Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Authority

A Call for Consistent Ecclesiology

On Conferences

It seems that with the rise in numbers of young, broadly-reformed Christians and pastors in recent years, there has also been a large increase in the seeming importance of conferences. Here you have people who love theology, love good preaching, love fellowship across denominational lines, and love the overall experience of getting away and being blessed through deep study of the word for a few days.

What could be wrong with that? Right?

smoking-wickMany of the dangers of conferences (celebrity-ism, seeking life in emotional highs, finding identity in being a ‘conference person’, etc.) have been well-chronicled already. I’ve considered those potential pitfalls, and seen the danger in them. But yet, I’ve still remained largely in favour of conferences.

But recently I’ve been thinking about another problem with conferences — one that is in large part bound up with the celebrity-pastor and church-by-podcast Christian culture of 21st century North American evangelicalism.

The problem is bound up with our ecclesiology (our theology of the church):

Unchecked, conferences can both reflect bad ecclesiology and lead to still worse ecclesiology.

 

A Leave It to the Experts Mentality

Our culture is a culture of experts. Multiple post-secondary and even graduate degrees are required for just about everything. Specialists, rather than generalists rule the day. If we are not careful, our broader church culture will reflect the same thinking. The voice of the local pastor is drowned out by the thunderous boom of the voice amplified to thousands of conference attendees and broadcast live across the web to many more.
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Sermons on Friendship

I have had the privelege over the past four weeks of preaching a mini-series at GFC on the topic of friendship.

Below are the individual sermons. I came at the sermons with a bit of a different approach. Since we, as elders, had wanted to address the core values of our church again, we thought it would be best to address the topic of friendship under the five headings of our core values.

So the first message was basically answering the question, ‘Why prioritize friendship?’ After that we thought through what truth, authority, humility, freedom, and delight have to do with friendships.

Over the course of the series we offered the following definition of Christian friendship: Two souls knit together as one in the pursuit of God through commitment to ongoing fellowship.

No Wonder They Hate It

This past Sunday at GFC, the preacher taught on Core Value #4: Authority. That was good for my heart to hear. When we, as elders, sat to discuss what we wanted to include in this series (i.e. What are our core values?), authority wasn’t the first thing that came to mind. 

As we reflected on the biblical guidance for Christian leadership and where that intersects Canadian culture, however, we quickly realized that this was something we needed to speak to. Our culture hates authority. The very fact that one person might have the ‘right to command’ another person to do something just makes our skin crawl. 

But that begs this question: Why? Why would we hate it so much and so instinctively? 

To be sure, the reasons are numerous. We have seen authority ill-defined and often-abused. We’ve seen people in authority positions without authority qualifications, and that makes us question the legitimacy of it all. We’ve all be subject to authorities who have made us do things we just don’t want to do. We could go on and on.

But I would argue that there’s something more at play–something deep-seated in our very nature as humans that makes us want to either (1) reject authority and rebel against it, or, (2) seize authority and use it for our personal gain. What is it in us that makes us act this way?

I think the answer is simple: Authority is rooted in God, defined by God, is good and is a part of what it means to be God.

Since we’re created in his image, it only makes sense that we would be created to reflect this reality. But ever since the fall, we’ve done with authority what we do with every other part of the image of God in us: we either deny it or distort it.

The authority of God the Father cannot be questioned. Throughout the Old Testament, his Word stands. He declares the end from the beginning, and his will is brought to pass. In the gospels (especially John) we see that it was the Father who sent the Son. The Son speaks the words that the Father gave him to speak, and does the works the Father gave him to work. 

The authority of Christ is a present reality. At the Great Commission Jesus said, ‘All authority has been given to me…’. In Ephesians 1, we’re told that Christ (after being raised from the dead) was seated at the right hand of God the Father, ‘in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion…’ with ‘all things under his feet…’. 

Christ will not always hold on to that authority, however. In 1 Corinthians 15, we read that at the end of this world, Christ will hand all things back over to the Father, who is the true, ultimate authority–even within the Godhead, where all are perfect equals. Authority, then, existed in eternity past (where there was no sin) and will exist into eternity future (where there will be no sin).

This tells us why we hate authority. We hate it because we’re rebels by nature. We hate God and everything that he is. Authority is intrinsically good. Authority is a part of what it means to be God. It is not a result of the fall–rather, it is merely perverted and hated because of the fall.

As Christians, we are called to rightly reflect the image of God as we were created to. Our response to perversions of authority in the world is not to reject all authority, but to esteem and praise right authority, and to respond to bad authority rightly and humbly: by submitting ourselves to it (1 Pet 2.13-17).

Some Thoughts

It never ceases to amaze me how God works themes into our lives so that we keep learning the same lessons in various places and ways. This past Sunday the preacher was preaching from Romans 13 and the Christian obligation to submit to authority, since authority is established by God. One of the obvious points of application was obeying the speed limit.

While this may or may not prick your conscience, it sure got me thinking. I’ve always just thought of the speed limit as one of those things that no one really intends for you to follow. This Sunday, however, got me thinking about the type of heart that speeds and drives as aggressively as I have been known to from time to time. It’s not just a matter of obeying the letter of the law–it is a heart of rebellion. It’s a heart that wants to control its own destiny. It’s a heart that thinks where I need to go and when I need to be there is more important than where anyone else is going, or anyone else’s safety. That’s not a heart of submission at all–to God or to eathly authority.

Somehow this seems, in my mind anyway, to tie in to this next thought that a brother challenged me with a couple of days ago. Here is a quote from an article by Henri Nouwen:

But in the spiritual life, the word discipline means “the effort to create some space in which God can act.” Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on. 

I’ve been working really hard lately at trying to be more disciplined in some little areas of my life, in hopes of reeping fruit in some larger battles within my heart. I’ve been working on a regular bedtime and waketime, developing a few spiritual disciplines that I have let slip, working harder, staying focused, etc. To me that seemed like good discipline; making everything rigid and scheduled, always planning ahead.

But then I read this quote and it got me thinking. What I tend to value is busy-ness and accomplishing tasks, rather than the pursuit and enjoyment of godliness. Often I get so caught up in my Christian chores (devotions, seminary work, church work, etc.) that I forget I’m supposed to be serving and enjoying God. It becomes more about the task than the experience of God, or the glorification of God that the task was intended to accomplish. That’s not discipline. That’s just being a task-driven person.

I suppose these things relate because in both areas I’ve seen God challenging me to slow down. But how do you slow down and not do less? The things that I do are not things that I would like to stop doing (nor is it God-glorifying to quit a course part way through).

Maybe it means I need to take on less. Or maybe it means I need to learn to manage my time better. Maybe it means I need to prioritize more. Whatever it means, I’m grateful that God is patient with me and my painstakingly slow sanctification and my slowness to learn what he desires to teach me.

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