The Blog of Pastor Jude St. John

In The Trenches

One of the things I love about football is its applicability to life. So much of what happens on the football field corresponds to our experience of living. And in particular, one can draw many parallels between the game of football and our life of faith in Jesus Christ. Most of my years playing football were played “in the trenches.” That is, I was an offensive lineman who plied my trade on the line of scrimmage. That no-man’s-land of much physical violence between opposing forces which derives its name from the battle situations of the World Wars. That place which seems, as often as not, to be an experience much like our lives. I hope to communicate with you a few things that will hopefully be of some help as you fight the good fight of faith. And since I am in this battle too, you might consider that I write these thoughts as I live my life for God in the trenches. 

Books I've Read in 2019

  • John Newton by Jonathan Aitken
  • Supernatural Power for Everyday People by Jared Wilson
  • The Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards
  • The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Philips
  • Biblical Theology by Nick Roark and Robert Cline
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  • Aug10Mon

    I am a complete idiot . . .

    August 10, 2015
    I came across short video of an author/pastor/theologian who has had a significant impact on me. His name is Ray Ortlund and he is the Lead Pastor for Immanuel Nashville. In this clip, he is sharing what he calls the Immanuel Mantra. His first point is the one that really resonates with me; I'm a complete idiot. Take a look:


    Immanuel Mantra from Immanuel Nashville on Vimeo.


    I love how Pastor Ray simplifies what his church is about and puts it in a way that many people could understand.

    One of the ways Ray Ortlund has had a profound impact on my life is through his book The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ. This is a fabulous little book which I highly recommend. It, much like the video above, is a succinct and winsome explanation of what church is all about.

    Here are a bunch of quotations, 70 to be exact, from the book:

    1. Let's not assume that our churches are faithful to the gospel. Let's examine whether they are (17).
    2. So the test of a gospel-centered church is its doctrine on paper plus its culture in practice ... (18).
    3. Nothing is gained by merely repackaging the church in forms more attractive to outsiders (18).
    4. We possess, in the gospel alone, God's wonder-working resources for the display of Christ among us (19).
    5. Any church ... that falls short of the gospel of Christ in either doctrine or culture will inevitably collapse ... (19).
    6. Gospel doctrine creates gospel culture. The doctrine of grace creates a culture of grace (21).
    7. We need strength from beyond ourselves, because it's hard to hold on to gospel doctrine (22).
    8. This is the massive love of God-the Son leaving nothing of the Father's glory unexpressed, leaving nothing of our need unfilled (31).
    9. I want to be really forgiven of my real sins by a real Savior (34).
    10. God's final category for you is not your goodness versus your badness, but your union with Christ versus your distance from Christ (34).
    11. If you don't believe your way into Jesus Christ, you will perish (35).
    12. The doctrine of grace creates a culture of grace where good things happen to bad people (39).
    13. Gospel doctrine and gospel culture do not coexist by lucky chance (39).
    14. Being part of church frees us from a vague idealism and gives us traction for real gospel advance ... (40).
    15. Obviously, we pay a price to give our lives to a real community (40).
    16. We didn't ruin God's plan; we are his plan, his eternal plan to love the undeserving, for the display of his glory alone (40).
    17. There is nothing degrading in Christ. nothing we need to worry about or filter out (44).
    18. How can we hope to be true to Christ if we look away from the Bible's stark portrayal of our natural corruption (44)?
    19. The real holiness Christ creates is beautiful (47).
    20. A gospel-defined church is a prophetic sign that points beyond itself (51).
    21. Despair is an intellectual and social sin. It denies gospel doctrine and destroys gospel culture (55).
    22. Fixing broken things is the way of God (56).
    23. There is nothing petty and small about a church when it believes this massive and noble gospel (62).
    24. ... the hope of the gospel makes us cheerfully defiant toward every disappointment ... (62).
    25. ... the hope of the gospel and the triumph of our Savior make us cheerfully defiant even toward our own sin and failures (63).
    26. ... the beauty of human relationships, is the first thing that outsiders are likely to notice when they enter a church (66).
    27. A church should offer the world ... a counterculture, a living embodiment of the gospel (67).
    28. ... we must not import into our church families today the failed patterns of our earthly families in the past (70).
    29. The household of God must offer a clear and lovely alternative to the madness of this world (71).
    30. The family of God is where people should find lots of gospel, lots of safety, and lots of time (72).
    31. The goal is not to make the church safe for sin; it's to make it safe for confession and repentance (73).
    32. We must not allow anything in our churches to compete with the high visibility of the gospel (75).
    33. A church can offer living and palpable proof that the gospel makes a real difference for real people living in the real world (76).
    34. As a pillar and buttress of the truth, our churches are God's Plan A for world redemption, and he has no Plan B (76).
    35. We either proudly believe we are too good to be judged, or we proudly believe we are too bad to be saved (79).
    36. We lose sight of him quickly, don't we? We all need frequent exposures to his overruling good news (82).
    37. A gospel culture is harder to lay hold of than gospel doctrine (82).
    38. And when a whole church luxuriates in Christ alone, that church embodies a gospel culture (83).
    39. Exalting ourselves always diminishes his visibility (83).
    40. The false safety of self is an enduring problem for us Christians (85).
    41. ... it is possible for us to unsay by our practical church culture what we say in our official church doctrine (88).
    42. It is possible to hold to the gospel as a theory even as we lose it as a reality (88).
    43. Right gospel doctrine + anti-gospel culture = a denial of the gospel (88).
    44. We can sincerely love the doctrine of God's grace and, at the same time, unwittingly nullify that grace (89).
    45. We must also ask, is our church culture clearly aligned with that gospel doctrine (89)?
    46. The gospel gives us more than a place to stand; it also leads us into a path to follow (89).
    47. A gospel culture is not easy. But it is possible (91).
    48. Going forward with The Lord means that the future will be both more thrilling and more
    49. It is the strong scent of Christ that people detect when our churches are filled with the gospel (94).
    50. Whatever people might thin of us, God savors us as we lift up Jesus Christ crucified (95).
    51. Throughout the Bible, God's pleasure comes to a focal point at the cross of Christ (95).
    52. And the clearer our churches are about Christ, the more polarizing we will be (95).
    53. But the one thing the gospel never does is nothing (96).
    54. The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ refuses to be held at arm's length with critical detachment (96).
    55. No one judges the gospel. It judges all, and it saves some (96).
    56. ... no one is static. No one is not responding to the gospel (98).
    57. ... we must never be deflected from faithfulness to Christ because of human rejection (98).
    58. Eternal consequences hang in the balance in every gathering of the church, every Bible study, every personal conversation, every blog post (99).
    59. Faithfulness makes enemies on earth. But faithfulness also has a Friend and advocate on high ... (102).
    60. Every one of us is always five minutes away from moral and ministry disaster (103).
    61. If our purposes rise no higher than what we can attain by our own organizing and thinking, then we should change our churches into community centers (105).
    62. The gospel never advances without someone paying a price (107).
    63. The greatness of Christ creates courage in us (108).
    64. Trust him that, with every false treasure you surrender, he will  more than bless you with true spiritual riches (108).
    65. But if the leaders are courageous for Christ, their church will be too (109).
    66. The beauty of love is the crown of a well-taught church (111).
    67. This is who Christ is. He will always be to us an endless sea of sweetness (111).
    68. Love is Christ's authorized way for us to be convincing (112).
    69. If we fail to love one another in ways so striking that we actually start looking like Jesus, then the world has the right to judge that we know nothing of him (113).
    70. A heart aloof from God grows aloof from others (117).

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