Tim Keller’s new book Every good endeavour is the subject of conversation on an American TV breakfast show.
In essence the book explores how the gospel of Christ shapes our attitude to work. In the interview Keller says ‘When you make your work your identity you identify with your work and that means if you’re successful it destroys you because it goes to your head. If you’re not successful it destroys you because it goes to your heart and it destroys your self-worth.
Faith gives you an identity that’s not in work or accomplishment and that gives you protection. If successful you stay humble if you’re not successful you have some ballast.
Why are we anxious?
The mental health charity Mind comments
You may worry about the future. Sometimes, if you feel you are not in control of many aspects of your life, you can start to feel anxious about events beyond your control, such as the threat of global warming, of being attacked, of developing cancer, or of losing a job.
After a while, you can start to fear the symptoms of anxiety, especially feeling out of control. This sets up a vicious circle. You may feel anxious because you dread feeling the symptoms of anxiety, and then you experience those symptoms because you are having anxious thoughts.
What does the Bible say about anxiety?
Paul in Philippians 4 commands (yes, commands) Christians not to be anxious. He writes
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
The great news for the Christian is that in the gospel God gives us the resources to help us combat anxiety. It is not easy and it is not automatic but Paul tells us that we can live lives as God’s people free form anxiety. There are two truths taken together that are crucial to beating anxiety.
1) The unshakeable conviction, that as a Christian, God loves you and has adopted you as his child not because of your life (your goodness, obedience, etc.) but because of Jesus’ perfect life lived for you and his perfect death for your sins. God has never accepted you and adopted you because of your performance but entirely on the performance of Jesus and that never changes.
2) The sure knowledge that the God who loves you in Christ is sovereign over every detail of your life.
That knowledge has to be appropriated in times of anxiety. The antidote to anxiety is to take our fears and worries to the sovereign God who loves us and hand the future over to him. Alex Motyer in his commentary on Philippians writes;
In prayer, anxiety is resolved by trust in God. In thanksgiving anxiety is resolved by the deliberate acceptance of the worrying circumstance as something which an all-wise, all-loving, and all-sovereign God has appointed.
Prayer takes up the anxiety-provoking question ‘How?’ –How shall I cope? –and answers by pointing away to him, to his resources and promises. Thanksgiving addresses itself to the worrying question ‘Why?’ – Why has this happened to me? – and answers by pointing to the great Doer of all who ever acts purposelessly and whose purposes never fail.
What is the fruit of prayer?
When you turn moments of stress and anxiety over to the sovereign Lord in prayer, then and only then, can you be free from anxiety and discover the peace of God. The peace from knowing he is in control even when we are not.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Adoniram Judson was one of the first American born overseas missionaries and a pioneer missionary to Burma. He knew very well the dangers to his own life and any who would join him when he wrote a letter to a Mr. Hasseltine asking for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world ? whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?
Her father consented.
At the end of their first six years, only one man had turned to Christ. But for Judson giving up was not an option. When he received a letter from the Mission Board in America asking after his work, he answered, “The prospects are as bright as the promise of God.”
“I will not leave Burma,” he declared, “until the cross is planted here forever!“ It is now estimated that there are 2 million Christians in Burma.
To live is Christ, to die is gain – there is only one life worth living.
10ofthose.com have produced a very useful video deconstructing a religious view of God by taking a closer look at Santa. Could be useful this Christmas.
(HT: Caitriona McCartney)
In the last post we thought a little about the danger of a rules-based parenting model as well as the opportunity we have as Christian parents to model grace in the home. In particular we wanted to highlight that in our approach to parenting we have an opportunity to commend the gospel to our children by the very way we live it out as we raise them.
If we adopt a legalistic attitude to parenting we teach our children that love is conditional on performance even as we tell them that God’s love shown to us in Jesus is unconditional. Should we be surprised if our children reject the gospel because they are confused as to the character of God? The first diagram represents a home where the culture of the house contradicts and undermines the message of the gospel we proclaim.
Six marks of a grace-filled home
A grace-filled home will be a place where the grace of God, the love of the Father, will be worked-out in the way we raise our children. I’m sure there are many more things that could be said but here are just six ideas as to what that would look like;
- Fun – Just as our Father in heaven delights in us as his children so we too are to delight in our children. We must find the time to enjoy their company, to take pleasure in what gives them pleasure.
- Forgiveness – Just as our Father is quick to forgive our many failings so we will be quick to forgive our children even as we discipline them.
- Firm but fair discipline –God does discipline his children as a father so must we.
- Family comes first – God is a God of relationships; Father, Son & Spirit who delight to serve and bless each other. So as we reflect his likeness we will raise our children we will sacrifice self-interest as we put their interests ahead of our own.
- Freedom – We will not control our children and impose our will upon them. Our father in heaven gives us freedoms and sometimes we make bad choices but under his watchful eye he let’s us take responsibility for our actions. So too we need to learn to let our children express their personality, gifts, character and also allow them to take appropriate risks.
- Failure – Just as we need to hear from our Father in heaven ‘It’s all right. I forgive you. I’ll help you recover from the mistakes you’ve made with your kids’ so we too need to communicate something of that same ‘permission to fail.’
Becoming a home of grace
Tim Kimmel in his book Grace based parenting which was a kick start to the ideas represented above writes: You wonder, ‘How am I to raise up children to love and serve God?’ The answer is actually not that difficult. You simply need to treat your children the way God treats you. He does it in His grace.
And here’s the good part. If the only thing you get right as parents is His grace, everything else will be just fine.
On Saturday at City Church we gave some time to thinking about how the gospel shapes our approach to parenting. Not just when and how we read the Bible with our kids but to what extent a theology of grace shapes the culture of our homes and our approach to every aspect of raising kids.
What is grace-based parenting?
Tim Kimmel in his excellent and very practical book Grace Based Parenting calls on us as Christians to ‘Treat our children the way God treats us’.
Grace-based parenting means parenting in a way that is consistent with the grace of God revealed in the gospel but more than that it means raising our kids as an overflow of our personal grasp and delight in grace. The goal of such parenting is to do all we can to reflect the character of the God of all grace to our children. As we parent this way we give them the best possible context for understanding and responding to the God of grace as revealed in the gospel.
Why do we need to consider grace-based parenting?
Unless we deliberately pursue a grace-based approach we will slip into a performance-driven, rules-based model. Legalistic parenting is our default method of parenting because self-justification is our default mode of living.
As Kimmel observes – Our parenting is the result of our theology. How we view God determines how we parent our children.
- If we spend our lives trying to keep the rules to make ourselves acceptable to God we will communicate to our children that their lives are about trying to keep the rules to make themselves acceptable to us.
- If we need to prove ourselves to God by our performance in order to be accepted by him our children will feel the need to prove themselves to us by their performance in order to be accepted by us and by extension God.
If your life is a performance in order to gain approval then your children will view their lives as a performance to gain your approval.
How do you spot legalistic-parenting?
Kimmel argues Legalistic parents spend most of their time trying to make sure their family does everything right. They assume that what God demands of them should be their primary business.
Legalistic parents love their kids and very much want the best for them but living up to mum and dad’s standards to feel secure in their love turns childhood experience into one of duty and not joy. It is one of conditional love rather than the unconditional and undeserved love that is grace.
Kids with legalistic parents leave home feeling guilty and one of the overwhelming attitudes that runs through the home is ‘fear’. Fear of failure, fear of being a disappointment to our parents, etc.
Where does rule-based parenting lead?
Let’s look at two passages in scripture in which the Apostle Paul warns Christian parents against it.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Eph 6:4 NIV) lit. word exasperate means ‘make angry’. Two commentaries draw out the meaning here;
Effectively, the apostle is ruling out ‘excessively severe discipline, unreasonably harsh demands, abuse of authority, arbitrariness, unfairness, constant nagging and condemnation, subjecting a child to humiliation, and to all forms of gross insensitivity to a child’s needs and sensibilities.’ – Andrew Lincoln
Behind this curbing of a father’s authority is the clear recognition that children, while they are expected to obey their parents in the Lord, are persons in their own right who are not to be manipulated, exploited, or crushed – Peter T. O’Brien
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. (Col 3:21 NIV)
Embitter ‘signifies to ‘irritate’ either by nagging at them or by deriding their efforts. Fathers are to obey the injunction so that their children do not become discouraged or think that it is useless trying to please them within the common life of the home. – Peter T. O’Brien
If we are to treat our children as God treats us then we will need to parent with the gospel and from the gospel that we might make the gospel attractive to them.
What happens when we parent our children out of grace?
The three-fold definition of grace: parenting to produce love, significance and hope
Six marks of a grace-filled house
On Saturday 100 people from across the city of Birmingham are gathering together to think, pray and plan to reach our city for Christ. It’s the third time we have done this in the past 3 years. Our conference is called How to win a million.
We represent a variety of evangelicals (Anglican, FIEC, Independent, New Frontiers, etc.) and the reason we keep meeting is that we recognise that it will take many more new churches to reach our city for Christ and that collaboration in planting is the way to best achieve this.
Let me offer you five reasons why our city, and almost certainly yours, needs not just for your church to plant but churches to work together to plant so that we can reach a city more quickly and more effectively for Christ.
1. We need new churches to reach a growing population
The population of England and Wales has grown by 3.7 million people in just the past 10 years. Such a population increase, at 7.1%, represents the greatest increase in a single 10 year period in over one hundred years.
Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe with 37% of the population under the age of 25.
2. We need new churches to replace the many churches that are closing
The total number of churches in the UK fell from 50,231 in 1980 to 47,635 in 2005 a drop of 5.16%, when in the same period the UK population grew from 56.3 Million to 60.2 Million a rise of 6.7%.
3. We need new churches to reach out to our ever more secular cities
A recent study of 64,303 adults in the UK found that of the younger generation: only 38% of the 18-34′s defined themselves as being Christian whilst 53% preferred to describe themselves as having no religion. Whilst the gospel doesn’t change and the message of Christ crucified is our only message we need to find innovative, creative and flexible models of church that best reach a secular culture. New churches have always led the way.
4. We need new churches to reach our religiously diverse cities
In the 2001 census 16.8% of the Birmingham population identified themselves as Muslim. The average for England and Wales is 3.0%. The challenge is obvious and the statistics demonstrate the direction of travel: ever-more diversity! Birmingham had a 30% ethnic minorities population in 2001 and that figure is set to grow.
New communities have entered our cities and reaching them for Christ presents fantastic opportunities!
5. We need new churches that will love and serve our cities rather than retreat from them
In that same study of over 60,000 UK adults
- 79% agreed that religion is a cause of much misery and conflict in the world today
- 72% agreed that religion is used as an excuse for bigotry and intolerance
- 78% agreed that religion should be a private matter
When 4 in 5 people are deeply suspicious of the presence of religion in their society there is much that the church must do to demonstrate a commitment to serve and bless our cities.
The challenges are so great and the need so urgent that it compels us to work together under Christ to make his name known.
Christians often use the phrase in the world but not of the world (something drawn from Jesus’ own words in John 17:11 and 16}. It encapsulates that difficult responsibility for Christians to be a visible and yet distinctive presence in the midst of our communities.
Tim Keller in his book Center Church describes something of what this might look like:
We will have an impact for the gospel if we are like those around us yet profoundly unlike them at the same time, all the while remaining very visible and engaged.
1. Christians are to be in the world
Tim Keller writes;
So, first of all, Christians must be like their neighbors in the food they eat and clothes they wear, their dialect, general appearance, work life, recreational and cultural activities, and civic engagement. They participate fully in life with their neighbors. Christians should also be like their neighbors with regard to excellence. That is, Christians should be very good at what others want to be good at. They should be skillful, diligent, resourceful, and disciplined. In short, Christians in a particular community should—at first glance—look reassuringly similar to the other people in the neighborhood. This opens up nonbelievers to any discussion of faith, because they recognize the believers as people who live in and understand their world. It also, eventually, gives them a glimpse of what they could look like if they became believers.
Christians are not to be of the world
Second, Christians must be also unlike their neighbors. In key ways, the early Christians were startlingly different from their neighbors; it should be no different for us today. Christians should be marked by integrity. Believers must be known for being scrupulously honest, transparent, and fair. Followers of Christ should also be marked by generosity. If employers, they should take less personal profit so customers and employees have more pay. As citizens, they should be philanthropic and generous with their time and with the money they donate for the needy. They should consider living below their potential lifestyle level. Believers should also be known for their hospitality, welcoming others into their homes, especially neighbors and people with needs. They should be marked by sympathy and avoid being known as self-serving or even ruthless in business or personal dealings. They should be marked by an unusual willingness to forgive and seek reconciliation, not by a vengeful or spiteful spirit.
In addition to these character qualities, Christians should be marked by clear countercultural values and practices. Believers should practice chastity and live consistently in light of the biblical sexual ethic. Those outside the church know this ethic—no sex outside of marriage—and any inconsistency in this area can destroy a believer’s credibility as a Christian.
That is how Christians are to be in the world and not of the world at one and the same time.
But what if…
Reading Keller on this issue reminded me of a talk I heard a few years ago which highlighted that perhaps the greatest danger is one we hardly ever spot. We spot the danger of Christians being in the world AND of the world (compromise), we are wary of Christians NOT in the world and not of it (retreat) but do we recognise the double-danger of Christians not in the world and YET of the world!
How does that work?
It is possible for Christians and church communities to cut themselves off from the world and retreat into glorious isolationism and yet at the same time exhibit all of the traits of worldliness behind our locked doors. In such a situation the church is unchanged by the gospel and displays all the characteristics of the world. Maybe that means for some being as individualistic in our disregard for the need of others, as materialistic in our attitude to money, as self-obsessed so that the focus of our lives is not the gospel to the lost but our own sense of well-being and comfort.
What a tragedy when Christians are not in the world and yet undoubtedly of the world.
How can you learn the foundational truths of your Christian faith so that you really know what and why you believe?
For centuries Christians learned these truths through catechisms such as Genevan, Heidleburg or Westminster.
The new city catechism is ‘a joint adult and children’s catechism consisting of 52 questions and answers adapted by Timothy Keller and Sam Shammas from the Reformation catechisms’. 52 Q and A’s with video and memory verses this looks to be a great new resource for families to learn the Christian basics together.
Tim and Kathy Keller deconstruct the cultural myths that surround marriage and give a gospel answer.
(HT: Justin Taylor)
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