What’s the difference between being sorry about by sin and being repentant of my sin? A very helpful post by Jared Wilson on the nature of a true repentance.
The remarkable story of a man who found grace in his hour of need and was utterly transformed
Just after midnight (here in the UK) Bubba Watson won one of the most prestigious golfing touranments in the world – the US Masters. As a Christian he celebrated his win giving thanks to God on Easter Sunday!
In a tweet just a few weeks ago he said:
Most important things in my life- 1. God 2. Wife 3. Family 4. Helping others 5. Golf
This post from the Billy Graham Organisation tells us more
(HT: Steve Couchman)
The first really hard lesson I learned in the Christian life was to let God be God; to accept his sovereign right to rule my life and so be ready to accept as from his hand whatever circumstances came my way.
The second hardest lesson I learnt was to love Christ more than my life and therefore be ready to surrender my life to being his servant.
My perfect life, my perfect Christian life, had always looked something like ‘live in a nice house, with a good career, a reasonable pension, a happy marriage, successful kids and a fulfilling Christian life.’
Part of my struggle in learning to love Christ more than life was in putting aside my own interests, time and resources in the service of others. Being his servant didn’t just mean battling sin and buying commentaries. It meant the needs of others before my own.
Where this bites then is not in service but in sacrificing in order to serve. Giving up stuff I want and preferring to serve others.
How can we be the church, a community of God’s people, where each of us is set free – in the heart — from a life of self-concern and self-promotion to live lives of self-forgetfulness in which we delight to serve one another for Christ’s sake?
How can that ever be the life I want to live?
On Sunday morning, preaching at City Church, I preached for the first time on the parable of the workers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20 and what we learned is that the secret of serving others comes when we;
Refuse to compare yourself to others
The parable is a story designed to change your perspective on your life and it works on you by rooting out of your heart and mine the problem of envy.
What stops us giving our lives in wholehearted service of our King? What stops us from pouring out our lives in the service of others? Isn’t it that we are continually comparing ourselves to others, competing with others? We continually assess how we are doing, continually looking at levels of accomplishment. It’s what we find Jesus’ own disciples doing just a few verses later! And envy stops you from serving others.
You will never be free to serve others until you are free from comparing yourself to others
Maybe we should note well what Jesus says both immediately before and at the end of the parable – 19:30 and 20:36. In the kingdom of heaven, in the gospel we can stop comparing ourselves to others.
How the parable works
It’s harvest time and a farmer is looking to hire people. At the beginning of the day he hires men and agrees to pay them a day’s wages. In v.3 he returns to the market place a couple of hours later and hires a few more men. Come and work for me and I will v.4 ‘pay you whatever is right’
Our farmer goes out again at the 6th, 9th and 11th hour hires more workers and then at the end of the day the farmer gives them their salary.
Starting with the last he pays them something they haven’t earned, something they haven’t deserved a full day’s wage – a denarius. You can imagine what the other workers are thinking at this point, wow this farmer pays bonuses I wonder what we’re going to get!
But as each worker steps forward he pays each of the others exactly the same wage – a denarius. You can imagine what they are thinking now, after all a day’s farming in the heat of the Palestinian day was really hard and so getting the same wage (v.11) they began to grumble against the landowner.
What’s the issue for them?
They complain to the farmer, v.12, ‘you have made them equal to us’. Here is envy at work, building resentment!
No doubt under an EU directive such behaviour would have been illegal. They would have been on the phone to their union representatives. As one commentator writes ‘Little seems more unequal than the equal treatment of unequals!’
How do you react to this parable? Do you have some sympathy with the workers? Of course we do because it looks like an injustice on the part of the farmer?
Here’s the point of the parable: our natural way of looking at life leads us to compare ourselves with others and find fault with God.
After all the only reasons the workers complain is not because of what they receive from the farmer but what they receive from the farmer in comparison to others!
To the hard workers he says, v.13, I gave you what was fair, harking back to v.4. If he had employed everyone for a day, and given a day’s wages everyone would have left satisfied, happy with their lot.
It’s not that he has been unfair to them, but that he has been more than fair to others that bugs them. But why can’t the landowner do as he pleases with his wealth. He rightly says ‘Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?’
He chooses to be generous, gracious, to the last group of workers. Without giving the late workers a full days wage their families would have gone hungry.
Here is what happens when we live our lives comparing ourselves with others
The landowner says, v.15, ‘are you envious because I was generous?’ Literally, ‘is your eye evil because I am good?’
When we act in church out of selfish ambition, vain conceit, when we refuse to serve others we act from an evil eye. When we resent God’s generosity to others we are saying ‘I can’t be happy when I see God being more generous to others.’
The owner is good because he gives generously, the workers complain because they are jealous. Jealousy, wishing that you had what they had, leads us to blame God rather than praise God.
What is the solution?
To recognise that God has been good to me in calling me into his service and rewarding me for his service.
God has been more kind to me than I deserve and if I don’t deserve anything from God what business is it of mine how God treats others?
You will never be a servant of all until God sets you free from envy of others. You will spend your time comparing yourself to others and asking ‘does this person deserve my help?’ Full of resentment, anxious about what you have received you will divide your energies between those you think deserve your attention and those who don’t.
What set’s you free from comparison is focusing your energies, your prayers and your thoughts on how extraordinarily good God has been to you.
Here are 5 questions (adapted from a sermon by James Boice) to focus your thoughts:
- Why is God’s goodness to others often the occasion for anger in us?
- Why do we find it so difficult to rejoice with others over the good that enters their lives?
- Why do we spend our time calculating how we have deserved better?
- Why are we never satisfied with what we have received from God?
- Why do we always think God owes us more?
How can you actually become a servant of all?
Let the gospel change your perspective on God’s goodness to you and others
Matt Perman in his excellent blog What’s Best Next has a post on 7 motives in our work. Something to get you going again on a Monday morning!
Finding fault, finding forgiveness – part 1
“There are two basic problems in every marriage: one is the husband and the other is the wife.” So quipped author and Church Pastor, Tim Chester.
After all how long into any marriage before we begin to realise that this is harder than we thought it would be!
There are many different factors, situations and circumstances that put pressure on any marriage but crucial to a Christian marriage is a mutual recognition that sin and failure are inevitable.
Yet, despite our theology it can be profoundly disorientating to discover that my spouse has faults I didn’t know about or expect. Somehow, at least for a time, I thought my spouse had avoided the fall.
If we are to build strong marriages we need to grasp that through our failings and faults God works out his purposes for us. They are his opportunity to manifest grace and to demonstrate his power in the weakness of a marriage between two sinners.
Three books have been particularly helpful to me in preparing to teach a seminar at our church entitled ‘finding fault, finding forgiveness’. They are When sinners Say ‘I Do’ by Dave Harvey, The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller and What did you expect? by Paul David Tripp. Each of the three are biblical, insightful and honest but above all else each are optimistic about the impact that spouses can have on each other.
Keller’s book appeals to us to see our marriages as preparation for the great marriage to come between Christ and the church. Once we understand that God has given us a spouse now to change us, to make us fit for Christ, it changes the way we face up to finding fault. Keller writes;
What if you began your marriage understanding its purpose as spiritual friendship for the journey to the new creation? What if you expected marriage to be about helping each other grow out of your sins and flaws into the new self God is creating? Then…you will roll up your sleeves and get to work.
So as we get going with a short series of posts on ‘finding fault, finding forgiveness’ let’s start with five necessary insights for facing up to sin and finding opportunity in them.
A. Five realities to remember in a marriage:
1. As sinners living together in a fallen world sin and failure are inevitable.
You might think you are going to find the perfect match but no Christian should live under any such illusion. The Christian of all people should be ready to face that fact. When we do enter marriage with realistic expectations it helps us to be ready not to run from them but to embrace them as opportunity.
2. ‘Everyone’s marriage becomes something they didn’t intend it to be.’
Paul Tripp’s observation is both obvious and yet profound. There is always an element of disappointment as well as frustration in a marriage which is flawed. When two sinners commit to spending their lives together it’s the marriage itself that will face challenges.
3. ‘Patterns of sin and failure in marriage must be met with patterns of confession and forgiveness.’
Paul Tripp again on the very way we overcome the corrosive affect of sin in a marriage relationship.Being quick to confess our sin and quick to forgive each other’s sin are necessary to building a strong marriage.
4. When we live this way real transformation is possible in a marriage.
So many marriages are damaged by our unwillingness to ‘find fault’ or to ‘find forgiveness’ but when patterns of mutual confession and mutual forgiveness begin to embed themselves in a marriage real change happens
5. None of this is possible without the gospel that supplies this power to confess and this power to forgive.
In future posts we’ll see that the ability to confess sin, freely and willingly and the power to forgive sin lie not in us but in the gospel and who we are in Christ.
The last word goes to Tim Keller:
I don’t know of anything more necessary in marriage than the ability to forgive, fully, freely, unpunishingly, from the heart.
Tullian Tchividjian explores the enormous possibilities for Christians who grasp the reality of justification by Christ through faith.
Here are 10 top take-homes for me from Jesus + Nothing = Everything
1. Functionally, living out the gospel does not come naturally, even for Christians
Obviously, before we were Christians, it was never our natural bent to seek all our satisfaction in Christ and the gospel; but even after God saves us, that isn’t where we naturally turn.
2. Therefore our Christian lives become focused on what we are doing rather than on what Christ has done. The results are disastrous.
Our rules become our substitute savior, and keeping those rules becomes our self-salvation project, with Jesus safely outside the picture. With enough rules and regulations set up, we don’t need Jesus.
3. Church makes things worse!
To make this situation worse, our idolatrous self-focus is only intensified by what is typically taught and preached in our churches. The fact is, a lot of preaching these days has been unwittingly unconsciously seduced by moralism. Moralistic preaching only reinforces our inner assumption that our performance for God will impress him to the point of blessing us.
4. The message we communicate is a denial of the gospel and a disincentive to non-Christians
Millions of people, both inside and outside the church, believe that the essential message of Christianity is, “If you behave, then you belong.” From a human standpoint, that’s why most people reject Christianity.
5. The truth of the gospel is that Jesus + nothing really does = everything. If only we would believe it.
If we are in Christ , then everything we need, we already possess…approved by God, accepted by God, redeemed by God, forgiven by God, and transferred from darkness to light by God.
6. Believing the gospel of justification deep down alone has the power to sanctify.
The gospel transforms us precisely because it’s not itself a message about our internal transformation but about Christ’s external substitution…Sanctification is the daily hard work of going back to the reality of our justification.
7. All of our teaching and preaching must be an exposition of the gospel of justification
All theology is an exposition of the gospel, a further articulation of the gospel in all its facets, meticulously unfolding all its liberating implications and empowering benefits.
8. The gospel not only has the power to change us but to set us free to serve our neighbours
God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbour does – Martin Luther
9. Now you can spend your life giving up your place for others instead of guarding it from others, because your identity is in Christ.
10. It is hard work to keep the gospel central to our thinking, living, and preaching. Unless we persevere in doing so we will naturally revert to a life of self-justification.
I’m always amazed at how hard it is for my heart to embrace what my head affirms.
The evangelical orientation is inward and subjective. We are far better at looking inward than we are at looking outward. Instead, we need to expend our energies admiring, exploring, expositing, and extolling Jesus Christ. – Sinclair Ferguson
CrossCheck is a new gospel outline from Paul Adams. You can link to it on a website or download it as a file to show as a presentation. Clear, concise, compelling and biblical it might be just the right thing to help someone grasp the basics of the Christian gospel.
(HT: Ben Desmond)
I’m with 4 others from 2020birmingham and in total 500 church-planters, network leaders and city catalysts from around Europe meeting in Berlin for the next 3 days. Our goal; to consider just how we reach the great cities of Europe with the gospel and how through such a network as this we can work together to see it happen.
Here’s Tim Keller on speaking at CitytoCity Europe
For more details about the conference visit citytocity: europe
A great summary here from Tim Keller on what it means, in daily practise, to preach the gospel to ourselves and how we build that into our prayer lives.
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