In this book, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is at once convicting and encouraging. He warns against your own vision of Christian community and yet paints a picture of it you aspire to hive. It is simple and yet complex. In sum, this book will help add a rhythm to your life that enables you to throw yourself on the grace of God in Christ.
Bonhoeffer sets out to discuss and explain what true Christian community and its practical implications. In chapter 1 he states that community is not achievable by any man because believers have community is only found in Christ. To participate in this community, Bonhoeffer says we must give up our own ideal of Christian community and take hold of the reality created by God in Christ. In chapter 2 he pleads for the community, most normally the family, to have daily devotions together. He gives a practical outline of what this might look like. To be sure it is written for less busy schedules, but perhaps that too is a helpful corrective. In chapter 3, Bonhoeffer discusses a personal time with the Lord. He suggests that multiple times be set aside as well as a prayerful spirit throughout the day. Chapter 4 discusses how we might minister to one another. He insists this is ministering the Word of God but we can do this through listening, helping, bearing, and proclaiming. Chapter 5 discusses the confession of sin. Bonhoeffer is adamant that we confess our sins to God but also to our brother or sister in Christ. By this we claim ourselves as a sinner and accept the forgiveness in Christ offered by the gospel.
I highly recommend this readable book. There are many parts that are pithy and quotable. All of it makes you think. It is Christ centered throughout. He focuses on Christ and His work and the implications for everyday life. Your heart will be encouraged and your mind will be challenged. Your family and church will thank you for reading this book.
I arrived late. I opened the door to the chapel at Covenant Seminary and discovered the place was packed. The worship service was already underway. I took my place standing in the back with several others. Just as soon as I had found my place, the worship leader said it was time for silent confession. I dutifully bowed my head and tried to think of sins I needed to confess. No glaring or heinous sin came to mind so I confessed other sins I could remember. Guilt came over me like no other. It felt dirtier than if I had played with pigs in their slop. I was glad when the leader stopped the time of confession. What came next I had never seen in a worship service before. Quoting from Romans 8:1, he said, “Now hear the assurance of your pardon: ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’” A wave of relief and freedom rolled over me. The dirtiness I had felt was washed away with the wonderful news of God’s proclamation over me.
This is what a worship service is supposed to do. It is to bring you into a real and fresh encounter with the living God. Ever since this service I have come to love liturgy and especially the assurance of pardon. However, I rarely find the assurance of pardon in a worship service that includes a time of confession. When it is absent, I quote to myself some passage that assures me of his pardon.
There is a general gospel flow that has been in the liturgy of churches from the early church until now. The worship begins with high praise of our holy God. Being in the presence of His holiness we find ourselves insufficient and sinful. Therefore, we confess our sins. But this is not the last word as God speaks in the service and assures us of our pardon we have in Christ. The service then moves into the wonderful redemption we have in Christ and concludes with our going out into the world in the power of Christ. These elements can be in form of songs, passages of scripture, the sermon, or pronouncements from the pastor and/or worship leader.
Not all worship services highlight these aspects. Not all do have or should have a confession of sin. However, when there is a confession of sin there should follow an assurance of pardon. I might add a personal preference that it be a clear assurance of pardon. Commonly the assurance comes in the form of a congregational song. But these often come with no introduction or hint that they are serving as the assurance of pardon.
So my plea to those who plan worship services it to include a clear assurance of pardon. It is a rich and wonderful thing God uses to speak to His people the certainty of their forgiveness in Christ. It never gets old hearing God tell me that my sins are washed away and that I am forgiven.
The advent of the new baseball season brings to mind last season’s playoff game in Atlanta. It was my first playoff baseball game ever and it would turn out to be Chipper Jones’ last game ever. This game is marked more for the fans’ reaction than about the game itself. The fans reacted to one of the most egregious umpiring mistakes that took place in the eighth inning.
With two runners on, Braves batter Andrelton Simmons hit a high blooper into left field. The shortstop for the opposing Cardinals was running out to left field to try and make the play while the left fielder was running in to catch the ball. It was then that the left field umpire called the infield fly rule. This is the rule that states that on a fly ball in the infield with runners at least on first and second, the batter is out. This is a good rule that protects the runners. However, it was misapplied in this instance. Instead of having runners on all bases with one out, there were runners on second and third with two outs and the Braves would go on to lose the game. Of course the manager came out to object. The fans, not to be out done, made sure everyone knew their objection as this footage from my friend sitting next to me points out. They spent several minutes hurling food, drinks, and even mustard bottles onto the field out of rage for such a bad call. Never in my life have I seen such a reaction to any sporting event.
I might be a biased Braves fan but that really does not come into play for the reasons I bring all of this up now. It struck me that this is an example of people wanting justice. They want what has been made wrong to be put right. Every Braves fan there that night felt the pain of being wronged. They certainly made that clear. While it is not too classy to hurl bottles and such onto the field, their indignation was very real. This points us to something bigger. Our Creator has made us in His image and part of that is a sense of justice. This instance is minor compared to some other great injustices in the world today. But this instance shows the outcry of people when they are wronged as well as the desire for things to be put right.
Because we all have this sense of justice, we long for wrong things to be made right. There is good news. This is what Jesus came to do. When He hung on that cross, He took injustices of the world upon himself. So when you or I do wrong to others, we can ask God to forgive us and He will. However, the punishment for our wrongs is put onto Christ. But Jesus did not stay on the cross. He rose again from the dead which is a foretaste of all things being put new. The wrongs will be put right again someday. So let us participate with Christ in putting things right. We should value justice and work for justice in God ordained ways. But we must look to the One who brings ultimate justice if we are to have hope in the fight.