Indelible Grace Church

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Indelible Grace Church Blog

Musings on Small Group

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One of the vital aspects of community life at Indelible Grace Church is our small group ministry.  This is the opportunity to study the Bible, share and encourage others in the church, and just enjoy the company of others.  We have small group every Thursday at 7:30pm, rotating locations.  Come and join us!

Right now we’re studying the Book of Judges. You might ask – so what’s the theme of Judges?  Very simply, it is the repeated failures of Israel to love God and the inadequacy of all the judges (deliverers) to truly rescue Israel from oppression (sin).

One of the most poignant passages we’ve studied so far is Judges 3:7-12.  The Book of Judges is basically a series of cycles: (1) the people rebel against God, (2) God allows the people to suffer from their sins, (3) the people cry out to God, (4) God sends a judge, (5) there is a period of rest and peace.

The tragedy of Judges is that this cycle repeats itself again and again.  For example, see the passage below:

Stage 1: 7 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.  They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.

Stage 2: 8 Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia.   And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years.

Stage 3: 9a But when the people of Israel cried out to the LORD.

Stage 4: 9b The LORD raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.  10 The Spirit of the LORD was upon him, and he judged Israel.   He went out to war, and the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand.  And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.

Stage 5:11 So the land had rest forty years.  Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.

The heart-rending tragedy of Judges is the immediately following verse:

12 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the LORD.

In other words, verse 12 is Stage 6 – Repeat Stages 1-5. This happens again and again throughout Judges, like some kind of nightmarish broken record.  The people rebel; God sends a judge; there is peace; but the judge dies; the people rebel again.

So is the message of Judges hopeless despair?   No.  This is the Gospel According to Judges: verse 12 is the gospel in negative relief.  It shows us the futility of moral reform for Israel and the inadequacy of all merely human judges.  This points us forward in redemptive history to Christ, the ultimate judge and deliverer, who rescues us from the ultimate enemy (sin ), through the ultimate battle (the death on the cross), into the ultimate peace (salvation, heaven).  And unlike all other judges before him, Christ reigns forever.

This paradigm of the gospel in negative relief is not well appreciated by many Christians.  We think of the gospel as something only articulated in the New Testament.  And the Old Testament?  The conventional view is that the Old Testament is basically an anthology of heroic characters for us to imitate.  Be faithful like Daniel!  Be brave like David!   But this completely strips the Old Testament of its primary message – which is the gospel in negative relief.

The gospel in negative relief is this: the failure of all OT leaders to truly rescue Israel from its deepest problem, sin.  This is why in the Book of Judges, we see a parade of judge after judge unable to truly reform the people or even be upright themselves.  How does the Book of Judges end?  Everyone did what was right in there own eyes - for there was no king.  Ah, so maybe a king is the answer.  The people crown Saul.  Be he ends up being godless.  We need another king - a man after God's own heart!  Enter David.  But he fails too (e.g. Bathsheba, Uriah, etc.).  And his son fails and his son’s sons as well.  And all the leaders of Israel fall short.

What's the message?  Israel needs a greater judge, a greater king.  The Old Testament, in other words, is not about the heroism of various leaders, but their failures.   This is the gospel in the negative.  The Old Testament prepares us to hear the good news – Christ is the ultimate deliverer, the ultimate warrior, the ultimate prophet, the ultimate priest, and the ultimate king.  He is all those things David, Samson, and Jacob were not.  As the new Redman song says – Christ alone can rescue.

The gospel according to The Book of Judges is thus found in 3:11-12:  So the land had rest forty years.  Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.  And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.  It is the gospel in negative relief.

For more on this paradigm of reading the Old Testament, watch this great talk by Bryan Chapell:


Communicating the Gospel Through Preaching by Bryan Chapell from Vintage21 Church on Vimeo.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 June 2010 17:18
 

Two Ways to Rebel

Two Ways to Rebel Against God

Every religion has a shared narrative of how people rebel against God – by breaking the rules, by violating the moral code.  But in Christianity, there are two ways people rebel against God.  You can run away from God by breaking all the rules or you can run away from God by keeping all the rules.  You can rebel by being very, very bad or you can rebel by being very, very good.  This is a paradigm-shattering insight of Christianity.  In all other religions, it is only the immoral who are lost.  But in Christianity, the immoral rebel and the morally upright are both lost.

You see this in Jesus’ classic story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.  People typically read this parable as the story of only one lost son – the younger son who leaves the homestead to indulge in a life of sensual pleasure and dissipation.  But that’s not the story Jesus tells.  In the parable, there are two sons – both equally alienated from the father.  The elder son rebels against his father by staying home, working hard, and keeping all the rules.  But he does this – and here is the crucial insight – not out of love for the father, but to put the father in his debt and to be independent of the father.  In other words, the elder son’s obedience is actually his way of rebelling against the father – by trying to control the father.  In the end, the younger son repents and is brought into the celebration feast; but the elder son bitterly complains against the father and refuses to go into the feast.

Most people think Christianity is only about the rebellion of the younger son.  But Christianity is about the rebellion of both sons.  And in a way, the focus is not on the younger son – but the older son.  The morality and obedience of the older son puts him further away from the father than the younger son.  Because at least the younger son, while he’s boozing and whoring, knows he’s in the wrong.  He knows he’s lost.  But the older son thinks he’s in his father’s good graces.  And this makes him, in many ways, more lost.

Christianity is not, like all other religions, a call for the immoral to repent.  It is a call for both the immoral and moral to repent and receive mercy.  For a much more in-depth look, read The Prodigal God.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 14:45
 

Launch Service

Some images from the launch service:

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Last Updated on Monday, 03 May 2010 12:11
 

First Pre-Launch Service

Here are images from our first internal pre-launch worship service.  Praise God - things went quite smoothly.  We set up the sound system, the projector, keyboard, set up the seating - it was a great Easter Sunday service!  Our public launch service will be May 2nd.


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Resurrection Sunday

About three years ago, The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name was published.  Sally Lloyd-Jones, who attends Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC, basically put Tim Keller's sermons in children's story form.  Very gospel-centered rendering of the Biblical story - highly recommended.  Here is a video version of the Resurrection account:

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 March 2010 16:18
 


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