do, how we need to act to feel better, to improve our relationship with God, etc.  It is only natural i guess.  Especially in those whom the Holy Spirit has awakened the awareness of our own depravity apart from God.  We know there is problem and we know it has to be taken care of, and it is human nature to want to fix it.  To bring something to the table so to speak.  That spills over into sermons on Sunday morning and we spend so much time focusing on ourselves that we never look at who God is.  Sure we use the Bible to insert into appropriate parts of the sermon, but it is to examine ourselves, not to examine God.  One reason we are at the church we are at now is because i have spoken with the pastor, and i can see glimpses of him trying to turn the focus more on who God is.  Anyway... i digress... during the sermon my mind would grab on points and seemingly expound upon what was being preached upon. 

Anyway... this Sunday i took several notes, and i was all pumped up about blogging about this most excellent train of thought i was having... only to read my notes today... and they are not making sense... at least they are not clicking as to why i was so pumped up excited.  So... what i will do is just use my notes to expound upon my own thoughts... and just go from there.

I do remember thinking why are most sermons so watered down.  The messages talk about Jesus saving people, about how good He is.  Rarely have i heard about Him dying on the cross.  Even more rare is to hear the word sin, or that He saves sinners... let alone declaring that anyone listening is a sinner.  Some may think this harsh, but i would encourage you to pick six churches at random in your local neighborhood/city/town.  Most nowadays, do some form of recording, but if they don't and you have the time, sit through the usually no longer than 30 minute sermon.  If you hear the reference to people being sinners more than twice all together, i would be surprised.  Even still we hear generalities such as sin is bad, God is good, and God is love and He forgives.  None of that is untrue, but why can't we go deeper?  Why can't we touch on things like that we are still sinners, saved by grace.  That we do fail God, that He does work in our lives, that we do still require His discipline - which is uncomfortable.

I cannot remember the full context of the sermon (sorry Pastor) where our preacher was talking about being "called out" and "called to".  While i agree we have indeed been "called out" of something, and "called to" something... I do having the opinion that it was too superficial however.  What exactly have we been "called out" of?  A life of sin?  Surely, and yet we still struggle in the flesh.  Ultimately we have been called out of a life apart from God, out of a life where we only live for our self, we have been called out of a life of hating God.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:6-10, ESV emphasis mine)
I feel that deep appreciation, and the best thing we could ever do for both the seeker and the saint, is to not shy away from what our condition would be without Christ.  Even after our heart and mind have quickened to the heading of God, and accepted Jesus' work on the cross, it is only His sustaining grace that brings us through.  If it were not for Christ going to the cross, we would never have regained fellowship with God.  There for, not only have we been called out of our own depravity, our own self imposed isolation, we have been called to a relationship with God.  We have been called to living for God and not for ourselves.  We have been called to a state that we will never again be alone.
And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined [4] to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin [5] a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:14-20, ESV)
While, now that we are one with God, we should not take ownership of our sin, because through the blood of Christ and his propitiation upon the cross it has been taken away, we should never forget our sorry state apart from Christ, lest we deceive ourselves and think we have arrived before we have been called home.  Apart from the grace of God, and His transforming work in our lives, we are retched little creatures.  This is why i keep a statue of the creature Gollum from the Lord of the Rings on my desk.  By the inspiration of Joshua Harris i quote the conversation between Gandalf and Frodo from the works of J.R.R. Tolkein:
"What do you mean?" said Frodo.  "Surely the Ring was his precious and the only thing he cared for?  But if he hated it, why didn't he get rid of it, or go away and leave it?"

"You ought to begin to understand, Frodo, after all you have heard," said Gandalf.  "He hated it and loved it, as he hated and loved himself.  He could not get rid of it.  He had no will left in the matter."  (from The Fellowship of the Ring)
Apart from the work of God we could never leave our sin behind.  We both love it, and hate it, but we can never just rid ourselves of it.  If we deny that we still struggle with sin and are still in need of Christ, we deceive ourselves. (1 John 1).  I do not think we can have a better example than Paul:
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, [1] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.(2 Corinthians 12:7-9, ESV)
So long as we dwell in this vessel, we will continue to wage war against desires of the flesh... our precious... our sin.  To do nothing... to fail to draw our attention to our truest need... is to leave one vulnerable to the guile of the enemy. Do we remain there?  No!  We should rejoice and celebrate all that God has brought us to!  We should sin praises, we should rejoice, but unless we reach down and realize just what we have been saved from - if we continue to gloss over the ugly parts - we will only ever superficially respond and our worship will be deficient for it.

Until we sing...
‘Twas I that shed the sacred blood;
    I nailed him to the tree;
I crucified the Christ of God;
    I joined the mockery.

Of all that shouting multitude
   I feel that I am one;
And in that din of voices rude
   I recognize my own.

Around the cross the throng I see,
   Mocking the Sufferer’s groan;
Yet still my voice is seems to be,
   As if I mocked alone.
(A Hymn by Horatius Bonar)


We can never fully appreciate...
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.
For those who have endured this train wreck to the end... thank you for your patience.  I take no credit in anything other than the sharing of thoughts.  I pray that this has blessed you, and may you richly and deeply feel the passion of your Savior.

1 comment:

ineverhavetheanswer said...

I actually find myself LOLing for real because our series at church right now is "Sinners saved by Grace".

I have to say the things you talk about are talked about at my church on a regular basis.

We do talk about sin and my Pastor even goes into his own sin. It is one of the things that drew me to this church. I didn't feel so alone in my sin anymore and I knew I could still be loved despite of it all.

Anyway very good blog.