Monday, April 12, 2021

What We Need Is Christ!

In the evening sermon on April 11, we saw that Philippians 2:9–11 is drawing on Isaiah 45:21–25 to declare that Jesus is Yahweh—the Name that is above all other names—because He has saved us, and only the Lord can save.

That's basic, Christian doctrine. Only the Lord can save. Only the Lord can sanctify. And He does this by giving to us Himself.

But it is functionally denied by many in the churches. A discussion with someone who has rejected the biblical and Reformed prohibition against images of the Lord Jesus (cf. WLC 109) inevitably touches upon how we mightn't use them for worship, but how helpful they can be for instruction. As HC 98 rightly recognizes, that sort of reasoning is rubbish, precisely because it is God Who must choose how to teach His people.

The same is true when it comes to manmade additions to the public worship of God, the following of the church calendar, etc. It seems like otherwise Reformed people suddenly fall back upon how helpful or meaningful they find it. But that makes us the judges of what is helpful or what is meaningful. It's the same mistake that others make with the images.

Because I am desperate for God the Spirit to attend the ministry with His power, and convinced that we have nothing in or from ourselves that can glorify God or do good to His people, I'm unwilling to add anything that hasn't come from His Word. This means that sometimes people's love for those things of a merely human origin has led to a dissatisfaction with the ministry. So be it. It is only my flesh that wants them to find my ministry satisfying anyway; in the Spirit, my desire is that they would be satisfied with Christ in the ministry. 

And I know that we are complex beings, and that for those who genuinely love Christ, it is very easy to confuse ourselves about what it is that we are finding satisfying—especially because He has been merciful and gracious and met us often, even when we were doing things that were from us and not from Him. That of course doesn't justify what we are doing, and it becomes a judgment from God if He gives us over to thinking that our religious traditions are justified by how "helpful" we think they have been.

But there is one thing that has occasionally happened to show this most starkly. Someone will find that the Lord is meeting them in the means of grace. He will see that the Lord is meeting his family as well. He will see the effects that Christ is producing in him, and in his family, and in the congregation around him. So far so good. I'm not thinking, in this article, about those who go to church merely to feel spiritual things or do spiritual-feeling things. It's no use to reason with such an one from the glory of Christ or from our desperate need for Christ.

But even for someone who genuinely loves and needs Christ, but has been exposed to manmade traditions (from worship-set Christianity to Episcoterianism or anything in between) there will be some manmade thing that he just gets to missing so much in the worship. Or some manmade religious tradition. And eventually, he will reason that he can go elsewhere, still get the means by which Christ gives Himself to us, but also get those things that he has so intensely been missing. 

He doesn't see it, but when one begins to reason this way, God's providence is discovering to him that he doesn't feel Christ Himself to be enough. And at immediately this point of spiritual need, he is being tempted to remove himself to a church where utter dependence upon Christ is not entirely driving worship and ministry decisions. It's the opposite of what he needs.

It's like the man with his purported Jesus pictures. His feeling that they are helpful is itself an indicator that, to grow and mature himself out of such feelings, he needs the real help of the real Christ by the real Spirit, which we can only rightly seek by the means that He Himself has given.

Now, I've been discussing what we need because I hope to help those who feel pulled by what they feel is helpful or meaningful to them. But what we need is really only of secondary importance. The issue of ultimate importance is what glorifies God. What God says to do. Refusing to sin by adding to that. Refusing to add to that sin by reasoning that our additions are good. 

But when we weigh such questions, we discover that finding manmade religion helpful or meaningful is itself an indicator that what we need at that moment is not to indulge our inclinations but that help which is opposite our inclinations.

The reason that these two things intersect is because in God's marvelous grace, He has been pleased to glorify Himself by making Himself our Help. What a marvelous and generous and glorious God He is! And what fools we are who think that we can add to either His grace or His glory.

What men need, when they find manmade religion helpful, is this glorious God Himself, by only that religion in which He has chosen to be glorified by giving Himself.

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