Monday, October 31, 2016

Ecclesia semper reformanda: What we Should Learn from the Protestant Reformation

Tonight I will gather my kids--two of which will be dressed as a "Minecraft" character and a princess--and head for German Street--a quaint, wonderful stretch of our Shepherdstown, WV community.  Why?  Because this is the only night of the year in which it is culturally appropriate to allow your kids to beg strangers for unhealthy food.  For most in our culture, October 31 is merely that: a fun holiday that consists of costumes, candy, and haunted hay rides. 

But for the church, October 31 marks a major turning point in our history, and provides lessons to us today.  499 years ago tonight, a German monk gathered his parchment, a hammer and a nail, and ignited a movement that would spread like wildfire throughout Europe

The story begins in Medieval Rome.  The doctrinal integrity of the medevial Church was at a breaking point.  Cultural syncretism over the centuries had all but led to a complete loss of ecclesiological identity, which by the 1500s was also accompanied by rampant immorality throughout the Empire, enabled by the church.  Every kind of moral evil, from the visiting of prostitutes by priests to the fleecing of the poor and marginalized, was taking place in the "holy city."

Into this context, in the year 1500, walks an unwitting German monk named Martin Luther.  For most of his life, this young man had longed to see Rome; the fountainhead from which he believed his faith flowed.  But what he saw when he arrived shocked him to the core.  His stomach was turned by the sexual immorality he witnessed.  But Luther was more offended by the way the poor and marginalized were treated by those who claimed to be the representatives of Jesus on earth.  The system of indulgences that had been set up by the church to raise money for St. Peter's Basilica created an environment where the rich could sin as much as they wanted, while the poor not only lived in poverty, but also under the constant threat of eternal damnation. The young monk so enraptured with thoughts of visiting the holy city would later be quoted as saying "if there is a hell, Rome is built over it!"

Shaken to the core, Luther would ponder his experiences in Rome for the next seven years.  But by 1507, the escalation of the abuse of the indulgences, and the extension of these abuses into more remote areas outside Rome by Tetzel's preaching would compel Martin Luther to face the corruption head on.  And face it he did, through a document that you and I now know as the 95 theses--nailed to the door of a Wittenburg castle 498 years ago tomorrow.  Though initially written to reform the Roman church from within, Luther would eventually come to learn that the immorality and abuse he was witnessing was enabled by twisted theology that held the edicts of the church as a greater authority than the commands of the Lord of the church.  Medevial Rome was preaching a counterfeit Gospel, and it was time for the true church to separate herself and rise from the ashes.  The Protestant Reformation had begun.

For those who would soon be called "Lutherans," this reformation culminated in the Augsburg Confession (1530).  For other groups who joined Luther's followers in the break from medieval Catholicism, subsequent confessions of faith would be written--each of which would proclaim themselves as the "true church" over against the Catholicism out of which they had just emerged.   The fires of the Protestant Gospel spread throughout Europe, and established itself within two generations on the complementary foundations of the priesthood of all believers and open access by all people to the Scriptures, which at this time were being translated into the various lingua franca employed around the world.

The Gospel had been recovered, and it was time to move forward.  Unfortunately, the Reformers maintained their posture of critique, and the horrific result is mourned to this day by Baptists who know their history well--as it was our theological ancestors who would bear the brunt of their persecution.  What motivated these continued inquisitions depends on which historian you talk to, but the use of political tactics--and force--to silence dissent were commonplace throughout this period of history, and included the execution of those who held different views.

The big idea is this:  by the end of the Reformation period, the church had recovered the heart of the Gospel, but instead of seeking to spread that Gospel across the world, they maintained a posture of critique, suspicion, and paranoia that at times crossed the line into violence.  As a result, Protestants would ultimately--and legitimately--be accused of violating Jesus' "prime directive," as the Catholic theologian Erasmus suggested to Luther that these new Protestants couldn't possibly be the true church, because they had no missionaries.

To be sure, no period of Christian history proves that sometimes, Jesus' followers are Jesus' biggest problem so much as the Reformation period.  Two corollary messages rise from these events:

1. Truth is Immortal.  What Luther eventually discovered in those days leading up to the assembly at Augsburg is that a counterfeit message produces counterfeit disciples.  While maintaining what would be considered historically essential to orthodoxy (Belief in a Trinitarian Godhead, the deity of Jesus, and the necessity of salvation through His death and resurrection), the medieval church had hidden the Gospel behind centuries of syncretized tradition which, by the 16th century, was of great benefit to Rome's ecclesial institutions, but counterproductive to the spread of Jesus' message globally.  In short, the Gospel was not preached with clarity, nor was it applied consistently to Catholic followers.  The result was an immoral, greedy, self-centered church that sought the advance of its influence through power, and the intimidation of the marginalized.  Ideas, as the late Francis Schaefer was fond of saying, have consequences.

By the time of the Augsburg Confession, Martin Luther had come to realize that the dastardly and oppressive actions of the church were the natural result of the bastardized "Gospel" being proclaimed by the 16th century Roman Church.  If October 31, 1517 reminds us of nothing else, it should remind us that actions flow from our true beliefs.

Want to live a lie?  Then simply start believing and proclaiming lies, and you are well on your way.  On this day, the church is well-served by remembering that Truth, as revealed ultimately in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in Scripture alone, is the starting point for any true church.  Without it, even those who claim to follow Jesus will devolve into a 16th century Catholic-style oppression, or a Word of Faith style materialism, a Fundamentalist-style legalism, or an emergent-style relativism.  Our Gospel determines not only what we say, but how we live.  We'd better be sure we have the right one!

2. Truth Has a Purpose.  Truth is supposed to be spread, not "guarded" to the point that we spend more time arguing about its content than we do spreading its hope.  Protestant Christians of every tribe need to remember that not everything in our DNA is healthy.  More particularly, we need to remember that while our ancestors--including Luther whom we all hold in common--rightly began this movement with a strong critique of Roman Catholicism, a recovered Gospel does no good if we merely maintain a posture of critique and as a result continue to fight over minutiae.  Erasmus was right: no church can truly be the church without a missionary impetus that seeks to make Jesus more widely known.  Furthermore, a clear understanding of sola gratia means that we will not approach non-Christians with the presumption that we are the sole monopolizers of God's message.  Instead, we are what D.T. Niles once claimed: beggars sharing enthusiastically with other beggars where we have found bread.

It would take a separate post--or perhaps more than one--to point out the flaws of Martin Luther, because he had plenty of them.  But on days like today, I'm thankful for the legacy God gave us through Luther's fiery ministry--Scripture in the language of the people, the priesthood of all believers, and the non-negotiable element of saving faith--that it comes by faith alone in a crucified, resurrected Savior.  We too, are imperfect people, prone to wander from our intended missional path onto side-roads of dissension that keep us from the more effective spread of Jesus' message.  As we reflect on the historic significance of this day and the theological axioms we've been given through it, perhaps we should ask ourselves the following questions:

sola scriptura: Have you drank deeply lately of the very Word of God, which has now been available in your language for many centuries?

sola fide Have you shared your ultimate hope in Jesus with others?  When was the last time this took place?

sola gratia Have you approached non-Christians, not as an autonomous knower who is better than they, but instead as a trophy of the grace of God?

sola Christo Have you shared with others the identity of Jesus with clarity, and without so much of the western cultural baggage that weights-down His image?

soli Deo gloria Have you given God the glory for how he has worked through imperfect people throughout history, and for how He has worked through you?

Such questions honor the spirit of the Protestant cry expressed 400 years later by Karl Barth; Ecclesia semper reformanda.  The church, always reforming.  May our Lord continue to reform us, and by doing so empower us for the global work to which He has called us.

Monday Morning Rewind: The Woman of the House

Yesterday, I spoke on a touchy subject.

Actually, that's a colossal understatement.  I spoke on a subject that tends to get preachers picketed and protested.  And to evoke that kind of response, I don't even need to say anything myself.  I needed only to quote the passage we read together yesterday morning:

"Likewise wives, be subject to your own husbands...."

Yesterday, we entered week two of our series "A Marriage Made on Earth."  For marriage to work as God intends, both husbands and wives need to be obedient in their respective responsibilities toward each other.  Next week, we get to the husbands. (In fact ladies, the guys get TWO weeks!).  But yesterday, we started with the wives, because that is where the Apostle Peter began.

But that word "submit" causes a lot of misunderstanding, confusion, and anger, so we first had to unpack its meaning--and it doesn't mean what most in our culture think it means.

1. It doesn't mean all women are to submit to all men.  Because maleness, in and of itself, doesn't qualify anyone to lead anything.
2. It doesn't mean the husband is the ultimate authority. That position is filled by the Lord Jesus, and no man with a brain wants to try to assume it.
3. It doesn't mean that husband micromanages everything.  Truthfully, most husbands would make a colossal mess trying to do so.

So what does it mean?  Ultimately, the command to submit is given because God will hold husbands, not wives, responsible for the well-being of the entire family unit.  Male headship is about responsibility.  And the picture that unfolds in these verses is the picture of a family moving forward toward Jesus together, with the husband leading the way, and his wife following that lead in a way that helps him and makes him better.  And Peter describes four ways that "submission" is displayed by wives in a marriage relationship (next week, we will look at how this sort of deference is to be displayed by husbands for a marriage to work)

1. In Her Actions. Non-Christian husbands come to Jesus, Christian husbands become better followers of Jesus, and all husbands become better husbands, when the actions of a wife in the home who lives out her faith with consistency.  Few men will change by listening to their wives preach at them.  But I've seen many who have drawn closer to Christ by watching the "walk" of their wives.  I'm one of them!

I spoke yesterday about an experience when our daughter had major surgery many years ago--watching the way my wife cared selflessly for her.  Watching Amy sacrificially give of herself during that time, and seeing the grace with which she handled that whole situation modeled sacrifice for me, and it made me a better man.

2. In Her Appearance.  Some people believe, based on this passage, that women shouldn't wear makeup or jewelry, or be concerned at all about their looks.  But that isn't what Peter has in mind.  But what he does have in mind is a godly woman who isn't obsessed with her appearance.

Too many women today live in an environment of "body shaming" that takes two forms.  The first is the false expectation of a certain kind of body style or shape, or a certain weight that drives too many women toward bulimia, anorexia, or other harmful acts. The second is the "Abercrombie and Fitch" era that pushes women--knowingly or unknowingly--to be defined solely in terms of their bodies.  The Christian answer to both of these expressions is simplicity, and modesty.

Most "women's magazines" you pick up at the grocery store have a lot to say about how you should look as a woman.  Few address how you should live.  Peter tells us here that what is truly attractive to a man who is right with Jesus is a modest, simple, and thus naturally and truly beautiful woman who has put the lion's share of attention on her heart, not her physical appearance.

3. In Her disposition.  Peter speaks of wives here as having a "gentle and quiet spirit."  Sometimes, this can be misinterpreted to make it seem as though if a woman is boisterous and loud, she is violating the Scripture.  But actually, what Peter has in mind with these words is less about a woman's volume and more about her disposition toward her husband.  I know many godly couples for whom the wife is the extrovert, and she is not violating Scripture by simply being herself.  You can be the life of the party and still live in the kind of submission Peter speaks of.  Conversely, you be a very quiet, reserved woman and be unsubmissive, rebel against authority, hover in the background and be controlling.

The big question is this:  Ladies, are you living in a way that your husband would say you are good company?

4. In Her Mentors.  Peter concludes this section by calling women toward emulating the examples that came before them.  And ultimately, he points his female readers toward Sarah--the wife of Abraham who became the mother of all Israel.

But let's be honest about Sarah.  This woman encouraged her husband to sleep with another woman so they could have a child together, then in jealousy would later put that woman and her child out of the home.  So later this week when you scream at the kids or let stress get to you, I hope you remember that even our female heroes made some pretty bad mistakes.

When those hard times come, women need other women.  So if your mother or grandmother is a Christian, go to them for advice.  If you don't come from a Christian family, find godly older women in our church family who can listen to you, pray for you, and give you advice.  Read biographies of great women of God like Elizabeth Elliott or Ruth Bell Graham.  Learn from those who came before you, and be encouraged!

"Submission" isn't about women being "inferior."  Its about you emulating the very example of Jesus who, though He was God, willingly submitted Himself to the will of His Father.  Its about you becoming more like Jesus in your role as a wife.  If it still seems objectionable to you, I'd only ask you to consider the alternatives offered by our culture--a vision of womanhood that includes you watching porn with your boyfriend to keep them happy and living with you--a vision that includes you paying for your own dates in the name of "equality."--a vision that includes you using your body rather than your entire being to keep worthless men interested--a vision that includes a culture where women are increasingly the victims of violence at the hands of those who would abuse them--a vision that includes sharp rises in depression, bi-polar disorder, anorexia, and STDs.

What do you think ladies?  Is the serpent still trolling the garden?  Are the daughters of Eve, thousands of years later, still just a gullible as their mother was on that dark day?

God has something better for you, and for your marriage. That "something better" doesn't require a trip back to the 1950s, nor does it require you to check your college degree and brain at the door (and any man who thinks it does isn't worth your time!)  But it does require submission--first to Jesus--in the way you relate to the man you call "husband."

Monday, October 24, 2016

Monday Morning Rewind: The Meaning of Marriage

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Yesterday, we began a brand new series called "A Marriage Made on Earth."  Over the past several decades as the divorce rate began to rise sharply, all manner of "marriage helper" tools have emerged in our culture.  Though all are well-intended, many perpetuate myths about the marriage relationship that are simply untrue.

The Scriptures on the other hand paint a broad, clear picture of the key elements that make a marriage last.  And when we contrast these views, two major trends of how marriage is perceived in our culture are exposed as faulty:

Marriage as Romanticism:  Concepts such as "falling in love" or "finding a soul mate" are rather recent developments.  When they describe the romantic elements of the marriage relationship they can be healthy things.  Human beings are highly complex creatures, and romance can be a powerful and positive thing.  But when romance, and the idea of living "happily ever after" is viewed as the essence of marriage, it can actually destroy it.  How often have you heard a divorcing couple say something like "well, we just fell out of love?"  That is a marriage built on the sinking sand of "romance."

Marriage as Consumerism.  This is capitalism applied to the marriage relationship.  Too many marriages today are a social transaction.  I seek a wife because I need someone to meet my needs and serve my interests.  In other words, its about "what I get" out of the relationship.  Our culture has been groomed to treat marriage this way because we believe individual happiness is the ultimate value.  So marriage becomes like a trip to my preferred store.  When they stop carrying the product line I like, or new policies emerge that don't work for me, I shop elsewhere.  When your marriage is rooted no more deeply than the amount of "relational currency" the other has, sooner or later one or both will run out of currency, and the relationship is over.

Marriage, according to the Scriptures, isn't romanticism or consumerism.  Marriage is Covenant!  Genesis 15 and Jeremiah 34 are two areas of the Bible where this Hebrew practice is outlined graphically.  Two parties would reach an agreement, cut an animal in half (nose to tail!), and walk between those bloody halves as a way of saying "may I become like this animal if I do not keep my word to you."  Ever seen that picture on the front of a wedding invitation?

But this is the essence of a marriage that lasts--a dual promise to sacrifice and commit unconditionally to the other.  Yes, marriage can be romantic and fun.  But at heart, marriage is a bloody struggle of spiritual warfare.  It is one man and one woman, arm in arm, facing all the hardships of life together, and bringing glory to God together.

Marriage is war. And winning that war together requires a covenantal commitment that understands three things about marriage.

Marriage is grounded in creation.  One man.  One woman.  One lifetime.  Yes, humanity deviated radically and early from this God-given precedent.  Polygamy, rape, premarital and extramarital sex, divorce, homosexual behavior, and a host of other "expressions" emerged early on.  But Genesis 1 and 2 describes what has been God's standard since the beginning.  When we are given to each other in marriage, we are being given a great gift from a loving God that is grounded in the created order itself.

Marriage is a tool of sanctification.  No, you don't have to be married to grow in your faith, and there are hundreds of ways that God makes His people holy.  But marriage, if it is done right, is the expressway to husbands and wives both becoming more like Jesus.

Marriage is a proclamation of the Gospel.  Marriage, Paul says in Ephesians 5, is "a profound mystery" that we should spend a lifetime exploring together as husbands and wives.  But this we know for sure from the beginning: our marriages should be a reflection of Jesus and His church--and of the Gospel of His sacrificial death and resurrection that makes successful marriages possible.

This is the meaning of marriage--hand in hand, walking through the war zone of life together--and in the process, going deeper and deeper into the mystery.  Does this describe your marriage?  It can.  Whatever your background or that of your spouse, God can bring your marriage to this place, and over the next several weeks, we will look more deeply into how this happens.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Monday Morning Rewind: A Missional Life

Growing Passionate Followers of Jesus Christ who serve all people.

That's our mission statement at Covenant Church.  But as we move forward together, we need to ask ourselves a serious question: Are we really making disciples, or are we just enabling religious consumers?  Sometimes, the two look an awfully lot alike.

I was visiting the church of a close friend a few years back, which at the time had about 3000 in attendance.  When I walked into the foyer, I saw stations offering people multiple opportunities to serve--and not just within the church walls, but within their community and around the world.  Banners advertised those same opportunities all over the building.  Everywhere I looked this place screamed "we are here to build servants to our neighbors and the world!"  I happened to be walking with the Communications Director--the guy who was responsible for all that "messaging" and I complimented him highly.  "I was in here less than 10 seconds, and I know exactly who you guys are.  You have done a fantastic job with the message!"  As a new staff member, he was thankful for the compliment, but had also just come from a much larger church led by a "Health, Wealth and Prosperity" Pastor--the kind of church that promised its people everything and demanded nothing--except money of course.

To my compliment, this new staff member replied "Yeah, this message is a lot harder to sell than the message at my last church."

Yesterday, we finished up our series entitled "A Different Kind of Life" with a long, hard look at Hebrews 11 and 12.  What we saw there was a phenomenal picture of the saints through the ages who gave everything they had--including sometimes their own lives--for the sake of Jesus.  They weren't religious consumers.  They were faith-filled disciples who lived on mission 24/7.  What we learned from their lives was that to live missionally is to live in faith.  So what is a faith-filled life?  And how do we live it?  Because without it, we can't live the way Jesus wants us to live.

What is a Faith-filled life?

1. Its a life of singular passion.  Faith is, to put it simply, living your life as though God can be trusted.  Even when I don't possess what has been promised to me, I continue to move forward.  And when I live that way, I'm living the life of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, and thousands of others.
2. It takes the long view.  So many of the people we read about in this passage lived their whole lives on a promise they never saw fulfilled.  In other words, they weren't living primarily for this life, but for the next one.  Jesus said "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Everything we have in this life is temporary.  Often we think of tangible possessions, but this is also true of relationships.  One day, everything that is precious to me in this life is going to be taken from me.  A faith-filled life that lives for eternity takes a view that is much longer then ones' own life.
3. It produces spiritual heroes.  2000 years after this letter is penned, we know the stories of these people, and so many more who came after them.  Even beyond the stories we read in Hebrews, we remember a Lutheran pastor named Bonehoeffer who stood up to Hitler at the cost of his life.  We remember Martin Luther King standing in the midst of a nation infected with the virus of Jim Crow describing a dream of a better world.  And when we think of these people, we think as the author of Hebrews; "The world was not worthy of them."  That is spiritual heroism, and living a life filled with faith can bring you to join the list of those who fit that profile!

So how do I live this life?

1. Get rid of what holds you back.  The author of Hebrews says "lay aside every weight and sin."  What sinful habits are keeping you from greater intimacy with your Creator?  What is causing you to live in fear?  Throw it off!
2. Never give up. The athletic imagery is inspiring.  Like a marathon runner, just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Don't back down.  Don't tap out.
3. Fix your eyes on Jesus.  Get your focus off of your circumstances, a questionable financial market, a circus-style Presidential election, or anything else that is causing you to lose heart, and focus your attention on Christ--who endured the cross for you.

Imagine an entire generation of Christians right here, right now, of whom it could be said when we are dead and gone, "the world was not worthy of them."  Are you living your life in that way?  Because that's a life of faith, and its a powerful place from which to serve Jesus to the fullest!

Let's start living it together church!

Monday, October 03, 2016

Monday Morning Rewind: A Christ-Centered Life

"Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words."

Those infamous words are attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, though there is zero evidence of his ever having spoken or written this, or anything like it.

But even if he had, it would remain a stupid thing to say.

Yesterday, we finished week three of a four-week series entitled "A Different Kind of Life."  The Scriptures repeatedly call God's people to "stand out" and lead a life that is markedly different from others--noticeable to the point that it is questionable to others.  Like those on whose shoulders we stand who healed the sick, fed the hungry, educated children, treated women as equals, and changed the world through lives no one in the 1st century had ever seek before, we are people whose lives should evoke the simple question, "who ARE you?"

But none of that means anything if it isn't grounded in the person and the work of Jesus.  We can feed the hungry, heal marriages, start addiction recovery programs, and help people economically, but without a Christ-centered life that produces a verbal witness, all we will do is send people to hell sober, with full stomachs, happy marriages, and fatter checkbooks.

The reason we focus on tangible and more immediate needs is to point to the ultimate need of forgiveness of sins and the transformation of our hearts.  Without that message at the core of everything we do, we are merely dabbling on the surface of things.  The point is we can't just live differently and make a lasting difference on people if that difference isn't informed and empowered by something beyond this world.  And in the introductory verse of Romans, Paul describes five ways that Jesus completely transformed his life--ways that describe how our own lives can be transformed.

Jesus Changes Our Lives. The Christian Gospel isn't just another religion alongside other world religions--another "choice" among many paths to God.  Jesus transforms His followers at their core, and Paul's own testimony is evidence of the miracle that Jesus works into each of us.  This former Pharisee who was committed to earning his salvation by obedience to the law now calls himself a "bondservant of Jesus Christ."  This "Hebrew of Hebrews" whose identity was once wrapped up in his ethnicity is now the "apostle" sent out by the one who came to save the whole world.  This persecutor of the church--the 1st century equivalent of an ISIS recruit--is now set apart to proclaim the very message he once sought to eliminate from the earth.

When we read the opening words of Romans, we are reading the words of a changed man.  And it is that change that empowers us to live the different kind of life to which we are called.  In our own strength, we can only "fake it" for so long.  The life we are called to live can't be produced in our own strength.  We can never be happy enough, or inspired enough on our own to keep it up.  It requires a complete overhaul of our identity.

Jesus Moves our Assurances. The whole of the Christian message is rooted in the fulfilled promise that Paul describes in verse 2.  The promise of Jesus was a promise first made in the Garden of Eden, and Paul emphasizes here that it is a promise that has been kept!  In our world, of written contracts and low trust, its easy to be a little skeptical.  But we serve a God who keeps His promiises, and all of our assuracnes can be placed in Him.

Jesus Centers our Focus  In verses 3 and 4, we see Paul describing the essence of the Christ-centered life.  This "Son of David" who came as Messiah--this "Son of God who is perfect man and perfect God--has conquered death.  As we live high-risk, high-stakes lives for His glory, bad things might happen.  But the worst thing that can happen is death--something Jesus has already defeated.  This is a man worth placing at the very center of our lives.  This is a man worthy of defining the totality of our identity.

Jesus Increases our Gratitude.  In verse 5, Paul reminds us that if we are Christian, our story begins and ends with grace.  Unmerited favor.  Something we get that we do not deserve and could never earn.  The gratitude that comes from realizing this is more than enough motivation to live differently, noticably!  No one should change their life rythym becaue they were made to feel guilty.  We should be intiving strangers to our table because of the grace of God that invited us--strangers, aliens and enemies--to HIS table!  We should live questionably because we serve a Savior who did things that blew people's minds.  When you have been transformed to the core, you posess the kind of grace that won't burn you out.  Gratitude for what Jesus has done becomes the nuclear source from which we can continue to live questionably and hospitably.  Its all about gratitude.  Everything else is a fossil fuel that runs out.

Jesus Encourages our Awe.  In verses 6 and 7 we see the heart of what it means to find your identity in Jesus.  Here we see that as His followers of Christ, we are His property (we belong to Him), and we are His beloved.

You were loved before the world was created.  You were chosen before you were born.  Jesus bled for you before you were born.  The Holy Spirit has immersed you into Christ permanently--eternally!  Imagine the kind of powerful life you can live when you simply embrace and live in that identity!

David Hume, the 18th century skeptic philosopher, left his office one evening, telling a colleague of his intent to hear George Whitfield, the British preacher and revivalist.  Surprised, his colleague said "I thought you didn't believe the Christian message."  Hume replied "I don't.  But I'm not going because I believe.  I'm going because George Whitfield does."

How many people would say that about you?  Is your life so immersed--so centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ--that they would say of you what Hume said of Whitefield?  "What they believe is crazy!  But I am fascinated by them, because it is obvious to me that they really believe this stuff!"  That is a Christ-centered life!