The first time I did drugs, I was eight or nine years old. A guy from our neighborhood cooked up some hash and weed for me and some of my friends behind the local convenience store. By ninth grade, drugs were a daily part of my life. At one point, I took drugs that were laced with something dangerous, and my friends watched in horror as I lay in the middle of the street, eyes sparkling, skin gone cold pale.
I’ve seen it far too many times. Upon exchanging general pleasantries, there is a look and a sigh that says it all. This pastor is beaten up. He is hurting. Talking further reveals that he feels as stable emotionally as a Jenga tower engineered by a 5-year-old. Some guys get a beating from their elders, others from church members, and still others from the outside. They are reeling and wounded.
The miracle we celebrate each year at Christmas (the incarnation, when the Son of God became a man) raises a question about this. Was he still omnipresent in, say, the year A.D. 10, while walking around Nazareth as a boy? Or what about while he was a baby, nursing at Mary’s breast among the manger animals—can we really imagine that, at the very same time, he filled the entire universe, governing every quark and star?
The default assumption I bring to my relationship with God is that he loves me for what I do. I bet you assume the same thing, too. But where did this idea come from? I have three sons and each one of them was lovely in my eyes from the moment I knew they existed. As soon as the news came that my wife was pregnant, I loved a person that had not yet done anything good or bad. I loved a boy who would grow into a man with the love of a father—deep, unconditional, proud. I loved them before they could smile, before they could hug me, before I could even hug them!
But when I think about God, I assume that he loves me based on what I do, not merely for who I am. And that assumption is a lie.
God has a role for each member of his body in helping restore others. When believers discover a concern or need in the life of another, they have an unhealthy habit of passing that concern onto a Sunday School class or church leadership. Instead of passing along concerns, believers should see God’s sovereignty at work. God has placed them in the path of this particular need. Since God adequately equips those he calls into his service, they should see that God has equipped them to take the lead and address this need in his power within the community of Christ.
Many churches today—especially newer church plants in America—are rejecting Sunday school classes in favor of small groups. Others have rejected small groups in favor of more traditional Sunday school classes. What we should reject is the false dichotomy between Sunday school classes and small groups.
An excerpt from Spurgeon’s A Christmas Question, which we’re giving away as a free ebook this Christmas at The Gospel Project blog.
A favorite from the archives:
One of the things I really appreciate is the kindness of a number of publishers who send me a lot of books. This is really kind since they don’t have to do this (and I don’t always read what is sent—because it simply isn’t possible). But it also makes me a bit nervous. How do I balance the self-imposed sense of obligation that comes with receiving a book? Do I read it? Give it a shout-out and be done with it? Say nothing at all?
Worse, there’s a tendency to want more (which may well be an example of what the Bible calls “coveting”). It doesn’t matter if I can get through it or not, it doesn’t matter if I can start it or not—when I see a book I get excited about, there’s a temptation to get it.
And before you know it, my shelves are double (or triple) stacked, and my kids are building forts out of my book collection.