This is a highly abridged and re-worked version of a talk I did at Reading CU last week. This was for a pastors prayer group:
Confidence. What does it look like to be confident? Confident in life? Confident in ministry? We're told to be self-confident by our culture. Confident in our achievements, education, influence, image... we're not immune. We see the size of our congregation... the response received... the hours we work... Most pastors work 60 hours a week... yet those we serve expect more like 45 hours a week... fairly normal working hours! (Ref: Peter Brain - Going the Distance) Are we trying to justify our existence... to them? To God? To ourselves?
Self-confidence is folly and yet very appealing because it makes much of us. It's like Cats and Dogs. "A dog says, "You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, you must be God." A cat says, "You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, I must be God."" (Cat & Dog Theology)
So easy to be Cats. How do we stand against self-confidence? Calvin said that “the heart is a factory for idols” (HT: David Powlison). Our sinful hearts bent on self-justification.... inventing reasons for self-confidence.
Paul swiftly disposes of the idols of self-confidence. How? Not with more self-confidence but by comparison with Christ. Self-confidence vs. “seeing and savouring Christ” (John Piper). No contest!
We know we need righteousness – it's why default to justifying ourselves. But only Christ can give us legal and relational right standing with himself. The free gift of right standing with God. From God, by faith. Christ brings us to Christ!
Knowing him in sufferings – displaying his great worth as we let everything go for his sake! Knowing him in resurrection...displaying his great worth as we see and savour him forever!
Luther was right, justification by faith is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls!
Christ brings us to himself. So we should glory not in self, but in Christ (3v3). --- Hearts stirred and minds preoccupied with him. Not self-confident, but Christ-confident... and preaching Christ so that others would become confident in and delight in honouring him.
John MacArthur said that if we take care of the depth of our ministry – sinking deep roots into confidence in Christ – then God will take care of the breadth. (HT: Jonathan Moorhead)
We're not to be measured by the measure of our faith... or the size of our ministry...or the hours we work... but by the magnificence of our Christ! Obsessed with seeing and savouring him!