Thursday, January 14, 2016

Problems with language

We talk much in the church about advancing the Kingdom or building the Kingdom or doing the work of the Kingdom.  The problem with such phraseology is that it can easily permit us to believe that we make the Kingdom of God come or that, if we choose, we can prevent the Kingdom from coming.  There is grave danger in presuming that the Kingdom of God comes because of our efforts or the Kingdom of God is hindered by our opposition.

The doctrine of election reminds us that God has and will to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify those whom He has appointed.  But since we are given no such knowledge of who is and who is not elected, it is our privilege to witness the Gospel to all people and leave the rest for Him to sort out.  Therein lies some of the problem.  We want to do what God does and we want to know what God knows.  In our desire to influence the works of God, we want to know what God knows (who is and who is not of the elect) and we want to do what God alone does (judge).  Instead, we have been called and set apart to do what God has given the baptized to do -- to worship, to witness, to serve our neighbor, and to pray. 

Pastors often grow frustrated at the slow pace of God delivering up the results of their faithful preaching and teaching.  But we often forget that part of faithfulness is not only preaching and teaching faithfully, but also waiting patiently upon the Lord to bring to fruit the seeds He has planted.  Nothing is as dangerous as well meaning pastors or church people who want to help where the Lord has not requested our aid.  As an example we are reminded how the Lord insists that the wheat and tares must grow together until the day appointed for the harvest and even then others will glean the fields and separate the wheat from the chaff.  It is enough for us to do what God bids us to do and to trust that the Lord will fulfill the rest.

People often grow frustrated at the lack of measurable results.  Pastors are evaluated not by their faithfulness in fulfilling the duties and tasks assigned to them but by whether or not the statistics show growth.  Churches are judged not by the faithfulness of the preaching and teaching, worship and witness, service to neighbor and works of mercy but by the almighty numbers.  If we would be faithful then we cannot claim for ourselves what God has reserved to Himself and neither can we grow weary in the well-doing of what He has assigned to us.

Pastors do not grow churches and neither do people.  Churches grow by God's design and purpose through the means of grace.  Period.  The Kingdom of God does not come by our prayer or by our works but by the work and will of God.  If we do what God has given us to do, we have done what God requires.  Nothing will be gained by presuming to do what God alone can and does accomplish.

Yes, we want the Kingdom to grow and the congregation as well.  Yes, we believe it is God's will that the Kingdom advance and the church grow.  It is, however, a short jump from these wants and desires to presume that God is either not working fast enough or efficiently enough so that He must require our help, aid, or interference to make happen what is either not happening or not happening as quickly or as predictably as we desire.  That is dangerous territory. 

What God has given us to do is not a small thing.  Faithfulness is always a struggle in a world either prone to doubts or prone to distractions.  Faithfulness is always a fight when the old Adam still insists we know better than God and we can do better than the Lord.  Faithfulness always seems inconsequential when we want to predict and control the outcomes.  But faithfulness is always exactly enough for the Lord to do what He has promised.  With man it is impossible but with God it is not merely potential but the promise.  He is faithful.  He will do it.  Once we learn this, we shall be freed from so much that is not given us so that we can give ourselves fully to what has been given us to do. 

2 comments:

ErnestO said...

"The doctrine of election reminds us that God has and will to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify those whom He has appointed."

Revelation 20:15 declares, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” The Book of Life, in this context, is the set of names of those who are in Christ on earth and who will live with God forever in heaven. It is the roll of those who are elected (saved), and those are the people we should count and not the thousands who attend church as doubters and unbelievers.

Janis Williams said...

Bonhoeffer reminded those of his time and also after that it is God who builds, not us. Always we are tempted to do things for God either because He is inept, or too slow.