Church isn’t a museum. It isn’t about being in a state of perfection hidden behind a pane of glass. It isn’t about masks or costumes where we can only have small talk and biscuits.
Church is a place where no one needs to hide. It’s a hub of activity where masks are down. It’s a place where we care for one another and point each other to the great physician!
Have you ever had that moment where you are just really fed up of serving? At first it was a joy but now it’s just boring and repetitive. It feels like you are the only one who is serving while everyone else has gone home. And no one praises you or encourages you. Day in and day out it you slog away and you’re tired. You’re tired of it all.
Does that sound familiar? If it does, can I recommend a book to you? I know, another book to read – but it has been one of the most helpful books I’ve read on serving.
Serving without Sinking – by John Hindley is a book that is Christ focused. In fact you spend over half the book looking at Jesus and how He serves you. This really makes you examine your heart and the motives of your heart towards serving. You could be like the person I described above where you are just fed up of serving and you feel very discouraged and tired of it all. Then this book will remind you how Christ serves you first and how he delights in you. It will melt your heart to see the love that Christ has for you. With this in mind it changes the way you think about serving from a “I should do” or a “I have to” turned to a “I want to” and “I delight to” Why? because every bit of service – making tea, printing music, washing tables, welcome team is all serving Jesus and we can do that because he first and foremost serves us.
Or perhaps you are someone who isn’t like the person above – maybe you only serve to get recognition or you just can’t be bothered to serve others. John Hindley reminds us what kind of master we have – He is good and kind and he calls us to serve him. Again he calls us to this only after he has first served us. He is a serving master who loves his servants, servants who are sons and daughters of his Father. He calls us to serve with a glad heart – looking to Christ and not for recognition from others. We can do this because we have the Lord who knows us and a Father who sees what we do in secret.
I found this book to be good news for my heart. It’s a short book but with a deep focus on Jesus. I feel like it is something we all need at the moment.
Reading the Guardian on my friends table last night I came across an article. An article entitled “I bang my head against the wall when evangelicals turn Jesus into Cheesus - No PR agency in the world could sell the disturbing message of a broken man on the cross. That’s why we get Jesus-lite”
This caught my attention. Why is this in the paper? Giles Fraser writes about Evangelicals display Jesus and that it often turns into a Cheesus PR campaign.
My guess is that he hates this falseness. Perhaps he sees a hypocrisy in contrast to the Jesus he has read about? It’s interesting to see how he feels Christians come across to the world and the Jesus they are presenting.
So who is the Jesus he has read about? This is what he says:
“The disciples run away, unable to cope with the impossible demands placed upon them. The hero they gave up everything to follow is exposed to public ridicule and handed over to Roman execution. And the broken man on the cross begins to fear that God is no longer present.
The fact that this is not the end of the story does not take away from the fact that tragedy will always be folded into the experience of faith. Even the resurrected Jesus bears the scars of his suffering. A man who has been through something like that will never smile that cheesy smile or think of faith as some sunny suburban upspeak.”
The suffering Christ is devastating, its weak, it brings about judgement, darkness, the weight of sin suffering placed upon his shoulders. Jesus doesnt bare a cheesy smile. Jesus cries out in pain. This isn’t a bumper sticker moment.
This moment should make us weep.
But it also gives us great joy. This is what Giles Fraser is missing. He says:
“Which is why, for the worst sort of Cheesus-loving evangelicals, the cross of Good Friday is actually celebrated as a moment of triumph. This is theologically illiterate. Next week, in the run up to Easter, Christianity goes into existential crisis. It fails.”
The cross looks like failure to the world. It looks weak and pathetic. But it IS a moment of triumph. Those evangelical cheesus Christians have it right – it’s a place of victory.
It is finished - Jesus cries.(John 19v30)
A wave of hope washes over me. My sin is dealt with. The punishment has been paid for in full. The blood shed is covering me.
At first glance the cross looks like a massive fail. But then look again. There is no failure here. My sin is being dealt with. The Father is showing how much he loves us by sending his Son to die for us. (John 3v16) Come and look at the cross again.
Giles Fraser concludes with:
“But the problem with PR Christianity is that it can easily transform Jesus into Cheesus, which is a form of Jesus-lite, a romantic infatuation, a Mills & Boon theology that makes you feel all warm inside. The Gospels, however, tell an altogether more disturbing story. And there is no PR agency in the world that could sell the message of a man who told his followers that they too would have to go the way of the cross. That’s the problem with Cheesus. He won’t really suffer and he doesn’t ever die.”
In some sense he is right – we don’t want a Cheesus. We don’t want Jesus-lit or a mills and boons theology. But we DO want the cross and we most certainly want the resurrection. Thats what puts a smile across our face – Jesus is alive. Giles Fraser is right, a cheesus wont ever suffer or die. And we don’t want that Cheesus. But we want a Jesus that suffers, dies and rises again!! That is the good news of the Gospel.
And who is this PR agency that he believes could never sell this message? The message that we all must die to ourselves and carry our cross? Who possible could be this PR agency? Well, for the last 2000 years the PR agency has been the bride of Christ – the Church. The church is the one that beckons people to come and see Christ, come and die to yourself, come and find comfort in this suffering servant who deals with your sin and come and rejoice in the resurrection. Sometimes we get that wrong and it can look like a cheesus. But we as the church are the ones to display Christ to the world – a suffering christ, a weak but triumphant Cross and a glorious resurrection.
“I just want to give glory to God” – this is often an honest and heart-felt statement from Christians. It’s coming from a place of surrender and desire to please God and do his will. Yet I often wonder what giving Glory to God means. I wonder what Glory means. I was looking on the Desiring God website and found a little snippet on what Glory means and they said:
“So God’s glory is the radiance of his holiness, the radiance of his manifold, infinitely worthy and valuable perfections.”
You have to ask yourself – who (rather than what?) is the radiance of his holiness? who is the radiance of his manifold, worthy perfections? Well Colossians 1v15 and Hebrews 1v3 says
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
(Colossians 1:15 ESV)
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Hebrews 1:3)
It seems that the radiance of Gods holiness and glory is Jesus. Jesus is the glory of the Father and the Father pours his love by his spirit into his son. It feels less abstract. Jesus is the Father’s Glory.
It’s really easy to see Glory as something of strength and power. It’s something of greatness and worth. When we say we want to give God glory I know that to mean – I want to be the best I can for God, I want to be strong for God and to give the best talk and be the best evangelist and work the hardest and serve the longest and in that I want to give all praise to Him. It feels like Glory is power and might and its something I must display to give God glory.
When I think about how Jesus glorifies the Father it actually happens at a place of weakness and hopelessness. It’s at a place of feebleness, pain and death. Jesus glorifies the Father at the cross – displaying to all the earth the Fathers love for his children and yet he displays it in utter weakness. Utter powerlessness. The stench of death fills the room, hope hangs and dies. Does that feel like glory to you? Is that what you had in mind when you said “I want to glorify God?” Probably not.
I don’t think it’s an accident that Jesus goes to the weak, the poor and needy instead of the rich, powerful and pious . I don’t think that it’s an accident that throughout the history of the bible the Lord chooses men and women who are weak, messed up, stumble with their words and not the most clever of the bunch to lead others and share his good news instead of using the most clever, the most eloquent of speakers, the most popular and good-looking. Glory seems to come through weakness.
If you were to say to the Lord “I just want to glorify you” and then something happens in your life – you get cancer, you are housebound, you have depression, you are seriously ill and you are weak and you are helpless and needy. Would you still feel like you can glorify God? Or were you thinking that this glory was more about your abilities, strength and “best ofs”? What if God says that through your suffering you will glorify me more – would you believe Him?
It’s hard. It’s hard because the world says we should be the best and the strongest. The christian organisations say they want the best leaders and best evangelists.
But it seems that the Lord works his glory through suffering and weakness. He showed it on the cross most of all. The Glory of the Lord was broken, weak and bleeding but yet He shone out through that the love and beauty of the Father. I often find that those christians who are most suffering, who are most struggling and just clinging on in weakness taking each day at a time, they are the ones who most show me Gods glory. They are the ones who most show me Jesus.
Glory is about weakness not strength. So when you say, “I just want to glorify God” you may want to recognise that God may take you through a place of suffering and weakness for that to happen. Because it’s in that place that you will most likely be surrendering all to him and give him praise. Glory isn’t about power and might. Glory is Jesus, dying on the cross.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’” – Hosea 14-16
Hosea 2:14-23 is the sweetness of the Gospel. The Lord sets out to allure and draw to himself a bride that has nothing in her worth alluring. By nature she is an outcast, running after the dregs of idols to satisfy a longing deep in her but soon finds murky water at a broken fountain. But the Lord, a sweet overflowing spring of fresh water calls her out from these dregs and calls her into a wilderness. This wilderness is desolate, reflecting the state of her condition; he draws her away from the distractions of the world to stand before Him. It is easy to assume that the Lords tone of voice towards the unfaithful bride would be that of anger and jealousy. This would seem fitting and at times we have seen the Lord be angry towards his bride for the way she has deserted Him and played the whore with other lovers. But in this passage the Lord speaks tenderly to his bride, it seems so soft and dripping with forgiveness. The sweetness of the Gospel is illuminated at this point, the Gospel is unveiled to show a great mercy and love from the Lord towards a wretched prostitute. Not only does the Lord speak tenderly to the bride, but he gives her vineyards and he makes the valley of trouble into a door of hope. He brings life and hope to a place that should be trouble and he gives it to her as a gift for she cannot earn such love. But with this gift he also gives her the most treasured gift of all – himself. He is no longer seen as a master or a ruler but she shall call him her husband. The wretched prostitute is spoken to with love and mercy, given hope and life and has been given a husband who loves and cherishes her, she shall not see him as a slave driver, master or dictator – but as a husband who will make her lie down in safety, who will never leave her, who will die for her and will give her his righteousness.
This Lord draws me and you to himself and speaks a great tenderness over us. I love this because it goes against what I expect the Lord to do and the way I hear people talk about the Lord. Often we hear how God hates us and hates the things we do. At this point in Hosea I don’t see a Lord who hates, but a Lord who loves very deeply for his people and his bride. This Lord speaks tenderly to capture her heart away from idols and shows her that the fullness of life is in Him alone. Despite times before where the Lord is jealous and angry with his people, it is always due to the overflowing of his love because it pains him to see his people drink from the maggot invested pits where next to it is beautiful spring water. So the question I ask myself is – do I preach this? To myself and to others? Or is it far easier to preach a God that is full of wrath and anger? It seems more affective, especially if it motivates people to live better lives. Many times I have heard – “we speak much of the love of God, but not enough of his wrath”.
Yet if we just speak of wrath it will only frighten and dull hearts. The love of Christ is the one that frees us, the Love that speaks tenderly, allures, gives himself, dies for us on the cross and gives us a new identity – brothers, sons, and bride. I want that to captivate my heart and the heart of my friends so that they may be drawn to Christ in awe and a burning love, rather than out of fear and duty.
The Gospel cannot be sweeter than this,we are that bride, we played the whore and gone after other lovers and yet he allures us and speaks tenderly over us. It’s a relief to know that in Jesus my desires and longings are fulfilled where as in idols I am left wanting with a broken heart and a deep hunger. And as a wretch myself to know that the Lord has called me out of slavery and into an adoring relationship with him where he is my husband and will never leave me is very good news!
I recently read this book by Andrew Wilson – “If God, Then What?” which is an apologetic book but with a twist – it isn’t a typical apologetic book with a question and then a chapter on how to answer that question. In fact some of the chapter titles are quite quirky – “Galactic Roulette”, “White rain” etc. Wilson writes in such a way that you feel like you are going on a journey with him, following his train of thought and arguments. He never assumes that you believe in God, he doesn’t use Christian jargon and he doesn’t jump straight to the typical christian answers to things. Actually what he writes is quite compelling, personal and logical – he doesn’t try to win an argument or trash what people believe. This is a book I would feel very comfortable in giving to my non christian friends. In fact as I was reading reviews of this on amazon I came across a really great review from a guy called Geoff who isn’t a Christian, he found the book “disappointingly good”! he says:
“I think this is a book a parent could give to a teenager and entertain reasonable hopes of them reading it through, with a better than average chance of having a decent discussion as a result. He’s done well to keep the book to an appropriate length for such situations. He hasn’t sought to bring entirely new arguments forward, rather he’s collected several and presented them in an accessible, readable and engaging fashion. Most books in this genre seem to try to win conversations or close them down. Wilson seems to be trying to open them up…
If you’re a Christian and you’d like to share your faith with others, buy this book. It’s the best I’ve read in the genre and extends a hand of friendship rather than a wagging finger of disapproval. It didn’t convert me, but did leave me wanting to join the author for a coffee and a long chat.”
Read the rest of the review here.
This is certainly a book, as Geoff says, that Christians should read! It’s an easy read and actually I couldn’t put it down! It is certainly one of the best apologetic books I have read.
We all have standards (and expectations) – standards that we try to live by and standards that we want others to live by. When I became a Christian at the age of 17 I quickly learnt the standards that were expected of me from other Christians. Those standards were: serve in church, read your bible everyday, don’t get drunk, don’t have sex outside of marriage, be a Calvinist, be a complimentarian, go to prayer meetings and make sure you root out your idols everyday.
Some of these are very cultural, I learnt this when I went to Peru and found that the standards of Christians there were very different. (In each culture they believe they are doing things biblically)
This has led me to think about this quite a bit recently. I realised that trying to live up to other people standards is crippling and leads to a path of guilt and feeling terrible. Why? Because I can’t live up to anyone’s standards or rules for living, I can’t tick anyone’s boxes and they can’t tick mine. To be honest I can’t even live up to my own standards! (There is a difference between standards I impose on people and a contract you have with work, like with relay there is a standard of you will do a study response and hand it in on time and I expect that, yet even in that there must be grace.)
In Tim Kellers wonderful booklet “The freedom of self-forgetfulness”, he says:
“I cannot live up to my parents standards – and that makes me feel terrible. I cannot live up to your standards – and that makes me feel terrible…Perhaps the solution is to set my own standards? But I cannot keep them either”
There is often a great feeling of guilt or shame when we don’t live up to someone’s standards – we feel like they are disappointed with us, they expected us to perform better and we haven’t and we haven’t ticked their boxes and we start feeling like a bad Christian, a second rate Christian compared to them. As I think about this and can resonate with this which I think it leads me to two things:
1. A word to leaders – what standards are you setting? The standards you set may lead people to death. Living under rules leads to a great burden. What about speaking more of Christ and showering your followers/sheep with the living water of Christ? Let your people enjoy the freedom of grace that Christ gives us. This makes me think how I will mentor my relays next year and students – will I set standards that causes death? Or give great freedom of grace with the overflowing living water of Christ. Speak more of Him and hearts will be changed and warmed.
2. A word to our guilty hearts – This feeling of trying to live up to people’s standards or your own standards will lead to death and brokenness. But Tim Keller says that there is a better way:
“Do you realize that it is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance?… The moment we believe, God says “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”
Look at that! In Jesus we don’t have to perform – Jesus gave us the verdict and we didn’t lift a finger to perform. Our identity isn’t bundled up in how we live, or how we perform or how we live up to the standards of our church leaders, boss, friends, spouses and ourselves. Because you won’t ever live up to those expectations and we are not meant to. Our identity is wrapped up and clothed in Christ! There is no guilt in him. All that we may do in church, in our relationships, at work must come out of a love of Christ and knowing how much we are loved by the Father.
Reading my bible can’t come from the standards of “you should read it every day” but it should come out of a joy and love of wanting to know more of Jesus.
Serving in church shouldn’t come out of bullying or feeling guilty that you aren’t doing enough, but it should come out of a love for Christ and a love for those that are in him to see that they drink deeply from the springs of eternal life.
Evangelism shouldnt come out of fear of hell, guilty remarks of “this is what Christians should do” or bullying, but it should come out of a love for Christ and a joy in sharing the one you love with others in whichever style you want to.
If those areas are a struggle (and they always are for me) and I feel guilty then I need to remind my heart of Christ and sit at his feet, drink from his living waters and enjoy him which may take longer then people wish or I wish, but it depends on our hearts and how broken we have felt from these things. I really believe in time as we sit and enjoy Christ we will thirst for him in his word, we will outwardly pour love on those around us and in church and we will naturally speak of the one who binds broken hearts.
Would love to read your comments:
- Has living up to other people’s standards caused you guilt and heartache?
- How have you overcome that?
- Does that challenge you with how you set your own standards and standards for other people to follow?
This was written by Spurgeon and its wonderful. I want to share it with you because often we feel what holds us to Christ is our joy, bible reading and things we do or feel. But when we do that, all we do is look at ourselves and feel worse. So Spurgeon tells us to look at Christ and he will never fail us…
It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.” All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”
Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee-it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee-it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument-it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.” Keep thine eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to him; when thou liest down at night look to him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail thee.
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”
Here is an interesting article about photoshop.
A beautiful video on marriage, which made me cry. It might make you cry too when you see the love of Christ in this.
Bish chats about the book Religion for Atheists.
This is so cool! A guy using Rubik cubes to make a picture. Very clever.
A post on Why I am not keeping Sunday special