Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Own This

Do you know a young Christian? A new Christian? An underdiscipled Christian? If you answered no, you need to find one. You need to know one. And you need to start discipling one.

If you answered yes, congrats on identifying that person. But, now what? Let me offer a simple suggestion - Don't Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day, edited by Kevin DeYoung. 

Read this book. Buy this book. Highlight this book. Teach from this book. I'm almost ready to suggest memorizing parts of this book, but it would much better to memorize the various Bible passages that give this book credibility. 
So many nuggets of scriptural wisdom with practical application. So many biblical insights with historical context and present-day realities.

Its 18 chapters are organized into three sections:
      1. Evangelical History: Looking Forward and Looking Back
      2. Evangelical Theology: Thinking, Feeling, and Believing the Truths that Matter Most
      3. Evangelical Practice: Learning to Live Life God's Way

While the entire book was a good read, I found the last section especially great. Nine times out of ten, I'm a black and white kind of person - you don't usually have to wonder what my answer is or what opinion I have. And I think that's why I resonated with the last three chapters - the writers were candid and crystal clear in why they believe what they believe.

That, and topics pertaining to the local church, worship, and missions are especially important to me. Grady and I value these things. We rearrange our schedules for these things. We reallocate our budget for these things. We structure our parenting to focus on these things.

In chapter 16, The Local Church: Not Always Amazing, but Loved by Jesus, Thabiti Anyabwile writes:

"I want to persuade you - if you're not already persuaded - that the local church and your active membership in it are
essential to your spiritual well-being and that of the entire congregation. Two things prosper when we make the local 
church central to our understanding of the Christian life: our individual souls and the souls of other Christians in the    

"To put it another way, if membership in a healthy local church is not central to your understanding of the Christian life and your daily living, you are slowly, perhaps imperceptibly, starving, shriveling, and loveless - even if you don't feel it yet. The local church is that vitally important." (Page 202)

I can hear some of you shouting "Amen!" and others of you sarcastically saying "Whatever." For those rolling your eyes and thinking his comments are extreme, think about this:

The Body of Christ will support, encourage, love, and provide for you in ways no one else can when you face dark and difficult trials. Parents can offer love and support. Best friends can give consolation. But only the Body of Christ can wrap its arms around you, intercede on your behalf, and carry the power of the Spirit to bless and minister like no one else and nothing else.

The Body of Christ is one of God's vital ways to touch you personally and talk to you individually. Want to hear the heart of God? Want to see the Spirit work? Want to feel the compassion of Christ? Want to connect by both giving and receiving with something that has eternal significance? Join a local church.

Attending isn't enough. Tithing isn't enough. Serving isn't enough. You need to join. You need to be a committed member. You need to be an active member. You need to be a concerned member. It's not just your well-being at stake, but the well-being of other believers as well. Your participation is that important.

If you have joined a local church, thanks for taking that important first step. But now that you've joined, you undoubtedly have issues or irritations or what-are-they-thinking-doing-church-like-this moments. It's true: churches have problems; pastors aren't perfect; and worship styles aren't always the same.

 Consider what Tullian Tchividjian shares in chapter 17, Worship: It's a Big Deal:

 "... we ought to come to worship expecting first and foremost to see God. We come to encounter his glory, to be 
 awestruck by his majesty. A worship service isn't the place to showcase human talent but the place for God to showcase 
 his divine treasure. We gather not to be impressed by one another - how we sound, what we wear, who we are - but to 
 be impressed by God and his mighty acts of salvation. We come to sing of who he is and what he's done. We come to 
 hear his voice resounding in and through his Word. We come to feel the grief of our sin so that we can taste the glory of 
 his salvation. We gather to be magnificently defeated, flattened, and shrunk by the power and might of the living God. 
 (Page 217)
  "Our worship should include moments of praise, lament, and thanksgiving... It should involve a sense of guilt and 
 gratitude, desperation and deliverance, somber contemplation and joyous celebration. it should contain silence and
 singing, confession and cleansing, commendation of God and conviction from God." (Page 221) 

Imagine that! The organ or the drums, hymnals or slides, and raising hands or sitting still won't make or break the worship service. But you will. Your heart attitude will make all the difference.

This puts the responsibility to participate in and enjoy worship on you. Not the pastor. Not the praise team. Not wonderfully great or horribly awful musicians. Just you. Ouch. I have friends who don't want to hear that and I have family members who don't agree with that. But, being candid, those are the same people who often grumble about boring sermons, inadequate childcare, insufficient ministry resources, and the like.

It's simple, really. When my heart is not directed to enjoying God through worship, I cannot find joy and contentment in the various means used to lead me in worship.

If it's so important, and if it's primarily a heart attitude and intentional choice, what then is the primary purpose of worship? David Mathis uses chapter 18, Missions: The Worship of Jesus and the Joy of All Peoples, to help us better understand that.

"Missions is about the worship of Jesus. The goal of missions is the global worship of Jesus by his redeemed people   
from every tribe, tongue, and nation. The outcome of missions is all peoples delighting to praise Jesus. And the 
motivation of missions is the enjoyment that his people have in him. Missions aims at, brings about, and is fueled by the 
worship of Jesus.

"Another way to say it is that missions is about Jesus' global glory. From beginning to end - in target, effect, and 
impetus - missions centers on the worldwide fame of Jesus in the praises of his diverse peoples from every tribe, tongue, 
and nation. What's at stake in missions is the universal honor of the Father in the global glory of his Son in the joy of all 
peoples. (Page 225)

"Is it megalomania for Jesus to use 'all authority' to make himself the most famous person in the universe? If knowing 
Jesus were anything less than the greatest of enjoyments, then his pursuit would be unloving. But he is the most 
valuable reality in the universe. Knowing him is 'the surpassing worth' that makes it gain to count all else loss (Phil. 3:8). 
Therefore, it is profoundly loving for Jesus to exalt himself. he cannot love the nations without putting himself on 
display because it is he alone who truly satisfies the human soul. This makes God's heart for God the deepest foundation 
for missions.

"So the bedrock of the Great Commission is most ultimately not God's heart for the nations - amazing as that is - but 
God's heart for God. And God's pursuit of his glory makes the cause of missions unstoppable. As surely as he will not 
give his glory to another (Is. 48:11), so the commission will not fail. His honor is at stake. When we pursue the glory of 
God in the worship of Jesus in the global cause of missions, we get on board with a mission that will not abort. Jesus will 
build his church. That task of missions will finish." (Page 227)

I have nothing left to add. I'm simply standing and applauding the well-written and wonderfully-obvious truths Mathis emphasizes.

So, have you joined a church? Do you love your church? Do you worship freely and honestly? Do you support your pastor and his efforts to lead you? Have you joined the cause of missions in an honest and intentional way?

I pray so. And not just for your benefit. But for the benefit of everyone else committed to the church you attend and for everyone else in this world that has yet to hear and receive the Good News.

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