Friday, January 18, 2013

Complainers and idolators

Yesterday Steve Timmis gave a rousing sermon at Sojourn Community Church on "evangelistic dynamics of missional community." I think that was the official title. Honestly it was one of the best sermons I have heard preached from Philippians 2. And the guy didn't even prepare notes. Some people...

While I was on board with everything he was putting out there, a few ideas really hit my gut, worked their way up into my head, and disassembled themselves there. So here we are, ready to sort and send down to the heart, where hopefully they will nestle.

"Be who you are." That's what Steve Timmis said. I think Lady Gaga said it too, but the way Timmis said it was different. Worlds apart. Lady Gaga told us to be whatever and whichever because, well, baby you were born that way. What Steve Timmis meant was that, as Christians, we were created to be a certain way, too. But instead of rugged individuals pursuing our own identity, we were created to be a family, with a given identity in Christ. Paul put it this way: 
...complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing out of rivalry or vain conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus . . .(Phil 2:2-5).
The one mind. The same love. Full accord and of one mind. How can we accomplish these things? How do we unify our mind and put our love in full accord? These things were given to us by Christ. "Which is yours in Christ Jesus." Don't fool yourself by thinking that you will be the ultimate uniting force of the church. You will only divide. But don't think this unity of heart and mind is an impossible task either. Far from it; this unity is a mighty source of power. This unity has already been given to us as a gift through the gospel of Christ. The power of the gospel recreated us, and the power of the gospel unites us in one heart and mind. All of this is ours collectively. The Church is much more powerful than we give her credit for. But where is all this power headed? What is its end? Let's look:
[Jesus], though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed upon him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:6-11).
This was the mind of Christ, which he gave us. Jesus humbled himself unto death. Then God exalted him. And one day every tongue will confess He is Lord, to the glory of the Father. That's powerful stuff. But I think Paul was doing more than simply explaining what Jesus did for us. It goes deeper than that. I think he is also explaining what Jesus did to us. He gave us a new mission. Jesus's purpose in his humility was ultimately God's glory. And God's glory is manifested in the praise and worship of His people. Jesus humbled himself unto death so that every tongue would confess his Lordship, to the glory of God the Father. This must inform how we understand our calling and mission. Jesus gave us this mind (his mind), and so we must use it the way he used it—for God's mission and for His glory. The two are inextricable. Once we glorified ourselves. Now we glorify God through His mission. But how do we do that with boots on the ground? Paul elaborates a little:
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world... (Phil 2:14-15).
Not grumbling and complaining is how we proclaim the gospel together to our neighbors? Well, let me qualify that: this is how we proclaim the gospel in deed to our neighbors. We count others as more significant than ourselves. We humble ourselves before one another. Jesus did the same because it brought God glory. We are on the same mission for the same reason. But there is more to this issue; it goes down to the root of what we worship.

At this point I am starting to get a little tight around the collar because the dots are connecting into lines. And it doesn't look pretty. I begin to see that all this grumble grumble is related to self-idolatry, and that I have a problem with it.

It must come as no surprise that grumbling and complaining are rooted in an idolatry of self. As Steve Timmis said, when we grumble and complain, we are saying to God "I could have done better with this situation. You messed this one up." If you really believe that God is good and sovereign, He didn't mess up. You just think that God should be subject to your wisdom. When we complain, we exalt ourselves over God. This is self-idolatry, but with a frown. It's been happening since Genesis 3.

We are constant self-idolators, replacing God's glory with a lie that we could play God way better than God could. Adam felt the same way in the Garden of Eden. So we also inherit the same God-hating disease. I grumble incessantly to myself without even realizing it. In my heart, complaining is sometimes second nature. Well, if you want to be clever, it's my first nature. But it is a symptom of a much deeper problem, so we should recognize it as such. What good is picking the poisonous fruit if the root remains?

Thankfully, church, we have been given the cure for free. We just have to take hold of it and use it. We have been given the unified mind and heart of Christ. We were given a new heart and a renewed mind when we were saved; we have them. No take-backs. We have the power to live lives together that are shaped by the gospel for the mission of the gospel. We have the power to live in full accord and of one mind. These are things that were given to us; they are "ours in Christ Jesus." So let's take God at his promises. When we find ourselves grumbling or complaining about something, let's remember that it goes deeper than the situation around us. Remember that it is rooted in idolatry, and pray that Jesus would transform your fleshly heart and mind into conformity with his heart and mind, one that is set on God's glory. People will catch on to that mindset. And every tongue will confess...

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