Tuesday, February 19, 2008

We've Fenced Ourselves In! Part III

I want to wrap this series up by quoting something that John Oswalt (the guy in the picture) said in his commentary on Isaiah about this idea of a "remnant." By the way, his commentary is excellent--I recommend it to anyone desiring to do a study on the book of Isaiah.

"The concept of the remnant tends to go in and out of fashion, depending on the state of the church at a given time. When the church has been strong and moving forward, the emphasis has tended to be on the idea of participating in the coming kingdom of God. But when the church has felt persecuted and was in a state of little or no growth, the 'remnant' theology has tended to be more popular. Some of both emphases are probably needed in every time. In a time of growth and seeming power, we need to ask whether we are producing more chaff than wheat and whether there is fruit here that will stand a blasting drought. At the same time, when the situation is difficult, the 'remnant' must remember that they are the reprsentatives of a kingdom that cannot fail."
Oswalt continues:
"There are two great dangers in a 'remnant mentality,' closely related to each other. (1) One may be called 'ghett0-ization.' That is, those who believe themselves to be the righteous remnant will withdraw into a protective cocoon secure in their own righteousness and so cease to have the effect of salt and light in the world that Jesus commanded us to have (Matt. 5:13-16). (2) the other danger is self-pity. Here we take on a kind of 'hang-dog' mentality, where we are always feeling sorry for ourselves as the last vestiges of whatever God is trying to do. But if we are secure in the promises of God and rely on God and not on human power, our own or that of the state, we can dare to live in the open with quiet confidence and humble joy."*

Where do we begin? How do we pull ourselves out of our reformed ruts? It begins with prayer. But we must not stop there. We must be intentional about this--we must plan. We must implement the plan we make (of course, always being open to new directions that the Spirit may lead us in). Do not delay. Let us rise above the paralyzing fears of being influenced by the world. Act upon this before it becomes mere theory.

*John Oswalt, The NIV Application Commentary: Isaiah. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 183.


Luke Snowden said...


I am going to speak from my own experience here, and do not intend to bring accusation on any one else (though I don't think I'm alone).

When I've emphasized the "remnant" motiff and been tempted toward the apt put temptations you quoted, the general motivation for cocooning and withdrawing was primraily pride.

Those in a remnant are declaring minority status. Being a minority generally creates a good sense of pride about your status, but will tend to also create an unhealthy zealousness or pride about your status. A general pattern of criticism and impatience with those outside the bounds of your minority group increases, as well as a general feeling of superiority over those outside the minority.

I do believe this is a sense of superiority masked by motivations generally derived from the Bible - you can see the deceptiveness of sin here! "I want meat from the pulpit." Meaty christianity is both biblical and something to desire. It is a good desire and a good demand. It is however, a good mask to cover our pride as we grow both impatient and critical of those we perceive as dining on "milk."

I could go on and on about this as I was one caught up in this sort of thing, and by grace, am gradually being drawn from it.

My point is simple, the only remedy for me was to combat my pride with the Gospel. The Gospel reminds me that I am unworthy and worthless. The Gospel also reminds me that God is worthy and Christ is all-satisfying and glorious. The Gospel also shows me the love of God to me and how (both in degree and substance) to love those I percieve to be outside my minority (remnant) but claim to be in it, nor near it.

In regard of fear - fear is nothing short of misplaced confidence. Fear can only exist in the Christian when the Christian is placing faith in something lesser than God. If a Christian fears the world and thus hids from it, he is placing faith in something lesser than God. To combat this we need the Gospel. Most of the time, our faith is being placed in ourselves rather than the One who has overcome (Christ). The Gospel reminds us that when we trust ourselves we only fail. The Gospel reminds us (through the resurrection) that Christ is trustworthy in all things and over all things.

I think you get my point. The Gospel sets us free from our pride and sets us free from our fears. We not only engage the culture that they may be set from sin, but we engage the culture relying on the Gospel ourselves - that the sin which clings so close to us would be overcome and lives be saved.

Jessy said...

Very helpful, Luke. I especially liked this: "I want meat from the pulpit." Meaty christianity is both biblical and something to desire. It is a good desire and a good demand. It is however, a good mask to cover our pride as we grow both impatient and critical of those we perceive as dining on "milk."
Ever since the Doctrines of Grace dawned upon my darkened heart, I have been quick to hoist myself up a little bit further than my Arminian brothers and sisters in Christ. And since I went from 'milk' churches straight into a 'meat' church, I have seen the prevelance of the same pride-filled attitude amongst my new sect. (note: I am not accusing all Reformed of feeling this way, just making an observance). It is a very sad thing, indeed.
It is ironic that after I was graciously and undeservedly clued- in to Reformed theologies (which are more humbling than my former belief that I had something to do with my salvation), I actually became more prideful, when those truths should have knocked me down a few notches!
The point I am trying to make amidst my ramblings is that Reformed folk should have all the more incentive to be lights in the darkness and preach the Good News, because we know that we are ultimately not responsible for the salvation part, just the telling and showing parts. That fact gives me such great relief in a ministry liek the Women's Shelter, because I know my capabilities do not include the changing of their hearts.