I am so glad of this one. Growing up in a solid Reformed Baptist church, I definitely heard one half of this and not so much the other. I think a lot of churches (unintentionally) end up teaching total depravity in such a way that we are conscious of our cockroach-like sinful detestability (filthy rags and all that) but seem to grasp less the love of God for his creatures, especially those made in his image.
‘At first glance, “the house of God” (Heb. 10:21) is unremarkable: a regular gathering of ordinary people committed to a largely invisible mission. We are young and old, male and female, single and married, unemployed and overworked. None of us is much to look at. We sing slightly off-key, and we can’t always clearly articulate the faith we profess. Following worship, bad coffee and awkward moments are served at plastic tables in a damp basement. But the church has more beauty—and more value—than we can see with physical eyes.’
‘I believe the pastoral purpose of the letter is simple and is found in its closing chapter. Paul’s aim is to bring peace between gospel partners when they have disagreed. His pastoral approach is to change the heart. The more I read the letter, the more I have come to appreciate Paul’s purpose is to get our hearts right when disagreement arises. I wonder if he learned these lessons after his bust up with Barnabas. I now read the letter with this question in mind: How does what Paul is saying here change my heart when I find myself in disagreement with a gospel partner?’
Adrian Reynolds draws some lessons from Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy.
‘We like easy explanations. Guy de-converts? He obviously didn’t have a good preacher. Gal rejects the faith? She obviously didn’t get deep discipleship. Except sometimes they do. We assign logical explanations to these otherwise inexplicable outcomes because we are pragmatists at heart. We like to think that if you just push the right spiritual buttons, you will get a good spiritual result. When we evangelize someone who rejects the free offer of the gospel, we sometimes trouble ourselves thinking we didn’t have the right presentation, the best apologetic answers, and so on. And sometimes we do get in our own way. But the realness of the Spirit resists such rationale.’
‘I want to suggest that one key doctrine provides a gauge on where people are in relation to the gospel and God, namely repentance. This facet of biblical truth lifts a lid on where hearts are in relation to the Lord, it exposes motive, it diagnoses misunderstandings, and it might just be the area of God’s revelation that we most urgently need to highlight before the hearts of Christians and non-Christians alike.’
‘No doubt some of those things won’t be applicable to your situation. But if we are all about the business of making Christ known where he is currently not known, we should all be interested in sending workers to under-churched deprived communities. If some of these ideas can facilitate workers being sent then that is all to the good.’