How should Christians think about capitalism?
Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century the two great superpowers of the world, the USSR and the US, represented the opposing ideologies of communism and capitalism respectively. For many Christians it was unquestioningly assumed that communism was the great enemy of the church. Given its openly atheistic philosophy, it clearly opposed what Christians believed. However, in resisting communism Christians may have been deceived into thinking that capitalism is the church’s ally. Yet, if we want to identify the greatest enemy of the Christian faith, we must look closely at Babylon and observe its obsession with consumerism. There is nothing that stands more effectively as a barrier to people knowing God than the desire for wealth that comes through capitalism.
T. Desmond Alexander, From Eden to the New Jerusalem, p. 183.
I don’t care enough about my sin, because I don’t care enough about the gospel.
Powerful thoughts by Paul Tripp today on ministry. It’s not just what pastors need, but what all of us need. What Every Pastor Must Hear and Confess
Over the past two weeks I’ve preached on Matthew 19:13-20:16. Because our Bibles have chapter and verses breaks, we tend to view 19:13-30 as one part, and 20:1-16 as a separate part; however, this is one long narrative.
In the first part of the passage we find Jesus’ conversation with the man who wanted eternal life. The Bible tells us he was rich, young, a ruler, and overall a good guy (cf., Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23). From all appearances he had it all. In his attempt to gain eternal life he asks Jesus, “what good deed must I do?” This man thought that by doing something good he could get something from God. His idea of eternal life was based on exchange or merit, rather than grace. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments. Jesus’ words do not imply that one can earn salvation by keeping the law, but are meant to show the man that he isn’t really a law-keeper, but a law-breaker. The man argues that he has kept all these commandments. The man had done many good things in his life and believed that his own goodness entitled him to something from God. But when confronted with the call to give away his wealth and follow Jesus, he left sorrowful. Jesus’ challenge to the man revealed that he loved his money more than God. In other words, he loved his money more than Jesus (God in the flesh). Therefore, in actuality he had broken the first and most important commandment of the law (you shall have no other gods before me, Exo 20:3).
Having heard Jesus’ discussion with the rich young ruler, the disciples logically ask, “what about us?” The disciples did forsake all for Jesus (cf., Matt 4:20). Jesus assures them that they will be rewarded accordingly, but also quickly warns them not to misunderstand God’s grace. In some sense, the disciples are like the rich young ruler. They were asking Jesus to look at their goodness. Jesus’ warning to his disciples in this parable is that God’s grace is not conditioned on your hard work or goodness, but is freely given according to his sovereign grace (cf., Matt 19:23-26).
Too often we are tempted to think that our goodness earns us something before God; because our mindset is framed according to our own sense of goodness, rather than God’s definition of goodness (which is perfection). When we define goodness according to ourselves we will always use it to justify ourselves and will always view God as unfair. Yet, the gospel teaches us something entirely different. The gospel is never good news until we first hear the bad news. The gospel reminds me that God is fully justified in sending sinners to hell. The fair thing for God to do is to pour out all of his judgment and wrath against us. God does not owe us anything; he doesn’t even owe us the opportunity to hear the gospel. But what God does for us in Jesus is that he seeks us, saves us, and gives us everything that is his. Jesus becomes my sin bearer; he takes my punishment upon himself at the cross. Jesus is the true rich young ruler who gave up his home in heaven and became one of us. Jesus is the perfect law-keeper, who always did the Father’s good will. In Jesus we find perfect goodness; and when we trust in him we get all of his perfect goodness to stand before a perfectly good God. The gospel is not what we must do for God, but what God has already done for us in Christ. Logically, this means that true change happens in our lives when we stop believing the lie that we need to do something for God, but instead start believing the truth of what God has already done for us in Jesus. Satan’s primary way to destroy us is to tempt us to forget what God has done for us in Jesus and to get us to believe that our acceptance before God is based on something other than Christ’s perfect righteousness.
And so, what is it you are still depending on for your salvation? Have you fled to the Lord Jesus Christ? If you have fled, do you continue to flee to Christ as your only hope, your only salvation, and as your only source of satisfaction?
The dictionary defines binoculars as “an optical instrument or device that has one or more lenses and is designed to aid in the viewing of objects not readily seen.” The gospel is like a set of binoculars when it comes to our salvation.
As we go deeper into the gospel we learn to spot where human effort is at work for salvation, rather than Christ’s finished work. Self-salvation is everywhere. It’s in movies, popular culture, on Christian radio, and even preached in pulpits across America. We need to be especially discerning in this area because it is so destructive to our lives, and yet so subtle.
Although, self-salvation is everywhere; where it especially lives is in our own hearts. That is why we need the gospel daily, because it magnifies areas in our lives where we are depending on our own effort for God’s approval, rather than Jesus’ righteousness. And so, do you have a set of gospel binoculars? If you do, then when you look through them at your life–what do you see?
I have been quite busy lately, so posts are few and far between. However, I did want to share that last Sunday I preached from Matthew 13:44-52. In this text, Jesus gives us the parable of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great value. The main point I made in the sermon is that the kingdom of heaven is invaluable because Jesus is invaluable.
Jesus is of infinite worth. He is that treasure hidden in a field and that one pearl to be possessed above all others. If Jesus is not of infinite value to us, then we must ask why? Jesus’ worth to us is only measured in proportion to our recognition of how worthless we are before God. In other words, we will only see Jesus as great to the degree that we see our sin as great against God. We must understand that we are sinful people; fully deserving of God’s wrath if we are to see the infinite value of Christ.
The value of Christ is that he gives me something I can’t do for myself and he gives me something I never deserved. When I realize I am nothing and have nothing except in Christ; then I get his everything–his worth, his value, his merit, his wealth, his resources, his riches, his excellence, his perfection, and his significance. These truths are not just the key to my salvation, but my sanctification. By seizing the infinite worth of Christ in my life so I will find that other things in my life will become less valuable to me.
We live in a culture of self-promotion. Consider for a moment the TV shows we watch and the websites we frequent. The gospel call us to something different. Let us be careful to heed Paul’s words:
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12