Last Sunday, my son and I visited a nearby Orthodox Presbyterian Church. As a Baptist, I don’t quite fit in there, but then I don’t quite fit in at a lot of Baptist churches either!
I’d visited this church before, some years ago, but my son had never worshiped with Presbyterians. So for him it was an educational field trip, and for me it was a chance to catch up a bit with some friends and former students—and worship together.
The way this congregation worships is always a blessing to me. Call to worship; lots of Scripture reading; psalms and old, old hymns; time for repentance and confession. A place for everything and everything in its place—which could probably work as a tagline for Reformed Theology in general. That orderliness and tidiness can be of great comfort in rapidly changing, chaotic times.
There’s much more I could say in appreciation for this little church, but there’s some reflection and confession I want to get to because of the sermon that morning.
The text was 2 Peter 3:8-13. I reproduce it in full here, because it’s such a joy and such good medicine. If you read it slowly and let it soak in, you might, like me, feel your thinking pop back into proper place like a dislocated joint (that you had somehow not noticed!).
"Of course, our churches do need to grow. They do need to become holier and healthier. Paul knew this. Repentance mattered to him. Just ask the Corinthians. But what first grabbed Paul’s attention when he thought about that rowdy, discriminatory congregation in Corinth? God’s grace (1 Cor. 1:4–9)." - 9 Marks
Religious “Legalism” with a capital “L” is heresy. It’s the belief that one’s personal virtue and obedience to religious norms or standards merits God’s favor and/or salvation. This “do-it-yourself” religion is antithetical to the gospel of Christ and the Bible’s grace-based religion. “For by grace you have been saved through faith,” writes the apostle Paul. He goes on to remark, “This is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). When asked what deeds God requires of men as a condition for eternal life, Jesus surprised his audience with the reply, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29; see also John 3:16, 36; Acts 4:12; 16:30-31; Rom 10:9-13).
I used to think that I could earn God’s favor and salvation on the basis of my inherent virtue and good works. Of course, I admitted I wasn’t perfect. But I foolishly presumed that my good deeds would somehow outweigh my bad deeds. In this respect, I thought and behaved much like the Pharisees, scribes, and Jewish people of Jesus’ day who trusted in their own inherent virtue and religious performance to merit their acceptance before God (Matt 5:20; Luke 16:14-15; 18:9-12, 14; Rom 10:1-3).
"There’s a back and forth—there is a role that we play in our relational life with God. That role is, as Paul puts it, that we are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. Now, how do you do that? I’d say primarily—not exclusively, but primarily—through the classical disciplines of the spiritual life." - CToday
"One of the earliest places we see His character is when He passed by Moses in the rock. Of everything God could proclaim about Himself, He chooses this—'The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness' (Ex 34:6)." Rooted Thinking