The God of the Mundane

Product DetailsTo bring God glory and honor, the Christian doesn’t have to change the world or do all sorts of spectacular things for the good of the Kingdom.  A follower of Christ can serve the Lord well in an obscure, behind-the-scenes, everyday manner (whether trimming lawns or teaching driver’s education).  Christians can please God without ever doing anything special or extraordinary.  To live “a quiet life” (1 Tim. 2.2) is to live a Christian life.

So argues Matthew Redmond in The God of the Mundane.  In a world of fame, glamor, stardom, and super-sizing, this book broadcasts a message every ordinary Christian needs to hear: you can serve God well right where you’re at.  “This little book is not a call to do nothing.  It is a call to be faithful right where you are, regardless of how mundane that place is” (loc. 1102).

“It is encouraging that there is a God of the mundane, because lives are just that – mundane.  This is good news for those who have tried trying to live fantastically.  And this is spectacular news for those who have been tempted to think their lives escape the notice of God because they are decidedly not spectacular” (loc. 245).

Redmond isn’t ambiguous in speaking of vocation: “[The Apostle Paul] never asks [the recipients of his epistles] to stop being who they are.  He never challenges them to go anywhere.  We don’t even get hints that lead us to believe he is making them feel guilty for living in comparative comfort compared to his lack of it.  That’s weird.  And it’s weird because this is so common in our pulpits and in conferences held for zealous college students” (loc. 291).

I appreciate Redmond’s breakdown of how the guilt of doing nothing in life works:

Stage One: I feel guilty about doing nothing.  Stage Two: Therefore I must get on with something obviously significant.  Stage Three: Now we judge others by this standard.  If they are not doing something obviously significant then we automatically say to ourselves or to them and certainly to others, ‘They are not serious about their faith!  If they were, they would do…’” (loc. 712).

What is Redmond’s radical call?  There is no radical call.  That’s the point.

“Be nobody special.  Do your job.  Take care of your family.  Clean your house.  Mow your yard.  Read your Bible.  Attend worship.  Pray.  Watch your life and doctrine closely.  Love your spouse.  Love your kids. Be generous.  …Expect no special treatment.  And do it all quietly” (loc. 1096).

I highly recommend this book for average Christians who think they are doing nothing for Christ.  If you feel like your job in hospital billing, irrigation, or basketball coaching isn’t good enough, get this book.  The God of the Mundane is sort of a modern-day application of Luther’s excellent discussion of vocation coupled with his theology of suffering (not glory!).  This book might go against the flow of some things you’ve heard in evangelical circles, but it’s a good counterpoint that is definitely needed.  (By the way, you can get it for under $5 on Kindle.)

Matthew Redmond, The God of the Mundane (n.l. Kalos Press, 2012).

rev shane lems

sunnyside wa

A Maid Is More Godly Than A Monk

Product Details Dear Christian: You don’t have to go into full- or part-time ministry to please God.  You don’t have to go on a mission trip or undergo some monastic retreat experience to bring God glory.  You can bring him glory by doing your daily tasks with a heart of love for the Lord and hand of help towards your neighbor.  Martin Luther spoke of this in an excellent way.  Here’s an example from a house-sermon preached by Luther in 1534 on Matthew 22:34-46.  I realize this is a bit longer than my normal posts, but I believe it is worth quoting in full.  (Note especially the phrases where Luther talks about the monk in us all and the maid dusting the house.)

“But Christ gets right to the point…and immediately responds: ‘the first and greatest thing one can do is not adorning the temple or offering sacrifices, but to love God with all one’s heart and the neighbor as oneself.  I know that you Pharisees would have been very happy if I had answered that what the priests perform in the temple is the highest thing.  But I will not do that; rather I shall cite as foremost the basic, ordinary things which God has commanded for everyone to do, namely, to love God and one’s neighbor, in keeping with what he commanded through Moses.’”

“The Lord’s reply is especially irksome, that the everyday routine works which people are commanded to do, namely, that they are to love God and the neighbor, supersede all other works, regardless of how they shine and glitter.  The fact is, not only the Pharisees among the Jews, and the hypocrites under the papacy, have regarded human traditions as more important than God’s commandments; for there is a little monk that sticks in all of us from youth on.  We, too, regard the ordinary works God has commanded as insignificant, but the special, diverse works done by the Carthusians, monks, and hermits, about which God has commanded nothing, as especially noteworthy.”

“However, our Lord God is averse to such distinction.  He does not prefer one before another, nor does he exclude anyone from serving him, no matter how lowly he might be.  Instead, he enjoins upon everyone to love God and his neighbor.  Since God seeks nothing extraordinary from us and tolerates no distinctions, we must conclude that, when a maid, who has faith in Christ, dusts the house, her work is more pleasing in service to God than that of St. Anthony in the wilderness.  That is Christ’s meaning here.  This is the highest commandment: to love God and one’s neighbor.  God is not concerned about the rules of the Franciscans, Dominicans, or other monks, but wants us to serve him obediently and love the neighbor.  They may consider their monastic rules to be something wonderful and special, but before God they are nothing.  The very highest, best, and holiest work is when one loves God and the neighbor, whether a person is a monk or nun, priest or layperson, great or small” (p. 75).

Near the end of the sermon, Luther cuts deeper.

“Therefore, what will happen on judgment day is that many a maidservant who did not know whether she had done anything good all her life will be preferred before a Carthusian monk who has the appearance of great holiness and yet has loved neither God nor his neighbor.  There God will pronounce this sentence: This maid has served her mistress in harmony with my commandment, has looked after the house, and so forth; since she has done this in faith, she shall be saved; but, Carthusian, you did what you wanted to do, serving no one but yourself and your own idol; therefore you are damned.  That will be the verdict on Judgment Day” (p. 77).

You can find the full sermon quoted above in volume 7 of The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000).

shane lems

Two (and a Half) New Don Carson Titles

This one is just out: Don Carson’s Collected Writings on Scripture (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010).  It looks just as promising as most of his other writings.  The first 190 pages or so are essays of Carson’s that discuss the Bible: historiography, literary aspects, hermeneutics, criticism, authority, theology, and other such themes.  The second half of the book – roughly from page 190 to 300 – is a collection of Carson’s book reviews.  These consist of his reviews on books about the Bible, like James Barr’s The Scope and Authority of the Bible, Pete Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation, along with several more.  You can get a PDF snapshot of this collection here.

Also, I’ve mentioned this before, but you can also now order his other new one, The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010). The God Who Is There is kind of a beginner’s guide to biblical and systematic theology – basically Carson goes through the main themes of the Bible in a way that showcases God’s glory in his work in/through history.  Looks like it would make for good Sunday School or book club material.

This one isn’t really a full book – it is more of a booklet (under 100 pages): From The Resurrection to His Return: Living Faithfully in the Last Days (Christian Focus, 2010).  The publisher says it is sort of a commentary on 2 Timothy 3.  It has to do with Christians living in light of Jesus’ return.  Looks good!  You can see a PDF preview here.

Enjoy!

shane

Mortification

Though I’m not a big fan of archaic language, I love the old theological term “mortification.”  I’ve mentioned this before and I think it is important to keep coming back to: putting to death the sin that is still in us (i.e. Rom 8.13b).  Along these lines, John Owen’s discussions of mortification are always helpful.  Here are a few gems from his work on mortification (from RHB).

“Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”

“One of the choicest and most eminent parts of practical, spiritual wisdom consists in finding out the subtleties, policies, and depths of any indwelling sin.”

“There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.”

“Hatred of sin as sin…[and] a sense of the love of Christ in the cross lie at the bottom of all true spiritual mortification.”

In one part, Owen talks about fighting sin in light of the gospel and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Here he talks about the futility of trying to fight sin by the law instead of the gospel.

“This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in.  A soul under the power of conviction from the law, is pressed to fight against sin, but hath no strength for the combat.  They cannot but fight, and they can never conquer; they are like men thrust on the sword of enemies, in purpose to be slain.  The law drives them on, and sin beats them back.  Sometimes they think indeed that they have foiled sin, when they have only raised a dust so that they see it not; that is, they distemper their natural affections of fear, sorrow, and anguish, which makes them believe that sin is conquered when it is not touched.”

What does the gospel then have to do with mortification?

“Let faith look on Christ in the gospel as he is set forth dying and crucified for us; look on him under the weight of our sins, praying, bleeding, dying; bring him in that condition into thy heart by faith; apply his blood, so shed, to thy corruptions; do this daily.”

A “made easier to read” version of this treatise by Owen is available in the Puritan Paperback series – and there even is a study guide for it.  Or, you can get them both for under $10

shane

The Marks of God’s Children

I confess: usually when I think about a book on Christian piety I cringe and think “pietism.”  And usually books on Christian living fall into a moralistic guide book dotted with Scripture.  However, Jean Taffin’s (b. 1529) book, The Marks of God’s Children is not a moralistic code book akin to a book of virtue.  This book is about following Christ in suffering, and it is gospel centered, word centered, and means of grace centered.

He starts with a chapter on the blessed future that awaits Christians, the body-and-soul blessedness of heaven.  He then talks about assurance – how the follower of Christ can be assured that heaven is his/hers.  How does a person know that he/she is a child of God?  Taffin first talks about “external” marks (p36-7).  These marks are: first, that a person is a member of a church that preaches the gospel and administers the sacraments.  Second, the person partakes in the means of grace, specifically the sacraments.  Third, when a person calls on the name of God in Christ, this is an external mark that he/she is a child of God.  In summary, Taffin first says: if you want to know if you’re a Christian destined for blessed eternity, you can have assurance if you go to a gospel centered church that preaches the word and administers the visible word.

The “internal” marks of how a person knows he is a child of God are these: the works and fruits of the Holy Spirit in a person is proof that he/she is a child of God.  This includes faith in Christ and love for God and neighbor.  In Taffin’s own words, “These witnesses of the Holy Spirit include the internal marks of a peaceful and quiet conscience before God, the experience of our justification by faith, our love for God and for our neighbor, our changed life, and our desire to talk in the fear and obedience of God” (p. 40). 

I’ll post more on this excellent booklet in the future.  Again, this book is far above other books on being a disciple of Christ – Taffin is extremely Christ centered as well as church centered in this book.  It will be a help in your daily walk of carrying the cross.  Note: click on the above link to take advantage of Reformation Heratige Books’ sale price on Taffin’s book.

shane lems

sunnyside wa