Reflecting on good news  

Posted by Denis Haack in , , , , , ,


My blog today is simple: just two quotes, both wise I think, that I hope you will reflect on and then leave a comment about what comes to mind.

Both remind us of truths that are often forgotten today in the church, if not heatedly refuted. Both are vital, for the health of our spirituality and for what the watching world sees in us concerning our faith. To believe both and try to live accordingly will perhaps result in criticism from fellow Christians. To believe both and live accordingly is to go against the flow—to resist the most common thought forms and dominant practices embraced by the wider evangelical community. So it takes courage to do so, and care that we don’t slide into a smug pride that we aren’t like all the rest.

What is at stake is the gospel.

“We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” (Madeleine L’Engle in Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art; page 122.)

“To identify the church as the sole locus of God's redemptive concern is badly to misunderstand the scheme of salvation. Indeed, it is to invert it. God wants the whole world back, not just a selection of human beings. And he wants it back not to bask in the eternal adoration of the redeemed saints, as per the vision offered at the end of Dante’s Paradiso and in countless lesser depictions of heaven, but to enjoy the give-and-take of shalom with all his creatures and among them as well. To repeat, therefore: the church performs its distinctive redemptive calling within, and in the service of, the general call of God upon humanity to be stewards of the whole earth God loves.” (John Stackhouse, Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World, p. 237. Thanks to my friend Steve Froehlich for this one.)

I look forward to reading your reflections and reactions in the comments you leave.

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14 comments

L'Engle's book saved my life in many ways. I love all that stuff.

To be sure, Beauty is a greater lure to renewed life than brow beating. And we want to preach Grace instead of Law. But the tension is that apart from an understanding of the Law (or at least our brokenness after the Fall) --Grace makes no sense. If you dont understand a just and holy God then the Mercy He offers is nonsense. Keeping it all in balance is so hard.

December 13, 2010 at 12:18 PM

I agree Ned.

Tis true. We want to be watered gardens (Isaiah 58:11) yet are being killed all day long (Romans 8:36).

Tension for sure.

December 13, 2010 at 12:39 PM

I think L'Engle's quote is a lovely way of expressing that Puritan notion of the "expulsive power of a new affection". It's no good just telling someone that what they love is unlovely, they need something/someone lovelier in its place in order to dethrone it.

December 13, 2010 at 1:13 PM

I will likely have to sit on this a little longer. Tension is a good word though. There is a tension in being a believer, and living in the world. I think some posts a couple months back covered these tensions well.
I think there is a tendency for some believers to polarize things, or make them black and white. These quotes offer a holistic view of Christianity. It isn't about us and them. It's a big picture that is even outside time in some ways. Consider someone in your life who is not a believer today, but will be in 20 years. That person is on a journey even today, and each piece of the journey is important. As usual, with my responses, I don't know if this makes sense. I guess part of what I'm trying to say is that the pieces of the puzzle come together in God's timing, and in God's way, and we preach Him best in humility and a kind and gentle spirit.

December 13, 2010 at 1:18 PM

The Madeleine L'Engle quote will find it's way into my sermon this weekend from Hebrews 1:1-4.

December 14, 2010 at 9:05 AM

Ned:
L'Engle's writing over the years has been precious to us, too.

I've been thinking a lot about talking about law with non-Christians. It seems important that we remember it is the Holy Spirit's job to convict of sin and that to understand the law properly the person must know something of God. When either is shortchanged all sorts of mischief results. Perhaps we need to switch our paradigm slightly within biblical categories: instead of law/grace we need to see lostness/grace. Certainly breaking the law and the resulting guilt is essential to our lostness, but so is the estrangement from God we suffer and then feel as spiritual yearning. Thus Christ could speak with the woman in John 4 about her spiritual thirst and thus lead her to grace without first going to the law.

Blessings
Denis

December 14, 2010 at 9:32 AM

TJ:
Living in the now/yet-not-yet period does have its own challenges. For certain.
Thanks for being in the conversation.
Denis

December 14, 2010 at 9:34 AM

Katy:
You say it so very well. Exactly. It's why throngs of people mobbed Jesus all the time. They were drawn to him.
Trust CoalTrain continues to flourish.
Blessings
Denis

December 14, 2010 at 9:36 AM

Cassandra:
What you write makes great sense, I think. It's right that we struggle to put all this in words, because we are touching on mystery.

More and more I have come to believe that the we/they mentality is a block for me that I need to shed. As an elder in my local church I am called upon with my fellow elders to hear professions of faith and rule on them for church membership. Outside of that setting, however, I have determined it is not my place to "rule" on whether a person is "saved." Rather I see everyone on a pilgrimage, in various relationships to the cross, and my calling is to minister, in the Spirit's power, grace to them. They may be a Christian but seem like a non-Christian with all sorts of doubts--they need to trust Christ. They may be a non-Christian certain they are God's child--they need to trust Christ. They may be a Christian with no doubts--they need to trust Christ. They may be me--I need to trust Christ. Today. All day. Moment by moment. Not because trust saves me, but because trusting Christ means walking by faith within the grace of God.

Thanks for your good comment.
Denis

December 14, 2010 at 9:42 AM

Frederick:
I'm glad.
Many blessings as you preach.
Denis

December 14, 2010 at 9:43 AM

As I seek to delve deeper into understanding what it means to truly engage myself in this broken world, I find myself both hurt and hopeful that it is so challenging to break through some of the barriers.

It was easier to separate myself from the world, considering myself more pious than others. It was easier to judge.

But I find more *joy* is going against the flow of mainstream evangelical Christianity at this point in my journey. What a joy it is to look and find God's grace where I least expect it! What a joy it is to consistent see how Christ is redeeming the world, rather than focusing how broken it is by my sin.

I find myself searching for that joy more often now, and I believe that it what God intends. As I read the L'Engle quote, I remember my best friend when she gives her testimony - she uses these words, "I was drawn to the light and joy in my friend, and I just had to know where that came from. I wanted what she had."

December 14, 2010 at 6:50 PM

Once again my friend Luke had trouble leaving a comment, so he sent it via Facebook:

Subject: amen to the blog (please post for me)
denis,
I am teaching a course next semester entitled "Church and Society." In this course I hope to show students that God uses His church to equip the saints to enter the world to rescue it from its bondage through the power and enablement of the Holy Spirit (this is one topic that is often neglected in the church especially in our secular humanistic context). I am reminded of this, we "enter to worship---depart to serve." I think most evangelicals have lost sight of the 'serve' part; namely, who or what is the beneficiary of our service? We have directed this service on ourselves and not directed it to the world. God calls the church to serve Him by serving fallen mankind. This past semester I taught a Vocational Orientation class in hopes to show students that we need to free ourselves from the age old secular vs. spiritual dichotomous thinking. Namely, I strongly encouraged them to understand that all vocations can be used redemptively to advance the kingdom and God expects that because this gives "flesh" to the cultural mandate in Genesis 1:26-28. I am convinced that God's intentions for mankind have never changed: advance God's rule through engaging with our world in righteousness. Christianity is a private and a public faith. We live out in the public square what we study, mediate on in private. Jesus and Paul were excellent examples of this - they spent time in the synagogue and also time in the streets. This means of course that we do our jobs/vocations with excellence, become whistle blowers, stand up for injustice (I am still amazed that one Christian at Enron or Worldcom did not expose the fraud?) etc. Thanks for the opportunity to share some thoughts in writing.
best,
luke

December 16, 2010 at 8:17 AM

Stephanie:
What you friend says is precisely what I pray and yearn to hear more in the years ahead from the next generation. Sadly, it is heard too seldom today.
Thanks for your comment.
Denis

December 16, 2010 at 8:20 AM

Tim Keller's DailyKeller Tweet should be part of this conversation:

"Human beings will only be drawn out of themselves into unselfish acts of service to others when they see God as supremely beautiful."

Well said.

December 16, 2010 at 8:48 AM

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