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Social Media Isn’t All that Social

At this point, it goes without saying that social media shouldn’t be called “social.” “Anti-social” media would be a better name for it. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, “social” media doesn’t serve to make us any more social at all. In fact, it too often makes us more isolated, more alone.

Real Relationship?

Social media does this through pretension. It pretends to connect us with others while it cheats us out of deep companionship, true knowing, and undistracted time with those we love. It amuses us, seeming to answer our desire for relationship while robbing us of the time we need to know and be known. It purports to establish relationships, while making us jealous of the lives of others, or by giving us a platform to brag about how full of friends and fun our lives are at any particular time. “Here’s my great dessert at this great restaurant with my great friends! Don’t you wish you were me?” is the underlying message.

Our “smart” phones (another misnomer) have only served to make us a society of lonely voyeurs and exhibitionists. Yes, we feel alone—but “smarter” technology isn’t the answer and social media is only compounding the problem.

The True Answer to Our Isolation

The answer to our lostness isn’t found in technological advances, a bigger Twitter following, or more Facebook likes. The answer to our aloneness isn’t technological at all. It is human to its core—not flashy, glitzy, or dreamed up in the Pacific Northwest. The answer to our isolation doesn’t come to us in gigabytes or new apps, but in blood and amniotic fluid, in pain and deep isolation. It is an ancient answer, an answer that was spoken before time. It is an answer Who is as near to you  . . . even nearer to you . . . than that piece of technology you can’t let go of.

The desire to know and be known is deep in of all of us but social media isn’t the answer. Paul knew the answer when he wrote,

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor 13:12)

The answer to our aloneness is Love Incarnate and the amazingly great news is that Love incarnate is already among us; in fact, he is one of us. His name is Immanuel, “God with us”, and His purpose is to be with us and among us; to let us know that we are already known and already deeply loved . . . and that he truly understands us—not simply by his omniscience but by life lived as one of us. His media was a stone feeding trough, a hillside with lilies where he fed hungry families, a bloody cross, and an empty tomb . . . and he did it all so that we would know that we are not alone.

Forever Known

Sure, the siren’s song of false relationship blares loudly and incessantly. In fact, you’re probably reading this because you answered her call. But don’t expect her to give you something she can’t. She can’t give you union with another or the knowledge that you are already known. Only the incarnate Christ is able to do that and the good news is that he has. And his life means that you will never be alone.


Elyse M. Fitzpatrick (MA, Trinity Theological Seminary) is a counselor, a retreat and conference speaker, and the head of Counsel from the Cross Ministries. Fitzpatrick has authored 18 books, including her most recent title from Crossway, Found in Him: The Joy of the Incarnation and Our Union with Christ (trailer, excerpt).

 

 

October 25, 2013 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Books,Culture,Guest Post,Identity in Christ,Life & Doctrine,The Christian Life | Author: Crossway Author @ 8:00 am | (2) Comments »

Reboot: Romans 7-8: More Good News

Guest post by Elyse Fitzpatrick

I have to say I’ve loved our time together in Romans. Hasn’t it been a great way to prepare our hearts for next Sunday? The resurrection is far more than a nice holiday when we get to dress our kids up. It’s the realization that everything about us has changed. Our old life characterized by disappointment and sin’s domination has been overcome by the power of God in the good news.

In chapter 6 Paul makes the connection between our new life and our daily grind.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life…For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (6:12-14).

More Good News

Here’s more good news: God promises that “sin will have no dominion over you.” It’s easy to turn that verse into a command. But it isn’t a command. It’s a promise. Sin can’t dominate us anymore because we’re no longer under the law. What does being “under the law” have to do with it? Everything! As we’ll see in chapter 7, the law has no power to free us from sin. In fact, it incites us to sin.

Don’t misunderstand: the law is not sin (7:7); rather it’s indwelling sin that responds to God’s good commandments by producing the opposite effect in us. Paul said he wouldn’t know what it was to covet,“…if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7). Is the law good? Yes, in fact it reveals God’s beautiful character to us. Does it promise life? Yes, but only to those who obey it. Otherwise it produces more sin and ultimately death, as Paul writes, “The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me” (7:10) because of the sin that dwells in my heart.

It’s only when we know the law no longer has the power to condemn us that we begin to obey it as it should be obeyed—in grateful response to the good news that we are forgiven, righteous and loved no matter how we fail. Before we believed the good news, the law hung over us with the power to kill us. We couldn’t be freed from sin’s curse because all our attempts at obeying were done selfishly, not out of “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). Therefore they counted for nothing.

In chapter 7 Paul describes how all the law (which is holy and righteous and good) could do was condemn him and bring him death—because of the sin still residing within him even as a believer. As you read over that chapter this week, try to envision Paul practically pulling his hair out in despair…

…I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate…For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Our Struggle with Sin

Paul was very aware of his ongoing battle with indwelling sin. Sin’s loss of dominion over him didn’t mean Paul never struggled with sin once he believed the good news. He just was no longer under its complete rule. He believed the good news and that news had the power to break guilt producing bondage and give Paul (and us) the faith to continue to war against the sin that makes us cry with him, “Wretched woman, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

This is where Romans 8:1 comes to our rescue! No matter how you fail today, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Right now. None. No condemnation. Have you believed the good news that you are his? Have you believed that he died for you? That he was raised for you? Then you are completely free. You are free from the law’s condemning judgment and you will learn to be free from your heart’s incessant failure to believe that he continues to love you no matter what.

Which brings us to the end of our reading:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That, my friends, is the best news you’ve ever heard. Yes, you will continue struggling with sin’s pull, but he’ll never stop loving you. Good news? You bet.

Why not take few moments at the end of your reading and pray a simple prayer of thanksgiving for all this good news?

If you’re just jumping in to this series, be sure to read the introductory post and the posts for week oneweek two, and week threeClick here to download the reading plan.

Elyse M. Fitzpatrick (MA, Trinity Theological Seminary) is a counselor, a retreat and conference speaker, and the head of Counsel from the Cross Ministries. Fitzpatrick has authored over 15 books, including Because He Loves MeGive Them Grace, and Comforts from Romans.

Reboot: Romans 5–6: The Unbelievably Good News That We Believe

Guest post by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Did you find some good news as you read Romans 3 and 4 last week? I sure hope so! I love that I’ve been given the “righteousness of God.” That’s almost too much to believe, isn’t it? And that’s the point.

This right standing before God, this “okay-ness,” is only mine if I believe God is good enough to give it to me. But that’s the hardest thing in the world to believe. Who would think that by simply believing God tells the truth, we are counted as righteous? Who would believe a just God “justifies the ungodly” without becoming unjust himself? But it’s true!

Here’s good news: if you believe he’s forgiven you and given you right standing before him simply because he said he would, not because of any of your good works, but only by faith nude, you are blessed.

In what way?

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (4:7-8).

All your lawless deeds are forgiven. The Lord will never count your sin against you. What would your life be like today if you really believed you’re completely forgiven? To be completely free of guilt, to have that “I’m not making it. I always mess things up. I have to try harder” thought pattern shattered forever? Knowing that God knows all your ungodliness and yet forgives and justifies you should transform everything about you.

How Could God Forgive Us Without Making Us Pay Our “Fair Share”?

It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (4:24-25).

Jesus Christ was “delivered up;” he died for our trespasses. On the cross he bore all God’s just wrath and then he died as a sinner in our place: deserted, in weakness and shame, bearing the full weight of all the punishment we deserve. The heavens were silent and darkened that day, but another day was coming when he would be “raised for our justification.” That means when God raised Jesus from the dead, he was vindicating him. The resurrection is God’s “Amen!” in answer to Christ’s “It is finished!”[1] The resurrection means that all the blessings are ours now: we are forgiven; we are justified and all by faith alone. How do we know? We know because Jesus is alive. There simply is no better news anywhere.

In Romans 5 and 6 Paul continues to proclaim the good news. He begins chapter 5 by assuring us that God is no longer angry with us. Even when we suffer, it’s not because he’s angry, but because he’s working hope into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. We have salvation, justification, and reconciliation through faith in Jesus.

Grace = Freedom to Sin?

In chapter 6 Paul answers the argument that we always hear (especially in our own hearts) when we talk about the good news. Here’s the argument: If God loves to pour out grace on sinners, and he gets glory by doing so, then maybe we should sin more so he can pour out more grace, and thereby get more glory for himself. Paul is flummoxed by his own rhetorical question.

What? Haven’t you been listening? Did you miss the part about your union with Christ in his death and resurrection? You are forgiven because the old you that deserved death has died and a new you has come into being, a new you that has the record of all of Jesus’ obedience. How could you go on living as if all this good news weren’t true? Don’t you understand what your baptism means?

I’m really sure if you got news that a mysterious benefactor left you $10,000,000, your life would change. But this is better than a generous inheritance! This is news of a whole new you: a you without guilt, without a sentence of death hanging over you, without a celestial frown lurking behind every dark cloud, a you with a completely clean slate, a holy, beloved, cherished you. It’s better than a do-over, better than a Mulligan, or a resolution to try harder. And it’s the news you need to remember even though you may already be a Christian. You’ve been given a new life and been guaranteed that you can’t mess this life up. Why? Because God loves and justifies sinners. Jesus has already done it all. In light of that good news, rejoice and live in grateful response. What do you need to do? Believe that this good news is about you!



[1] Alec Motyer, Look to the Rock:An Old Testament Background to Our Understanding of Christ (Kregel Academic) pg. 21.

If you’re just jumping in to this series, be sure to read the introductory post and the posts for week one and week twoClick here to download the reading plan.

Elyse M. Fitzpatrick (MA, Trinity Theological Seminary) is a counselor, a retreat and conference speaker, and the head of Counsel from the Cross Ministries. Fitzpatrick has authored over 15 books, including Because He Loves MeGive Them Grace, and Comforts from Romans.

Reboot: Romans 3–4: the Bad/Good News, the Good/Good News

Guest post by Elyse Fitzpatrick

After reading Romans 1 and 2, you might wonder what possessed me to encourage you to expect good news.

Paul didn’t mince his words when describing the desperate spiritual condition of both Jew and Gentile, did he? Perhaps you noticed how he opened his letter, describing himself as Jesus’ “servant” and Roman believers as those who are “called to belong to Jesus Christ,” who are “loved by God” and “called to be saints.” Considering this “servant” was once the church’s dreaded enemy and that God’s love overflowed the borders of Israel to reach all the way to Rome—there is some encouraging good news in 1:1 and 1:7, but it’s easy to miss.

The Bad News That’s Actually Good News

It’s even easy to gloss over Paul’s thesis statement of good news in 1:16-17 and focus on all that bad news about “being given over to…” and “having no excuse…” and “the judgment of God.” But here’s where God’s version of good news and our expectations diverge. This “bad news” doesn’t seem like good news, but it really is.  It’s good news because Paul’s vivid description of humanity’s lostness forces us to look outside ourselves for help. It forces us to despair and then it prepares us to receive the help that only comes through the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

In your reading this week, you’ll find that Paul begins chapter 3 in much the same way that he ended 2, just in case we didn’t get the message. Here’s how he sums up his theme: “None is righteous, no not one” (3:10). Better read that again. None is righteous, no not one. Paul’s point is that as nice as your neighbor or your boss or your little children may seem, outside of Christ, they are not righteous.

He continues, “…no one seeks for God.” Many of us would nod in agreement to that proposition, but still say things like, “Amy is such a nice girl; she’s really seeking God; she’d be such a good Christian. I know she’ll find him.” Here’s the bad/good news: We aren’t righteous. We don’t obey. We aren’t seeking God. “There is no fear of God” before our eyes (3:18). Paul demolishes our delusions of goodness. We’re lost. But God is on a mission to save. And that’s the best news ever.

Paul goes on to say “…by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight” (3:20). And this is the beginning of the good/good news because it teaches us that our okay-ness before God, our righteousness or justification, is not something we can accomplish. So we can stop looking inward, making resolutions, or searching for those illusive eight secret steps to perfection. We can stop trying to earn something from God by our work and look to him for mercy alone. At least that’s what you’d think these verses should do. But do they?

The Power of the Gospel

It seems we all have an intractable belief in our own ability to save ourselves. So when we read Romans 1:16-3:20 we assume God must be talking about those people out there—those bad people, those idolaters, those Pharisees. We skip right over the part about God’s power needing to save us through belief in the gospel. We think because we’ve believed the gospel we don’t need it any more.

That’s exactly where Paul takes us in our reading this week: to the good news of God’s mercy. He turns this corner beginning in 3:21, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (3:3:21-22). What do we have to do to have God’s righteousness? We have to believe. And even that’s a gift he promised to give us (Ephesians 2:8-9).

We need his power to believe the gospel; to believe that we’re as lost as he says we are and as loved as he says we are; we need his grace to continue to believe it over and over again. So, as you read over Romans 3 and 4 this week, look for the bad/good news and the good/good news. The bad/good news will tell you what you’re unable to do and begin free you from your inner slave-driver. The good/good news will tell you what he has done for you in the gospel and free you to trust in him no matter how much bad news you see in yourself. Enjoy.

If you’re just jumping in to this series, be sure to read the introductory post and week one on Romans 1–2Click here to download the reading plan.

Elyse M. Fitzpatrick (MA, Trinity Theological Seminary) is a counselor, a retreat and conference speaker, and the head of Counsel from the Cross Ministries. Fitzpatrick has authored over 15 books, including Because He Loves MeGive Them Grace, and Comforts from Romans.

Reboot: Good News in Romans 1-2

Guest post by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Thanks for joining us for Reboot! This week we’ll start with Romans 1-2. Because Romans is an epistle, I encourage you to read it pretty straightforwardly, like any other letter you might receive. I’ll blog about our reading every Monday, not to exegete the passages for you, but rather to share some thoughts and encouragements.

Let’s begin with prayer. A simple, “Holy Spirit please grant me grace to understand what I read and satisfy my heart with good news” will suffice. If you read something you don’t understand—pray for wisdom again, dig a little deeper, or just set that portion aside for the time being. The ESV Study Bible notes may prove helpful, too.

Need Some Good News?

We all have an insatiable appetite for good news. In years past I’d wait for the mail to come, feeling hope bubble up when the postal truck finally went by. Maybe there will be good news today. So I’d run to the mailbox only to find it crammed full of advertisements, or worse yet, bills.

Nowadays we constantly check our inbox, Facebook, Twitter, texts, and news sites to see if there’s any good news—or at least something to break the monotony. Generally speaking, there isn’t much more than an occasional giggle, a Hmm, that’s interesting, or more commonly, And I care that you tried a new shampoo today why? Seems like I check these sites to find something to cheer my heart or satisfy me. Yet I always come away empty. And I don’t think I’m alone.

The Lord understands our longing for good news. Proverbs 15:30 says, “good news refreshes the bones.” Likewise 25:25 reads, “Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” I do need refreshment. My soul is thirsty for that cold water.

So here’s some good news for you: You don’t have to wait for the mailman. There is a fountain of refreshment available to you right now.

The Bad News and Good News You Weren’t Expecting

Paul saw himself as that proverbial voice of “good news from a far country” to the church at Rome, and by extension, to all of us. The headlines of the good news are writ large in 1:16-17:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “the righteous shall live by faith.”

Paul’s primary point in Romans is to help us understand and believe the gospel, the good news that all God’s demands have already been satisfied by Jesus Christ, his Son. He wants us to know that the gospel is more than lifeless word. When believed, it carries with it the power to transform the heart by assuring us that all our sins are forgiven and that Jesus Christ lived perfectly in our place.

But in order to prepare us to receive and appreciate the good news, Paul began his letter with some pretty bad news: Neither the irreligious Gentile (chapter 1) nor the religious Jew (chapter 2) have obeyed God’s rules for righteousness. None of us measure up. It will be good to remember this when you’re reading about the disobedience of both Gentile and Jew, so you don’t think Paul is trying to get you to try harder to be good in order to earn God’s favor. No, he’s telling you that all your efforts won’t be good enough. Once you understand this, you’ll begin to thirst for the good news to come, and you’ll really rejoice when he brings it to you.

Let me leave you with these thoughts: There is good news, but it’s not the news you were expecting. The good news is that you’re more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe. Chapters 1 and 2 will teach you that. The rest of the good news is that you’re more loved and welcomed than you ever dared hope[1], as chapters 3-8 will demonstrate.

So let’s get reading. Let me know what you’re learning through Crossway’s blog and I look forward to connecting with you there.


[1] I originally learned this phrasing of the gospel message from Pastor Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

If you’re just jumping in to this series, be sure to read the introductory post. Download a reading plan to help guide your time in Romans.

Elyse M. Fitzpatrick (MA, Trinity Theological Seminary) is a counselor, a retreat and conference speaker, and the head of Counsel from the Cross Ministries. Fitzpatrick has authored over 15 books, including Because He Loves MeGive Them Grace, and Comforts from Romans.