Resurgence roundup, 5/24/13
Fri May 24, 2013
The places grace empowers us
Thu May 23, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
‘Each next risk is the biggest one’: James MacDonald talks with Mark Driscoll
Wed May 22, 2013
by Mark Driscoll
Tue May 21, 2013
by Amanda Edmondson
From prison to ReTrain: Russell’s story
Mon May 20, 2013
Keep Your Eyes on Jesus
I recently read about a church where a man was sleeping with his stepmother. Rather than condemn this man’s actions, the church not only tolerated his actions, but celebrated them as a sign of their freedom in Christ. How could this happen?
The church I’m speaking of is, of course, the church in Corinth.
According to Paul, this man was like a bit of leaven in a loaf of bread, “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Cor. 5:6).
The imagery of leaven may be lost on many of us who buy our bread pre-packaged at our supermarket. Leavening is a biological process. And it takes time. It starts with adding a little bit of a leavening agent, such as fermented dough, allowing it to sit and grow, till eventually it takes over the whole batch to which it’s added.
The church in Corinth, by allowing this man’s sin to seep into the church and not addressing it, saw that sin grow into gross, perverse acts “of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans” (1 Cor. 5:1).
There are lessons to be drawn here. Often, in our lives and in our churches, the process is the same. We may not have men sleeping with their stepmothers, but we do allow other culturally acceptable sins to seep in and grow, such as loves for money and power, gossip and grumbling, excessive drinking, and more. These sins work their way through our souls and through the body of Christ, changing us slowly and often imperceptibly. One day, we look back and realize something is very wrong.
How to Be Vigilant
So, what do we do?
Paul gives us a simple command: cleanse out the old leaven and replace it with the new, “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:8)—that is, with Christ, who is the source of sincerity and truth, and the source of our righteousness.
For those in Christ, his work on the cross fills the whole lump, eradicating sin with his righteousness. He imparts grace to us and makes us new. Grace changes us the way leaven changes dough. We must vigilantly rely on Christ to change our hearts and our churches when we see sin.
Cleanse Out the Old
So, how do we do that?
In our own lives, we are to constantly be in prayer to ask God where we are in sin, be convicted, and repent when the Holy Spirit and others bring conviction. In another letter to the church of Corinth, Paul reminds them of this, saying, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor. 13:5).
If there is sin in the life of our church and in our own life, we must be bold in confronting it yet also loving in how we address it, and we must be quick to turn to Jesus and turn others to Jesus for grace and the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to overcome that sin.
As John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
And as Paul writes:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
In with the New
Though we are to live a life of repentance, we must also live a life of reflection—not just on our sin but on the goodness of God.
As Paul writes to another congregation:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Keep Your Eyes on Jesus
Curiously, when we’re battling with sin, we’re often prone to despair. We’re so focused on examining ourselves, our lives, and our sin, that we completely forget to focus on Jesus, his life, and his righteousness—all of which he shares freely and lovingly with us.
Employing another metaphor, Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). As believers, we’re grafted into Christ and in the process we receive his righteousness. The work is done by the vine. Our sins are forgiven, our hearts are changed, and we produce good fruit that comes from the nourishing of the vine.
We are prone to look to the end of our branch and see our lack of fruit or the bad fruit we are producing. If we become preoccupied with the end of the branch instead of focused on making sure we’re connected to the vine that is Jesus, we will wither and die.
Rather than focus on our lack of fruit, it does us much good to focus on Jesus. As we do, we grow in Christ, and we are made new.
Watch the latest sermon from Pastor Mark out of Revelation on Jesus addressing lukewarmth in the church in Laodicea.