The Gospel-Driven Life #7: The Church in Exile

This week Dan is guest blogging through The Gospel-Driven Life by Michael Horton. purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US

Chapter 9 – The Health Page

Today we desire experiences. Consider the focus of advertising – not on the quality of the product, but on the experience that will result from owning it. As Christians we need to be aware of this. However, ‘Regardless of what I feel inside, God’s external Word assures me that I have peace with God in his Son. This is not a subjective experience—a peaceful, easy feeling—but an objective announcement. And precisely because of its objectivity—the fact that it is announced to me even when I am not overwhelmed by it emotionally—I get the experience of forgiveness thrown in as well. Living for experiences is like chasing vapours. It is sunsets, not “the sunset experience”; actual expressions of love, not “the love experience”; the Triune God, and not “the worship experience,” that turn out to deliver the most important and lasting experiences. (224)

‘Snacking is for tourists’ (226) whereas ‘the feast is for pilgrims’ (228). In our society we are ‘tourists who wander from nowhere to nowhere, creating reality as we go out of endless and random choices.’ (227) ‘In sharp contrast, we enter God’s sanctuary as those who are summoned … God’s electing grace, not the authentication of our supposedly autonomous will, brings us here and gospel keeps us moving …’ (228)

Chapter 10 – Today’s Headline: The Church in exile

The people of the Church are exiles who need to live in the world but be defined by the Word.

This is ‘an era of participating in the common culture together with non-Christians and participating in the heavenly communion of saints that is made visible on earth only in the church. (247) The 2nd century Epistle of Diogntus reported that ‘Christians are distinguished from others “neither by country nor by language no by customs.” They do not live in their own ghettos or “use a strange form of speech.” They do not differ in cultural customs of their respective lands or in dress and food. Yet in their ordinary lives “they show a remarkable and admittedly strange order of their own [heavenly] citizenship.” “They live in fatherlands of their own, but as aliens. They share all things as citizens, and suffer all things as strangers. Every foreign land is their fatherland, and every fatherland a foreign land … They pass their days on earth, but they have their citizenship in heaven.”’ (249)

Throughout the chapter, Horton refers to Augustine’s The City of God and the nature of the two kingdoms.

We are not to revel in triumphalism at God’s kingdom coming to earth or wallow in disillusionment when things go wrong. (254-256) Instead we are to look to Jesus. Horton encourages us not to be overly consumed with being ‘students of our host culture’ but instead to be ‘students of the Word’ (257). ‘Conservatism and progressivism are easy paths. Just go on parroting whatever you’ve been told and doing what you have done or follow the spirit of the age whatever it may lead. Orthodoxy is the challenge.’ (264)

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One thought on “The Gospel-Driven Life #7: The Church in Exile

  1. Tim – please pass on to Dan,
    Dan – Thanks for your work in summarising this book for us. This is really useful and helps some of us to assess and prioritise which recently published books we should be reading. Now go and ask Tim if you can do another one!
    Enjoy Grace!

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