This is a guest post by Sung Chang. Sung Chang is child of God living in the Washington, D.C. suburbs with his wife Rachel and soon-to-be-born daughter. He serves as a small group leader and worship leader, and has taught scripture to students and young adults at Korean Central Presbyterian Church of Centreville, Virginia. In his spare time, Sung works as an international trade lawyer and policy advisor. Sung recently translated Jeff Vanderstelt’s Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life into Korean.
But our merciful Father reminds me that our hope is in Him, that He is the instigator of change, that He will complete what He has started.
Is it a masquerade?
The Christian journey is like a train ride. There are two types of people in the church – those that try to pull the train with their own hands, and those that want to hop on and off at their leisure. The former believes they need to add their good works on top of Christ’s to earn the Father’s favor. The latter are perpetual spiritual infants, waiting to be fed, for their needs to be met through the church. Both groups have something in common in that they have a difficult time growing “to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ . . .” (Eph. 4:14).
We are taking part in a masquerade of a church. We draw a bright line between “church life” and “my life” because we rely on massive Sunday gatherings with a side of small group. No one sees the real you. No one knows your family life, your work life, your relationships. No one knows how you spend your money, how you fight, how you celebrate.
We are strong in doctrine. Many fervently study scripture. Many read through the entire Bible multiple times a year. And many attend multiple church services every week, attend Bible study classes every week, and attend early morning prayer service every day. But the gospel has dwindled to theory. It has become a one-way ticket out of hell but nothing more. We do not know how or why the gospel is the “power of God for salvation”, now (Rom. 1:16).
The church has become a community center. Church exists to fulfill people’s needs and wants. It has become a YMCA, with some gospel sprinkled throughout. This condones perpetual infancy because we think the gospel is something only the select few preach once a week. We are so content with being spoon-fed, even after ten, twenty, thirty years in the church.
A holy priesthood
Peter says all saints, not the select few, are God’s holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). God chose us all so that all of us may “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Yet most Christians feel content to let others do the proclaiming. We have lost what it means to be God’s priests to the world. My church community is drenched in a culture that shuns shared leadership. As a consequence, people remain comfortable in their theatre seats, watching.
On many days, even as I continue to serve the church, I feel like our situation is hopeless.
But there is hope.
In his letter to the church in Colossae, Paul says: “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
Jesus is the ultimate hope.
While we were dead in our sin, by nature children of wrath, the Father crucified his Son on the cross to take our place as the ultimate atoning sacrifice. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are no longer enemies of God, but dearly beloved children, perfect in the Father’s eyes. Not only is Jesus alive, he dwells in us so that we may live our everyday lives like children of God.
As I lead my small group to understand this reality, the Spirit has started to work in our lives.
One person I am discipling grew up as a pastor’s kid, but walked away from the church as he witnessed his father’s dual life. His father would beat him out of anger and frustration. While this brother knew of the gospel, he had never experienced God as Father. His broken relationship with his earthly father had tainted his view of the faith, the church, the gospel, and the true Father. To him, God was always a distant, angry being.
Then he met Jesus.
As the truths of the gospel sank in, the Spirit touched his heart to reveal God as Father. He saw his new identity in Christ. The love of the true Father overwhelmed him, as he realized that he did not need his own good works to please and satisfy the Father.
Another person had been living a career-focused life, to the point where she was placing her hope in her career and how well she did. She was basing her identity in her job and what others thought of her performance, and the pressure of success was getting to her. I implored her to never place her hope in fleeting things like her career. I encouraged her to place her hope in her everlasting, imperishable identity in Christ as a child of God. I encouraged her to not be like the Israelites in the book of Jeremiah, where they sought life from lifeless idols crafted out of wood.
As we shared the gospel, the Spirit began to open her eyes to see that her true hope was in Jesus.
Another person in our group had just come to faith in Jesus, but was experiencing self-doubt. The evil one was speaking lies to her – that she was not good enough, that she will fail, that she does not know enough to be Christian. Our group reminded her of the gospel, that God loved her and sent his son to die for her while she was dead in her sin, that he had declared her righteous through the work of Jesus, and that she was perfect in his eyes.
We are praying that these truths continue to saturate every part of her life.
In the midst of a masquerade, the gospel has started to mold and change our group.
So often, I have relied on my teaching and leadership to force change, and when nothing happened, I grew bitter, impatient, and arrogant. But our merciful Father reminds me that our hope is in Him, that He is the instigator of change, that He will complete what He has started.
Yes, there is hope.
He will complete the work that he’s started, how does that bring you hope?
–> Join the online community, ask questions, and get answers from seasoned practitioners.
–> Check out some helpful resources: