Keeping Up With Christ Community Church

It has been too long since posting here. That is mainly due to the fact that my life as a husband-father-pastor-planter-barista has dominated the time that God has graciously given. Still, I’m going to try to post here more frequently, although the subject matter will be taken from the pastoral blog at the CCC (Christ Community Church) website. Just a reminder, then—to keep up to date with us and the work of the Lord in Newton, MA, visit us at christcommunityma.org. There, you will find all the information you could possibly want about us and the church plant. You’ll find all of our sermons, posts, and happenings. May the Lord be praised!

Bringing More Gospel to Newton-Boston

Two years ago to the month, we decided to church plant in the Greater Boston area. My wife, Jenny, and I hail from South Carolina — and her accent is thicker than Andy Griffith’s. Joe and Melissa Keune are from the St. Louis area of Missouri.  And Erik and Anna Schaefer are moving to Newton, a suburb of Boston, with us from South Dakota and Iowa, respectively.  We come from different states and parts of the country, so various cultures, speaking accents, favorite sports, favorite sports teams, varying preferences concerning the weather, ideal temperatures and seasons of the year. We come from different home lives, economic situations, and stations in life. And yet we have somehow come together.

We have come together to leave what is comfortable to us, to leave family and friends, to leave present securities. We have come together to pull up our stakes and move them to Newton, MA, 6-7 miles southwest of Boston, one week from tomorrow. We have come together to church plant, to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to Newton and the nations, to live and die for the sake of Christ and His church.  Is this explainable? Of course.

We have come together because, though our differences remain, the gospel has bound our hearts to Christ and to one another.  The gospel, as always, is greater than our differences.  Indeed, it accentuates them, while bringing them under a single, transcendent banner: the gospel and glory of Christ. The grace that we have received from God in the gospel of Jesus Christ has brought us together in the same body and, through the new birth, made us to be of one great household. And so by God’s providence, we have come together to work out our sojourning, our going outside the gate to Christ, our gospel ministry in Newton and the surrounding area of Greater Boston.

We are aspiring to bring the gospel to Newton, and praying that God would give us that land as we follow Christ. What once seemed very far off is now a mere 8 days from reality. As we approach our move, I would ask you to consider a few things:

1. You can pray for us.  Having found housing, we are most immediately in need of jobs that will provide suitable resources for our families and strategic advantages for the advancement of the gospel. We have written a prayer guide also that you can use as you serve us and the kingdom of Christ in this way. Simply leave a comment to this post with an email address, and I’ll gladly send this to you.

2. You can partner with us in the grace of giving. While we will be transitioning out of fund-raising life support over the next 5 years and moving towards financial stability as a congregation, we will still be actively pursuing partners — individual brothers and sisters, and gospel-centered churches — as we are getting our feet under us. If you would like to give to Christ Community Church, email me at brianrmahon@gmail.com or christcommunityma@gmail.com.

3. You can connect us with other believers in and around Boston. It is amazing how many people we know know people in Boston. If you know of believers in the area who may be struggling to find a healthy body of believers, and you think they might be helped by Christ Community Church, let them know we will be on the scene by September 1, and that we would love to sit down with them and be of some gospel encouragement to them. If this is the case, see the email addresses above.

4. You can connect us with unbelievers in and around Boston. Wonderfully, this is already happening, and we desire it more and more.  We are moving to find Christ’s people and bring them into His sheepfold. Again, see the email addresses above if you think of someone in this condition and would like for us to meet up with them once we arrive.

5. You can connect us with local churches.  We desire to be tethered in partnership with Christ-treasuring, Christ-proclaiming local churches.  Healthy churches are a source of great encouragement, wisdom, spiritual gifts and abilities, saints, prayers and various other kingdom-advancing resources.  If you think of a church, whether your own or another that you think might be a good partner for us, please let us via email at the addresses given above.

If you have any further thoughts or questions, feel free to comment to this post and I’ll get to them as soon as possible.

Trusting in His might,

Your servant in the Lord,

Brian R. Mahon

More Helpful Quotes to Consider (Of Late)

“Doing good is great, but only good news saves.”  Kevin DeYoung

“God has desires that do not reach the level of volition.”  John Piper, on 1 Tim 2.4 cf. 2 Tim 2.25

“We are not on the defensive.  We have authority from Christ himself.  The blows we do receive from Satan ‘come from a retreating enemy,’ as (Richard) Lovelace says, because of the decisive victory of Jesus on our behalf.”

“Your partner in the greatest cause.”  John Piper salutation

“The world is my parish.”  John Wesley

“I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.” Clyde Kilby

“Awkwardness seems so horrible when it’s in front of us. But it’s not nearly as bad behind us. All my limbs are together, I’m okay, it’s really not that bad.”  Ken Currie on the awkwardness that confronts us in evangelism

“(God is) closer to me than I am to myself.”  Augustine

“The printed [and digital] page is a missionary that can go anywhere and do so at minimum cost. It enters closed lands and reaches all strata of society. It does not grow weary. It needs no furlough.  It lives longer than any missionary. It never gets ill. It penetrates through the mind to the heart and conscience.  It has and is producing results everywhere. It has often lain dormant yet retained its life and bloomed years later.”  Samuel Zwemer

“God’s judgment on homosexual and lesbian relationships is not because he is a killjoy, but because he is opposed to what kills joy.”  John Piper

“It is more important to learn what someone is saying rather than hear what I want to hear.”  John Piper

“The most important value in the universe is not you and not your family and not 7 billion human beings and not billions upon billions of galaxies. We are as nothing a drop in the bucket compared to the value of God. The main problem in the world is the failure to feel that.”  John Piper

Do As I Do: Pursuing An Imitation Worthy of Imitation

We ought not to be ignorant of imitation.  While we are not exactly in the image of God (lest we be God), we are in His image and are created to image Him forth to each other.  The Bible is not ashamed to call us, then, to imitate God.  While testifying to our sin and imperfection, the Holy Spirit nevertheless teaches us that (on account of the new birth) we can and must imitate Him.  So,

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph 5.1).

“But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Pet 1.15-16).

Somewhere someone once coined the phrase: “do as I say, not as I do,” and while we do not ascribe to such a frivolous idea, one wonders if we practice it.  We tell our children how they ought not to throw fits, and when they throw a fit, we throw a fit at them.  “Do as I say, not as I do.”

The illustration of children is intentional simply because children, made in the image of God, are born to imitate. They say what we say, how we say it.  They pick up our facial expressions and use them in timely ways.  And they often do as we do, for good and for ill.  The only disconnect is between what we say and what they do, but that is another post for another time.

The illustration of children is intentional, also, because it is the context in which both Paul and Peter and, most importantly, Jesus connects our imitation of God, our Father.  Again, Paul writes, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”  Peter writes, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet 1.14-15).

And they get this from Jesus who told those who had falsely believed in Him, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God.  This is not what Abraham did.  You are doing what your father did.”  They replied, “We were not born of sexual immorality.  We have one Father — even God.”  And Jesus responds, “If God were your Father, you would love me (presumably because God the Father loves God the Son), for I came from God and I am here. . . . You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.  Which one of you convicts me of sin?  If I tell you the truth, why do you not believe me?

And then this: Whoever is of God hears the words of God.  The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God” (Jn 8.39-47).

What has Jesus said?  Every human being is born having not one but two fathers, a human father and the devil (for all are children of wrath by nature, like the rest of mankind, Eph 2.3).  And even as we imitate our human parents, so we imitate the devil.  His will is our will.  His desires are our desires.  What he does, we do, because we bear his nature, and this ultimately constitutes a rejection of God and Jesus Christ Whom He sent into the world to reveal Himself to sinners.  What we need is to be, as Jesus says, “of God.”  What does this entail?

All of this talk about children introduces the biblical doctrine of regeneration or the new birth.  If we are to imitate God, we must be born of God.  His nature must become ours.  Our will and desires must be created anew.  And this work of God was purchased by the death of Christ on the cross.  All the promises of God, the New Covenant DNA, was bought by Christ.  That includes the new birth, and with it hearts, wills, desires tattooed with that which is pleasing to our Father.  Not only have we received a new nature that loves our Father and what He loves, but Christ’s work on the cross removed all the legal requirements hindering our adoption by God.  We are by nature and by a just adoption, the children of God.  Christ is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters (Heb 2.11).

Now as Christ is the perfect Son of God, so He perfectly imitated and therefore revealed the Father in all He did and didn’t, said and didn’t say, thought and didn’t think, etc.  And as He is our older brother (Rom 8.29) and a perfect revelation of our Father, so as we behold Him and imitate Him, we see and imitate our Father.

And Paul teaches us that, by grace, this is quite possible.  “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11.1).  He says two things: it is possible to imitate Christ, for Paul, a man like us, did it; and insofar as we observe Christ in our brothers and sisters, they too are — wildly — worthy of imitation!  And this is not restricted to the apostle.  For he writes to the Philippian church, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (4.17).

So let’s summarize: God has made us imitating creatures.  Sin, however, brought the will, etc. under the bondage of sin and the father of all unbelieving people, namely, the devil.  Therefore, we imitate him.  We do as he does.  But God determined to have children and to redeem them for Himself by sending His Son into the world in order to save us.  A crucial aspect of our salvation is the new birth; another aspect adoption, and the end result is that believers are born of God and are the children of God.  We have new hearts, wills, desires, tastebuds, etc., and love what our Father loves.  Jesus is both the revelation of our Father to us and, as our older brother, as we behold Him we see that which is most worthy of imitation.  It is possible to imitate Christ, as was the case with Paul, and Paul believed that others besides himself did the same and were, thus, exemplary believers whom we are to imitate also.

But if the truth be told, not many desire to be exemplary and worth imitating.  Not many strive to imitate Christ.  Why not?  Call it laziness, carelessness, personal pessimism, hypocrisy, even perhaps a fraudulent faith, we simply don’t want to be exemplary in holiness because the cost appears to be too high and the reward, if it is on the radar, seems to be too small.  Moreover, we have failed to understand our station as God’s children and the nature of the new birth, and how these realities show themselves in a mature and splendid and exemplary holiness.

How do we right the ship?

1. If we have been reckless children, we run to our Father, in light of our Brother’s sacrifice, and repent of being exemplary in hypocrisy.  By His grace, we will no longer practice “do as I say, but not as I do.”  We will strive to match our words and our actions.

2. Doctrinally, we must allow the reality of the new birth to have its full course in our thinking.  We will no longer excuse ourselves from the Bible’s call to exemplary holiness and to the imitation of Christ by thinking heretically about Christ — that He was not a man like us therefore we cannot walk as He walked –, nor by thinking that the Holy Spirit simply can’t be serious in this cause because, doesn’t He know, we are only human.  Yes, we are human, but we are not humans enslaved to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  We are new creatures.  We ought to walk in newness of life.

3. We must count the cost of holiness and the infinitely greater cost of unholiness.  Imitating Christ in holiness will lead to imitating Christ in suffering (2 Tim 3.12).  A daily cross and the call to holiness are a packaged deal.  The cost is great.  But the cost of unholiness is far greater.  To be without it will be to miss out on seeing God (Heb 12.14).  No unholy thing will exist in heaven.

4. We must count the cost of holiness and the infinitely greater reward of holiness.  If a man would follow or imitate Christ, he must forfeit his life.  But such a forfeiture is of that base sort, a life lived for self and that life, even if it gains the whole world and a thousand years of happiness, is ultimately the damned life.  But a life lived in imitation of Christ, a life laid down for Christ and the gospel, gains not the whole world but the eternal world of love, not a thousand years of happiness but an eternity of ever-increasing joy in the presence of God.

5. We must simply grow up, brothers and sisters.  A “brother” of ours in Massachusetts has told us more than once as we plan to plant in Boston, “You have got to grow up!  You have got to mature!”  And he means in being like Christ in universal holiness.  The problem for many is that we love being children.  But we have not been saved to remain children but “to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph 4.16).  God has saved us to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8.29).  This is the good that God is working in every situation.  Every circumstance, trial, temptation, moment granted is an opportunity to grow up, to imitate Christ, to become like Him more and more.

6. We must stop settling for sin and pursue joy in God.  Holiness did not always produce a smile in the life of Christ.  Holiness necessitates war against sin and war does not produce many smiles.  The thought and reality of the end of war does.  For too long and sometimes still, my obedience was/is stale.  It lacked true joy.  There was no happiness in holiness.  There was no pleasure in holiness.  And this makes sin all the more enticing.  It is because we do not know the blessedness of holiness, to imitate God, to walk as Christ, to live by the Spirit, to commune with the Triune God, to evince our new nature, to manifest our new position, to magnify divine grace, to know His care, His joy, His delight, to testify to the whole gospel, to come to share in God’s holiness, to inherit the promise of seeing God and Christ face to face, etc.  Joy in holiness (communion with God, cf. 1 Jn 1.5-8) keeps us from settling for sin.

7. We must not fear being exemplary in holiness.  Many will turn up their noses, thinking you uptight, too heavenly minded, not fun enough.  Others will make fun, setting up fake twitter accounts in your name (all in good fun of course), and joke about how you are too holy for their presence and the like.  Still others will want to fight you, tempt you, and even kill you because of the Christ they see in you.  Do not fear.  Paul welcomed it all.  “Imitate me,” he said, “even as I imitate Christ.”  Are we of that stock?  Yes, of course.  Paul’s new birth carried no more power in it than yours or mine.  Will we look our brothers and sisters, our husbands and wives, our children and all others in the face and say, “Imitate me, even as I imitate Christ”, and then strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord?

Will we say not only “Do as I say,” but also, “Do as I do?”  Will we pursue an imitation of Christ worthy of imitation?

If we will, we will edify the church.  We will point the Bride to Christ.  We will shine like lights in the midst of a twisted and crooked generation.  We will show forth our God and Father.  We will testify to the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit.  We will experience joy, for the absence of sin is the presence of joy in God.  And perhaps our children won’t throw fits anymore either . . . perhaps?!

2012 Summer Reading

This post got me thinking about my summer reading list.  It also revealed some books to me that I could add to my ever-increasing Amazon wishlist!  Anyway, here’s what I’ll be reading this summer and why?

Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, by Jerry Bridges: hoping to find my acceptable sins revealed, repented of, and replaced with all that is pleasing to God.  Also wanting to think through the more common sins that we have become accustomed to justifying or ignoring altogether, while hypocritically pressing in on the big sins of others.

The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church, by Timothy Witmer: yeh, need all I can get of this.

The Knowledge of the Holy, by A. W. Tozer: Platt used it in his incredible T4G sermon on the sovereignty of God and global missions. ‘Nough said!

The Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission, by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert: we’re about to church plant in Boston. ‘Nough said!

The Mortification of Sin, by John Owen: Owen is a favorite.  More than that, Owen was widely known for his practical holiness.  And since there is a holiness without which no one will see the Lord, and we are called to strive for that holiness, this ought to be a great help.  Besides, I don’t know of any more helpful on the issues of sin and holiness than the Puritans, and Owen chief of all.

True Sexual Morality: Recovering Biblical Standards for a Culture in Crisis, by Daniel R. Heimbach: Hoping to read up on a full-orbed biblical theology of sexual purity as we live in a world increasingly enslaved to and ardently defending every brand of sexual immorality . . . and it’s effecting the Bride of Christ!

The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien: my brother and friend and co-laborer has been on me for a few years to read more fiction.  And . . . gasp . . . I’ve never read Tolkien’s literary masterpiece!  Guess it’s time!

Keeping in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in our Walk with God, by J. I. Packer: listened to a sermon by Piper a while back where he stated finding this book quite helpful on this front, which tends to be somewhat of a mystery to us — we say “walk by the Spirit,” but seldom know what that means or entails.  Trusting Packer for some light on this subject.

The Godly Home, by Richard Baxter: the Puritan, Baxter, enjoyed something of a great revival in his days and much of it was concentrated upon the revival of family worship.  As this is something that I am inconsistent in performing, yet increasingly passionate about, I am wanting to get some Puritanically developed pointers from Baxter.

I will also be trying to brush up on my Greek (A Primer of Biblical Greek, by N. Clayton Croy) and Hebrew (Introducing Biblical Hebrew, by Allen P. Ross) as well.

How about you?  What will you be reading and why?

“Don’t Confuse Knowledge and Success with Maturity” by Paul Tripp

God did not act because he endorsed my manner of living, but because of his zeal for his own glory and his faithfulness to his promises of grace for his people. God has the authority and power to use whatever instruments he chooses in whatever way he chooses. Ministry success is always more a statement about God than about the people he uses for his purpose. I had it all wrong. It took credit that I did not deserve for what I could not do. I made it about me, so I didn’t see myself as headed for disaster and in deep need for the rescue of God’s grace. I was a man in need of rescuing grace. Through Luella’s faithfulness and the surgical questions of my brother, Tedd, God did exactly that.

What about you? How do you view yourself? What do you regularly say to you about you? Are you different from those to whom you minister? Do you see yourself as a minister of grace in need of the same grace? Have you become comfortable with discontinuities between the gospel you preach and the way that you live? Are there disharmonies between your public ministry persona and the details of your private life? Do you encourage a level of community in your church that you do not give yourself to? Do you fall into believing that no one has a more accurate view of you than you? Do you use knowledge or experience to keep confrontation at bay?

For the whole article, go here.

Another “Key Insight” on Romans 7

By Ken Berding.  I know there must be millions of “key insights” into this passage, but here’s another just to stoke the “inner man” on a lazy Saturday afternoon.