Maturity In Christ

This week I have been reading Darryl Dash’s helpful book, How to Grow: Applying the Gospel to All of Your Life. I found Dash’s thoughts about maturity in Christ to be helpful, challenging, and encouraging. As a church, we have been thinking about Gather Grow Go the past few weeks. Our desire regarding Grow, is to grow more and more in gospel maturity. What does that look like? These distinctives of maturity from Dash are helpful in giving us a glimpse.

Mature Christians are marked by humility:

Ironically, the more we grow, the more we’re aware of our sinfulness. Mature Christians, therefore, don’t feel spiritually mature. (pg. 77, emphasis original)

Maturity and humility go together. (pg. 77)

Mature Christians know they haven’t arrived:

I don’t think they would even think of themselves as mature. (pg. 78)

Maturing servants of Christ continue to discover deeper levels of repentance, and experience more of God’s love and healing. (pg. 78)

Mature Christians attract other Christians:

They always seem like safe people. Because they’re aware of their sinfulness, they’re not surprised by mine. Because they’ve been broken, they’re not put off by others who suffer. (pg. 78)

Mature Christians help other Christians grow:

Maturity (is)…helping others to grow. (pg. 157)

This is what sets them apart: not that they are experts, but that they’re intentional in helping others grow. (pg. 77)

In the process of growing ourselves, we’ll begin to help others grow. That’s the real mark of maturity. (pg. 157)

Mature Christians persevere:

Maturing believers demonstrate faithfulness over a long period of time. (pg. 78)

If you’re at the maturing stage, you may not even know it. Keep going. Be unimpressed with yourself but impressed with Christ. Allow your sufferings and your awareness of sin to draw you closer to Christ. Revel in the gospel. Continue to share your life with others, and trust that God will use you in your weakness. (pgs. 78-9)

I pray, by God’s grace, this maturity marks our lives as we seek to Grow in the Gospel.

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We Go with the Gospel.

In this final post of the series, we will look in more detail at the Go of Gather Grow Go. For an overview, see the first post in this series.

As we have been diving deeper into Gather Grow Go, we have seen already how the Gospel is central to both the Gather and Grow. Therefore, it should be no surprise that it is central to the Go as well. We Gather because of the Gospel. We Grow in the Gospel. We Go with the Gospel.

God, in His Word, tells us that we have been saved out of darkness and brought into marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). We are also told, in the very same context, that we have been saved to “proclaim the excellencies of him” who called us. We are to be witnesses to God’s goodness in Jesus Christ as revealed in the Gospel (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

As a church, we continually Gather and Grow in the Gospel as well as Go with the Gospel in both word and deed. We Go with the Gospel in word as we proclaim that good news to others in the various spheres we live in (home, neighborhood, workplace, and community). We Go with the Gospel in deed as we live out the fruit of the Gospel in our lives in those same spheres. The more and more we Grow in the Gospel, the more and more we are going to bear Gospel fruit in our lives. In short, we Go out and live as disciples obeying all that Jesus has commanded, and this is displayed in both our words and our deeds.

Paul told the Philippians that as they worked out what God is working in them (Phil. 2:12-13), they would be shining as lights in the midst of a desperate people (Phil. 2:15). In the Gospel, we have been brought out of the darkness and into the light, but our Lord calls us to Go back into the darkness with the light.

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We Grow in the Gospel.

This week we are looking at the Grow of the Gather Grow Go language we are using here at Redeemer. For an introduction, see the first post in this series.

As we have been looking further into Gather Grow Go, we are seeing how the Gospel is central to each of these. As a church, we Gather because of the Gospel, and when we Gather, we Grow in the Gospel.

The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ, and in Christ there are unsearchable riches (Eph. 3:8). To say it another way, in the Gospel are depths we will never fully plumb. We state this in shorthand at Redeemer by saying, there are no Gospel graduates. We are tempted to think of the Gospel as the starting point in the Christian life and then we move on to deeper things. Not so, the Gospel is not the ABC of the Christian life; no, it’s the A to Z of the Christian life. We never move on from the Gospel!

In Colossians 2:6-7, Paul tells the church, as you came to know Christ, so walk in Him. We come to know Christ in the Gospel (faith and repentance) and we continue in the Gospel. We could say, the way in (the Gospel) is the way on (the Gospel) in the Christian life. Therefore, every time we Gather as the church our aim is to Grow more and more in the Gospel. Our hope is that we Grow more and more in Gospel maturity resulting in each of us looking more and more like Jesus.

When we Gather in corporate worship, small groups, one-to-one discipleship, and over meals because of the Gospel we should Grow in the Gospel as the Word of God reverberates through the life of the church.

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We Gather because of the Gospel.

This week we are looking at the Gather of the Gather Grow Go language we are using here at Redeemer. For an introduction and overview see the previous post.

As I said last week, the Gospel is central to all that we do and therefore it is central to Gather Grow Go. It is because of the Gospel that we Gather as a church. The Gospel is the reason we are a church. As Ephesians 2 makes clear, not only does the Gospel reconcile us to God, but it also reconciles us to one another, and in Christ, God the Father is making a new people (Eph. 2:14-19).

In Gathering as the church, we are proclaiming that we all were alienated from God, and in our sin not only were we alienated, but we were also enemies of God. But God, being rich in mercy, has reconciled Himself to us through the work of Jesus (His life, death, and resurrection), and this has all been of grace.

In Gathering as the church, we are proclaiming Jesus is Lord. We are Gathering in His name because of His work on our behalf, which is what we call the Gospel. Paul uses this language in 1 Corinthians 5 saying to the church there, “when you are assembled (gathered) in the name of our Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:4).

Brothers and Sisters, this is good news. We don’t gather on the basis of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, shared political interests, blue-collar…white-collar…no-collar, parenting styles, hobbies, or any general tastes and preferences. No, we Gather on the basis of the Gospel. This is why it is so important that the church keeps the Gospel central to all that we do. If the Gospel gets pushed to the periphery, or worse, it is no longer central and the result will be fragmentation in the church. When the Gospel isn’t central, we will seek to Gather on the basis of the things listed above, and the result will be division. Only when the Gospel remains central can we have unity in diversity.

Therefore, it is because of the Gospel that we are committed to Gathering together:

  • In weekly corporate worship (Heb. 10:24-25).
  • Also in other avenues such as small groups, one-to-one discipleship, meals, coffee breaks, and so on as we seek to help one another follow Jesus (Phil. 1:27).

We are committed to one another because of the Gospel. We Gather because of the Gospel.

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Gather Grow Go

On Sunday we introduced the language of Gather Grow Go.

We Gather because of the Gospel.

 We Grow in the Gospel.

We Go with the Gospel.

It’s simple language, but it should be because we have been given a simple mission (Matt. 28:18-20). Yes, the mission is simple but it is hard to persevere in. We often struggle to keep our focus being easily distracted by other things, even good things. When we lose our focus, we will fail to persevere in the mission. The purpose of the Gather Grow Go language is to help us keep our focus.

The Gospel is central to all that we do, and therefore it is central to Gather Grow Go. Although this language is simple, it is not simplistic; no, it is also comprehensive. In the next three posts we will look at each of these in more detail and see how this language speaks to the life of the church on both the macro and micro scale. For example, you can see Gather Grow Go in the weekly corporate worship of the church (macro) and in a small group or one-to-one discipleship (micro) of fellow church members.

We hope this language will help us stay focused by giving each of us a quick framework to asses our lives with. We can ask ourselves, am I consistently Gathering Growing and Going in the life of the church?

The second post in this series is available here: Gather

The third post in this series is available here: Grow

The final post in this series is available here: Go

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Imago Dei

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” –Genesis 1:26a, 27

What in theological terms is called the Imago Dei, is the truth proclaimed in Scripture that humans beings are created by God in His own image. The rejection of this truth has led to terrible transgressions against people throughout history. Even transgressions nearer to our current time, such as:

  • Slavery in America
  • The Jewish Holocaust in Nazi Germany
  • Abortion: The termination of life in the womb
  • Abuse of the more vulnerable by those in power
  • Inequitable rights for some based on race, gender, or class
  • The denial of dignity in end of life care with the elderly and those with terminal illnesses
  • Objectifying and using others (Two quick examples of this are lust and greed, both instrumentalize others for self-gratification.)

Unfortunately, we could easily compile a much longer list. Yet, at the same time, that is exactly the point. Rejecting or even ignoring (same thing?) this truth leads to all kinds of ugly sin and destruction against others. Conversely, acknowledging this truth and seeing the inherent dignity in others brings God glory and good to our neighbors.

Writer, Hannah Anderson, has said:

Imago dei means that your life is sacred because He (God) has stamped His identity onto yours. (Made for More, pg. 33)

Listen to how theologian, Anthony Hoekema explained this truth:

When one looks at a human being, one ought to see in him or her a certain reflection of God…To be sure, other creatures, and even the heavens, declare the glory of God, but only in man does God become visible. Reformed theologians speak of God’s general revelation, in which he reveals his presence, power, and divinity through the works of his hands. But in the creation of man God revealed himself in a unique way, by making someone who was a kind of mirror image of himself. No higher honor could have been given to man than the privilege of being an image of the God who made him. (Created in God’s Image, pg. 67)

“No higher honor” indeed! As we saw this past Sunday in Psalm 8, God has crowned human beings with “glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5). All people possess inherent dignity because all people are created in God’s image. Early Church Father, Irenaeus said:

The glory of God is a living human being.

Let’s ask the Lord to change the way we view others because Irenaeus is right, the person you are tempted to look on with contempt is in fact, “the glory of God.”

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“Needy and Needed”

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,” –Phil. 1:27

This past weekend we had a discipleship workshop aimed at discussing how we can better walk “side by side” and help one another follow Jesus. We used language borrowed from Ed Welch, that we are all needy and needed. In his book, Side by Side, he wrote:

Your neediness qualifies you to help others. Your neediness, offered well to someone else, can even be one of the great gifts you give to your church. You will inspire others to ask for help. (pg. 15, emphasis mine)

He writes about how showing our neediness invites others to do the same. When this begins to happen in the church something beautiful happens. Welch explained:

When…this happens, the myth that we all have life figured out is exposed, and we begin to share one another’s burdens, which is the way God intended it to be. (pg. 15)

Not only are we needy, but we are also needed. Think about Paul speaking of the church as a body in 1 Corinthians 12. Each part is needed for the whole body to function properly. When one member suffers the whole body responds to the hurt. Don’t believe me, think about how your body reacted the last time you stubbed your little toe. So it should be in the church. On being needed, Welch wrote:

We are needed. This is the way the church moves forward—through mutual love and care…we move toward others when they are in need, we get to know them, and we pray. (pg. 65)

In another book, he wrote the following:

God takes initiative and moves towards us; we take initiative toward others. This is simple teaching with endless applications…Too often we are silent when we know of someone’s trouble. Silence is the same as turning away. (Caring for One Another, pgs. 17, 19)

Yes, “simple teaching with endless applications” indeed. First, we must be together if we are going to help one another follow Jesus. This begins with the main gathering of the church for worship on Sundays. It works out from there as we move toward one another because we are both needy and needed. Borrowing from Sam Allberry, if we don’t recognize that we are needy we are being arrogant. If we don’t recognize that we are needed we are being selfish. I would encourage you to pick up one of these books from Dr. Welch and learn better how to do this. After all, we are all called to:

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” –Gal. 6:2

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Justified Sinner

Tim Chester gives a good quick explanation of the teaching coming out of the Reformation that Christians are simultaneously sinners and justified.

I’m a sinner, but I’m a justified sinner. The Reformers had a Latin phrase to capture this truth: semper peccator, semper iustus: “always a sinner, always justified.” I still sin, but in Christ God declares me to be righteous here and now. So we needn’t and shouldn’t despair. If we think of ourselves only as failed sinners, then we may feel disqualified from Christian service and settle for a compromised life. You are a justified saint, equipped for battle, capable of adventurous, risky discipleship on the front line of God’s kingdom.

Sin is never the last word for the children of God. Grace is always the last word. If we confess our sins to God, he is faithful. He’ll keep his promise to forgive. (You Can Change, pgs. 176-177)

If we don’t understand that we still battle indwelling sin, we will pridefully undermine progressive sanctification falling prey to a form of perfectionism. This misunderstanding leads us to battle sin only externally instead of battling our sins at their root (our sinful desires and idolatry). In doing this we are infinitely reducing God’s holiness by creating sub-standards we can live up to in our own strength. By the way, if mere external righteousness was God’s desire for us, Jesus wouldn’t have had such harsh rebukes for the Pharisees.

If we don’t understand our justification and our new identity in Christ, we will give up in our pursuit of holiness due to despair. Here are two reasons understanding justification keeps us from throwing in the towel. First, understanding our justification gives us the security of resting in our forgiveness and acceptance in Christ. Therefore, when we sin we don’t run from God, but instead we run to God in repentance knowing we are accepted because of Christ. Second, understanding our new identity in Christ, we know that new life means a new way of living.

The reality of our indwelling sin keeps us humble.

The reality of our justification keeps us hopeful.

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“Holiness is a Harvest”

Every week there are things that don’t make it into the sermon because, well, attention spans and posteriors can only endure so much. I know, you’re thinking; “really, your sermons could actually be longer than they already are!?”

Well, in all seriousness, John Stott has an excellent quote on Galatians 6:8. I didn’t want to press forward and not share it with you. He wrote:

To ‘sow to the flesh’ is to pander to it, to cosset, cuddle and stroke it, instead of crucifying it. The seeds we sow are largely thoughts and deeds. Every time we allow our mind to harbor a grudge, nurse a grievance, entertain an impure fantasy, or wallow in self-pity, we are sowing to the flesh. Every time we linger in bad company whose insidious influence we know we cannot resist, every time we lie in bed when we ought to be up and praying, every time we read pornographic literature, every time we take a risk which strains our self-control, we are sowing, sowing, sowing to the flesh. Some Christians sow to the flesh every day and wonder why they do not reap holiness. Holiness is a harvest; whether we reap it or not depends almost entirely on what and where we sow. (The Message of Galatians, pg. 170, emphasis mine)

We are all sowing. The question is, are you sowing to the flesh or to the Spirit?

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The Local Church, a Miracle?

In his book, Why Bother With Church?, Sam Allberry wrote:

…your church is a miracle. Next Sunday, look at those sitting around you. It’s amazing that they’re there. It’s amazing that they’re still trusting Jesus this Sunday—another week of God’s grace to them. It’s amazing that you’re there, trusting Jesus this Sunday—another week of God’s grace to you. And it’s amazing that you, with all your differences and sometimes disagreements, are sitting in the same room, serving the same God and encouraging each other—a wonderful visual aid of God’s grace to his people. Your church is imperfect. And that makes your church all the more miraculous. Its imperfections are in themselves exciting, because they show just how powerful and loving the God who has brought you together must be. (pg. 83)

To that, I say, amen! If you want to see a miracle, come to church this Sunday.

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