Lord, Give Us New Hearts

We are a community that has already dedicated all we are and have to Him.

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There is no doubt that we live in a world that is not as it should be…a world searching for solutions to pain caused by the world around us.  Yet, to what extent is the church providing a deep theological paradigm that points to a different way of being in the world? Does the church demonstrate to the world that the world is indeed the world and not the church? We speak of justice, but to what extent do we embody it? We speak of forgiveness, but to what extent do we practice it? We speak of confession of sin, accountability, and hospitality, but to what extent are we truly committed to such actions? As I noted in Thinking Christian, “There is only so much that our affirmation of theology and doctrine can convey. Intellectual assent does not constitute a fully-formed Christian witness. The body of Christ cannot go on opposing the philosophies of the world in principle while living them out in practice.”

It is not that I believe there are no instances in which the body of Christ is offering faithful testimony. I have been and am now part of a church that practices hospitality, prayer, accountability, forgiveness, and a host of other virtues. Rather, my concern is that the Christian machinery has a tendency to return to the status quo after a crisis. We will weather the recent events (as we have similar events in the past) and then go back to listening to the same voices, asking the same questions, and holding on to our same old ways of being in the world. In part, I think we are comfortable returning to the status quo because we don’t really believe we are part of the problem. Yet, it seems foolish to think that our conception of God is not, in some ways, blinding us to who God really is.

I have a passion to see the church learn to please God together. As such, I don’t believe we can simply return to ‘business as usual’ contenting ourselves with well-written theological statements or even with participating in protests, forming Facebook groups, or signing petitions. Something actually has to change within our Christian communities at a more fundamental, theological level. We have to engage in the process of slow, deliberate, Spirit-led change.

As I consider, then, who God’s people need to be in this moment, it seems to me that we need to be a community that demonstrates the difference Christ makes to the way we live and move in the world. In simplest terms, we need to be a community dedicated to following the Spirit and allowing Him to turn…

…our outrage into the sort of patience that understands the virtue of waiting on the Lord to act (Ps 37:7-8)

…our despair into a lament that breaks through to trust in and praise of the God who has and will act in His time and His way

…our fear into the sort of resolve that refuses to bend to the ways of the world no matter the cost

…our sense of detachment from the body of Christ into one of integral belonging brought about by the joining together of God’s people.

…our desire to act and help into a desire to be led by the Spirit, to proclaim the gospel, and to participate with God as He makes all things new.

We are not a community that does not recognize the seriousness of the situation we are in, nor one that does not care because we are “citizens of heaven.” We are a community that knows Christ defeated sin and death. We are a community prepared to follow Christ in the midst of storms. We are a community that has already dedicated all we are and have to Him. It is time for us to learn how to feel the tensions and pain present amongst the members of the body and to do more than sympathize…we must all feel the pain together. Until we feel the pain, live in the discomfort, and begin to allow the tensions to alert us to the moving of God’s Spirit, it seems likely that we will be hindered from offering a comprehensive Christian testimony in word and deed to a world that needs to hear it.

Lord, may your people show the world what it means to be led by the Holy Spirit. Give your body the wisdom and conviction to offer faithful testimony to You in our mourning of pain and injustice, in our confrontation of sinful people and structures, in our commitment to pursue a different, redeemed way of life with tenacity, and in our joining together with one another to “encourage one another and build one another up.” Please protect those in physical danger at this moment. Grant us your peace and the patience to be still and wait on You to demonstrate your power and glory in the midst of a world that does not know You. Father, do not allow your church to fall back into comfort but embed within us a desire to be ever more closely conformed to the image of Your Son. In your name, we pray. Amen

 

This is an updated edition of a post originally published on CRAZY DIFFERENT

Featured Image by Naassom Azevedo from Pixabay

 

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About the Author

For more than a decade, James served in academic leadership within biblical higher education. He currently serves as Vice President and COO of the Moody Center, an independent non-profit organization in Northfield, MA, dedicated to honoring the spiritual legacy of D.L. Moody. James serves on faculty at Right On Mission and as an Associate Consultant for Ruffalo Noel-Levitz where he assists colleges and universities in the areas of leadership development, online programming, and enrollment management. He also teaches as an adjunct instructor at the collegiate and graduate level in the areas of biblical studies, interpretation, and Christian thought. James graduated with his B.S in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2000 before earning his Master of Divinity from Moody Theological Seminary (2004), his M. A. in Biblical Exegesis from Wheaton College Graduate School (2005), and his PhD in Theological Studies-Old Testament from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (2012). He later attended the Harvard Institute of Education Management and completed a year of executive coaching. James researches and writes in the areas of theology and Old Testament Studies. He has published Thinking Christian: Essays on Testimony, Accountability, and the Christian Mind in 2020 and co-authored Trajectories: A Gospel-Centered Introduction to Old Testament Theology in 2018. James also co-authored "Isaiah" with Michael Rydelnik in the Moody Bible Commentary and contributed to Marriage: It's Foundation, Theology, and Mission in a Changing World, and The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy.In addition to writing on theology and Old Testament studies, James has also published and presented in the areas of online curriculum design, higher education policy, organizational strategies for higher education recruitment, and Christian leadership. James and his family live in the Chicagoland area. He is available to speak in the areas of Christian leadership, Christian theology and contemporary issues, Christian identity in the digital age, biblical higher education and college choice, and Old Testament theology. .