Ever since I attended Resolved, Humility: True Greatness by, C. J. Mahaney has been at the top of my “to read list.” Over the past week, I have had the pleasure of reading this wonderfully challenging book. This is not intended to be a formal book review; I just want to share some of my reflections on this book in light of recent conversation. While not a book review, I highly recommend this book to everyone.
I Corinthians 1:4, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.” This verse must be one of the most oft quoted verses in personal correspondence, I have written it at the end of many letters my self and yet I never gave the context in which this verse was written a single thought. Paul is writing the church at Corinth to confront numerous issues and serious theological error. They were often drunk at the Lord’s Supper, they were divided, some had denied the resurrection, and they were sexually immoral to a point that appalled even the pagans. The church at Corinth had serious problems and yet Paul always thanks God for them. Paul continues to display this love as he writes, “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (I Corinthians 4:14-15).
While attending Together for the Gospel last week I was very interested in seeing how these men, who have poured their lives into the local church, addressed the gaping failures of modern Evangelicism. Much of our conversation negatively focuses on the failures of local churches rather than the active work of God’s grace within them. Yes, there are serious problems, problems that cannot be tolerated and must be addressed; however, we must do so in a gracious and loving way, as Paul does. David Prior, in The Message of 1 Corinthians: Life in the Local Church, describes Paul’s perspective as follows,
“Paul looks at the Corinthian church as it is in Christ Jesus before he looks at anything else that is true of the church. That disciplined statement of faith is rarely made in local churches; the warts are examined and lamented, but often there’s no vision of what God has already done in Christ.”
How does Paul cultivate such a perspective? In Humility: True Greatness C. J. Mahaney unfolds the profundity of Ephesians 4:29 as the answer to this question. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). The verse is very straightforward; however, we must be careful not to miss the profound simplicity of what Paul is saying. Our talk is to be constructive and build up so that we may give grace to those who hear. Where do we find the most profound expression of grace that man has ever known? What is the blazing center of God’s grace and the Christian life? Paul is saying that our language should be Cross-centered, God-glorifying, and Gospel-saturated language. Is their any greater means of grace towards an individual than the Gospel? Certainly not, may all of our language bear this good news.