16 December 2009

Working Clothes


by Frank Turk

I’m thinking about work today because I have plenty of it to do. In one sense, I am feeling blessed by my own abundance of tasks and the fact that they aren’t going to change the locks on my door while I’m out for Christmas holidays because I know for certain some of my own friends are not so lucky. Some of you are getting notice that you have Fridays off indefinitely, but they’re going to cut your pay accordingly. Some of you wish you were only getting Fridays off, because let’s face it: CareerBuilder.com is not awash in great-paying, long-term career moves right now.


So today as I put on my working clothes – sport jacket, decent shirt, pressed jeans since it’s the week before vacation, shoes, socks, appropriate undergarments – I was thinking about the kind of work there is to do right now. And layered on top of that is the news article you see to the left over there (click it to blow it up to readable size) about a double-murder here in central Arkansas. You know: it’s Christmas, and you’d think human nature could take two weeks off to give us a break, but it never does. And I don’t know about you, but when I see kids in stories like that one, I think of my own kids, and because I know them and love them I pray to God that there is not an end like that in store for them.

Because let’s face it: there could be. Stories like that one are not only not uncommon, they are ubiquitous. When the world puts on its working clothes, this is the kind of thing that comes of it. This is the kind of world we live in. Usually I have some kind of pithy zinger to throw in to really make you not forget what I’m talking about here, but I got nothin’: if that story doesn’t burn itself into your memory, you’re dead inside – and it’s just 84 words.

And for that reason, we get stories/video like this one:



Which, let’s face it: this really is the work of Christian people. We’re splitting all the hairs over what it means to be “Christian people” over at Evangel this month because of the Manhattan Declaration and some of its more-convicted (to put it mildly) advocates, so let’s not get too bent out of shape here – you know what it means to read that phrase at this blog, so don’t pretend like I’m being vague. I will give you that there are a variety of items in that video which my wife isn’t going to list in my honey-do list, and things I wouldn’t spend the time listing because they are so implausible, but overall that’s how we Christians ought to see the world – as a place where we live out what we believe. While the world has its own work to do, and its own working clothes, we have a different job, and a different set of working clothes to get into and get after.

But here’s the thing: it seems rather obvious to me that the way this video frames it up, there’s no solution in that activity to the problem in the news story about the burned up bodies. If what’s in that video is what the church is all about, it’s a no-contest, one-round knock-out punch, and the world is going to win every time.

So I’m thinking about a different set of working clothes this morning – especially as I try to get myself ready for Christmas amid the busy-ness of life which I am right now blessed with. I’m think of the one who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The working clothes of that guy is where the hope of the world comes from – not from our paltry efforts (however genuinely-good and genuinely-loving they are) to make the world a better place. We don’t believe in good works: we believe in a Lord and Christ, and Sovereign and a Savior who overcomes a world filled with burned-up bodies and the sinful hearts which cause them.

And that’s what we celebrate at Christmas: the working clothes that look like a baby in a feeding trough; the long-suffering and loving-kindness of a God who is with us.

I’ll have one more post before Christmas, but if you miss it or I don’t see you, good tidings of great joy this year.







35 comments:

stratagem said...

If what’s in that video is what the church is all about, it’s a no-contest, one-round knock-out punch, and the world is going to win every time.

Absolutely! And the voice-over essentially saying that "the church" originally was mostly a do-gooder organization with the same goals as UNICEF is poppycock.

Frank Turk said...

I heard the short version of that video as a radio ad this morning (on a local news station, for which I give the Methodists their due), and I alsmost fell over.

David said...

Didn't Jesus say something about taking out ads proclaiming your good works?

SandMan said...

John 19:30
Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

I Corinthians 15:54-55
But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.
"O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?"

That is my confidence when I read these stories. May God grant us boldness to tell it to the lost around us.

Thank you for the post.

Merry Christmas, Frank!

Tim Bertolet said...

At the risk of sounding like I'm being nit picky, I don't get this fascination with the church being "a verb". The New Testament doesn't have problem with it.
But for me, changing this stuff around (e.g. church being a verb) actually weakens my thinking about my Christian life. I end up skipping becoming equipped to go and jump right to the go. If church (assembling) becomes equated with the Christian life (living out love) they both lose something.

I'm not too keen on the idea of the church should scatter and serve so that it can gather. Actually, it should be the other way around. We should gather to worship and be built of the gospel so that we are motivated to go. We let the gospel bear fruit during the week because on the first day the soil of our heart has been tilled by the Holy Spirit. As for Sunday being a reflection on all we've accomplished, don't even get me started or I might get labeled as TR.


Frank, thanks for bringing it back to the gospel and to Jesus' working clothes, not my own.

donsands said...

Excellent lesson.

I believe if the Church had a passion for the Lord's day, not a requirement, nor a nice fulfillment, but a demand from God, and a priviledge, and a joy, then the other six days of the week would be more Lord glorifying and fulfilling as well.

Just a thought, with so many in the Church in our day, and season, who don't think the Lord's Day is that big of a deal.

My pastor uses that phrase, "let's face it" a lot.

Frank Turk said...

I always get frustrated with the way they say it, but the cast of characters at the White Horse Inn are pretty keen on how Sunday ought to essentially fill the tank for sinners like us to be full of the riches of the Gospel so we can love other people in a lavish way.

I think that they are right about that.

The Doulos said...

I don't get this fascination with the church being "a verb".

I don't either. It sounds all missional and servant-like and such, but it's bad ecclesiology. The church is the church, the people of God. The church has a mission, but that mission is not the church. When I hear well-meaning missional types talk about "doing church" I cringe. Church isn't something you "do", it's something God has made/is making, it's something we as Christians "be." Doing the mission of the church flows from first being the church. Conflating the two just brings confusion and marginalizes the gospel.

stratagem said...

Amen, slave. I bet a lot of do-gooders are upset by John 6: 28-29

Ron said...

Hey stratagem,

Ever been to Target Dayton Ministries?

stratagem said...

No, but I just looked at their website. They are a bit south of me (maybe 30 miles).

Ron said...

stratagem,

I serve at Target Dayton. Gospel message every day, not just a meal. Let me know if/when you may want to pay a visit.

The Doulos said...

So I went back and watched the video (couldn't earlier at work, it was blocked.) Even worse than I expected. Use of the term "Church" over and over, some vague references to spirituality and faith and "what we believe" but nothing - whatsoever - establishing what those things are. I have some friends in the local UMC who are lost as can be (including the local UMC minister), and they are all about this kind of stuff. And have no idea what the gospel is.

If this is what the world thinks the church is, then we have nothing to say to them that the Red Cross, UN, any number of relief organizations don't say.

The Doulos said...

Oh and Frank, lest you think I missed your point in the post and just went off on the video and the UMC - here's your most salient point, which I affirm with you:

It seems rather obvious to me that the way this video frames it up, there’s no solution in that activity to the problem in the news story about the burned up bodies.

Exactly. Feliz navidad, mi hermano.

Paul said...

"So today as I put on my working clothes – sport jacket, decent shirt, pressed jeans since it’s the week before vacation, shoes, socks, appropriate undergarments..."

In that order?

Dave .... said...

I say dump the word "church" - it's been so bastardized that it's meaningless.

Ecclesia: people saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross.

Worship: what the ecclesia do when they gather on the Lord's Day specifically to commemorate Him in praise, song, Word, liturgy, and exhortation.

Disciples: grown up ecclesia who live godly in this evil age and do their part to make up what is lacking in Christ's suffering.

Tares: wannabe ecclesia.

Yaddah, yaddah.

Need I go on? Sadly, yes. "Church" has been rendered meaningless as a term of art within the Christian faith. Stop using it.

Humbly,
Dave

Frank Turk said...

Dave --

Might as well do that with "Gospel", "pastor", and "Jesus". Same story.

Unless, of course, they are essential for the central narrative of our faith.

Daryl said...

Might as well do that with "Dad" and "Mom" as well...somedays around here it feels like the kids have redefined those pretty well.

But...nahhh...I think I'd rather teach them what a Dad and a Mom are.

Is that called "Doing Dad?"

Jon said...

I remember seeing part of this add sometime back on a major TV channel. With a few changed words you could have this ad work for any of the humanitarian organizations. Sad indeed.

Being a young Calvinist myself, I always think in the back of my mind that things like this always have a root in Arminian doctrine. They think that if we just do something nice for them or talk like they talk, then they'll want to ask Jesus into their heart and we'll win! Ummm... no.

Proclaim the Gospel, rejoice when God saves, and then help those in need. Most Christians like to do those in reverse order.

If we had encountered the person responsible for killing that father and daughter before that heinous act, would it have been better to buy him a sandwich or share the Gospel with him? What in the end would be more likely to stop a person from committing a horrible act?

Rick Potter said...

My thoughts, and maybe skewed at this particular moment to things going on around me, but how can sanctification trump justification. This is what I "read between the lines" in this video. Use your right living (third use of the law)to daily (6 days, if you will) live out your testimony to a lost and dying world? To do what? Since when will that living example save? Change "Church"? Quit preaching the true gospel message and somehow bring people to salvation by an example of living a sanctified life? I don't know...maybe I'm too obtuse to "get it"!

Rick Potter said...

@Tim,

I agree with these sentiments:

But for me, changing this stuff around (e.g. church being a verb) actually weakens my thinking about my Christian life. I end up skipping becoming equipped to go and jump right to the go. If church (assembling) becomes equated with the Christian life (living out love) they both lose something.

Strong Tower said...

You said something nice about the WHI... I like little Mikey.

You're right to tie this kinda thing to the MD. There is a common thread, and that's the diminution of the Gospel, reducing it to secondary status, putting it on the back burner as a former SBC Pastor of mine once said, doing good and if necessary preaching the Gospel.

For a skeptical world? How can they see by good deeds, Jesus born into the world to free sinners? The world has seen its fill of good deeds and it hasn't changed a thing. That kind of info takes words, words, words. There are many good deeds gospels out there whose good doers die and live no more, but only one Word who became flesh and truly dwells among us for evermore.

The end of the video pretty well sums up the reason for it... your best life now... guilt assuaged... if you only do things.. you can win the fundraiser prize... and even have your picture taken with Obama.

You read that back into the depravity of the murder story, (it makes a father's heart hurt, Cent) or Uganda, Dafur, the Sudan or any one of a billion other acts of man's sin, and hand digging a well just doesn't seem to make the "world a better place, for you, for me." Love ain't all you need, building new schools ain't all you need, neither. They're good, but if those things are not knit together with the enunciation of the curse so people know why bad things continue to happen to good people, and the right understanding that things might not get any better no matter how much free stuff is given away, if doing good is not first founded upon the real reason for doing so, then the real answer isn't given. There's no Gospel in that kinda work, just a lot of sweat.

In fact, the Gospel becomes an inconvenient Truth that interferes with the objectives of workers of social reform.

Jon said...

Another thought on that commercial. If what they are saying is true then the Hollywood elite have and will always beat us. Just look at how many humanitarian causes they support. They have the money and the media to push their "actions, not words" on the world. Christians will never have those types of influence or resources. So, once again, what is our mandate and how will we accomplish it with the resources that God has allotted to us?

Dave .... said...

Frank,

You said, "Might as well do that with "Gospel", "pastor", and "Jesus". Same story. Unless, of course, they are essential for the central narrative of our faith."

That was my, "Sadly, yes." We need to define and defend the faith in biblical terms. Especially within the "church". What the world understands is of little matter.

The key differentiator IN CHRIST (I'm going to go all Pauline on you) is that works are the fruit of salvation, works are NOT the pursuit of salvation. (Alliteration intentional.)

This whole "do church" vs. "be the church" is a sad attempt to substitute participation for discipleship. The Willow Creek Reveal (spring of 2007?) should have made that clear. But it just led to a new round of vapid videos. Makes me believe that the real church won't be revealed except in persecution. Stand by for that. Maranatha!

In ashes,
Dave ....

Reformed and Renewed said...

Profound Frank.

Merry Christmas to y'all in the USA. from the not so free world here in the RSA.

The manhattan declaration? mmm... I thoug of dropping Al Mohler a mail.. but he would probably not read it.

philness said...

Balance I think is the key. On one side you have the "seeker sensitive" and on the other side you have the "fleshly sensitive".

Whats wrong with one member of the body of Christ buying someone a sandwich and another member of the body of Christ sharing the gospel? Are not both incorporated?

If I ask my foot to process where to take me I'll never get anywhere.

And if I spend valuable time grumbling to my foot of its inability to process information- then I'm a fool running in circles.

There are many laborers used in the field during all its seasons before the harvesting.

Who are we to place ourselves more important in His field. Its easy and self fulfilling to always use the gospel card on those whom we have profiled as unbalanced. When we can stop pretending the MD is replacing the gospel and apply the gospel to our own flesh daily we might start tearing down this fortress we've built for ourselves and all get more work done in His field. And besides, there's a certain number of fullness to His harvest and the sooner the better, Amen?

Jon said...

philness said, "Whats wrong with one member of the body of Christ buying someone a sandwich and another member of the body of Christ sharing the gospel? Are not both incorporated?"

I don't have problem with buying someone a sandwich, but when that becomes our first and sometimes only concern then we've wasted our resources on what God has commanded us to do in the first place.

philness said, "When we can stop pretending the MD is replacing the gospel and apply the gospel to..."

Oh boy, stop pretending the MD is replacing the gospel? You have not heard one word of what these guys have been saying on this blog have you? Ugh!

admin said...

Well, we Methodists take the whole sheep and goats thing literally.

To think that Christianity isn't about what we do, only what we believe, is to miss the point of being a part of the Body of Christ.

Because it doesn't stop murder Christians ought not to feed the homeless? Next.

stratagem said...

Because it doesn't stop murder Christians ought not to feed the homeless? Next.

Because it doesn't feed the homeless, we should do as the UMC video suggests and stop preaching the Gospel? Next.

Barbara said...

I think the whole issue got summed up in the focus for Sunday: it was to "reflect on all we accomplished during the week". Not to reflect on what Christ accomplished on the cross.

And I had my name removed from the MD when I read Chuck Colson's words advising that it is a "sort of a catechism for the foundational truths of the faith". That right there answered the question of whether it compromised the Gospel. When one of a document's writers puts social action as a more foundational truth than what Paul called the thing of "First Importance", then it does sound very much like he is proclaiming another gospel. I can be active in the good works which Christ preparaed beforehand for me to walk in, as one who is now His workmanship (Eph. 2:10), but I cannot join hands with those who celebrate creature-worship over the worship of the Creator, who is blessed forever, amen.

Dave .... said...

One of the first tasks in philosophy is typically to define ones terms. Sloppy vocabulary is one of the principal tools of anarchy - that's what going on with the "be the church" movement. While not all are emergent, they use the strategy of obfuscation to achieve their goals and avoid accountability.

They've infiltrated our leadership, corrupted the preaching of the Word, denuded our worship, and set aside the command to make disciples.

They are clouds without rain, they know not Christ (or so it seems), and the spare not the sheep.

Leadership needs to be called out on these issues. There is a lot of slick (slippery?) material out there urging pastors and leaders to buy into this "be the church" hooey. Pity the fool who just wants to be "successful" and leans on the industry rags for who to "do ministry". Have lunch with your pastor and ask him about these things.

Ephemeral Mortal said...

"I’m think of the one who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Yeah, very nice...except it's all a fantasy written decades, if not centuries after the fact. Unless you can provide evidence to the contrary.

DJP said...

LOL. Excellent parody, EM.

And to think there are people so cut off, clueless and full of themselves that they actually talk that way — and mean it!

Score.

Ephemeral Mortal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stratagem said...

I agree, Dan.... what EM wrote is a hoot! Now, I am wishing that someone would top it off by writing a parody suggesting that Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are real people who actually exist! Now THAT would be rich!

Of course, I know that those two don't exist because if they did, why wouldn't they have revealed themselves to me? And why have they allowed evil to continue to exist in the world?