BY CHAD BIRD
Sometimes the only obstacle to the church accomplishing its goals is when God gets in the way. And he has an irritating habit of doing just that. So we wheel the Old Man into a back room and make him watch daytime soap operas while we kids go and play divinity.
First of all, we have money to raise for a building fund and the cash is not going to flow if the preacher goes on and on about free grace in Christ’s kingdom. That’s fine to hear once in a blue moon—like, maybe at Easter—but a heavy dose of Gospel isn’t going to pry open the iron-clad wallets around here. Everybody knows guilt and shame are the muscle behind financial motivation. Don’t get us wrong; we have every intention of hanging a cross in our new sanctuary. But that cross isn’t going to build it.
And, honestly, all this talk of walls being broken down, equality amongst sinners, and God loving everyone is liable to open our doors to people that have no right to be in our pews. Sorry, but I’m not drinking from that Communion cup after some white trash has had his lips on it. Why, there’s even been rumors of reaching out to those homosexuals with the message of law and grace. Over my dead body. We have our church’s reputation to consider. If that’s where the Gospel is leading us, the Gospel needs a tighter rein on it.
And I haven’t even got to my main concern. We can’t turn on the news without talk of some newfangled degeneration in society. What we need from the pulpit is what these kids are not getting in school these days. Teach them how to behave like good, Republican, conservative Christian folk always have. Right from wrong kind of stuff. If they get too heavy a dose of “Jesus loves you,” “Jesus died for you,” and “You’re forgiven,” kind of talk, they might end up thinking that grace is more important than right living. And the next thing you know, they won’t even know who to vote for.
And on and on it goes. We have our plans, our programs, our ideals, our views, our politics, our traditions. And if the Gospel gets in our way, then we will minimize the Gospel, mute it, and morph it into religious fuel to drive our self-serving plans.
But we’re the fools if we think God is a white-bearded old man we can dope up and sequester in the back room while we transform his church into a religious country club. He will not be mocked. And he certainly will not stand for his message of undiluted, free grace for sinners to become as rare a treat as the Cowboys winning a Super Bowl.
So he intervenes with troublemakers who come along and stir things up. Like Paul who got in Peter’s face when that Jew thought he was too high and mighty to hang with Gentiles anymore. Like Luther who, in his coarse German way, slung verbal dung all over every ecclesiastical decree that drove folks back under the bondage of the law. Like preachers and non-preachers of every age who, quite audaciously, determine to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. They have come to know and believe that God actually means what he says when he absolves the world, justifies the ungodly, and bids the weary and heavy-laden come to him.
God will not be kicked out of his church. He loves us too much for that. He will send us preachers to kill us with the law and resurrect us with the Gospel. He will send us friends to call us to repentance and usher us into the arms of our forgiving Christ. He will fix our eyes on himself, for in him we have all we need and more.
Chad is an author and speaker who's devoted to honest Christianity that addresses the raw realities of life with the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. Chad has served as a pastor and assistant professor of OT theology, contributed hymns to the Lutheran Service Book, and cohosts the podcast “Forty Minutes in the OT.” He holds Master's degrees from Concordia Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College. In addition to writing the books, Christ Alone and The Infant Priest, he has contributed articles to Modern Reformation, The Federalist, Concordia Pulpit Resources, and other journals. His new book with Eerdmans, Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul, is now available for pre-order at Amazon. His writings and other resources can be found at his website, chadbird.com. Chad and his wife, Stacy, enjoy life together in the Texas Hill Country.