Humble Orthodoxy by Joshua Harris


“The message of Christian orthodoxy isn’t that I am right and someone else is wrong.  It’s that I am wrong and God is filled with grace…How can we be arrogant about a truth that is completely outside of anything we’ve done?  If we had earned the gospel, we could be arrogant about it.  If we had somehow created the truth, then we could copyright it and control other people’s access to it.  But the truth is a gift from God to us.  It has changed us only because he extended his mercy to us.”  In this short book, Joshua Harris attempts to balance the difficulty task of orthodoxy – or believing in ultimate truth – with humility – or lack of arrogance (about said truth).  The book is an easy read – only four chapters totaling 61 pages, but it is a worthwhile read.

harris-humble-orthodoxy

Harris does a great job of calling all to task – from those who would bend the truth the fit a modern age or “reach the lost” to those who hold so fast to truth that they seem to forget part of that truth is to “love your neighbor” (Mark 12:31); my guess is regardless of your theological position, denominational affiliation, or political persuasion there is something in this book that will cause you to shout “Amen!” and something in this book that will offend and (hopefully) convict you.

One quote that brought me to my knees in worship was, “When we know the truth about God – his love, his power, his greatness, his holiness, his mercy – it doesn’t leave us boasting.  It leaves us amazed.  It leaves us in awe of truth.  It leaves us humbled in the presence of grace.”  I find myself even now reflecting on the awesomeness of God!  This past week in Bible study I was having a conversation with someone that eventually led to discussions of the role of The Law and the nature of grace and salvation; at one point in the conversation I looked at this person and said, “This is so exciting!  Why is it that when we come to church on Sundays we don’t get excited about this?”  I found this week more times than I can count instances where I was reminded of the truth about God and his ways and I was awed and humbled as I sat in the presence of His grace.

One final quote that also has had me thinking is the following:

“Some Christians, driven by a desire to reach lost people, cross the line from trying to reach our culture and start trying to impress our culture.  And when a person is motivated by a desire to impress this fallen culture, very quickly all that God has to say becomes, instead of a precious truth, a hindrance.  The Christians who go this way become slaves to the trends, to the values, to the ideals of a spiritually lost culture.”

Without getting on a soapbox and preaching a sermon here, I have to say one of ways I see this statement living out is in how many churches choose to “do church”, in particular the constant battle over music in church.  Many would be wise to reflect on the words Harris writes here and answer the question, “Do I seek to reach or do I seek to impress?”  The answer may surprise us.

Overall, I give this book 4/5 stars and recommend it to anyone and everyone – particularly because it is so short (though that doesn’t mean it’s not deep).  For the record, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.

Oh to Be Like Jesus! (2.26)


I recently finished reading the chapter in Dug Down Deep on sanctification – the journey we travel with God as we are made more into his image.  Joshua Harris, the author, asked the following question and also gave his answer: “Does God really change people?  He absolutely does.  God’s Word promises it.  And the life of every true believer proves it.”

And this caused me to think: how am I becoming more holy?  What is God changing in me?  When I was a child my mother hand a sign that hung on the refrigerator which read, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to prove it?”

I have to say that one of the things I enjoy most in life is watching people grow and change – perhaps it’s why I became a teacher.  To see a person learn to do something new is a wonderful thing.  But what is truly miraculous is watching someone change a bad behavior pattern and replace it with a healthy one.  And that’s kind of what sanctification is all about – leaving behind the “flesh” (as Paul calls it) and replacing it with Jesus.  Jesus didn’t just come to save me, but to transform me.

One of my favorite books is entitled The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg.  Read what he has to say about spiritual growth:

“We are pregnant with possibilities of spiritual growth and moral beauty so great that they cannot be adequately described as anything less than the formation of Christ in our very lives…every moment of my life is an opportunity to learn from God how to live like Jesus…

“I suspect that if someone had asked the apostle Paul or the apostle John about his spiritual life, his first question would have been, ‘Am I growing in love for God and people?’  Practices such as the reading of Scripture and praying are important – not because they prove how spiritual we are – but because God can use them to lead us into life.  We are called to do nothing less than to experience day by day what Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus: ‘But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love which he loved us even when we were death through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.’”

I absolutely love the image of being “pregnant” with the possibility of “spiritual growth and moral beauty,” don’t you?  Too often I see the sin in my life or the problems in my life that keep me from getting where I want to go, yet this phrase reminds me to always look towards the future.  What is the picture of “spiritual growth and moral beauty” that I am “pregnant” with?  It’s Jesus!

In a recent class I taught I told my students that my favorite phrase is, “The best is yet to come.”  And it’s true not only for eternity, but for this life as well.  Tomorrow I need to be more like Jesus than I am today, and the next day more than tomorrow, and so on… Too often we make the Christian life out to be a list of rules and regulations – a bunch of do’s and don’ts – but what’s really important is asking, “How can I be more like Jesus?”

Many times when I’m talking with someone and they struggle with discerning the will of God I ask them this question: Which of your choices, once chosen, will most make you like Jesus?  Once you know the answer to that question you’ll know what God’s will is.  God’s will is for us to be like his Son – to be transformed into the image of Jesus for others to see.  We are saved from Hell, but we are also saved for Heaven.  We are saved from sin, but we are also saved for good works.  All of this falls under sanctification and that whole “working out your salvation” thing that Paul writes about (see Phil 2).

I’m going to close with another quote from Joshua Harris.

“God’s saving work through Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection has practical, real-world implications for our lives.  It is truth that can’t be kept on a page or in a house of worship.  It follows us home.  To our school.  To our work.  To our bedrooms.  It grabs hold of every detail of our lives.  Our thoughts.  Our sexuality.  Our money.  Our leisure.  Our relationships.  Our desires.  Our dreams.”

This begs the question: How does the saving work of Jesus spill over into “practical, real-world implications” in my life?  Over the next couple of weeks I hope to explore this thought process with you and, hopefully, offer some suggestions not only for us individually but also collectively as a choir.

Focusing on Jesus (2.24)


“I think many Christians are more interested in chasing a feeling about Jesus that pursuing Jesus himself and reviewing and thinking about the truth of who he is…[in the Christian spiritual life] if you want to feel deeply, you have to think deeply.  Too often we separate the two.  We assume that if we want to feel deeply, then we need to sit around and, well, feel.

“But emotion built on emotion is empty.  True emotion – emotion that is reliable and doesn’t lead us astray – is always a response to reality, to truth.  It’s only as we study and consider truth about Jesus with our minds that our hearts will be moved by the depth of his greatness and love for us…Knowing Jesus and feeling right emotions about him start with thinking about the truth of who he is and what he’s done.  Jesus never asks us how we feel about him.  He calls us to believe in him, to trust him.” (Joshua Harris, Dug Down Deep)

It’s strange for me to start a devotional with such an extensive quote from someone else, particularly in regards to such a weighty topic as the doctrine of the incarnation, but this statement sums up so much of what I strive for in planning and leading worship every week.

I view my job of worship leader as both leader and teacher.  In particular, it is my job to empower people to worship Christ (this goes back to the mission statement for the choir, too).  When it comes to empowering people to worship during the service this is as “simple” as leading the worship service (I put simple in quotation marks because it is far from an exact science and anything but simple!)  But it is empowering people to worship when they leave here that is much more difficult, and this is where the role of “Teacher” comes it to play.  I must equip people to lead a lifestyle of worship throughout the week when I am not even present, and that is quite different than leading worship when we are together.

So how do I do that?  In a very real sense by doing with this quote says – by focusing people on Jesus and who he is.  Remember that worship is our response to God and what he has done for us.  If worship is our response that means that God initiates.  How does God initiate?  Well, in a very practical sense (and for our purposes in this discussion), he initiated through sending Jesus to die for us.  Which is why it is so important for me to focus people on Jesus and his work on the cross.

Remember what Jesus said in John 12:32 – that when he is lifted up he will “draw all men unto myself.”  John goes on to elaborate that this is a direct foreshadowing of the cross.  So my job is to give people a constant view of Jesus and the work he completed on the cross.

This is why the words of the songs we sing are the primary criteria for inclusion in the service – more than musical style, melody, and even familiarity (for a further discussion of this you can read back over the devotional “Music Selection in Worship” on the website.)

Which brings us back around in this discussion to our quote at the beginning of the devotional.  Worship is often an emotional event – as it should be – but it is an emotional event that happens as a response to a God-initiated relationship. Every week I pray that God would overwhelm us with the truth of who He is – and as we are overwhelmed we will, naturally, begin to worship further.

Songs (both congregational and choral) are selected for very specific reasons, and those reasons fall under the broad categories of “Leader” and “Teacher” (and sometimes songs fall more into one than the other).  While I am the “Worship Leader” every week, the choir also serves the congregation by leading in worship.  Think about the words you sing every week, let the truths found within them sink deep within your heart and soul.  And then let that truth, and your response to it, be reflected in your attitudes, postures, and even facial expressions that the congregation sees.  As we lift Jesus up, he will draw them to himself.  And as people are drawn to Jesus they will respond to him one way or another (hopefully by moving closer to him and not running away).

Focusing on Jesus (Grace Notes Issue 2.24)


Cross Posted on Grace Notes

“I think many Christians are more interested in chasing a feeling about Jesus that pursuing Jesus himself and reviewing and thinking about the truth of who he is…[in the Christian spiritual life] if you want to feel deeply, you have to think deeply.  Too often we separate the two.  We assume that if we want to feel deeply, then we need to sit around and, well, feel.

“But emotion built on emotion is empty.  True emotion – emotion that is reliable and doesn’t lead us astray – is always a response to reality, to truth.  It’s only as we study and consider truth about Jesus with our minds that our hearts will be moved by the depth of his greatness and love for us…Knowing Jesus and feeling right emotions about him start with thinking about the truth of who he is and what he’s done.  Jesus never asks us how we feel about him.  He calls us to believe in him, to trust him.” (Joshua Harris, Dug Down Deep)

It’s strange for me to start a devotional with such an extensive quote from someone else, particularly in regards to such a weighty topic as the doctrine of the incarnation, but this statement sums up so much of what I strive for in planning and leading worship every week.

I view my job of worship leader as both leader and teacher.  In particular, it is my job to empower people to worship Christ (this goes back to the mission statement for the choir, too).  When it comes to empowering people to worship during the service this is as “simple” as leading the worship service (I put simple in quotation marks because it is far from an exact science and anything but simple!)  But it is empowering people to worship when they leave here that is much more difficult, and this is where the role of “Teacher” comes it to play.  I must equip people to lead a lifestyle of worship throughout the week when I am not even present, and that is quite different than leading worship when we are together.

So how do I do that?  In a very real sense by doing with this quote says – by focusing people on Jesus and who he is.  Remember that worship is our response to God and what he has done for us.  If worship is our response that means that God initiates.  How does God initiate?  Well, in a very practical sense (and for our purposes in this discussion), he initiated through sending Jesus to die for us.  Which is why it is so important for me to focus people on Jesus and his work on the cross.

Remember what Jesus said in John 12:32 – that when he is lifted up he will “draw all men unto myself.”  John goes on to elaborate that this is a direct foreshadowing of the cross.  So my job is to give people a constant view of Jesus and the work he completed on the cross.

This is why the words of the songs we sing are the primary criteria for inclusion in the service – more than musical style, melody, and even familiarity (for a further discussion of this you can read back over the devotional “Music Selection in Worship” on the website.)

Which brings us back around in this discussion to our quote at the beginning of the devotional.  Worship is often an emotional event – as it should be – but it is an emotional event that happens as a response to a God-initiated relationship. Every week I pray that God would overwhelm us with the truth of who He is – and as we are overwhelmed we will, naturally, begin to worship further.

Songs (both congregational and choral) are selected for very specific reasons, and those reasons fall under the broad categories of “Leader” and “Teacher” (and sometimes songs fall more into one than the other).  While I am the “Worship Leader” every week, the choir also serves the congregation by leading in worship.  Think about the words you sing every week, let the truths found within them sink deep within your heart and soul.  And then let that truth, and your response to it, be reflected in your attitudes, postures, and even facial expressions that the congregation sees.  As we lift Jesus up, he will draw them to himself.  And as people are drawn to Jesus they will respond to him one way or another (hopefully by moving closer to him and not running away).

Hypocrisy (2.23)


At the suggestion of several preachers I listen to, I purchased and have begun reading Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris.  The subtitle of the book is “Unearthing What I Believe and Why It Matters.”  It’s a book of basic theology.  (for the record, none of these pastors I listen to have recommended it to me personally – they just recommended it to their listeners and so I decided to take them up on it J)

So, I’m sure for awhile some of what I read will work its way into these devotionals (like today).  Here is a wonderful thought I want to share with you that will have to be developed more in future articles.  Two researchers, Smith and Denton, did a large study of teenagers to discover their view of God.  Their findings are published in a book entitled Soul Searching, and in that book they describe the pervading view of God among teenagers as “moralistic therapeutic deism.”

Moralistic because it gives them a list of rules to live by; therapeutic because God’s primary reason for existence is to make us happy; deistic because while God exists, he isn’t involved.  They summarize it with this statement: “In short, God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he is always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process.”

After some reflection and discussion about this, Mr. Harris writes (and here’s the gist of this article), “I wonder how different our functional view of God is…I would never dare to call God my Divine Butler or Cosmic Therapist, but how often do I treat him as if he were?”

Ouch!  That one hurt!

I’ve shared before that one of my passions is for people to truly know and understand the God who is (a phrase I’ve borrowed from Patrick Morley).  I interact with many people who talk about “God” in an impersonal way.  We still reside in the Bible belt, and so it is very culturally acceptable to speak about God, to attend church, and to pray before meals in public.

But how many people do we interact with on a daily basis that truly know God?  And what do we do about it?

A colleague at work was telling me recently about how during Lent her pastor had challenged the congregation to read the Bible every day for the 40 days of Lent.  A couple of times a week I’d ask what she had read and learned, and she would share the story or passage that had been covered that morning.  But I’m not convinced it actually drew her close to God.  Harris writes later in his book, “When God tells us about himself through stories and through doctrine, his purpose is relationship.” (emphasis his).  I question sometimes whether people read Scripture just to read Scripture, or do they read it to better know and understand The Author.

Having said all that, let me summarize by challenging you to examine how you treat God throughout the week and ask yourself the question Harris asked- is your functional view of God different than what you say (and if it is we call that hypocrisy).

And for that we must repent and change.