Well, here we are, believers in the body of Christ, conscious that our eternal value is based solely upon the work of Christ, originally, now and always, yet living in the world of flesh from day to day.
We are surrounded by a world governed by the paradigms of fleshly value, conditioned and encouraged on every front that success is to be found in taking pride in ourselves.
Even within the church, much of the focus is on worldly matters, albeit with a superficial nod towards the Lord. Activities are created and evaluated with business models. Congregational success is evaluated related to resources and programs. Preaching is too often based upon the secular to provide the relevance which the Word of God is deemed to lack. Certainly many good and worthwhile accomplishments are put forth in support of the community and family, but, and it is a crucial but, Christ and Him crucified is on the far back burner. Similarly off the radar are foundational knowledge of Scripture and it’s meaning beyond worldly or sociological examples. One would think at times that a current movie clip or pop song was the answer instead of Scripture. Sound silly? If so, then you haven’t been watching closely…
In stark contrast, we have the Apostle Paul in Galatians 6:14 placing the sole justification for his value, the work of our Lord, squarely in our face through his example. We may read it and possibly gloss over it, but in the conviction of the Spirit there is no escaping the reality of Paul’s defacto challenge to our normal paradigm of living and our congregational priorities. In the writing of the New Testament, I believe that this eternal challenge to borderline apostasy was part of the intent. Judging from the situation we see about us, the inspiring Spirit appears to have had one eye on the future. Paul was archetypal in so many ways, and this particular way is probably even more applicable now than in early church times (a speculative assumption admittedly).
So, what to do (makes me think of the Mad Hatter for some reason)…
One popular interpretation of this quandary from the more recent past times (last few hundred years give or take) was to assume that the requirement was was to take an ascetic approach to piety. This generally included negative paradigms of denial, with more being deemed better. Though tempting on the surface, this is a trivialization of the task of living in the world, and would seem to stand in denial of other Scriptural proscriptions to live joyously in our salvation. The doctrine of outward asceticism is both dated and inappropriate. At the same time, however, we are not called to revel and wallow in the world of the flesh in any way the contravenes the tenants of the New Convent, as outlined variously by our Lord through the New Testament.
So, back to what to do…
A comment on the previous post supplied a great list of things that are swirling about us as modern priorities in church life. Taking a negative approach, these might be a good start at listing what not to do. At the risk of being accused of being too simplistic for our modern times (guilty as charged!), I would somewhat boldly suggest that we take Paul at face value. Our cause for celebration is not the assembly or congregation, not the family, not good works, not even the fruits of the Spirit. Our cause for celebration and gathering is is solely our status in Christ and His accomplishments.
We celebrate (aka worship) Him in all aspects, and His work in our lives. By extension, since the Word is Him, we read, proclaim, study, discuss and celebrate it as well. We proclaim these things in and to the world, ignoring the perception of foolishness. We support these activities variously as we can. And we do not make any attempt to improve the message. Scripture states that it is the vehicle for understanding and evangelism. It does not state that is has an expiry date or needs updating or embellishing. In fact, such matters are implied to be very dangerous and in places ascribed to be marks of the apostasy to come.
Does this imply old, dry, droning lectures. To borrow from and paraphrase Paul, “May it never be”. That is a function of presentation, not content. However, it does mean proclamation of the Word, not movie or sound bite clips for sociological relevance or increased entertainment.
The Word and the celebration of Christ is made relevant to those who will be saved by the Spirit, not by men.
There you have it. There are probably better ways to spell it out, but it is simply Christ, His word and His work, and that alone. Let us celebrate those things in following Him, casting aside the rest as the true foolishness.