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Continuing the review (part I here) of Frost & Hirsch’s ReJesus, chapters 2 & 3 apply the concept of ReJesus to the individual and the community, to discipleship and the church. The aim of “rejesusing” disciples and communities is to “recover the absolute centrality of the person of Jesus in defining who we are as well as what we do.” Thus, they “believe that Christology is the key to the renewal of thE church in every age and in every possible situation it might find itself.”

Chapter two advocates personal renewal through Christology but what kind? They advocate a “recapturing of our imaginations” to person and example of Jesus. Sympathetic to empire theology, they suggest that we become a “conspiracy of little Jesuses” to order to subvert the rules of the Western empire, i.e. globalism, consumerism, etc. In short, “the task of discipleship is the lifelong project of literally becoming like him, of becoming a little Jesus” (49). How then do we become like Jesus? F&H try to steer clear of religion and “conformity to impersonal commands” by emphasizing a “constantly renewed, up-to-date experience with our Lord.” How do we develop this personal relationship with Jesus (which never appears as such in the Bible)? Contemporaneousness–unmediated closeness to Jesus, a term drawn from the wells of Soren Kierkegaard, an existentialist philosopher turned Christian. And here are where some personal concerns begin to emerge.

While I have been invigorated by the radical focus on the person and work of Jesus, the power to become like Jesus appears to be pietism. They steer clear of bootstrap religion but point us to the personal relationship with Jesus as the source for obedience. While I’m sure that is a motivating factor–the more I know Jesus, the more I desire to be like him–the Bible doesn’t appeal to a personal relationship w/ Jesus for our motivation to imitate him. Why? Probably because our experience of being close to him fluctuates considerably. As relationally, emotionally broken evangelicals, we easily confuse emotion for love and piestism for being “in Christ.”

Rather, the New Testament consistently points to new creation, the Spirit, and the Cross as motivation for obedience. For example:

Future Glory: “ For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, a)who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

God’s sovereign pleasure: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Power of the Spirit: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Should there not be a concomitant emphasis on the gospel, the Spirit, new creation and so on, if we are to imitate Jesus? Will not imitatio Christi lead to a new works righteousness without proper emphasis on the gospel? While working on this post I noticed Stetzer interviewed Hirsch, so I dropped some of these questions off in a comment. Hirsch graciously responded by pointing us away from cheap grace to costly grace. Read his response here.

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How do you approach people who do low profile work or ministry in your church? Do you assume their faithfulness? The children’s workers, the set up/tear down crew, custodians? Do you go out of your way to thank them? Do you see the light of Christ flowing out of them? N. T. Wright does:

I am delighted when I go to a church and see people doing mundane things with a sense of pride, because they’re doing them for the love of God and the body of Christ.  I love those people.  Nobody knows who they are; nobody knows their names.  As a bishop, I try to go around and thank them because I can see they’re doing a good job.  Of course, we’d all like to be the architect who builds the cathedral or the composer who writes the symphony or whatever. But most of the time, we do what needs to be done. Christ shines out of the way we work, not so much what we do, but how we do it.( read the rest here)

Wright brings us a lovely reminder of working unto the Lord and thanking all those who do it. However, I’m not sure I agree with the last half of the last sentence: “Christ shines out of the way we work, not so much what we do, but how we do it. I think what we do does matter to God, not just how we do it. If we consider the essence of our work, we can shine glorious light to God even more, as well as enjoy our work more.

The “essence of vocation” is shaped by its principal goal or discipline. For instance, the principal discipline of medical surgery is biology. In order to make the proper incisions, a surgeon must know where human organs are located and how circulatory systems function. After you have identified the principle goal or discipline of your vocation, try to connect that principal to the nature and character of God. For instance, medical surgery reflects God as an orderly, creative Designer and as a merciful Redeemer. (read more here)

Tonight we had our first of three sessions on deacon training. I was moved by the number of quality of potential deacons sitting in our house. God has been so kind to Austin City Life! In preparation for training our deacons, I did the following:

Then I wrote and mailed a letter of invitation to potential deacons, gave them a copy of Driscoll’s booklet, and developed a teaching outline for our three session Deacon Training. In all of this I borrowed heavily from Bob Thune and David Fairchild. Thanks guys! Here’s the list of topics we are covering each month:

October 5, 2008 – 1st training meeting @ Dodson’s house

Discussion topic: A Theology of Deacons

Assignment: One Page Reflection Paper on 1 Tim 3:8-13

November 2, 2008 – 2nd training meeting @ Dodson’s house

Discussion topic: The Practice of Deacons

Assignment: One Page “Dream” Ministry Description

December 7, 2008 – 3rd training meeting @ Dodson’s house

Discussion topic: Holding to the Mystery of Faith

Next Assignment: One Page Summary of the Gospel

December 8-14, 2008Interviews and Installation

Boundless is running my new article: Fight Club (technically doesn’t release until tomorrow).

Stetzer offers some thoughts from the Dwell Conference, along with some notes on his talk and new book: Compelled By Love: The Most Excellent Way to Missional Living. I am eager to read this book, which was released today, as there is a dearth of literature on practical missional living.

Boundless is running my new article today entitled “v. Culture.” The article briefly critiques Christian approaches to culture, followed by six alternative ways to engaging culture.

This weekend I preached a sermon on suffering (we will be podcasting soon). Not the most popular topic but one we can all relate to, eventually. The sermon was based on some research and writing I’ve been doing on Luke-Acts. In this message, I reflected on the numerous conceptual and verbal parallels between the suffering stories of Jesus and Paul.

My aim in this message was to develop a practical theology of suffering, not to deal with theodicy (the problem of evil). However, as with most of my messages, I am trying to keep the non-Christian perspective in view. What is it like for them to suffer? Well, there is a lot of overlap as well as some significant differences between how Christians and non-Christians should suffer. My main two questions were: 1) Should all faithful Christians suffer? 2) If yes, how can we suffer with purpose?

These were my closing comments:

The gospel offers us purpose in our suffering in two main ways: purpose that is redemptive and purpose that hope-giving. Suffering is redemptive for people who hope in Jesus. Purposeful suffering comes through Jesus by redeeming our pain and our sin. Through his life and death Jesus suffered and died in a way that no man will ever suffer and die again. Not only was he rejected, scorned and crucified, but he was also separated from his father’s love as he bore the weight of sin and evil in his death. As a result, Jesus can redeem your suffering by comforting you in your loss and pain. He is the “great high priest who can empathize with our every weakness.” He offers consolation, comfort, and acceptance in the midst of loss, pain, and rejection. He redeems our pain. Jesus gives your suffering purpose because he redeems it. He also redeems our sin, our escapism, our self-reliance, our bitterness, our pride by dying the death we should have died as a substitute sacrifice for our rebellion against a just God. Jesus offers us purpose in suffering by redeeming our pain and our sin. But that’s not all…

Jesus gives our suffering purpose through his resurrection. In the resurrection of Jesus we have the hope of no more suffering. Once and for all, he conquered death for all those who hope in him. In Acts 14:23, just after his stoning, Paul tells us: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” The kingdom of God is not escape from this world, an entrance into Nirvana, nothingness, but the renewal of all creation, bodies, culture and creation. The grand program of God is a new creation, and all who persevere through suffering by treasuring Christ, will inherit the world in which there will be no more sorrow and no more tears. Those who look to Jesus have hope in suffering, hope of final deliverance from all suffering and inheritance of a new creation. Our suffering is purposeful in Jesus’ redemption and resurrection, which makes him the center and source of all meaning. Ultimately, our suffering magnifies Jesus, in his death and in his life, as the King of the greatest kingdom to ever exist.

Of the three books on suffering that I read, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands was most helpful. In fact, chapter 8 from that book is worth a whole post. Remember, this sermon was not dealing with theodicy, but developing a practical theology of suffering. I read chapters from these three:

Boundless has published my new article, “Missional Discipleship: Reinterpreting the Great Commissions.” From the conclusion of the article:

We’re called not to mere soul-winning, but to distinctive discipleship: heralding a worldly gospel of a fleshly Christ who humbly accommodates human culture and understands the human condition.

Link to the book by Andrew Walls who coined the term distinctive discipleship.