1.19.2006

All the Difference

Studying to preach on the Beatitudes, I went to D. Martin Lloyd-Jones and found a goldmine. Matthew 5:1-12 shows up the stark contrast between the follower of Jesus and the rest of the world.

"As I see things at the present time [1950s], the first need in the Church is a clear understanding of this essential difference. It has become blurred; the world has come into the Church and the Church has become worldly....

"We have been told that we have to make the Church attractive to the man outside, and the idea is to become as much like him as we can.... Some people thought that, as a result... men would be crowding into the churches. Yet it did not happen, and it never has happened that way. The glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely differnt from the world, she invariably attracts it....

"It should not be our ambition to be as much like everybody else as we can, though we happen to be Christian, but rather to be as different from everybody who is not a Christian as we can possibly be. Our ambition should be to be like Christ... and the more like Him we become, the more we shall be unlike everybody who is not a Christian."

5 comments:

  1. I came across a commentator that says the Beatitudes are written in Hebrew parallelism and in fact here are only four not eight blessings!

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  2. Hi Steve,

    As I read this, the line that caught my attention was, "We have been told that we have to make the Church attractive to the man outside, and the idea is to become as much like him as we can...."

    As I considered this, something hit me. Why are we trying to make the church attractive? I thought that the gospel would be attractive to those who God is calling, and repulsive to those who are of the world. Perhaps the problem is that many who call themselves Christian don't find the church or the gospel that attractive--at least not compared to the world around us. If that is the case the problem is not out there, but in here. It is people who do not know the glory and beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I'm not sure if I am being clear in my comment as this is a thought in formation. I hope that I am being clear.

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  3. Ok, but what does this mean? Is the church more Christ-like when it is dressed in the garb of the 1st century? the 15th century? the 20th century?

    What does it mean to say that the church should look like Christ yet also look like the polar opposite of the world which he came to save?
    Doesn't the very nature of the incarnation indicate that to be Christlike is to meet people where they are at, rather than waiting for them to come to where you are? Wasn't Christ completely unlike everyone who was not a Christian when he coexisted with the Father and Spirit in the heavenly realms? Yet to reach us and save us... Christ "made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself..."

    Granted, Christ did not become a sinner to save sinners -- yet he did become a man, meeting people much more than half way to reach them in their lost state. Didn't Christ, in his effort to save man, "become as much like him" as he could without compromising his holiness? Are not we called to do the same?

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  4. Tim this is not about getting out to the people who do not know Christ, nor is it a matter of knowing them and how sin can be seen in their situation so that the remedy of Christ can be clearly articulated to them, this is a matter of trying to make the Church, the gathered people of God taken out of sin, attractive to people who are under the power of sin. Don't get me wrong, we don't want to go out and purposely make ourselves repulsive, but on the other hand, by the very nature of the church it is repulsive to the natural human being because they are under sin, as we find in John 3:19-20, "And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." The problem is not being attractive, for ultimately that is simply pointing to us. Instead, we need to point people to Christ in a clear and winsome a manner as possible, while realizing that it is only as the Holy Spirit gives new birth from above than they can be transformed and believe in him. That is where I think we most easily go wrong today in trying to make the church attractive. What sinner wants to go to the place where their sins are revealed? What person under sin find attractive a place that saying that he or she does not have things all together? What person under sin, wants to know that? None of them, but until they know that, they cannot truly come to know Christ. Every time we point to who Christ is and what he did, we make people aware of their utter and completely spiritual poverty. THAT IS NOT attractive. To think otherwise is utter foolishness.

    Thankfully that section of John I mentioned ends not on the negative of how those in the dark do not want to go into the light, but with these words, "But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God." God is working in the hearts of people today to call them effectively to himself. It is knowing that, which will encourage our quest to clearly point to Christ even when people don't find that attractive.

    At least some of my thoughts here are in their initial formation. I am intending to attempt to work through them on my own blog, but I think there is not only great danger in trying to make the chuch attractive, but I think it is using the wrong approach to winning people to Christ.

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  5. Jim, Thanks for pointing me to your blog.

    Tim, your comment sent me to the end of 1 Cor 9, of course, to re-examine this. You have a point. Communication requires similarity of assumptions, etc.

    But I see the message to Jesus' disciples as: be like me, then they'll see the light. You were called out of darkness into the light, etc.

    I suppose there is a grace and truth sort of paradox here. We need to be different and we need to communicate on an unbeliever's level. And those two aren't mutually exclusive.

    Paul preaching in Athens. He uses their language and poets. But in the end he tells the resurrection truth, which is nonsense to that culture. Some believe, others scoff.

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