9 Things You Won't be Celebrating in Eternity

I've never met Paul David Tripp, but he has had a profound influence on my life.  I first discovered him when I was assigned the book, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, during an internship. I've since profited greatly from his books,  sermons, lectures, and blog.  Paul has a unique ability to gently grab hold of the human heart and firmly redirect it to Christ.

I recently read an article on Paul's blog that helped me reconsider my priorities.  You might find it helpful to consider your own life in light of what he suggests are "9 Things You Won't be Celebrating in Eternity."

  1. SELF - This life is not about you. You were brought into a world that is, by definition, a celebration of the beauty and intelligence of God.
  2. MARRIAGE - No human being can satisfy your soul; only God can. If you place your identity in your spouse - or any other person, for that matter - you'll always be disappointed.
  3. KIDS - Your children are not actually your children; you gave birth to them, but they don’t belong to you. Your kids are from God, they exist through God, and the glory of their lives points to God.
  4. SUCCESS - God calls you to be fruitful and productive, but the moment you take on your success as an identity, you'll become a slave to a never-ending stream of potential opportunities.
  5. RENOWN - Again, this life is not about you. Your primary job description is to be an ambassador for and herald of the glory and renown of your Heavenly King, the Lord Jesus Christ.
  6. COMFORT - Comfort is not sinful, but you'll never find paradise in a fallen world. Also, the work of the gospel will often call you to uncomfortable people in uncomfortable places.
  7. EXCITEMENT - Go ahead and buy season tickets for your favorite football team, but if a touchdown excites you more than the life-transforming ministry of the local church, you need to re-evaluate your eternal priorities.
  8. LEISURE - Again, this world will never be a paradise. It's not sinful to enjoy a vacation, but remember that this life is a preparation for your final destination.
  9. PLEASURE - Pleasure was created by God for you, but the created pleasures of this world are meant to be a finger pointing to the ultimate pleasure - an intimate relationship with the Creator.

Might we all be encouraged to find our identity in Christ instead of the temporary treasures of this life.   

 

Is it right for the church to point out sin?

One of the great criticisms of the church is that it is inherently condemning.  Many people avoid church because they do not want to subject themselves to the hypocritical accusations of the "holier than thou."  To be fair, many professing christians have perverted the gospel by focusing on the law and neglecting grace.  History is full of stories of churches and individuals who committed terrible acts in the name of holiness.  Many are left wondering, "how can an institution meant to show the love of Christ be so condemning and hurtful?"

Several years ago I went to the doctor for a routine physical.  Everything checked out during my office visit, but my blood test came back showing some abnormalities.  I immediately scheduled a follow up appointment because I wanted to know exactly what was wrong with me.  Why? Because without an accurate understanding of what was wrong I had no hope of being healed. Thankfully I did not have any serious health issues and required no further treatment, but if I hadn't subjected myself to the doctors testing I would not have known the true condition of my health.  

So, what do the doctors office and the church have in common?  They each have your health in mind.  But, unlike a medical doctor, the church is interested in spiritual health.  And I've got some bad news...  the test results are in and there are some abnormalities you should be concerned with.  Like all men, you were you born into sin.  More than that, you've chosen to sin thousands of times since birth.  In a sense, the church exists to point that out.  Her charter includes a call to make disciples of Christ by teaching others to obey Him.  In other words, it is an essential responsibility of the church to point out sin.  But, don't misunderstand what's happening.  The church is not condemning you.  It is merely pointing to the reality that you are already condemned!  You should feel the weight of that condemnation when you learn that you don't measure up to God's standard.  It is only when you see your sin that you see your need for a Savior.  The good news is that we have a Savior!  Jesus lived, died, was buried, and rose again to save you from sin and condemnation.  

I recently had the opportunity to share this truth with my community by appearing on Wellsboro Homepage.  Perhaps this video will encourage you as you consider your your life, Jesus Christ, and the church.  

When Church is a Struggle

The service begins, as it always does, with the announcements.  I don't read the bulletin anymore because I know the service leader is going to spend the first ten minutes reading it to us.  My eyes wander back and forth between the worn carpet, dated drapes, and the dimly lit cross behind the pulpit.  The microphone rings as Mr. Brown nervously takes over to read a passage of Scripture. Despite his monotone delivery, an older gentleman in the last row offers a hearty, "Amen," as Mr. Brown returns to his seat.  Now it's time to sing.  I mumble along with the congregation, but I'm distracted by the piano player who seems to be making more than her usual mistakes, and the man singing off key over my shoulder.  The service leader indicates that it's time for prayer and invites one of the deacons to the stage.  His prayer sounds very formal and I wonder if he prays the same way at home as he does in church.  The offering plates clank together in the back of the sanctuary signaling the service leader to come up and offer a few words about tithing. The piano player is at it again, watching carefully as the the ushers pass by each row.  She ends right on cue and the pastor begins his sermon. Unfortunately, the baby crying in the third row is so distracting that I'm having a hard time paying attention.  A few moments later and my eyes feel heavy.  I hope nobody notices that each blink gets a little longer than the last.  After the service I make my way down a colorful hallway to pick up my children.  I'm greeted by a teacher who hands me a stack of papers and declares that my children behaved a "little better" than they had been the week before.  We walk toward the parking lot and I wonder why church has become such a struggle.

Have you ever experienced a church service like this?  I hope it wasn't this extreme!  But I'll bet you can relate.  Maybe you find it difficult to sit still and focus.  Or, perhaps you have a hard time connecting.  There may be many reasons for the struggle.  You may wonder if it's really worth it.

Still, God has called His people to meet together regularly to pray, read Scripture, sing, listen to a sermon, fellowship, and engage in special events like communion and baptism.  In others words, Christians are called to participate in the life of the local church. If that seems difficult for you, let me offer some words of encouragement from the Apostle Paul:

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
— Colossians 3:12-17

Consider these words as you reflect upon your participation in the body of Christ.  How would your Sunday morning experience be different if you approached it with a spirit of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience?  Might your heart be different if you committed to bear with your brothers and sisters in Christ?  The monotone Scripture readings, ringing microphones, fussy children, or the unkind words of another lose their sting when your frustration is replaced by a spirit of love that binds us together in perfect harmony.

Friend, remember that membership in the body of Christ (played out in the local church) is a privilege.  Only those redeemed by the blood of Christ are eligible to participate in this grand display of the glory of God .  Allow the joy of your salvation to serve as the motivation to joyfully gather together with the body of Christ each week, even when church is a struggle! 

      

Take the Endurance Challenge

I am privileged to work with Wellsboro Homepage to produce a monthly installment called Back to Basics.  This is a great opportunity to share the Gospel with unbelievers while encouraging Christians to pursue Christ.  

John and Sara Vogt have been attending Wellsboro Bible Church for some time.  They are a wonderful example of a couple who demonstrates the Gospel in all they do.  Wellsboro Homepage, a local online news source, was developed by John and Sara as a means to share Christ with their community.  I was honored when John asked me to develop Back to Basics to help accomplish this goal.  He is bold to feature this segment once a month in effort to proclaim the Gospel to the men and women of Tioga County.  

This month's installment is called "Take the Endurance Challenge."  How's your endurance?

 

For more information about Wellsboro Homepage, or to view previous installments, click here.