Monday, April 20, 2009

A new (to me) thought on election.

It always strikes me as sad that the doctrine of election or predestination has become an issue of contention --primarily, a philosophical point of debate.

The Scriptures do not use election this way. They use it to affirm the Godness of God –his sovereignty. It is not meant to exclude anyone from coming to Christ, or to lead to speculation about who the chosen might be. There are three primary uses, the third of which came to me with clarity this last week. None of these uses, I suppose, is any more or less important than the others. The first use is that it is a doctrine of comfort for the hurting soul, struggling with sin, conviction and assurance. The second use is that it is a doctrine of challenge –allowing us to live boldly and fearlessly for the kingdom of God, knowing that nothing can truly harm us –no-one can separate us from God’s sovereign love. The third use is the one that dawned on me anew this week –the doctrine of election is encouragement for the disenfranchised and downtrodden of the world. “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame those that are wise, and the weak things of world to shame those that are strong…that no-one may glory in his sight.” (1 Cor 1 paraphrase). The early believers, confronted with the glorious reality of Christ, may have puzzled over their low estate in the world. We may still do this. Confronted with the wickedness of the powers that be in the halls of government, high finance, Hollywood, and the like, the ordinary believer may feel powerless and shunted aside. But, in God’s economy, not so. The believer has been chosen by the sovereign of the universe to accomplish his will –a treasure entrusted in a clay jar—to keep us humble, and to make sure the world, in the end, knows that all glory goes to Christ.

The Church a Business? Perish the Thought!

I know the church is not a business, but…. How often have I heard that phrase, and in nearly every church I have served. This is not an argument that the church should not operate on sound fiscal principles, and that many churches do not keep adequate watch over their spending priorities.
That said, the church is not a business in any sense of the word. To think about the church that way is to think about it backward. A business provides a product or service with the goal of making a profit, and therefore gears itself to that end: what will create more customers, a larger market. The business serves, but it expects benefit in return. When the church sees itself as a business, its goal becomes quantitative growth for itself. Success, then, is measured in numbers, nickels and noses. Subtly in some places, and blatantly in others, worship and messages then are judged by the crowds they draw.
The church is never to be measured in this way. It is not to be measured by the people it attracts, but by the message it preaches and the subsequent good it does. These are God’s criteria, and they fill every page of Scripture. The church’s goal, then, ought to be Biblical fidelity and acts of mercy. The love of Christ compels us to this work. And, it is here that the evangelical church has lost its way. When the evangelical church abandoned the city, the city began to rot. Sometimes, evangelical churches abandon the city even when they remain within its confines.
Hurting people are the harvest field. The gospel will bind up their wounds, and be heard by them as good news. If the church concentrates on Biblical truth combined with merciful action, then God will bless it with vitality, joy, contentment, and perhaps even growth.