Justin Perdue: Hi, this is Justin. If you listen to many people talk in the church, it seems that our Christian lives should be characterized by happiness, by excitement, and by always overcoming difficulty. But this life, if we’re honest, is often characterized by pain, toil, and suffering. What exactly do we do with that? And what is it that we’re called to in the church?
Then in the members’ podcast, Jon and I have a conversation about the mission of the church and what it looks like to keep the main things as the main things. We hope that this episode is helpful to you. We hope that it’s liberating and encouraging to you. Stay tuned.
We want to have a conversation today about real Christianity over and against what we might call fantasy Christianity. Fantasy football is something that I’ve never allowed myself to get into because I’m afraid that I would get hooked on it and it would be bad for my life, my marriage and my family—but that’s another conversation for another day.
Fantasy Christianity versus real Christianity. We live in a world that’s fallen and it’s a world characterized therefore by suffering, by toil, and often by hardship. It’s not that there aren’t pleasant things in life. It’s not that there’s nothing good. God and truth remain—all of that is true. There is a point to this life. But a lot of times, as human beings in a general way—and more specifically for the purposes of our podcast—people in the church have very unhelpful notions of what life should be like or what life will be like, and in particular, what the Christian life will be like.
We’ve talked about things like triumphalism where everything is happy clappy. The trajectory of the Christian life is just always onward and upward. We’ve discussed those things before. Today we want to talk about a realistic approach to trusting Christ and living life in the church. We want to recalibrate expectations in ways that we think are biblical and in ways that we hope will set people free from a bondage that they maybe have placed themselves under because their lives don’t look like they think they should look. We want to just have an honest discussion and a transparent discussion about suffering, toil, struggle, and pain, and what those look like in light of God and His faithfulness, as well as the promises that He has made to us in Christ. We also want to think about what we’re called to as followers of Jesus in the church.
Personally, I’m hopeful that this is a conversation that is comforting to people—that is liberating for people, that it doesn’t depress people but will give them an honest, sincere, and realistic hope in Christ, and perhaps a better handle on the things that are most important and what we’re called to in terms of our life together in the church.
Why don’t we start out maybe by just talking in a real and honest way about life in this world?
Jon Moffitt: We’ve been told that in Christianity, the primary focus within the Christian life is our improvement—how we become better and better morally. We’re told it is all about self-discipline and it is all about our relationship with God.
We had a visitor at our men’s Bible study last night. We were talking about how the very nature of communion—or common union—is communal meaning you come together as a unified community. We were having this conversation on how to have communion by yourself. It was the epitome of modern day Christianity where it was asking how I can do this by myself. How do I do this on my own? How do I become a self-made man? How do I become the self-made woman where I can look back and be proud of my accomplishments? Where most Christians look back and they’re humiliated by what they haven’t accomplished, what they haven’t done, what they failed in, and the amount of sin that still remains in their life.
If someone’s honest with themselves, there’s nothing to be proud of. You may not be a murderer, you may not be the worst parent in the world, but there’s plenty to be ashamed of and be guilty of within any and all areas of your life. Then you go to church and you hear about how you need to be better and you’re just not. You’re not better.
I had this thought the other night as I was lying in bed. I was thinking about politics, the presidential debate, and just what a circus that was. Then I started thinking about the world in general: the United States is not the only country that’s fractured right now. The world is falling apart, but the world has been falling apart for how long now? It sounds like from the garden of Eden.
Justin Perdue: Pretty much from the jump.
Jon Moffitt: We have been told that everybody has these plans for utopia. Everybody has these ideas of how the world can be made better. Then you start wondering, “What are we doing anyways? What is life all about?” Because it doesn’t matter what anybody does—they die, they suffer and there’s pain. It doesn’t seem like there’s any solution that’s being offered.
Justin Perdue: There’s a pretty good book that’s been written on a lot of this stuff that we’re discussing and it’s called Ecclesiastes. I would highly recommend it to people where they could listen to Solomon, who was given wisdom that was superior to any man that had lived or lived since. God gave him a unique insight into the things of this world, God, and everything else. He writes a lot and says that there is a vanity to this life, and that there is a toil and a struggle that’s associated with life under the sun. There are so many things that happen that are just bad. He writes in a way that we don’t let ourselves talk in the church a lot of times. He acknowledges that there are things that are just wrong and hard, and that things should not be this way and yet they are this way. What do we do with that?
A lot of times, people want to come in and put their hands over Solomon’s mouth, so to speak, with respect to Ecclesiastes. It’s like they are saying, “You shouldn’t talk like that in the church. It shouldn’t be this way.” But Solomon is retorting, “But it is this way. So what do you got for me?”
It does nobody any good to diminish the hardness of difficulty, pain, and suffering. We don’t want to act like things are just easier than they are, and we don’t want to wallow in self-pity, but at the same time, we need to acknowledge the difficulty of the hard. We live in a world where we bury our children, people suffer, cancer is a thing, financial hardship is a thing, and hunger is a thing, and sin runs rampant. Only a fool would look around and say that things are as they should be and all is well because it’s not—it’s not yet. As God’s people in the church, we want to be able to call things as they really are.
Citing Ecclesiastes 3:11: “God has written eternity into the hearts of man.” We do all have a longing for utopia, and we have a longing for the epoch. The problem is we so often think that that’s what life should be like now, and we expect it to be that now. If we just think the right way, if we are just disciplined in the right ways, if we just get our theology straight, if we just get our hearts right, and if we just get our minds right and all these things, then we can be delivered from suffering, weakness, pain, toil, and struggle.
The response to that biblically is you have been redeemed by Jesus Christ if you’re trusting him. At the same time, you have not been bodily resurrected yet unto this incorruptible existence that will be your reality forever. That has not happened yet.
We want to be able to help people think about what they can expect in this life. At the same time, we want to make sure they don’t fall off the other side of the horse into this nihilistic, everything-is-meaningless perspective, or this cynical jaded approach where everything is not right we may as well stick our heads in the sand because it’s all going to hell in a handbasket.
Jon Moffitt: My kids suffer from this. If they can’t do something perfect, they don’t want to do it at all. That’s not how life works, because it’s almost like if I can’t have utopia now, or if this isn’t the design that God has for me, then why care at all?
In the Bible study I was in last night, there were some prayer requests that were offered and they were just painful. They’re really, really hard. There were people suffering from cancer, and children that may not be viable at birth—there’s a lot. Then you tell people that we need to have faith and trust in the Lord, that God will provide, and all things will work for good.
Justin Perdue: Have contentment in all things…
Jon Moffitt: Right. People go home to their quiet homes, or to their messy homes where there are kids screaming, and all those platitudes mean nothing. They still have anxiety, they still are suffering, they’re still hurting and upset and angry.
Justin Perdue: The whole “God works all things together for good” in Romans 8:28 is something that people slap up on the refrigerator and then act like the problem of pain has been solved. We should not be that reductionistic. I know you and I agree on this: that promise of Romans 8:28—and all the promises of Romans 8:28—are eternal promises. They are true and they are real in terms of what God has done, is doing, and will do for us eternally speaking. At the same time, none of those promises mean that our lives will go well. It is a fool’s errand for us to try to read through all the lines of God’s providence to try to figure out exactly what He’s doing because that’s, that’s not what they’re for. For me to look at the difficulty and suffering and think, “Well, God’s working all this for good so let me just mind through all this and try to find the good.” I think you will exhaust yourself if you do it that way. But what you’re clinging to is the eternal hope in the promises that God has made to you through Christ, and that at the end of the day it will all be well. People go back to their homes and they’re still angry, they’re still sad, and they’re still anxious. What do we do with that?
Jon Moffitt: Our men’s group is going through Truth We Can Touch by Tim Chester—which we’ll probably do a podcast on that soon. He gives this illustration of someone saying, “Christ is sufficient for you,” and the single mom who is going to go home to an empty house where she longs for human touch—to be held by a man who will love her, care for her, and be a father to her child. How is Christ enough for her at that moment? That’s where reality sets in when. When a spouse dies and then they go to church and they hear Christ is enough—how? How is Christ enough? This is the fantasy side of Christianity where we just throw phrases around.
This is what people do in funerals. They say that the most unhelpful—
Justin Perdue: They mean well but they say things that are frankly stupid.
Jon Moffitt: Right. They’ve been trained to say the most unbiblical things. This is why Paul says you weep with those people, you close your mouth and you cry with them, because that’s the appropriate thing to do. One of the things that we want to always do is we want to solve the problem—but you can’t solve the problem. It’s unsolvable. You can’t fix it. That’s where Christianity thinks we have the answer for everything and there’s no mystery involved. I am speaking from a lot of hurt and because I’m so tired of seeing Christians suffer needlessly when they can have hope, but that hope is being offered in a way that is so unbiblical that it actually squashes the real hope.
Justin Perdue: The promises of God to us in Jesus do not take pain away. In the moment, it doesn’t take grief away. It does give us a framework and a filter to kind of push that pain through, but for us to think that saying Christ is enough is going to make somebody feel better about the death of a loved one, or a cancer diagnosis, or whatever it may be, is foolish—and we’re going to get to why those promises matter and what they really are intended to do for us as Christians in just a minute.
But even along these same lines, if you think about James 1 where James tells us to consider it joy when we encounter trials of various kinds because of what God is doing in us, He is working in us to produce really good things, and people will often cite that and say, “You’re going through some terrible stuff, but you need to consider it joy because you’re encountering trials and God’s going to do good through this.” To that I want to say that yes, that’s true, but James’ theology in James 1 is a statement about the greatness of God to be able to work through pain and suffering to produce good. It is not a statement about the goodness of the trial and suffering. Trials and suffering, by definition, are bad. The miracle is that God actually uses pain, suffering, and other bad things to produce good in His people.
Jon Moffitt: Steadfastness is what he says.
Justin Perdue: Exactly: steadfastness. What is that? It’s a continued hoping and trusting in Christ and the promises of God through him—and we could have a great conversation about that sometime. But it’s not as though we should invite suffering upon ourselves, that we should look for trial, that we should pray for it so that we might be sanctified. These things that God uses in our lives are things that we would never sign up for. Again, it’s a statement about His faithfulness and goodness to us, not about the fact that trials are good or that suffering is good or that death is good. None of those things are good. We need to stop talking in reductionistic foolish ways like that in the church. It sounds really spiritual but if you think about it for like five seconds, it becomes quite clear that this is crazy talk. You’re telling me that my cancer is a blessing, or the death of my loved one is a blessing from the Lord. No, it’s not. It’s terrible. And yes, I continue to trust the Lord. I don’t want to get too far mired in the weeds.
Jon Moffitt: No, you’re good. Fantasy Christianity: everything that’s been offered to you is not real; it never can be and never will be, and you most likely are feeling it. If you’re listening to this podcast and you know that what you’ve been offered from Christianity was never delivered… It’s like that goal post that keeps getting moved. The moment you think you’re going to achieve it, they just move it again.
Justin Perdue: It’s like what we said a few weeks ago on how it’s like Linus, Lucy, and the football. Every time you come up to kick the ball, it’s just removed from you and you’re on your back.
Jon Moffitt: Real Christianity, or Christianity that comes from Scripture, we would argue, comes from a Reformed perspective—Reformed meaning that the way in which the Bible has historically been understood and applied comes from this tradition that was regained during the Reformation. We hold to a covenantal Reformed perspective, from a Reformed Baptist 1689 perspective, and so a lot of what we’re about to say comes from our understanding of Scripture.
I will tell you that real Christianity is more than this, but if we’re going to make it simple for our conversation today, I would say that the purpose of the Christian life going forward and what is offered to you, first of all, is a real and sure hope.
Justin Perdue: A sure and lasting hope.
Jon Moffitt: Right. Everything that the Christian life is drawing you towards is not assurance in yourself, not assurity in yourself, not the assurance in your moral improvement, or your performance improvement where you’re performing better than you were before. Christianity is driving you towards a hope that is outside of yourself and a hope that is not in your faith—you’re not having faith in your faith, but you’re putting faith in the object of your faith, which is Christ. The entire Christian structure, real Christianity, is about the day in and day out structure that is pushing you towards the hope that is outside of your current circumstances.
I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where you are told to put your hope in your current circumstances. These circumstances cannot bring hope because we live in an “already, but not yet” situation, meaning that I’m already a child of God but I’m not yet living with Him. I’m already considered pure and holy but I am not living in that reality because I don’t have the new body that Christ has promised me yet.
Justin Perdue: Right. God tells me all the time that he is faithful and that He loves me, and yet my life is just racked with pain and suffering. How do I reconcile those things?
Jon Moffitt: If He truly loved me, why wouldn’t He prevent this from happening? Why would He prevent my child from dying, or from getting cancer, or from this and this and this?
We live in that constant tension. We have to understand a biblical worldview that’s real Christianity. The real Christianity is that God has a purpose and a will that He is accomplishing—and we don’t fully understand that. That’s the mystery of Christianity. We don’t fully understand how God is accomplishing what He is doing because I don’t understand all of the pain and suffering that goes on in this world, but it’s not needless.
Justin Perdue: That’s entirely right. This sure and lasting hope—that we have is found in Jesus Christ and in him alone—is outside of us and stands unchanged regardless of how we’re doing or how we’re feeling or what we’re thinking. Jesus Christ will carry the day, he has saved us, is saving us, and will save us, and we trust and rest in him. The deliverance is coming but it’s not here yet.
Even to think about Paul’s language that is quoted often, that he has learned contentment in all things: the only way that you learn contentment in all things is to realize that there is something more ultimate that’s coming. Or when Paul will say that these light and momentary afflictions are not worth comparing to the glory that awaits us—that again is a statement about the greatness of the glory that is ours in Christ. That will be our experience one day. It’s not a statement about the fact that the trials are actually small; many of them are huge. We are orienting ourselves and clinging to this steadfast, lasting, and certain hope that we have in Christ. At the end of the day, a lot of times that’s all we have the cling to because everything around us is giving way. We sing, “When all around my soul gives away, he then has all my hope and stay.” That’s essentially our experience, but a lot of times we’re in the midst of stuff that are really, really hard.
Jon Moffitt: To add what you’re saying, when I say real Christianity is about a sure hope, what people assume I’m saying is that we need to just focus in on the gospel. They think that if we just focus in on the gospel, we’ll have that sure hope. Actually, I’m not saying that. What I’m trying to say is that your sure hope, as it’s handed to you, comes from outside of yourself and the way that it’s sustained in you comes from outside of yourself. It has nothing to do with your individual effort.
Justin Perdue: A lot of times, even when we talk about this sure and lasting hope, we’re clinging to Christ, even in those moments, my mind and my heart are all over the place. I don’t feel it, I’m not in a good place mentally or emotionally or even spiritually sometimes, and I’m just acknowledging the fact that I’m a wreck and that things aren’t going well in my life. I’m feeling all kinds of ways about that. When we say that the sure and lasting hope is found in Christ and the gospel, that does not mean that it will produce a feeling of contentment within you all the time. It doesn’t mean that it will produce a feeling of peace in your soul all the time. What we mean is that even when you are not content, and even when you are anxious as the day is long, Christ has you and he is not going to let you go. It’s not like the gospel is this consolation that is going to make you feel differently every time you think upon the Lord Jesus.
I’m going to offer a quote from CS Lewis that I think is really good, and that also speaks to some of what we’re getting at. He says, “Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.” For anybody that’s interested, that is taken from his book called A Grief Observed that he wrote after his wife died. He wrote it under a pseudonym because he was so concerned that those who had been influenced and impacted by his writings would be devastated to see his wrestlings with life and suffering and pain. But then later on, it was published under his name. It’s a good read for people that are able to really look into the heart and mind of a man they respect and trust, and then see him all over the place mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But even a man like CS Lewis, who many of us have profited from, was not immune to the things that we’re talking about because this is every Christian’s experience.
Jon Moffitt: One of the conversations that Justin and I had this morning was about sports and TV shows. Justin made this observation about how a lot of sports movies depict the kind of the 1% reality, and even its fantasize of what football is. (Justin grew up playing college football.) What you see on TV and in movies show you the high points, and everybody assumes that’s what playing football is like—and it’s not. If anybody’s ever played sports, you understand that the majority of it is the grind day in and day out, and working and practicing. It’s all the mundane things that are not fun. They’re not enjoyable. They’re actually just pure pain and work.
When we talk about a sure hope, the fantasy Christianity is that you show up on Sunday morning and there’s this hoopla: it’s all hype, it’s big, and it’s glorious. You hear people say they want Monday through Saturday to feel like Sunday at 10:00 AM. They assume that somehow, if they can get there by listening to Christian music and reading Christian books, that they can live on that spiritual high. They assume then that if they live in that spiritual high, the rest of their life is going to fall in line with it. That’s actually what they’re told on Sunday mornings as well. That’s not the sheer hope we’re talking about.
Justin Perdue: I could riff on the whole football thing. When you’re practicing, you’re wearing helmets that don’t have decals on them. Your practice gear is very plain looking, it’s not shiny, it’s not Spat It Up, and you’re not wearing armbands. It’s not this ra-ra excitement all the time. A lot of times, the last thing in the world you want to do is go to practice. The game is not the Hollywood dramatic reality as it is depicted; if anything more violent, but it’s more of a grind.
I had a great conversation with a brother in our church yesterday about his job. He has recently taken a job that he likes and that he wanted. He said he was glad to have gotten the job and is thankful for it, but he’s really glad when Friday comes and he has the weekend off because he’s tired by the time Friday rolls around. We talked about how this modern notion that you should love your job so much that you’ll never work a day in your life, and how that’s the goal and that’s the ideal. It’s utter nonsense because the reality for humans for thousands of years has been that they are toiling in their jobs. Last time I checked, the curse in Genesis 3 is still a thing. There’s going to be toil in our labor, and until Christ returns, that will be true. There’s going to be futility in a lot of the things that we do in life under the sun. Until Christ returns, that will be true.
We are foolish if we think—with respect to our jobs or any arena of life—that we’re always going to be like springing out of bed every day because we’re just so excited to go live this day. You’re going to have some stuff that’s good, you’re going to have some days that are pleasant, and you’re going to have things to look forward to—and thank God for that. At the same time, for many weeks of your life, you’re going to look at your day planner and think, “I do not want to do a single thing that’s on there.” That’s just the reality that we all are faced with, and I think we would be much helped by a perspective of being created for the epic but the epic is not here yet. We were created for a perfect existence, but it’s not here yet. God and truth remain, and so there will be good things—praise be to His name. I want to receive those with gratitude. At the same time, I expect there to be toil and hardship, but I am going to aim to trust God through it and realize that I’m going to feel different ways at different times about it.
I also realize that I’m going to be in need of my brothers and sisters in the church to come alongside me, to help me bear these burdens, to point me to Christ—that sure and lasting hope that’s mine and that’s ours. But I’m also going to need people to weep with me. I’m going to need people to lock arms with me as we make our way along in this pilgrimage to the Celestial City that will be epic, perfect, blissful, and awesome. But we’re not there yet.
You’ve already mentioned the sure and lasting hope that we’re called to. We’re also called to a fellowship of love in the church.
Jon Moffitt: When you think about life looking like this, what does Christianity look like within the painful, confusing, sin-struggling world? One of the hopes that we are given is the fellowship of the we’ll have with our Father and in the physical presence of Christ, but also the fellowship of the saints. The one part of eternity we can actually have a glimpse of now is this fellowship. We can’t get rid of pain, we can’t get rid of sorrow, we can’t get rid of death, and we can’t get rid of sin. The one promise that we do have now, the most important part of it is this fellowship of believers.
The reason I picked the fellowship of love as the way of describing is because there are a lot of things that we fellowship over: football, entertainment, movies. People gather together. Fellowship is not an exclusively Christian word; it means people gathering together over something. When Christians talk about it, we specifically mean the fellowship that is centered around love. Paul says in Ephesians 4 that when the body functions properly—and in that functioning, there’s the gifting of spiritual gifts, ministry, and fellowship—the body builds itself up in love. What does Paul get at in the Corinthian church? He gets so upset with them because they’re doing all these spiritual acts, but they’re not doing them with love, which is the point of it. Even in James 2, he talks about the love that you should have for the brothers. Also in 1 John.
So when we talk about the purpose and the goal of real Christianity, your goal, your mission, and your primary objective as a believer is the fellowship of believers for the sake of love and unity. We aren’t told that. We’re told the primary mission of the Christian is improvement—how to make myself better.
Justin Perdue: One brief observation is this: you mentioned earlier how we tend to live our entire Christian lives seeking after that high that we experience on Sunday mornings. I agree with that statement completely. At the same time, I do think there are experiences that we have in corporate worship that are sometimes really great. It’s a foretaste of the deliverance that’s coming. But I wonder how many evangelicals have ever stopped to think that maybe the reason that you felt that way for that moment, and you got that glimpse into what eternity is going to be like, is because you were with the saints. You were assembled with the saints under the word, coming to the table. Using the means at our disposal to fellowship with one another in Christ Jesus—that’s when you think this is real. Those moments often don’t happen when you’re alone; they typically happen when you’re gathered.
But I completely agree with you in terms of what we’re called to, being to love one another in the church. You’ve mentioned John 13 and the words of Christ. You’ve mentioned 1 John—that epistle is replete with language about loving each other. James is calling us to love one another. Paul, in many places, exalts love. You already mentioned Ephesians 4. 1 Corinthians 13 is a famous passage where love is this great thing that we are called to in the church and how we live together. Even when we think about Christian liberty, what is it that governs our exercise of our freedom? It’s our love for one another. We could just go on and on about how love is the banner and in particular, loving one another is the banner that flies over the church. We are called to a community and a fellowship of love. We need it desperately and it is a worthwhile endeavor.
You may be in a place where you’re thinking that life is hard and you’re wondering what it is we have that can help you. We’ve already talked about trusting Christ; you have a sure and lasting hope that stands outside of you, unchanged, and Christ has you. Also, be involved in a local church and give your life to the pursuit and the end of loving your brothers and sisters, and to being loved by them, because it is absolutely essential in the Christian life. It is something that is of great value to give your life to and to prioritize. We are not saying that everything is pointless; no, it’s not. Christ is real, God and truth remain, and love your brothers and sisters in the church, and you will live your life if you make these things your goal. You’re going to need your brothers and sisters and they need you in a life that is wrought with trial.
Jon Moffitt: There’s the promise of joy; let’s do this promise from Christ. I preached this earlier last year and it is still rocked in my world. John 15, which is an unbelievable passage about abiding in Christ. This is the only time Jesus makes this promise. Jesus says in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, then my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Can you get more joy than Christ has? You can’t. It doesn’t exist in the universe. Jesus has ultimate joy. He says, “My joy can be in you and it can be complete because I’ve told you these things.” This is what he says next: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” He is making this equation of resting and abiding in Christ, and the way in which that you find joy is by taking this rest in Christ and loving one another, and you will have the joy that Jesus has. Because the next thing he says is, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Real Christianity is not your improvement or impressing God. Real Christianity is you resting in the sure hope, hearing it preached to you, receiving it in the word by the means of grace that are given it to you week in and week out, and then taking that sure hope and using it as your motivation to love sinful, broken, hurting people. You find your satisfaction and joy in actually loving your brothers and your sisters through fellowship.
Justin Perdue: We’ve talked about a fellowship of love in the church and finally, what is the Christian life about? What is it that we’re called to? We’re called to an eternal mission. All of these things are linked together; even the fact that the mission is eternal is inextricably linked to the fact that hope is eternal, and that we’re promised rest and peace forever in Christ.
You already mentioned John 15. I’m mindful of the words of Christ in John 16 where he says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you’ll have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Does he mean that we’re going to overcome the world in this life? Of course, not. He says you’re going to have tribulation in the world but he has overcome it, meaning that he has done everything necessary to deliver you from this—and that’s coming. What you have been called to is something that is eternal that is, in some ways, beyond your comprehension. It will go well for you ultimately.
One thing I say a lot at CBC is that we live from the end of the story backwards. We are always looking to the end and in God’s kindness and in Scripture, in God’s revelation in the Bible, He has told us how this ends. He has given us a glimpse into the future and what forever will look like. We cling to that as well. This is sincerely not all there is. This is not what our existence will be like forever. We will not be battling sin forever. We will not be battling with the fallenness of the world forever. Right now, the creation is groaning, and so are we, but we will be finally delivered. Christ will return and he will make his blessings flow far as the curse is found, as we sing in Joy to the World.
That eternality of the promise and the fact that a future and final deliverance is coming motivate and sustain us on our mission right now in this world, in this life under the sun.
Jon Moffitt: In conclusion, the Bible is not silent on the way in which you should deliver your life. It’s just very different from the way you’ve been told. You’ve been told that it’s about moral improvement and pietism, and we’re arguing that those lead to despair and hopelessness.
The alternative is that Christ is calling you into communion with him, with his people, with a mission and a purpose that actually matters and will matter for all of eternity—and I think that’s where we should put our focus in.
Justin Perdue: Final comment from me before we head into the members’ area. You just mentioned pietism and moral improvement being emphasized all the time. For a lot of people where there is a hyper-focus on their discipline, morality, feelings, affections, and everything—those people would rightly lambast the prosperity gospel, which is the belief that if we obey and do certain things in order, our lives would go well now, that we would be blessed, and that we would prosper in this life. That theology is bad.
Pietism, or this hyper-focus on our feelings and our disciplines, this hyper-focus on our moral improvement, is a kind of prosperity gospel lite. It’s a kind of easy listening prosperity gospel, in a way. Just like the prosperity gospel, pietism and an emphasis on moral improvement is earthbound. It’s almost anemic in its earthbound character in nature. If you are thinking that the primary purpose of the Christian life is anything that happens right now in terms of you and your life becoming better, according to the apostle Paul, these are the ones whom above all people are to be pitied. It’s evident a number of ways that in the church in America, in the 20th century, so much of our theology is wrapped up in what happens in this life—and it ought not be that way. We are trusting in Christ now for the final deliverance that he will accomplish, and it’s as good as done. We have peace, we have hope, and we can have joy in the midst of suffering because we know the end. If you remove that eternal reality from this equation, there is no way to have any kind of hope or peace or joy in the midst of life in this world. Because depression is reasonable in this world, and divorced from Christ and the promises of the new heavens and the new earth and the safety that we have in Jesus, depression and suicide would be the only reasonable conclusion. I’m not trying to be morbid, but I just thought that if your emphasis and focus in the Christian life is anything that’s happening in this world, then we are to be pitied. Thank God that we have an eternal hope in Jesus. We need to all remind ourselves every Lord’s Day that that’s what we’re longing for and we’re living for. We’re loving each other for that reason.
Jon Moffitt: That perspective is not going to be popular with the world and with modern Christianity. It’s absolutely not going to be popular, which leads us into our membership.
Justin Perdue: And I think we’ve been clear enough to say that it doesn’t mean you should just stick your head in the sand and wait for Jesus to come back.
Jon Moffitt: No, there’s so much to do.
Justin Perdue: You do good because you know that the end is secure.
Jon Moffitt: There’s much to do.
This is going to lead us into some current topics that have been flying around that I know Justin and I are very passionate about. There’s been some recent news about different churches and pastors saying different things about culture and the protection. There have even been some movements of people who are standing in front of courthouses. There seems to be a lot of energy being put into our freedom as Christians. There’s just a lot of debate going on, and I am so disappointed in seeing fracturing anger. We’re fighting the government as if the government is a Christian entity. There’s so much energy being put into this to where in the end, what are we trying to accomplish? Are we actually furthering the eternal mission of Christ or are we hindering it? I know there’s a lot of mystery in what I’m saying. I’m going to unpack that a little more in the members’ podcast.
Justin Perdue: Let the listener understand.
Jon Moffitt: Take us in, brother.
Justin Perdue: Thank you for listening, as always, to this episode of Theocast. We don’t take for granted that anybody would ever want to listen to anything we have to say, or let alone be helped by it. If you have been encouraged and helped by this podcast, the Lord gets the credit for that. We are simply instruments of His, and we are debtors to grace and mercy, just like you. We, alongside you, thank God for Jesus Christ and trust in him for our sufficiency, for our righteousness, and for the atonement of our sins. We want to encourage you to continue to rest and trust in Jesus. He is mighty and able to save you.
We thank you for the various ways that you are engaging with the content here at Theocast. We are about to head over into our members’ podcast. If you don’t know anything about the members’ podcast but you would like to know something about it, you can go over to our website theocast.org and you can find out more about our membership and what all that entails; the content that the membership gives you access to. You can learn about various ways to partner with this ministry to help us spread the word of the sufficiency of Christ and the rest that is ours in him.
We will talk with you again in the regular edition to the podcast next week.