Winsomely Weird Wednesdays

“Authority and Purpose”

September 25, 2019

Welcome & Dismiss Kids to Kids Club

Songs – #241 “To God Be the Glory” & #132 “Blessed Be the Name”

Testimonies – How can you encourage the church with something you’ve seen God do lately? [ABC]

Teaching

Recap

Last week we introduced what will be our theme this fall – ‘Winsomely Weird’. We started by looking at Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17, that they would not be of the world, in other words that they would stay weird/different/distinct. But he also prayed that at the same time they would still be in the world – that’s where the winsome idea comes from. I found out last week that there is no word in Chinese for winsome. My Oxford English Dictionary defines winsome as “attractive, engaging.” I want IBC people to think and act differently from the sinful world and not just be assimilated and take our cues from the world… BUT also to not be intimidated, secluded, self-righteous, calloused, or angry towards the world. It’s tough to do both, but that’s my prayer and hope for our time.

We saw last week that one of the ways we will be weird is by maintaining certain types of binary thinking in a world that wants to confuse us and blur lines and makes things more fuzzy. Have you noticed how the world tries to do that to you? But there is a radical and essential difference between a believer and a non-believer.

And as believers we are to be growing in conformity to Jesus, which means being winsomely weird; in the world, but not of it; going against the flow, yet gracious; holy AND happy. I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’ quote about holiness. Sometimes we think that holiness means something like out of touch, cranky, and utterly dull. Lewis said, “How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing (and perhaps, like you, I have met it only once) it is irresistible.”[i] That’s winsomely weird – a holiness that is irresistible. And we have only met it perfectly just once: in Jesus! But by the Holy Spirit we can become more and more like him.

Authority

So today I want to talk about two topics together where Christians are to be winsomely weird. The first is in the area of authority. Who says? Where are you getting that from? How do you know? Not in the full epistemological sense of all that entails, but in things like ethics, or platitudes you find online or out there. What are some examples of ‘truths’ people dogmatically assert that seem unfounded?…

J.I. Packer in his 1958 book “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, sorts out the three possibilities when it comes to the topic of authority. He explains that you’re either:

(1) Evangelical

(2) Traditionalist

(3) Subjectivist[ii]

The Evangelical View, which I’ll explain in a moment is, you might guess, what we as Christians should be. The world operates within either the Traditionalist or Subjectivist views. The Traditionalist’s authority is Tradition. I believe this to be true because this is what has been passed down to me. This is our family’s practice. You can still see this kind of deference to ancestors in some eastern cultures. It’s found in smaller towns and less developed parts of the world. This is what it means to be a Sicilian or Nigerian; this is how we do things.

But by and large in the Modern West, especially in cities like ours, most people fall into the Subjectivist camp. We buck against traditional authority and go with what I personally think or feel to be true, what I like. So the Subjectivists have two forms or strands that people usually fall into and that history has seen vacillation between: Reason and Experience, the Rationalists and the Romantics. But both are at root a Subjectivist position – ME, I (either my rationalistic mind or my gut instinct feelings) are the authority. I think this is what we are mostly dealing with in our world. Would you agree?

Really, it means that the authority is SELF. I think. I feel. I believe what I want to believe and do what I want to do. Self. And it stems from the first sin in the Garden in Genesis 3. The temptation was to not trust God and listen to him define what is right and wrong, but to “be like God, knowing good and evil” for oneself. I don’t want to submit to God as my authority. I want to determine for myself. That’s what was going on in the decision to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That is part of the essence of sin – the enthronement of SELF.

Now, for those who have been transferred into the realm of the Second Adam and had their sins atoned for, we are to be unlearning the practice of having SELF be our authority and re-learning the practice of having God be our authority. If God tells me something I don’t like, I defer to God. If God says something is wrong and my SELF (my warped conscience, my urges, my desires, my self-conception…) tells me it is okay, I listen to God.

But stick with me. Where it gets tricky is where you’re dealing with people who claim to be religious or spiritual, but are really still functioning Traditionalists or Subjectivists. Historically speaking, the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox are claiming Christianity, but are finding their authority in Tradition. Liberal Protestantism (a syncretistic religion that sought to blend Christianity and Modernism) is really just a religious form of Subjectivism. The historic Evangelical View is the one that actually lets God be the authority, at least in theory (we are all constantly struggling with this).

God must be our authority, but how do we know that God is our authority? There must be an objective TEXT that has meaning. The Bible, as God’s self-revelation, must be our authority. Otherwise, we may be saying that God is our authority, but we’re really just listening to the voice inside our head and calling it God. That’s what is going on in Blue Ocean Faith. Throughout the author talks about an actual, living, personal relationship with a communicative God. But then he says this God is telling him it’s perfectly fine to be gay, for example. And he points people away from Scripture. What’s going on here? It’s really just SELF, Subjectivism, Experientialism that is the authority, not God. Because God has spoken here and won’t contradict himself.

So genuine Christians will submit to the Lordship of Christ; God is their authority. And he will tell you some things you don’t like, and things that the world (that collective thinking of Subjectivists that can ironically become a sort of new Tradition) doesn’t like. And this will make you weird. It make you do things that are weird, but just that instinct to distrust SELF and submit to Scripture itself is weird.

But how is it also winsome? It’s so freeing to not be your own boss. To not have to figure everything out yourself but take what you’ve been given. For reality and right and wrong to not be shifting all the time. It is actually arrogant to think of yourself as the final arbiter of truth – I think this and you should too! Why, where’d you get that from? Me! To submit to God should make you humble – I didn’t make this up. It’s really freeing and humbling.

Purpose

Okay, now let’s talk about purpose. Our world operates in a way that sets SELF up as the authority. It also sets SELF up as the purpose, or end goal of life. The sinful world doesn’t want to let God tell it what to do and doesn’t want to live for God. In my old nature, I don’t want to live for God’s glory and fame, I want to live for my own. How do we see this in the world’s slogans? (i.e. do what makes you happy)

What are your coworkers who don’t trust Christ living for?? What is the purpose of their life? Self-expression… Self-actualization… Self-gratification… Self-promotion…

Now, we need to be fair. Because of common grace, there are things the world knows and figures out that are true. And there are instances of altruism in the world, people doing selfless feats. But the general overarching telos or aim of the unregenerate person is to glorify SELF, to boost self-esteem or self-image, to get credit and recognition for SELF by being a good person, to take care of and protect number 1, to make yourself as fulfilled and comfortable as you can by yourself.

But the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q 1 puts it so well and accurately summarizes the Bible – What is the chief end of Man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever. The world tells you to chase self-fulfillment, to do what’s best for you. But the Bible calls us to live for the honor of someone else, namely God. Where? What passages of Scripture come to mind that reveal our purpose is to be God-centered instead of Self-Centered?

“To live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1Pe. 4:2).

“He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2Cor. 5:15).

“For none of us lives to himself… For if we live, we live to the Lord” (Rom. 14:7-8).

“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1Cor. 6:19-20).

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1Cor. 10:31).

What are you tempted to live for? What does it look like to live so that God is glorified?

So we are to be weird in a world that is living for SELF, full of “lovers of self” (2Tim. 3:2), but being lovers of God, giving up selfish dreams, dying to self and living for the Lord. That is weird. But how is it also winsome?

First, living for God’s glory turns out to actually be the best, most joyful, happiest, most fulfilling thing for yourself as well. John Piper tweaked the Westminster Shorter Catechism to say that the chief end of man is to glorify God, by enjoying him forever. He coined the term Christian hedonism. We glorify God by finding delight in him. And when we do we get delight and God gets glory. It’s a win – win! And so we see things like Paul in Philippians 1:20-21 saying, “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Win – win. We show the world a better way, because living for self actually leaves you empty; living for God is the only thing that can fill you up.

And second, again living for God instead of SELF is so freeing. You don’t have to carve out your own identity. You don’t have to make your mark on the world or be successful to be somebody. That’s so exhausting and crushing. You don’t have to constantly be trying to make yourself someone. You can find yourself by losing yourself. That is extremely winsome in an empty world of narcissism and full of meaninglessness…

What’s Next?

So as God’s redeemed people in Christ, we are to be growing more like Christ. And that will mean being weird and winsome. And today we saw that we will be weird in the way we submit to God and not Self, but that this will make us strangely appealing to a world with constantly changing standards. And we will be weird in the way we live for God and not Self, but that will make us strangely appealing to a world with no grand purpose.

What do you want to do next? After last week I got the ideas sent to me of Speech: swearing and gossip; Fitness; Family: annoying in-laws, idolizing children. I had Drugs & Alcohol; Entertainment; Sexuality; Gender; Relationships & Conflict; Money & Possessions; Work; Bioethics…

Prayer – Get together in the Small Groups you’ve been in; make a new group(s) for all those who weren’t in a Small Group previously

Pray that we would be submissive to God as he has revealed himself in Scripture in everything…

Pray that we would live for God’s glory in all that we do…

Pray that the world would worship God because of our witness… Pray for specific non-believers by name…