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Faultfinding: A Third Besetting Sin of Bloggers

October 27, 2006

The first two were censoriousness and a contrarian spirit.

This is an excerpt from a thanksgiving sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:1-9.  Much of it is stolen from a great message CJ Mahaney preached at one of John Piper’s pastors’ conferences years ago.

If you think our church has problems, let me tell you about the Corinthians.  Here’s a church that is on the verge of a split into cults of personality.  Here’s a church in which some members say there is no resurrection.  Here’s a church that gets drunk at the Lord’s supper. Here’s a church that chaotically abuses spiritual gifts.  Here’s a church that fails to discipline a member who commits sexual immorality with his stepmother.  Here’s a church whose members are suing each other in court.            

And yet, Paul can write in 1 Corinthians 1:4 “I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus…”  Wow.  Who is this man, this apostle Paul, and how can we become like him?             

My first point this morning is this:  Paul’s ability to give thanks in all circumstances is grounded in a theology of sovereign grace.

(long explanation of a Calvinist view of effectual calling omitted)

So I ask you, of which are you more conscious: evidences of grace or areas of growth?  In your own life, in the lives of others, in the church as a whole, of which are you more conscious: evidences of grace or areas of growth?    Perhaps in the life of a friend in your small group, in the life of a college student you are mentoring, in the life of a teenager you are parenting, there is a glowing ember of grace, and a whole lot of areas of growth.  Now of course there is a place for correction in the Christian life, but hold off on that a moment.  Would it not be far wiser to blow on the smoldering wick, to fan into flame the grace of God?  Would that not make these other areas you are dying to correct quickly fade away?  I have learned from experience that you don’t have to confront everything.  If you encourage a person in their strengths, many weaknesses will just go away.  

Let’s seek to become people who are on the lookout for evidences of grace in our lives and in each other’s lives.  What a blessed fellowship we would have if this became our habit.  But it has to be cultivated deliberately.  Paul usually expresses his thanksgiving for the churches in prayer.   We need to pray about these things and remember the grace of God and purposefully give thanks to Him.

Now in verses 8-9 we look to the future. 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful

Believing this promise can cure faultfinding, because faultfinding comes from an angry, anxious heart, and anger and anxiety can only exist where this promise is not really believed.   O the peace we would have if our souls would lay firm hold of this promise that those he called, these he also justified.  God finishes what he starts. And notice that this is not just a promise for you as an individual Christian, this is a promise for the whole church.  Jesus promised he will build his church, and Ephesians says he purifies the church washing her with the word. 

I had to learn this about ten years ago because I was on the verge of becoming an angry young man.  You go to seminary, you read some church history, you study theology, you start understanding a few things and all of a sudden you are more acutely aware of the shortcomings of the church and if you’re not careful you can neglect prayer for revival and just start bitterly complaining, as if that will work faster.  But the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.  

I could tell that something was wrong in my spirit and so I began confessing the sin of pride and one day I was confessing it to an elderly saint and seeking his counsel and he said “It’s not just pride, it’s impatience.”  That’s been an insight of lasting value for me.  It’s impatience with God.  He’s promised to purify the church.  He’s promised to keep us strong to the end and present us blameless on the day of Christ.  Be patient.  That doesn’t mean don’t pray for more grace.  That doesn’t mean don’t diligently strive for obedience.  But be patient.  It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon walk.   God has his purposes for leaving alive some enemies in the land.  We’ve all got our battles to fight, lets strengthen feeble hands and knees and not snuff out smoldering wicks.  I’ve learned in my own life that grumbling about the church is impatience with God.

Of course, if you don’t have a theology of sovereign grace, you may find that hard to accept.  You may think, “God wants to purify the church, he’s doing all he can, but all these deadbeats around me aren’t cooperating with him.  How can I soar with the eagles when I’m surrounded by turkeys?”  But who are you that you look down on your brothers and sisters so?  As Paul will say to these Corinthians in chapter 4 “Who makes you different from anyone else?  And what do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”

It really is all grace from first to last.  That’s the great secret that made Paul constantly thankful.  That’s the key we need to open the door to a life of thanksgiving.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2006 4:33 am

    This entry kicks … well, you know ;)

    I came to the exact same conclusion a few years back and needed to hear (read) this again – it is He who progressively sanctifies the elect, not my aggravation, mumbling, gnawing or impatience.

    Here’s a statement that I tell myself to calm my restlessness and rattle my feeblehood so I may begin to think straight again:

    If the Lord has ordained all things to come to pass and I really believe that then Romans 8:28-29 tells me that everyday in Christ is the best day of my life.

    Selah.

  2. Oddball permalink
    October 28, 2006 9:28 am

    Is there no easy way to include quotes in one’s replies here?

  3. October 29, 2006 5:48 pm

    you mean quotes from the original post? No, there’s not, as far as I know. It’s a wordpress thing.

  4. October 30, 2006 2:58 pm

    Nothing easier than cut/paste.

  5. October 31, 2006 12:20 am

    Yeah, but that doesn’t work here does it? When I try to click and drag on wordpress text, nothin’ happens.

  6. October 31, 2006 9:42 am

    By “click and drag” you mean selecting text? It works for me.

  7. October 31, 2006 10:18 am

    Huh. I’ve never been able to do that on wordpress. When I click and drag my cursor turns into a little “do not enter” symbol.

  8. October 31, 2006 10:20 am

    the mystery deepens. I can do it on other people’s wordpress blogs, just not on mine. Can you cut and paste test from my posts?

  9. October 31, 2006 1:51 pm

    Can you cut and paste test from my posts? Yes . . . and oh, the things we could rearrange (I highlight, right click and copy, but you can also click and drag) :-D
    >>>>>

    Nothing easier than cut/paste.

    Of course, if you don’t have a theology of sovereign grace, you may find that hard to accept.

    Huh.
    >>>>
    But on my own blog it only works sometimes and I haven’t figured out why. Often on my own blog I right click and get a box with ‘Back, Forward’ etc but other times I do get the ‘Copy’ option. It’s a frustrating example of digital estrangement :-P

  10. Oddball permalink
    October 31, 2006 4:05 pm

    I can’t even left-click on the screen. The best I can do is right-click and choose “select all,” then paste unformatted text into Word and delete everything that I don’t want to include. Anyway, having just done that, here goes…

    Isaiah543:
    “Now of course there is a place for correction in the Christian life, but hold off on that a moment. Would it not be far wiser to blow on the smoldering wick, to fan into flame the grace of God? Would that not make these other areas you are dying to correct quickly fade away? I have learned from experience that you don’t have to confront everything. If you encourage a person in their strengths, many weaknesses will just go away.”

    Me:
    Amen, brother! You used this approach with me back in my undergrad years, when I was still enamored with psychedelics. If you’d instead gotten in my face, I probably would’ve just avoided you.

    Isaiah543:
    “Of course, if you don’t have a theology of sovereign grace, you may find that hard to accept. You may think, ‘God wants to purify the church, he’s doing all he can, but all these deadbeats around me aren’t cooperating with him. How can I soar with the eagles when I’m surrounded by turkeys?'”

    Me:
    One need not be a Calvinist to see the folly in presuming that human efforts could somehow be more effective than the work of the Holy Spirit in refining God’s people. (Is. 5:4)

  11. October 31, 2006 4:24 pm

    True, but if the work of the Holy Spirit is finally resistible, then I’m more tempted to kick those who resist in the butt and tell them to get cooperative like me. Of course, I do that anyway. But I do it with much more hope and peace and less selfish ambition and anxious striving since I’ve understood sovereign grace.

  12. November 1, 2006 9:55 am

    Maybe it’s a browser issue? What are you guys using?

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