Saturday, July 25, 2009

Modeling our response to the Gospel

Sometimes I get frustrated. You see, I'm a brute force kinda guy. Someone tells me I can't do something and I'll brute force it until it gets done. There's a deadline? Nothing a little will, plan and a whole lot of coffee can't accomplish. There are some things that a brute force kinda guy can get done really well. Projects, be they mental or physical, can get done in half the time one would think when you just swear to yourself you won't sleep until its done. I wish all aspects of being a Christian leader were that easy.

One responsibility we all have is to model submission to the gospel to our families. When hard times, hurt feelings, or utter catastrophes hit, we need to be there to direct traffic. "Yes, this sucks, but guess what? God is still sovereign." "I'm sorry, I thought of myself before thinking of you. I acted out of selfishness, concerned only with what I desire or deserve. Christ loved his church all the way to the cross and I totally biffed it. I'm sorry."

The hard part of this is that the natural heart automatically resorts to rebellion and anger against God--even more so when we are hurt or afraid. Rebellion against God is acted out by relying on our own strength instead of faithfulness to Him. Either we are angry and revert to un-biblical views of our or another's worth, or we are afraid of what we cannot control, judging possibilities solely from our own, pathetic ability. In either case we have dumped all biblical identity and resorted to making ourselves an idol.

So how does a man lead his family through rebellion? Challies just posted about Whitefield's attempt to brute force his way through a rebellious child. Suffice it to say that the great preacher physically forced the child (with maybe a strike or two) to say his prayers and then gave him some figs as a reward. I'll tell you what. I feel just like Whitefield more often than not. Caveat: I'm not talking about hitting, striking, holding someones feet to the ground until they will bow to say their prayers -- nor am I making any statement (pro or con) for certain types of discipline. I know how we need to respond to certain situations. To the hard times. To the catastrophes. At least I am trying to know. But you can't force someone else into submission. You can't make someone pray. You can't make them submit to the word.

Here are some thoughts on the matter:

14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, - Eph 3:14-15

1) Paul modeled it. At this point in Ephesians Paul was so overwhelmed with God's cosmic plan for His creation that he (Paul) could do nothing else than to drop to his knees and bow before his Cosmic King. His bowing was characteristic of the submission that is a proper response to the Gospel. By telling his readers his physical state of submission to his King, he was inviting them to bow as well. As Paul repeatedly in scripture offers himself as a sacrifice of imitation ("do as I do"), so we should believe that he here too is inviting them to model their behavior after his own.

2) Paul preached it. Paul's modeling of submission was a direct response to his preaching and explaining all the reasons we are to submit. He spent the good part of three chapters explaining the Glory of God and His plan before responding with an invitation to submission. The Gospel preached is powerful in and of itself. It is through the clear presentation of God's entirely objective and real truth that lives are transformed. The Holy Spirit will quicken the heart and regenerate the mind when the Gospel is preached.

3) Paul preached it until the day of his death. He didn't give up. His letters are proof that what people will "get" at one point needs to be driven home day after day, year after year. Paul even points out times when he is plainly repeating what he preached to them in person. He understood that a Christian is either growing in Christ or they are dying.

I know. You aren't a preacher. No, I don't expect you to deliver sermons in your living room. But you have to model it. They are watching you. They are waiting for your cues. Model it. Show them what submission looks like. Talk them through what you are doing and why it is in accordance with Scripture. Know that at times they are just going to hate you. It is like you are trying to tear their heart in half. The rebellious heart hates the gospel. Keep at it. Over an over again. It's going to seem like you aren't getting anywhere. In your anger, frustration, or just flat out exhaustion you are going to try to brute force it. You might yell. You might try to mandate or require physical manifestations of submission that can only legitimately be born from the heart. Don't do it. God's faithfulness always manifests itself in the perseverance of the saints. That goes for all of you.


  1. First of all, Zack, it is hard to imagine you as a "brute force" guy! But perhaps the ones who are gentle in spirit are also the ones who are most sensitive to the tendency to "bruteness" within.

    What you say is all too true. Force does NOT work even when we have the best intentions for our families, when our hearts are pure and we feel we are following the orders of God! (Just ask my kids how successful verbal force was with them!) As mom of four and grandmother of three (and teacher and preacher and one who crafts words for a living), I so need a heart that is submitted and an ear that listens before ever speaking a word or putting pen to paper.

    Dorothy M. Peters

  2. So true. I am finding more and more that just when I want to force an outcome, if I stop, and if _I_ submit, God will do the heart changing. The problem still lies with me. I still want to rely on my own power to work out the supposed godly outcome. Shoot, rebellion for parents/spouses is probably more of a tool to shave off the parts of our souls that are still rough with our own desire for self-reliance and efficacy (will to power??? jk). Really good to hear from you again Dorothy. I'll have to give you a call sometime soon.

  3. First of all, it's good to read your stuff again. I just want to warn you though, I might not agree with everything you say. I'm a dirty Fuller liberal now - or so they say. And please don't take offence by the questions below - they are merely to understand your worldview and your doctrine.

    1. How do you interperate the Gospel? And how does one "model submission"to said Gospel? If by prayer and preaching as you suggest; what do we pray and what do we preach and what does that look like?

    2. You use the term "Christian Leader", are you refering to a certain sex, in a certain family context? How does this view apply to me, a single 26 year old, living in community?

    3. (This is something that i've been struggling with for years) What is the soverinty of God? At the end of the day, hour, minute I have to make choices. Said choices affect my future tommorow, next year, the rest of my life. Freedom is the cornerstone of our faith - mainy of the choices I have made, have not led me in rebelion from God, but from doubting my self.

    Choices that were not sinful or bad, they just wha t they were, a bad choice in a the wrong moment.

  4. A pomo liberal fullerite huh? whatever happened to that cuddly conservative charismatic we all knew and loved? ;)

    1, 3) The Gospel and sovereignty of God are described in Ephesians 1-2. Basically, God had a plan before the world was created. He predestined a people to be his own for the purpose of bringing him glory. Christians are not made by creative arguments and fancy rhetoric, but by the grace of God. It is only through his power can we be brought from true, actual, honest-to-goodness death to life in his Son.

    2) As to the title of the blog, I am kinda focusing on what it means to be a christian leader in my (newly) married context. Does a Christian leader have to be married? The life of Paul would say "no."

    But of course, you probably aren't just looking for the naming of the blog, you are probably asking about my views of Christian leadership in general. Well, I am a complimentarian, but not because I chose it, because that's what the Bible teaches ;).

    For you, a single guy living in community, I would suggest (as if I have room to suggest) that you continue to grow in Christ. You will have a wife one day, and no matter how egalitarian you want to be, she will still look to you to lead her. That's the way God made us and when we try to fight that we distort the natural order that God created we only end with discord and confusion.

    And the flaming begins.

    P.S. I am exhausted and just spent three hours driving down the highway going 50mph because the wind was trying to rip my kayak off the roof. Fixed it with a new roof rack and then drove a whole buncha more hours, so I reserve the right to come back and clean up the writing.