Lingering Guilt & Insulting God’s Integrity

What do you do with the person who says: “I’ve asked God to forgive me, but I still feel guilty?”

A noted writer (R.C. Sproul, I think) was asked [this] once.  [His reply:] “Well,  if You still feel guilty, then pray to God again, but this time don’t ask Him to forgive you for the sin that is haunting you. Rather ask Him to forgive you for insulting His integrity by refusing to accept His forgiveness. Who are you to refuse to forgive yourself when God has forgiven you…it is often a very difficult thing to accept the grace of God. Our human arrogance makes us want to atone for our own sins to make it up to God with works of super-righteousness”.

~ Steve Brown

What If We Omitted Gospel, Community, or Mission?

The refrain from an old song says: “Two out of three ain’t bad.”  But would this be true for a church, or a Christian, who incorporates 2 out of 3 of the core values: Gospel, Community, Mission?

Consider these thoughts, framed as a mathematical equation:

Gospel + Community – Mission

If we have a Gospel Community, without the mission or ‘sent’ aspect in our DNA, then we become a church that is all about ourselves.  We may love the gospel, and love that the good news has impacted our minds, and even desire to live that out with other people like us.  But living as ‘sent ones’ to our neighborhood seems too difficult.  When this happens a Christian ghetto surrounds the church, and an “us vs them” mentality is created.  This misses the entire point of the “go” in Christ’s great commission. (Matthew 28.17-21)

Such communities of believers are often very good at living as gospel families.  They take care of each other well: they provide for one anothers’ needs, and they draw very close to one another. But the lack of  engagement with the world, and and absence of multiplication,  is  vividly evident.  Sometimes such an inward focus is even worn as a badge of honor, since it may be believed by our isolation we are not being ‘polluted’ by the world.

Such communities usually have a heavy emphasis on bible studies, men’s groups, women’s group, children’s programs, etc.  The groups will usually have an “open invitation” to those on the outside. But because they don’t believe they are “sent” to their community, they rarely see disciples made of the un-churched people around them.   Numerical growth typically comes from like-minded people moving into their area, or through having children, or stealing the members from other churches that may offer fewer activities or which may be going through some turbulent times.  Rarely will they be faced with the general public pushing into the Kingdom, because they never engage general public with the gospel message outside the walls of their church building.

The overall goal is usually to prompt a great understanding of the Word and theology, but it is often intellectually gluttonous and missionally starved… because the reason for the Word and theology is to drive us to glorify God and show us our role in God’s redemptive drama.  If it’s not being used towards that end then it’s being misused.

Continue reading

Broken-Down House: Living Productively in a World Gone Bad

I began reading Paul Tripp’s Broken Down House earlier this week. I had read it before, or rather I should say I skimmed it before, but did not take the time to allow Tripp’s poignant insights to resonate in my soul.  I raced through it last time, getting the general gist, but not digesting much in the way of spiritual nourishment.  That’s a mistake I am carefully avoiding this time through.

In Broken Down House Tripp uses the analogy of a home in serious disrepair as a reflection of our life in this world.  In the video above he introduces the themes he writes about.

Take a Repentance Tri-p

On a few occasions I have posted some thoughts and things about the concept of Tri-Perspectivalism.  Tri-Perspectivalism (or, as some call it, Tri-P) is a fancy word for the simple concept of looking at our spiritual lives, and the ministry of our churches, from three distinct perspectives.  Introduced by John Frame and Vern Poythress’ monumental work on the nature of knowledge, known as perspectivalism, the concept of Tri-P simply reminds us that Jesus perfectly embodies God’s authority, compassion, and wisdom, and expresses these through his offices of prophet, priest, and king, respectively. Guys like Dick Kauffman, David Fairchild, and Drew Goodmanson, among others, have provided significant insight about how Tri-P can be – and should be – applied to build well-balanced and gospel-centered ministry teams and congregations

I like the way a guy named Will Little summarizes the perspectives reflected by each office:

  • Prophets enjoy studying the Word of God, protecting sound doctrine, and preaching/teaching others about God with influential passion and enormous vision.
  • Priests appreciate and understand the needs of people, counsel them toward the Gospel, and get intimately involved with caring for the church and those around it.
  • Kings love to plan, organize, and implement systems in order to get things done on time (and within budget).

Will recently composed an article for The Resurgence, titled Triperspectival Repentance, where he warns about some dangers of misapplying this concept, particularly agianst the notion of using Tri-P as a personality or temperment label, like a DISC or Myers-Briggs; and where he explores how we can deepen (if that is the right word) our experience and expressions of repentance when we see ourselves – or rather when we see Jesus more fully – though the lenses of Tri-P.

Little points out how misuse of Tri-P can easily feed the commonly held counterfeit gospel of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism that is plaguing the contemporary church:

  • Morality: The Prophet’s Idol.

In their flesh, prophets preach graceless rule-following, or stale doctrine, for the purpose of good behavior and/or right belief.  They will themselves be prone to derive identity and joy from success at (and control over) their personal legalisms rather than in those of God, our ultimate authority.

  • Therapy: The Priest’s Idol.

Apart from the Spirit, priests will preach the value of emotional stability and felt needs being met over truth being proclaimed. They will miss Christ’s gospel and fall into liberalism as they derive identity and joy from counseling, serving, and caring for people, rather than the person and work of God, the Wonderful Counselor.

  • Deism: The King’s Idol.

Kings are prone cast vision for numbers, systems, and goals. When detached from the gospel these things are often for the purpose of success rather than or more than for resting in the King of kings. King-types will succumb to deriving identity and joy from getting things done, as if God were a distant deity who isn’t involved in getting things done on our behalf.  (See Psalm 127.1)

Martin Luther, in the first premise of his 95 Theses, observed:

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt. 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” 

With this in mind, Little points out that ultimately, repentance is God’s work of changing us to focus on God, rather than on our measly attempts at performing, whether theologizing, rule-following, serving people, or getting things done. As we focus on God, we can deepen our lives of repentance by perceiving him more completely than we do now.

  • Prophets easily perceive God as the Word of God, fulfilled and embodied in Jesus as the perfect voice, vision, and revelation of God. Prophets can repent by meditating on God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, resting in the most powerful prophet, and by seeing Jesus as our perfect King and priest.
  • Priests easily perceive God as the Wonderful Counselor, working intimately as the Holy Spirit as the perfect servant of God. Priests can repent by meditating on God the Father and God the Son, resting in the most compassionate priest, and by seeing Jesus as our perfect prophet and King.
  • Kings easily perceive God as the King of kings, ruling and reigning with the authority of a perfect Father who plans, organizes, implements, and manages the universe. Kings can repent by meditating on God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, resting in the most organized King, and by seeing Jesus as our perfect prophet and priest.

Little concludes with wonderful application:

Too often, we reduce TriP into three buckets, give ourselves a 20-50-30 percentage breakdown (or whatever) and then work to improve our scores to try and be more like Jesus. But remember, “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13) If we focus on ourselves, we miss the whole point. We can instead see our gaps in the three buckets as opportunities to repent and perceive Jesus’ whole gospel, loving in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18), resting in the God who saves us and shapes us to image him as he sees fit.

Our Universal Need

“Just so you know, the need for repentance, redemption, and forgiveness is universal. I don’t care if you are a liberal or a conservative, a religious fanatic or a militant atheist, a ‘spiritual’/’religious’ person or someone who runs from all that. It doesn’t matter to me if you listen to Billy Graham or follow Camus – you are in need.  No one in the human race is exempt.  Its in our DNA…

When we finally acknowledge our need for forgiveness and come to God in repentance, we find true power; for we now have nothing to hide or protect, we don’t care what people say or think about us, we are willing to speak truth gently, and we are enabled to speak with tremendous, supernatural power.”

~ Steve Brown, from Three Free Sins

NOTE: Watch a preview video and listen to Tullian Tchividjian interview Steve Brown about Thee Free Sins: here