Archive for March, 2012
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
(Matthew 7:1-5 ESV)
Oftentimes this set of verses is interpreted using the very first line that Christ says: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” This is interpreted to mean: “If you judge others you will be condemned by God to hell, therefore judge not.” Of course this is not what the verses are saying, rather these verses are saying that with the standard that we use to judge we will be judged. If I, someone who is prone to lying, walk up to someone who has lied and say, “You are destined for hell and there is no hope for you” I would be judging their speck in spite of my plank which is hypocrisy. I think a better interpretation is that we should thank God for the specks in our neighbor’s eyes because they grant us the opportunity to check for planks in our own.
By nature I am not a good sin checker. When it comes to blind spots there are many in my life. So when meditating on this scripture I am generally pleased because it provides me with a way to see my own sin. Instead of looking at my neighbor as an evil person and saying, “I am so much better than them” I am called by Christ to say, “How am I like them? What do I need to repent of? How is my sin limiting my potential to preach the gospel to this person regarding their sin?” Seeing a speck in a neighbors eye provides introspection which, by the grace of God, leads to conviction which, by the blood of Christ, leads to repentance. Thank God for specks.
Do not be timid in judging sin. Do not be timid in judging your sin. Do not be timid in judging the sins of your neighbor. Do not condemn your neighbor but instead point them to the cross of Christ. Do not condemn yourself, but instead preach the gospel to yourself. This is the essence of what it means to see a speck, and why Christ calls us not to judge others as we would not ourselves.
Perhaps one of the most famous missionaries in the history of the Christian church is Saint Patrick. This is probably because he is the only missionary in America who is celebrated by a holiday. However the Patrick most Americans think of on March 17th every year is far different from the man who actually lived. One of the biggest misconceptions is about Patrick’s name; even though the holiday is called “Saint Patrick’s Day” Patrick was never canonized by the Roman Church and thus is not actually a saint. The second mistake that is often made is about Patrick’s heritage. While the holiday is celebrated with green clothes, leprechauns, and Irish beer the fact is that Patrick was not from Ireland, he was only a missionary there. While this can be a misconception about Patrick the fact that he is often thought of as Irish can speak to how well he was able to adapt to the Irish lifestyle and integrate himself into their culture.
Patrick was born in what is now England, a town called Bannavem Taburniae around the year 387. At the time Bannavem Taburniae was at the edge of the known world and was occupied by the Roman Empire. Born to a church deacon and the grandson of a priest Patrick described his childhood as rebellious and said he was “contemptible to many”. At the age of sixteen he was taken into captivity to serve as a slave in Ireland. As a slave Patrick was a shepherd. This meant he would spend many hours every day alone. During those times of silence Patrick’s thoughts would often turn to God. Patrick describes his conversion as that of “God opening my mind” after this he repented of his sins and would spend many of his waking hours in prayer. It was during those intense times of prayer that Patrick would say he felt the Spirit burning in him. After six years as a slave he felt called to flee his master and return to his home country. To escape Ireland Patrick was forced to join a crew of marauders. After several years of traveling with the marauders Patrick eventually made his way back to England and saw his family for the first time since his capture at the age of sixteen. Upon seeing him his parents pleaded with him to stay and never leave them again.
While Patrick had gone to great lengths to travel back to England it became immediately apparent to him that he was not going to stay. The very night that he returned to his parents he had a dream in which letters were sent to him from Ireland begging for his return so he could preach the gospel. At this time Ireland was a land of almost legendary paganism. Many clans were involved in depraved rituals, which made the Roman Church view them as beyond hope. Having lived there for at least six years Patrick would have most likely known firsthand about the religious situation and probably felt conflicted about a call to serve. Even though he received this call immediately after returning to England he waited many years before he would go. During his time in England several scholars believe that he received some sort of formal theological training, this would have been in addition to what he would have learned from his grandfather who was a priest. While he did receive an education Patrick made it clear that he did not have the same intense level of education that many priests had.
After at least twenty years of training and serving as a deacon in his church Patrick finally felt God pushing him to leave his life behind and go to Ireland as a missionary. During his time in England Patrick had come under scrutiny and was denounced by elders in his community because of a sin he had committed in his youth. While Patrick never revealed what the sin was he explained that he had confessed the sin to his friends and that it was something he had done in the ignorance of his youth when he didn’t trust in God. Eventually Patrick was able to silence most of his critics and continue on to a life of missionary service.
When Patrick arrived in Ireland he adopted a completely unique form of missions. During that time in history the Roman church was responsible for most of the missions work taking place. Their method would usually entail monks who would arrive in a foreign land and establish monasteries. From there monks could gain a foothold in the culture and preach the gospel. Patrick’s approach was entirely different as he normally operated as a wandering preacher. He would often travel to an unreached clan and seek an audience with the king, if the king was open to the gospel the rest of the clan would generally follow his lead. During his time with a clan Patrick would make it a habit of praying for their sick and trying to help meet some of their physical needs. As he did this he would gain credibility with the people he was with and have an opportunity to share the message of Jesus Christ. A famous example of his technique is his use of the three-leaf clover. For many years Ireland had viewed the clover as a special plant that was to be honored. Patrick recognized this and used the leaf’s unique shape to communicate how the Trinity of God worked. This use of local customs helped the Irish people relate to Patrick and understand what he was trying to communicate. If Patrick was ever able to convert a significant number of people in a clan he would then train local leaders so a church could be planted and a Christian community could continue after he left. Patrick recalls this practice in his autobiography in which he says that he never asked for any money or other compensation when he ordained new priests. This meant that Patrick, like the apostle Paul, did all he could to communicate that the gift of salvation is free.
Because Patrick’s style was so different from the Roman Catholic church there were many who saw the Celtic Christians as outside the church. The Celtic church had various different customs including what week Easter was celebrated. Their churches were often simple structures as opposed to the more elaborate structures built in the rest of Europe. Because of these differences there were many in the Catholic church who looked down upon the Celts and refused to help them.
Many times during his ministry in Ireland Patrick was faced with trials of different kinds. Because Ireland was such a barbaric place there were many clan kings who sought to harm because of the message he preached. Many times he was imprisoned, robbed, and threatened with death. Yet his passion and love for the Irish people was so strong that he stayed until the end of his life to be a missionary. This dedication paints a vivid picture of the holistic philosophy Patrick had towards his ministry. For Patrick reaching the barbarians wasn’t just something he planned on doing for a period of his life, but rather it was the purpose of his life from beginning to end.
Patrick’s impact on Ireland is certainly hard to fully understand. Because of its location and the fact that it is an island Ireland had remained almost entirely unreached with the Gospel before Patrick’s arrival. This meant that Ireland had a very unique culture compared to most of the countries closer to Rome, which at that time was the center of political, religious, and societal influence. Because he was so far away from Rome and was never officially commissioned as a missionary to Ireland Patrick often focused his teaching more on theology and biblical doctrine as opposed to tradition. This gave the Celtic churches an entirely different culture from Catholic churches in England and further east. Throughout the course of his life Patrick was able to baptize thousands of believers and plant hundreds of churches. The impact of these churches is quite easy to see even today. Celtic crosses are still used in many places today in Ireland and even countries such as Scotland and England. These crosses are much different from Roman Crucifixes and can trace their origins back to the churches planted by Patrick. Also in areas such as art and music Ireland was affected as they were exposed to the gospel. There are many different songs and poems written by Irish Christians who were influenced by Patrick’s teaching. Some of these songs may still be sung today including a well-known hymn “Be Thou My Vision”. Perhaps one of the greatest areas of influence Patrick had was the realm of intellectual pursuits. Before being exposed to the Gospel Ireland was a very dark place that fell behind the rest of the world in areas like education and intellectual progress. However after churches became more influential there was a greater drive for progress. Ireland would become known as “An Island of saints and scholars” Thomas Cahill in his book “How the Irish Saved Civilization” argues that because of this change in Irish culture there was an effort to preserve written works from Europe, including Greek and Roman classical works. The fall of the Roman empire was a chaotic time in which much knowledge would be lost, and Europe would be thrust into a dark age. However with the help of Irish libraries the western world was eventually able to rediscover it’s roots.
There are many lessons we can take from Patrick’s life and techniques. But perhaps the two most important are these: a passion for those we seek to serve and an emphasis on understanding the cultures we are trying to evangelize to. With a burning love for God and these two philosophies Patrick was able to change Ireland and shine the light of the Gospel into a dark land.
Recently the struggle for joy has been appearing in different ways in different parts of different communities that I am involved with. The struggle for a passionate connection to Christ often fills the hearts and minds of Christians as they compare where they are to where they were and where they are going. If I am a Christian and I know that I felt close to Christ and now don’t of course I want to go to a place where I can feel close to him. Oftentimes our reaction to losing joy is to say, “I want to go back to that place.” The struggle for joy should be centered around contending for our joy and defending our joy from the natural degeneration and sinfulness of this world.
The following few articles on joy have been percolating for some time in my mind and have just now steamed into publishable material. Thank the Lord for community, where ideas are put into practice and can be sharpened by both the bible and experience to the glory of God and the joy of men.
This is taken from theresurgence.com article titled “Love Your (Theological) Enemies).”
In recent years my teaching and writing have taken me back repeatedly to 1 Corinthians 13, which takes a sober look at the impossibly high biblical standard for love.
The love in this passage is applicable to marriage, but Paul is also directly addressing the theological disagreements in the church. The Corinthians were plagued with controversies about worship, social class, and spiritual gifts. All of the things that divided them had theological entailments and implications. And all of their disagreements threatened to expose their loveless hearts.
So the Apostle Paul told them everything that love is—and everything that love isn’t. It is patient and kind. It isn’t rude or irritable. And so forth. 1 Corinthians 13 is a complete portrait of love for Christians caught up in controversy.
Total church is a tiny volume on what a church is and what a church should do. The book itself admits that it is not a complete volume, because with most books on theology there is so much more to be written. Having read this book I can say that this is a great resource for those of you who are wondering how the church accomplishes what Christ has given us to do.
Publisher: Re:Lit (Crossway)
Buy, rent, or own: This is a good one to buy if you have the money or borrow. It is a good book to go along other good books on the subject.
A bit of trivia: Chester and Timmis both live and minister in England.