Thursday, July 17, 2008


  This week we'll be looking at the fourth commandment, "Remember the Sabbath..."(Exodus 20:8-11).  At it's heart, the Sabbath is about resting, ceasing, and about worshipping.  On the surface, it seems that a command to rest would be one that we would welcome with fireworks and a full marching band.  But we don't.  Why?  What's driving us and distracting us to the degree that we can't even rest in the way God has designed us to and commanded us to?  Imagine yourself talking to your spouse, your child, your friend, telling that person he needed to stop, take a break, rest.  And imagine that person, with a frenzied look in his eye, saying that he just can't stop.  Wouldn't you be worried?  Wouldn't you think that there was something terribly wrong with this picture?  And yet when it comes to a day of rest, for many of us our lives look like this wild-eyed friend who can't slow down.
  The fundamental picture of the Sabbath in Scripture, though, is that it is a day for our good and flourishing.  God tells us to call the Sabbath a delight (Isaiah 58:13).  We have a lot to learn about letting God lead us into rest.
  A couple resource I'd like to recommend on this topic if you'd like to do some reading and listening on this.  One is Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva J. Dawn.  I've also benefitted from the Fourth Commandment chapters in John Frame's The Doctrine of the Christian Life.  You can also listen to his classroom versions of these chapters on the RTS podcast of his seminary class on ethics.  Click here to go to the RTS itunes U link.  That should direct you to the RTS classes on itunes and from there you can see Frame's ethics classes.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Reading good books... The Radical Reformission by Mark Driscoll

As I come across good and helpful books, I'm going to post some thoughts about them here on the church blog. I just recently finished reading The Radical Reformssion: Reaching Out Without Selling Out by Mark Driscoll. Driscoll is the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. The book is, as you'd gather from the subtitle, about reaching out to our world without compromising the gospel. Specifically, it's about churches reaching their own local cultures.
   One of the most helpful and arresting points of the book has to do with our willingness (or unwillingness) to go where sinners are. Not to participate in sin, but to go into our culture, to know people, and to bring them the hope of the gospel. I'd say that as a church we are convinced that we are called to bring the good news to the world, but we're often hesitant to step into that calling in a personal way, and we may often be so suspicious of the culture around us that we think it's not possible to participate without sinning ourselves. But, Jesus hung out with all the wrong people. He went where notorious sinners were. He went to their parties, he ate at their table, he spoke into their lives, and he never sinned while doing so. And sinners loved him. It was, remember, the religious professionals, the Pharisees, who hated, discounted, and derided Jesus. It was prostitutes who came to him weeping and washing his feet. Driscoll addresses a fearful response to culture that keeps us away from others in order to avoid sin. Only one thing, he points out, will actually keep us from sinning. Not artificial (i.e. extra-biblical) rules, but loving and staying close to Jesus. Here's a great summary of his point:
   "I am advocating not sin but freedom. That freedom is denied by many traditions and theological systems because they fear that some people will use their freedom to sin against Christ. But rules, regulations, and and the pursuit of outward morality are ultimately incapable of preventing sin. They can only, at best, rearrange the flesh and get people to stop drinking, smoking, and having sex, only to start being proud of their morality. Jesus' love for us and our love for him are, frankly, the only tethers that will keep us from abusing our freedom, yet they will enable us to venture as far into the culture and into relationships with lost people as Jesus did, because we go with him. So reformission requires that God's people understand their mission with razor-sharp clarity. The mission is to be close to Jesus. This transforms our hearts to love what he loves, hate what he hates, and to pursue relationships with lost people in hopes of connecting with them and, subsequently, connecting them with him. This actually protects us from sin, because the way to avoid sin is not to avoid sinners but to stick close to Jesus (italics mine)" (p. 40).
   Driscoll goes on to address the motivation of our hearts which stands between us and the culture around us--our own self-righteousness, a sin which the non-believing world sees clearly in us and which hampers any effort of ours to share the gospel. Consequently, our own ongoing repenting of our many forms of self-righteousness is crucial to our ability to bring the gospel to the world: "It is imperative that Christians develop a habit of confessing and repenting of their self-righteousness, which prohibits this natural progress of the gospel through the culture" (p. 74). Confession brings us freedom as we own up to our sin, bring it to the One who forgives us, and as we are then sent out into our lives as forgiven and humble followers of Jesus who are freed to really love our neighbors.
   One caveat about the book. Driscoll is purposely edgy in his writing, and by the end of the book his occasional sarcasm and provocative tone wear thin. In spite of that, though, there is much that's great and helpful in what he has to day. So, read this book. It should be an encouragement in getting to know the cultures around us (even and especially right here in Williamsburg), in loving our neighbors, and in actually reaching out to our city with the hope of the gospel.