Community in the Presence of God

Tim Keller: Community exists to the degree people are saying to one another, ‘What’s mine is yours.’ We’re not just talking about money at all. As a matter of fact, you can have communism without any community at all, right? You can have a forced redistribution of wealth without any community. Community has to do first of all with what is in the heart. For example, in the church if somebody comes to me and says, ‘Do you know what? I don’t like the way in which you are treating your children.’ What if I say, ‘That’s none of your business?’ I have no concept then of community, no concept of what the Bible says the church is. I’m a radical, American individualist, but I have no idea about this, because you see, my sins are your business. The Bible says, ‘… confess your sins to one another …’ ‘Bear one another’s burdens …’ That means we don’t just share

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Gospel + safety + time

  Ray Ortlund: Gospel + safety + time.  It’s what everyone needs.  A lot of gospel + a lot of safety + a lot of time. Gospel: good news for bad people through the finished work of Christ on the cross and the endless power of the Holy Spirit.  Multiple exposures.  Constant immersion.  Wave upon wave of grace and truth, according to the Bible. Safety: a non-accusing environment.  No finger-pointing.  No embarrassing anyone.  No manipulation.  No oppression.  No condescension.  But respect and sympathy and understanding, where sinners can confess and unburden their souls. Time: no pressure.  Not even self-imposed pressure.  No deadlines on growth.  Urgency, but not hurry, because no one changes quickly.  A lot of space for complicated people to rethink their lives at a deep level.  God is patient. This is what our churches must be: gentle environments of gospel + safety + time.  It’s where we’re finally free to grow.

Gospel Fellowship

Dane Ortlund: Silly Peter: ‘Before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles, but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party’ (Gal 2:12). Fellowship broke. Now how does Paul handle this? Certainly, he rebukes Peter—’I opposed him to his face’ (2:11). Yet how does Paul do this? What is his diagnosis?Paul identifies Peter’s error as gospel error. ‘I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel’ (2:14). What was Peter’s mistake? Gospel leakage. But in what way was Peter’s heart leaking out gospel? How specifically was he not believing the gospel?The text tells us: ‘fearing the circumcision party’ (2:12). Fear. That was what drove Peter. To sum up: Paul says Peter feared other men, causing him to not walk in step with the gospel, causing him to introduce all kinds of dysfunction into his relationships with other people. I conclude: the gospel liberates us not only from

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What Should You Be Thinking about During the Lord’s Supper

  J. I. Packer: I don’t think we can ever say too much about the importance of an active exercise of mind and heart at the communion service. . . . Holy Communion demands us of private preparation of heart before the Lord before we come to the table. We need to prepare ourselves for fellowship with Jesus Christ the Lord, who meets us in this ceremony. We should think of him both as the host of the communion table and as enthroned on the true Mount Zion referred to in Hebrews 12, the city of the living God where the glorified saints and the angels are. The Lord from his throne catches us up by his Spirit and brings us into fellowship with himself there in glory. He certainly comes down to meet us here, but he then catches us up into fellowship with him and the great host of others who are eternally worshipping him there. We are

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Seven ways we can guard and repair relationships

Excellent from Ray Ortlund: 1.  We can rejoice in one another, because the Lord rejoices in us. Psalm 16:3 sets the tone: “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”  There is excellence to admire in every Christian. 2.  We can create an environment of trust rather than negative scrutiny. 1 Corinthians 4:5 says, “Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.”  Human eyes are not competent to judge human hearts. 3.  We can judge ourselves, even as we give each other the benefit of the doubt. Matthew 7:5 says, “First take the log out of your own eye.” 4.  If a problem must be addressed, we can talk to, not about.  Gossip destroys. Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”  James

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Tom Nettles on the importance of building life-giving doctrine into the ethos of church

From Justin Taylor: Joe Thorn has a helpful interview with Professor Tom Nettles (Southern Seminary) on “experiential theology.” Here is one exchange that pastors especially will find interesting and stimulating: What advice would you give to pastors and church planters to develop themselves and their churches theologically? The conviction that doctrine is a transformative power must be present from the beginning. It cannot be a subsequent development. If piety and doctrine are developed separately, it becomes extremely difficult to put them back together from a pastoral standpoint. The effort will seem artificial, contrived, and as optional for the Christian life. The “practical” will always seem more manageable for the supposedly ordinary Christian, while doctrinal issues and discussion will be seen as the province of a few heady folks. The fostering of this perception is fatal to the health of the body and to the robust faith of each individual Christian. Pastoral counseling suffers in difficult situations from shallow doctrinal development. A

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How To Wreck Your Church in Three Weeks

From Ray Ortlund: How to wreck your church in three weeks: Week One: Walk into church today and think about how long you’ve been a member, how much you’ve sacrificed, how under-appreciated you are.  Take note of every way you’re dissatisfied with your church now.  Take note of every person who displeases you. Meet for coffee this week with another member and “share your heart.”  Discuss how your church is changing, how you are being left out.  Ask your friend who else in the church has “concerns.”  Agree together that you must “pray about it.” Week Two: Send an email to a few other “concerned” members.  Inform them that a groundswell of grievance is surfacing in your church.  Problems have gone unaddressed for too long.  Ask them to keep the matter to themselves “for the sake of the body.” As complaints come in, form them into a petition to demand an accounting from the leaders of the church.  Circulate the petition

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