Curiosity Kills Your Soul

 

By Matthew Wireman

“Men must not be too curious in prying into the weaknesses of others. We should labour rather to see what they have that is for eternity, to incline our heart to love them, than into that weakness which the Spirit of God will in time consume, to estrange us. Some think it strength of grace to endure nothing in the weaker, whereas the strongest are readiest to bear with the infirmities of the weak” (Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed, 33).

I have been reading Sibbes’ work on the mercy of Christ toward us. The book is an extended meditation on Isaiah 42.1-3. I have been reading it in my personal devotions, and I have been reminded by Christ’s persevering patience with me. How often have I been a smoking flax–a reed that does not give off heat nor light–yet the Lord does not view such paltry devotion as condemnable. Rather, he condescends and fans into flame that smoldering wick so that I can enjoy him more. What may seem like an endless cycle of failed attempts, he views the good.

Sibbes, here, challenges us to reflect the same merciful inclination in our dealings with others. How quick am I to write off someone who rubs me the wrong way. How sure I am that this person is weak in faith and in need of rebuke. How dead set on dealing out justice am I that I cannot see God’s mercy on display in my brother.

I am a curious fellow. Yet, Sibbes challenges the assumption that curiosity–the need to know the intricacies of someone’s sin or weaknesses–is not altogether noble. Rather, curiosity bends toward an inclination to judging again the one whom God has pronounced “not guilty” in his tribunal. The need to gather all pertinent information stems from a desire to sit in the dock and pronounce on others what I would not dare they know or pronounce on me.

Our tendency should be towards wanting to see the good in others, not digging up graves that have been long-sealed when this brother put his faith in the Christ.

“What about leaders?” someone may ask. “Aren’t they held to a different standard?” Surely the pastor will be held to a stricter judgment, that’s why he shouldn’t be too quick to assume the office (James 3.1). Yet, the judgment James speaks about is the Final Judgment performed by the Triune God. This is not an earthly tribunal, nor is it an ad hoc court set up in the figment of our own minds. Rather, God pleads with us to exercise judgment with mercy (James 2.13).

Surely, a leader who sins repeatedly must be rebuked. A leader who is unrepentant must be ousted. But the leader who sins, and seeks forgiveness, should be forgiven. We should not exact perfection, nor should we use a canon distinct from our own lives.

I fear that those who so quickly give in to curiosity will find that the proclivity toward mercy will show that they had not received mercy. Those who so quickly write off Scripture’s admonition to cover over sin with love will grope for this kindness and find it wanting toward them.

May we be quick to forgive and slow to condemn. May we entrust right judgment to God. And as we find ourselves in the already-not yet, may we admonish the unrepentant. As we live in the time between the times, may we proactively and persistently give mercy. A mercy that is imperfect, but perpetual. To the degree that we have received mercy, may we give such beautiful and resplendent mercy.

Getting To Know You – Wesley Sweigart

The Getting to Know You series is a series that we will be starting on the blog to help the church get to know our faithful interns that support M28, the college ministry here at CrossWay. On our first post, we have the privilege to introduce you to Wesley Sweigart.

Who I am

Hello, my name is Wesley Sweigart. I’m here today to say a bit about how I got to where I am and where I’m going from there. I am a Charlottean, born and raised, and I have been a part of CrossWay my entire life. I’ve been blessed to be a part of Mission28 the past two years, and have helped serve on the Leadership Team over the past year. It has been encouraging to see all that God has done through this ministry, from people committing or recommitting their lives to Christ, to those who realize a new depth in their relationship with their heavenly Father. I’m currently in the middle of my college career, but I’m taking a year off to focus on evangelism at UNCC, and I couldn’t be more excited about this new period of my life.

What I’m doing

This year, I have the opportunity to serve with Mission28 as a full-time intern. I will be on campus reaching out to students as well as helping with ministry administration, planning, and coordination. I’m so excited to see what God has in store for us this year at M28.

Please join me in praying

1)    That I would receive support for this year. It is my hope that I would be able to raise all the funds that I need for this year so I can have my focus fully on the mission at UNCC.

2)    That the Lord of the Harvest would send out workers. There are multitudes of lost souls at UNCC, and there is a need for students with a heart heavy for the lost, who will go out and share the gospel. The Lord will build his church.

 

Change is possible!

By Jeremy Oddy

Consider reading over the quote below for encouragement.  Read each line carefully and slowly and meditate over each principle as your heart becomes full of the love of Christ in what he has done for you, doing in you, and will do for you.  And know this, he is doing the same thing in your spouse, friend, child, and anyone else who is in Christ.

Paul Tripp writes:

Change is possible because the King has come!  In all of this, God’s ultimate goal is his own glory. Christ came to restore people to the purpose they were made for: to live every aspect of their lives in worshipful, obedient submission to him.  He accomplishes this by breathing life into dead hearts so that we grasp our need for him.  He lives sinlessly, keeping the law on our behalf.  He lays down his life as a penalty for sin, so that we can be fully forgiven.  He adopts us into his family, giving us all the rights and privileges of his children.  He daily conforms us to his own image.  He enables us by his grace to do what is right.  His Spirit lives inside us, convicting of sin, illuminining truth, and giving us the power to obey.  He places us in the body of Christ where we can learn and grow.  He rules over every event for his glory and our good.  He makes us the objects of his eternal, redemptive love. The Bible calls this change redemption.  We are not only changed, we are restored to God.  This is what makes all other change possible (Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand, 6-7).

Praise God!  We are a blessed people indeed!  So, we know that this is all true.  However, we can sometimes forget or not believe one or a few of these truths in our own lives.  Talk to a friend or your spouse about some of these truths that you tend to forget or not believe at times.  Ask God for help, because all of our hope is based on a Person, not on our (or someone else’s) performance or a principle.

OWNERSHIP AS SACRIFICE

Brad House » Mission Church Evangelism Community

Does our community own the mission of God for our church, or do we just agree with it?

THE INSUFFICIENCY OF MERE AGREEMENT

Agreement simply means that people like the idea of the mission and are excited about someone at the church carrying it out. They may not, and probably don’t, see themselves as the church, or at least not the part of the church that lives out the mission.

This manifests in casual attendance and participation in programs and events that serve their needs but don’t require anything of them. Agreement can even involve serving in various ministries if the bar is low enough—but if the mission is not owned, if it is not internalized within the people, then they will not take risks for the sake of the gospel. They won’t risk comfort, time, money, or self-interest for the mission to see Jesus glorified.

OWNERSHIP AS SACRIFICE

Our churches are filled with people who agree with the mission but do not own it. Ownership is marked by joy-filled sacrifice that sees kingdom work as a “get to” because of what Christ has done, rather than a “got to” out of Christian duty.

Ownership looks like people serving the church and the city with a passion for the gospel. It looks like people cheerfully and sacrificially giving out of love for Jesus to see the work of the gospel move forward. Ownership looks like people participating in the messiness of community and being inconvenienced for the sake of another’s sanctification.

OWN THE PROCLAMATION

If we want to be a missional church that sees the lives in our cities transformed by the gospel, we must foster a holy discontentment with the status quo and resist apathy toward God’s mission. Compelled by the grace of God manifested in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection, we can take ownership of proclaiming the truth of the gospel and living it out in community.

Three Ways To Live

You might think that the Gospel is primarily the “beginning” of salvation, how we get saved. But, the Gospel is really about all of life. The Gospel is the answer to all of our sin problems.

When most of us think of the fact that God Himself has come to rescue sinners through the Person and Work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, we think primarily of the characteristic “sinner,” the person who rebels against God and His ways. We formulate the idea that there are “two ways to live.” There’s even a well-known tract by that very name.

We think of the younger brother in the parable of the Prodigal Sons, who wants things from the father but through rebellion. But as Tim Keller has helpfull pointed out over and over again, there are actually three ways to live and two ways to rebel against God:

 The older brother in the parable wants “things” from the Father but he does not rebel, he obeys. When the father welcomes back the younger brother, he points out that he has obeyed all along but never received anything from the father.

Both the younger and older brothers want the father only for what they can get from him but they show us that there are actually two ways to run from God: outright rebellion and religion.

But the Gospel cuts right through the middle of these two rebellions. Rebellion will never satisfy us and we can never earn God’s favor.

Thank God that Jesus not only lived the life we couldn’t but paid the penalty we should have, freeing us from slavery to sin, in all its forms.

Men, Leadership & Responsibility

Author: Jeff Wall 

My dad left our family when I was one. Like many men, his identity was wrapped up in his work, and I think his voluntary slavery to alcohol medicated his fear of failure.  He lived in a van down by the river. Over the years I tried to visit occasionally, but stomaching the filth and squalor he chose to live in made the visits infrequent and brief.

I wanted so much to know him and I didn’t. I wanted so much for him to be released from his bondage and experience a life of freedom and health. I yearned for a meaningful conversation with him and it started when on the phone I told him I loved him.

Yearning for more spiritual dialogue with him on a visit, I clumsily blurted out “I forgive you, Dad”. He gave me a quizzical look and asked “For what?”  “For leaving your family,” I replied. In true Adam-like fashion he wanted me to know my mother was to blame.

It seems that all of us fall into that same pattern to varying degrees.  We tend to place blame rather than take responsibility, myself included.

Quoting John Maxwell, my friend often says, “everything rises and falls on leadership” and “leadership takes responsibility.”  If leadership is truly about influence and not just position, then all of us are leaders because we all have influence.  But ineffective leaders make a habit of blaming others while effective leaders are ones who take responsibility.

Men who take responsibility for their families inspire me.  It’s no small thing to accept the responsibility to lead a family spiritually, love your wife like Jesus loved the church, provide, protect, nurture and much, much more that the Bible calls us to.  I believe when we begin to understand the weight of all that responsibility, we will be driven to desperate humility and dependence on our Father in heaven.  Without his help it’s impossible.

Jesus, my hero, accepted responsibility.  He took on himself all of the blame we rightly deserved.   And when the weight of that responsibility became unbearable, it drove Jesus to the Father to plead for help. His flesh fought him but through his dependence on the Father he endured and traded his righteousness for our sin. It’s only because he took responsibility for our failings that empowered by his strength working through us we can lead by taking up responsibility for others.

Our Father in heaven is a good father. He gives grace to the humble and doesn’t give us a stone when we ask him for bread. May we as men accept the responsibility of leadership and may the weight of that burden cause us to cry out to the Father for help.

The Gift Of Self-Forgetfulness

TULLIAN TCHIVIDJIAN|

“Many pulpits across the land consistently preach the Christian and not the Christ.” Todd Wilken

As I said in Ed Stetzer’s interview of me a couple weeks ago, the way many of us think about sanctification is, well…not very sanctified. In fact, it’s terribly narcissistic. We spend too much time thinking about how we’re doing, if we’re growing, whether we’re doing it right or not. We spend too much time pondering our spiritual failures and brooding over our spiritual successes. Somewhere along the way we’ve come to believe that the focus of the Christian faith is the life of the Christian.

Reflecting this common assumption, someone who was frustrated with something I had written said to me not long ago, “Don’t you know that the focus of the New Testament is the personal holiness of the Christian?” What? Seriously? I heard Mr. Miyagi’s voice in my head, “Breathe in, breathe out; breathe in, breathe out.” The truth is, we spend way too much time thinking about ourselves, and we justify this spiritualized navel-gazing by reasoning that this is what God wants us to be doing.

I’ve said this before but let me say it again: there is nothing in the gospel or about the gospel that encourages me to focus on me. Nothing! It’s never honoring to God when we take our eyes off of Christ “the author and finisher of our faith” and center our eyes on ourselves. Never! In fact, the whole point of the gospel is to get us out of ourselves and to “fix our eyes on Christ” (Hebrews 12:2). The truest measure of Christian growth, therefore, is when we stop spiritually rationalizing the reasons why we’re taking our eyes off of Jesus to focus on ourselves.

The biggest difference between the practical effect of sin and the practical effect of the gospel is that sin turns us inward and the gospel turns us outward. Martin Luther picked up on this problem in the Reformation, arguing that sin actually bends or curves us in on ourselves (homo incurvatus in se). Any version of “the gospel”, therefore, that encourages you to think about yourself is detrimental to your faith-whether it’s your failures or your successes; your good works or your bad works; your strengths or your weaknesses; your obedience or your disobedience.

Ironically, what I’ve discovered is that the more I focus on my need to get better the worse I actually get–I become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with my performance over Christ’s performance for me actually hinders my growth because it makes me increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective–the exactopposite of how the Bible describes what it means to be sanctified. Sanctification is forgetting about yourself. “He must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30) properly describes the painful sanctification process. “Decreasing” is impossible for the one who keeps thinking about himself. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis reminded us that we’ll know a truly humble man when we meet him because “He will not be thinking about humility: he will not, in fact, be thinking about himself at all.” When we spend more time thinking about ourselves and how we’re doing then we do about Jesus and what he’s done, we shrink. As J.C. Kromsigt said, “The good seed cannot flourish when it is repeatedly dug up for the purpose of examining its growth.”

But what about those passages which seem to encourage us to “examine ourselves”? Isn’t there a proper time and place for self-evaluation?

Yes.

In fact, this is what the law of God (not the gospel of God) does. The law forces us to look inside ourselves so we can clearly see that what we need most has happened outside ourselves. This is what Paul means in 2 Corinthians 13:5 when he says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?” In other words, the goal of self-examination is not to discover my worthiness, strength, or sufficiency. The goal is to discover my unworthiness and Christ’s worthiness; my weakness and Christ’s strength; my deficiency and Christ’s sufficiency. Confidence in my transformation is not the source of my assurance and growth. Confidence in Christ’s substitution is. As Matt Richard has rightly noted, “Looking to self for assurance shifts the foundation from Jesus to us.” Christian growth is defined in the Bible as movement in the exact opposite direction (how do we keep missing this obvious point ??). By his Spirit, Christ’s continuing subjective work inside me consists of him driving me back constantly to his completed objective work outside me (John 15:26). “True faith”, said Sinclair Ferguson, “gets a man out of himself and into Christ.”

Oswald Bayer makes the great point that, far from being a “deadening of self”,  forgetting yourself leads to life and freedom:

Those who are born anew are no longer entangled with themselves. They are solidly freed from this entanglement, from the self-reflection that always seeks what belongs to itself. This is not a deadening of self. It does not flee from thought and responsibility. No, it is the gift of self-forgetfulness. The passive righteousness of faith tells us: You do not concern yourself at all! In that God does what is decisive in us, we may live outside ourselves and solely in him. Thus, we are hidden from ourselves, and removed from the judgment of others or the judgment of ourselves about ourselves as a final judgment. “Who am I?” Such self-reflection never finds peace in itself.

Contrary to what we have typically heard (and been enslaved by), Christian growth is not becoming stronger and stronger, more and more competent. Christian growth and progress is marked by a growing realization of just how weak and incompetent we are and how strong and competent Jesus continues to be for us. Spiritual maturity is not marked by our growing, independent fitness. Rather, it’s marked by our growing dependence on Christ’s fitness for us. Remember, the Apostle Paul (who was more spiritually mature and “sanctified” than all of us put together) referred to himself as the “least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8) and the “chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15)at the end of his life. For Paul, spiritual growth is realizing how utterly dependent we are on Christ’s cross and mercy. It’s not arriving at some point where we need Jesus less because we’re getting better and better. It was, paradoxically, Paul’s ability to freely admit his lack of sanctification which demonstrated just how sanctified he was.

This is the point: When we stop narcissistically focusing on our need to get better, that is what it means to get better. When we stop obsessing over our need to improve, that is what it means to improve!

Thankfully, the focus of the Bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer. The gospel frees us from ourselves. It announces that this whole thing is about Jesus and dependent on Jesus. The good news is the announcement of his victory for us, not our “victorious Christian life.” The gospel declares that God’s final word over Christian’s has already been spoken: “Paid in full.” Therefore, Christians can now live in a posture of perpetual confidence “that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

I love the story of the old pastor who, on his deathbed, told his wife that he was certain he was going to heaven because he couldn’t remember one truly good work he had ever done.

He got it.

Blessed self-forgetfulness!