Letter to the Saints

Gospel Power for Life

Imagine with me that you’re seated in a plane as it speeds down the runway. You look out the window and see buildings going by faster and faster. And then, you feel it… you’re in the air. Your plane has successfully taken off. But what keeps your plane in the air? What propels it to its destination? The engines, of course–the same things that helped it take off in the first place. The point I’m drawing out here is that planes need an engine to take off, but they continue to rely on the power or thrust from that engine until the plane reaches its final destination.

This is true of the gospel as well. It’s something we never get beyond. It’s something we continue to need long after we become Christians. In an article called “The Centrality of the Gospel”, Tim Keller says it this way: “The gospel is not just the ABCs but the A to Z of Christianity.” 

Connecting Gospel to Conduct

We see this idea at work in Galatians 2:11-14. Here, in an act of ethnic pride and fear of man, Peter separates himself from the Gentile believers and leads others to do the same. Paul’s charge against them in verse 14 is that “their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel.” The NIV uses the wording “not in line with the truth of the gospel.”  

According to Paul, the reason that Peter acts this way is because he has failed to apply the gospel. Sure, Peter believes that Jesus died on the cross for his sins, but in this moment he isn’t seeing the connection between gospel truth and gospel conduct. And when we fail to do this we end up in error or sin.

We may end up in moralism, which says that you are accepted by God through your good works. Being a moralist could cause you to feel superior or better than others because you keep the rules and they don’t. It could also crush you with the weight of knowing that you don’t actually live up to the rules. 

We could also end up in relativism, which says that everyone just needs to determine what is right and wrong for themselves. For a relativist, God accepts us either because he is so welcoming or because we’re not actually that bad. 

Both of these errors are like disconnecting an engine from a plane while it’s airborne. They avoid crowning Jesus as Lord and end up disconnecting the gospel from an area of life, 

Seeing it in Flight

Like I said earlier, the gospel is needed for the whole “flight” of our faith, not just the takeoff. We should be able to look at anything and apply the gospel to it, and these 3 categories (Moralism, Relativism, & Gospel) can help us. Here are a few short examples based on Keller’s article:

Relativism

Gospel

Moralism

Culture

Differences

Every cultural expression is equally good.

Every person is made in the image of God, and so every culture will reflect that in unique ways. At the same time, every culture is subject to the fall, and so we are superior to no one.

My culture is right and yours is wrong. 

Family

You have no need for family loyalty or keeping promises if your needs aren’t met.

God is our ultimate father, and we’re adopted into his family through Christ. Therefore we won’t be too dependent nor too hostile toward our parents.

You must meet your parents’ expectations

Worship

Casual worship that is short on reverence, often due to a shallow understanding of “acceptance” without a sense of God’s holiness.

Awe and intimacy in worship, the high and holy God is now our Father. Through Jesus Christ we are both comforted and amazed.

Somber worship that is short on joy, often due to a high view of God’s holiness w/o a deep understanding of our own sinfulness.

All of our problems come from a failure to apply the gospel or to live “in step with the gospel” (Gal. 2:14). So let’s work hard to make strong connections between the gospel–God’s engine for life and renewal–and our conduct.

With love,

Karson

Posted by Karson Merkel with

Why We Have a Church Prayer Meeting

If His Highness Sheik Mohammed offered you two hours a month to make any requests you wanted of him and he promised in return to take action on whatever you wanted, would you take him up on it?

I suspect we’d protect those two hours in our schedule, no matter what.

Two hours per month is how much time we set aside to corporately pray for ourselves as a church of the Lord Jesus. Jesus has invited us to come boldly into his presence and ask whatever we want of him and we’d be foolish not to take him up on it (Jn 14:13).

Every one of us would likely say we want to grow in praying more. And the twice per month prayer meeting is the perfect opportunity to make praying together a priority.

Here are three more reasons why we have a corporate prayer meeting.

1. It reminds us of the importance of prayer

Prayer is hard because it forces us to depend on God and not ourselves. It’s hard because unless we pray with faith to a God we cannot see, it becomes routine and lifeless. It’s hard because we’re used to being entertained and amused with things that are visual.

But prayer is like breathing for someone who has a relationship with God. It’s crucial to knowing and growing in Christ. Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” (Mt 21:13) Our church is a spiritual house that God is building and residing in by his Spirit. So shouldn’t we be a praying church?

2. It models for us how to pray

I remember a time in my life when I became frustrated that my prayer life was lifeless and directionless. So I set about studying the prayers of Paul in all his New Testament epistles. Wow, did my prayers spring to life as I learned from the Apostle!

When we pray together at our prayer meetings we’re learning how to pray and what to pray for. About learning from model prayers D.A. Carson says, “Choose models, but choose them well. Study their content, their breadth, their passion, their unction…”.

3. It unites us around God’s purposes for our whole church

If there’s anything easy about prayer it’s praying for our own needs and wants. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But if that’s all we pray for then our prayer life won’t reflect the selflessness and “other-centeredness” of Jesus Christ.

Prayer for our life together as a church builds concern and expectation for our corporate unity and witness in Dubai.

***

Now, let me take a moment to answer some frequently asked questions (FAQs).

Why do the pastors dictate the prayer requests?

We do that to make sure the requests are Biblically informed and focused on our life together as a church. You might have noticed that we don’t pray for other churches, personal requests, or worldwide concerns in our prayer meetings. It’s not that we don’t want members of the church praying for those things. In fact, we do pray for those things in the pastoral prayer in our Sunday services. Having the pastor assign the prayer requests keeps us focused on prayer for our life together as a church for those two hours (really it ends up being about 40 minutes of prayer per month).

Why don’t we break up into pairs or clusters to pray for one another?

Our prayer meetings are open to anyone to attend. Often there are non-Christians in attendance and we do not want to invite or force non-Christians to pray like we do members of the church. Other people are just learning to pray and feel awkward being forced to pray out loud with someone else. Don’t get us wrong, we want members to pray together in pairs and clusters but we want that to happen outside of our two prayer meetings per month. Whenever you meet up with someone else from church pray as the Lord leads!

Why are we asked to pray short prayers?

God answers short prayers just as much as he answers long prayers. Some of the greatest prayers of the Bible are short. We also ask for shorter prayers so that more people can pray in the gathering.

Are there other things you want to accomplish in that gathering?

Yes, we also want to lead the meeting in a way that is participative in a different way than our Sunday afternoon services. We want the feel of the meeting to be more casual and family-oriented so we may interview members, announce opportunities to serve in the church or community, and give a regular opportunity for men who aren’t elders to develop skills in teaching the Bible.

***

When we pray together for our life as a church we are depending on God to work in us. If he’s not at work in us then we have no hope to be united in the Spirit and grow into maturity in Christ together. Prayer is one of God’s appointed means to accomplish this in us to his glory

With love,
Brian Parks

Posted by Brian Parks with

12345678