No Longer Muddling Through
Where do ideas come from? One of the challenges of preaching and teaching is the requirement for fresh ideas—weekly! Sundays don’t wait for anyone, and they seem to come more and more quickly these days. In addition to prayer, the prayerful study of God’s Word and observing life around me,
I get many ideas from what I call “grazing.” I read in many areas and jot down thoughts, concepts, images and illustrations that spark interest. Periodically, I review my idea files to “prime the pump” for upcoming messages. Recently I came across something I wrote in my journal almost 30 years ago:
The church is undone more by its weak commitment than by hostile opposition.
It fails largely because of tolerance, not because of intolerance: tolerance of mediocrity, of muddled theology, of convenient commitment.
The church fails, not because arguments against the gospel are so strong, but because our grasp of the truth is so weak.
We fail, not because the world is united against us, but because we are divided amongst ourselves.
We fail, not because the task is too great, but because our commitment is so small.
I am more excited about our life and ministry together at Trinity than I have ever been. And I believe the way forward means stepping up in a number of ways: in our commitment to each other, in a more mature understanding of our faith, and in activating all our Trinity members and friends in God’s continuing work in this world.
We are working earnestly in all these areas, but the focus of preaching from September through next June (with occasional “pauses”) will be developing a more mature understanding of our faith. Too many of us have a “muddled theology” pieced together from a number of sources, but lacking fullness and consistency. My goal is to help us get a strong grip on the whole truth of God’s work in Christ, using Paul’s Letter to the Romans. The impact of Romans on the history of the church can hardly be overstated. In A.D. 386 Augustine was converted by reading Romans 8:13-14. In 1516 Martin Luther grasped, in a flash of insight from reading Romans 1:16, 17, the doctrine of justification by faith alone and the Reformation was born. In 1738 John Wesley was converted, on hearing Luther’s preface to Romans, and so the evangelical revival in England was launched. Luther wrote: “This Epistle is the chief book of the New Testament, the purest gospel. It deserves not only to be known word for word by every Christian, but to be the subject of his meditation day by day.” Calvin wrote that “where any one understands this Epistle, he has a passage opened to him to the understanding of the whole Scripture.”
As we step into the fall season, let’s step up in understanding the riches of God in Christ.
See you in church!