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    Elders' Blog - Entries from September 2015

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    WedWednesdaySepSeptember23rd2015 Welcome, Pope Francis?

    You’re probably aware that our nation is hosting a special visitor this week. Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, is making his first visit to the United States, with scheduled stops in Washington D.C., New York, and Philadelphia. It’s a momentous occasion, not only for the 70 million (or so) Catholics in this country, but for anyone interested in what the most prominent voice in global religion has to say.

    Personally, I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, I respect Pope Francis for many of his convictions. He advocates for the poor, he defends the sanctity of life, he champions environmental stewardship, and he does it all with a humble demeanor that frankly makes it hard not to like him. I am thankful for these things about him. And on top of it all, he seems about as down-to-earth as any man of his office realistically could be, displaying a knack for identifying with the “average person.”

    But does this mean that we should celebrate Pope Francis and look to him as a spiritual authority, as many evangelicals are beginning to do? I believe the answer is no. While we can applaud his positive contribution toward a more just and civil society, I do not believe that we should esteem him as a biblical teacher or leader. And the main reason is this: Pope Francis obscures the gospel of grace.

    During the last few weeks, we’ve been talking a lot about the “Year of Grace” here at Kossuth. Well recently I was made aware that the Roman Catholic Church is preparing to kick off a special year of its own, something they’re calling a “Year of Mercy.” In anticipation for this celebration, the Pope has made a number of announcements. For example, he has declared that priests can grant forgiveness for sins (such as abortion) that had hitherto required the absolution of a bishop. Additionally, the Pope has declared that anyone “shall surely obtain the Jubilee indulgence” if they make a pilgrimage to Rome—or even just their local cathedral.

    On the surface of it, this sounds like good news—grace! But the problem is that this is not the grace of the gospel. And therefore it’s not really grace at all.

    To redirect a sinner from a bishop to a priest is hardly a step in the right direction. To dole out special forgiveness for stepping foot in a designated building is hardly an extension of mercy. Martin Luther, don’t put that hammer and nail away just yet.

    While Pope Francis has many great things going for him, clarity about the heart of the gospel—the very lifeblood of the Christian faith—is not one of them. What he advocates is simply legalistic works-salvation that has been re-branded to look more appealing. At the end of the day, Pope Francis still expects sinners to jump through hoops. Maybe the “Year of Mercy” lowers the hoops, but the hoops are still there. And the gospel leaves no rooms for hoops.

    As Christians, our faith is in a person, not a practice. We rest in the finished work of Christ, not the ongoing works of our own righteousness. In other words, all the hoops have already been jumped through! And as long as any teacher tries to tell us otherwise, our response must echo Paul’s attitude toward the false teachers in Galatia (Gal. 1:8-9).

    So while the Pope visits our nation and dominates the attention of the media this week, let’s applaud his positive contributions and pray that his influence will help the world pursue peace and justice. But let’s think twice before embracing him as a trustworthy voice of biblical truth. 

    [Endnote: For an important and enlightening perspective on Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic Church, we do well to listen to our evangelical brothers and sisters who live and minister in the Pope’s own backyard. This article about the church in Italy serves as a good introduction.]

    WedWednesdaySepSeptember16th2015 The Anchor of Grace
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Doctrine Gospel Grace 0 comments Add comment

    Some objects are so enormous that they simply boggle the mind. One such object would be The Seawise Giant, a massive ship built in the 1970s that was over 1,500 feet long. This vessel was in fact so large that it couldn’t even pass through the English Channel!

    It’s not surprising that a ship of that scale would need an anchor of equally gigantic proportions. And indeed, The Seawise Giant had just the thing. Coming in at roughly 36 tons, this 23-foot long hulk of metal would utterly dwarf most normal anchors. It had to. Anything less wouldn’t stand a chance of keeping a ship that big from drifting away.

    Here’s something else that’s mind-boggling in its size: grace. How big is grace? Well, a very loose translation of Romans 5:20 might read like this: “Where sin was big, grace was even bigger.” And if you have even the slightest sense of the size of your sin, then you understand that grace must be big enough to make The Seawise Giant look like a 2-person canoe.

    But grace that big needs a strong and sure anchor. No ordinary anchor will keep it held in place. And if grace drifts out to sea, then watch out! Danger is sure to follow.

    Consider the following statements:

    • “Since God gives me grace, it’s okay for me to sin.”
    • “Because I live under grace, God will never discipline me.”
    • “A God of grace would never exercise judgment or wrath.”

    All of these statements are common refrains in many corners of the church these days. But they all represent a drift from the true meaning of grace. They all indicate that this gigantic vessel has been tethered to a woefully insufficient anchor.

    When it comes to grace, there is only one anchor that is strong enough to hold it in place: the finished work of Jesus Christ. This anchor is made not from iron, but from wood. It’s fixed not to the hull of a ship, but to the ground of Golgotha. Simply put, the cross alone can secure the full magnitude of grace.

    As we launch into our Year of Grace at Kossuth, this is a vital point to keep in mind. Biblical grace does not float around aimlessly, blown to and fro by the wind, subject to our own whims and interpretations. Biblical grace is always and forever fixed to the person of Jesus and his sufficient, saving work on the cross. Whenever we talk about grace, we must do so in light of the decisive historical and theological event of the crucifixion. Present grace is only possible because of a past sacrifice. And it is that past sacrifice which defines the terms of present grace.

    This means that God’s grace is not an invitation to sin freely; it’s an invitation to cease from sinning. God’s grace is not a ticket to escape discipline; it’s a means by which we receive discipline as a loving expression of God’s concern for our holiness. God’s grace does not exclude his wrath; rather it diverts the full force of that wrath onto the head of our sinless substitute, Jesus Christ himself.

    As we walk through this Year of Grace, let’s not lose sight of the anchor to which it must always be attached. Because when we sever grace from its proper anchor, we’ll soon find that we have lost it altogether. 

    ThuThursdaySepSeptember10th2015 Horizontal Grace
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Events Grace 1 comments Add comment

    “I forgive you.”

    “I trust you.”

    “I love you still.”

    Receiving words like these, when we deserve to hear otherwise, are amazing moments. We can call them instances of horizontal grace, and they are indelible. They stick around for a long time. Can you recall a time you really blew it with your spouse, but when you braced yourself for the harsh words in response, she replied with a generous, "I forgive you"?

    Or, has there been a time when you shared a deep, secret sin with the ladies in your Care Group, something you've never told anyone before, and they responded with, "We are here for you, and we love you just the same."

    I remember when I was younger and determined to move back home during a tough personal season of my life. I was packing my belongings in frustration and hurt. I remember fighting shame that I was giving up on something. But I remember that weekend less for the pain I was in and more for the fact that my brother traveled hours to help me load up my car and ride with me on the long road trip. He sacrificed time that is a precious commodity. He was very gracious to me and I'll remember it forever.

    It means something to us as people when someone in our life sacrifices precious time to be a listening ear. It strikes us as amazing when someone could cast judgment but chooses to overlook an offense instead. We look up to the dad who patiently sits his child down and teaches the same lesson over and over again instead of losing his temper.

    Such instances of horizontal grace amaze us because they are other-worldly. They come from God.

    There is no doubt that the greatest picture of grace is when the mighty Son of God chose to die in our place, as our substitute. And it is equally true that any human picture of grace is merely a reflection of God in this world. But don't diminish the role and opportunity of modeling and extending grace to others. By such opportunities souls are saved as the Father is visible in his creation.

    Men, let me single you out for a moment. Whether it's in the workplace, in the home, on the block, or while watching the game, God calls you to live as a messenger of grace. As a herald, you not only preach grace, but you show grace when you are generous in your relationships.

    Your children need to see you extend grace. For the sake of the gospel, your neighbors need to see you extend grace as you live life with them. Our church needs to be a place of abundant grace as we men extend grace at every opportunity. In this God is glorified because there are glimpses of him all over.

    This year's Men's Summit will focus on this topic. We will take a deep look at being messengers and extenders of grace in our homes, in our city, and to our own church family. Come be refreshed by the Gospel and grow in your ability to give grace to others.

    Sign up now at ksbc.net/ms15, before the price increases on September 23.

    See you there!

    WedWednesdaySepSeptember2nd2015 Here We Go!
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Change Grace Vision 1 comments Add comment

    It was the great German writer Goethe who quipped, "The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving." And it was the not-so-great American preacher Humphrey who said, "I agree with Goethe."

    The Christian life is all about movement. The man who throws a harsh word at his wife in the heat of an argument is not at all being the husband he should be. But if last year he was in the habit of throwing lamps at his wife, well then we might be encouraged that he’s at least closer to being the husband he should be than he was twelve months ago. He’s moving in the right direction. And while his current state is not ideal, it’s his movement that makes all the difference.

    One of the key directions in which we would like to move at Kossuth is toward a greater understanding and enjoyment of grace. For most of us, the concept of grace is just that—a concept. We know we’ve been saved by it, but when it comes to our daily lives, it can be hard to see why grace matters. What does grace have to do with my money? My marriage? My loneliness? My addictions? My success? My friendships? It’s all too easy to overlook the many ways that grace impacts the practical stuff of life. And when we do that, we turn grace into a museum artifact that we view from a distance, while allowing it to have little present meaning in our daily lives.

    Unfortunately, the way to fight this temptation is much harder (and slower) than simply turning on a switch. Nobody wakes up one day and decides to live by the power of grace—at least not with any measure of success. Grace is something toward which we must gradually move, step by step. It’s a slow journey. But the good news is that each step that we take deeper into the territory of grace is a step in the right direction. It takes us closer to the heart of the gospel and further from the wasteland of legalism and self-righteousness and hollow morality.

    This is a journey that we want to take at Kossuth, and I’m excited to get going! You may recall that as part of the strategic plan which we introduced this summer, we want to set aside the 2015-16 school year as a “Year of Grace.” Well, this Sunday, in addition to transitioning into our new service time (which is now at 10:30, by the way!), we’ll officially begin the Year of Grace as we look together at Acts 9. Through the remarkable story about how God’s grace turned the life of a murderous Jesus-hater upside-down, we’ll hopefully be able to catch a compelling vision of just how wild and powerful and God-exalting his grace truly is.

    And once we start to get that, I’m pretty sure we’ll only want more. Which is why most of our ministry events (like next month’s Men’s Summit and the annual missions emphasis) will incorporate themes of grace. It’s why we’ll have special teaching and preaching opportunities throughout the year that will expand our view of grace. Who knows—we might even manage to pull out a surprise or two! The main objective of all of this is to allow God to more fully saturate our lives with his amazing grace, thus transforming us into the kind of people and the kind of community that will glorify his name and bless the world.

    If you'd like to begin this grace-ward journey with us, join us this Sunday. And in the meantime, check out this Spotify playlist of seven songs that we have specifically chosen to be our "soundtrack" for the Year of Grace. Some are familiar, some are new. But over the next few months, they'll all become beloved anthems that we'll sing regularly to remind us of what the Year of Grace is all about.

    Are you ready to get moving?

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