Digging Out of Dead Orthodoxy
Last weekend we continued our study of the Sermon on the Plain by looking at Luke 6.37-42 (Specks and Logs). We talked about Jesus' warning to "Judge not" and his exhortation to "first take the log out of your own eye" before hunting for specks in others. We closed the service by reading from Romans 2 together, which also happens to be what the New City Men are studying on Friday mornings.
This happy convergence got me thinking about Paul's emphasis in the second half of Romans 2 on the dangers of an empty spiritual life. He gives us a few signs to help diagnose this kind of "dead orthodoxy" in ourselves.
1.) A theoretical-only stance toward the Word of God (Romans 2.21) -- "you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself?" This is when we love the concepts of the truth, but never come under the power of it. The moralist seldom feels "under conviction," but growing disciples encounter the Bible as "living and active" (Hebrews 4.12), constantly convicting, comforting, thrilling, distubring, melting... Does this happen to you? In Paul's words, do you "teach yourself" rather than just study truth or lob it at others?
2.) A subtle (or sometimes, not so subtle) moral superiority (Romans 2.19) -- "if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness..." Moralists are at least cold to, and often judgmental of, those who are struggling. They have no warm words of encouragement. Are you sympathetic and merciful to strugglers? Are you approachable to those who are having a hard time?
3.) Outright hypocrisy (Romans 2.22) -- "you who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adulterly, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?" Are you saying one thing and doing another?
4.) A lack of personal communion with God (Romans 2.29) -- "circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter." This is a tough one to measure, because it's a bit more subjective. And even for the most committed Christians there is ebb and flow to how we "feel" in our relationship with God. But Paul's teaching is that a real life with God touches the heart. Has Jesus touched your heart?
I often wonder if Paul wrote Romans 2 with the Sermon on the Plain in mind. He goes from warnings about judgmentalism to a call for us to examine our hearts. That's precisely what Jesus does in Luke 6.43-45. In this Sunday's sermon we'll be looking at what Jesus has to say about the heart.
Getting Ready for Sunday 10/09/2022
Speaking of Sunday, this week we'll sing some classic hymns (Immortal Invisible, My Hope is Built, The Church's One Foundation) as well as some newer songs like Empty Me Out. There's even a little Bob Dylan in there.
We'll celebrate three baptisms, and come together around the Lord's Table.
Also, if you're looking for the live stream, starting this week it will no longer be accessible via YouTube. You will still be able to access it via Church Center.
Thanks to all who came out to Vision Night on September 25 where we presented the Making Room initiative. You'll hear much more about this beginning October 23, but this week I was encouraged to read The Gospel Coalition article by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra about how a church in Scotland renovated a historic building in Aberdeen, making it a center for gospel ministry. This is very much the kind of thing we are hoping for with Making Room.
Ivan Mesa puts it well: "At the end of the day, a church building isn’t as important as the people in it. But that doesn’t mean the building itself is meaningless. The transformation of a decaying old building—rehabbed in structure and renewed in purpose—can powerfully communicate the same gospel, in its very form, that is preached within its walls."
See you all Sunday. Grace and peace,