One of the things that I find fascinating in my role as a Pastor at Edgewood is to occasionally find out what people out there are saying about our church. The truth is that I really don’t know what people outside of Edgewood are thinking and saying, probably because I’m just naturally insulated. People outside of Edgewood just aren’t going to walk up to me and tell me what they’re thinking.
But occasionally a comment or two from the world outside of Edgewood filters to me, and recently I was I was chatting with someone new to our fellowship after a service, and he told me about a recent encounter he had with people from his old church. When he told them that he was attending Edgewood, they said, “Really? Isn’t that a “feel good” church?” This wasn’t the first time I had heard this one, but what does it mean? Certainly not a church where Chuck Mangione is playing his famous jazz classic all the time: “Feels so Good.”
No, it’s something other than that…I don’t know how many people say that about Edgewood, but at least a few I suppose, enough that I have heard it more than once through the years from different people who as far as I know are not connected with one another.
I’m guessing the idea could be that we’re all about entertainment, maybe because we have contemporary music, or screens, or we laugh and smile and actually enjoy coming to church. More likely I’m guessing that the comment comes from what people think our message is. More likely I’m guessing that a few people put us down as a “feel-good” church because we talk a lot about the gospel here. They wouldn’t put it like that, but that’s probably what it is.
You see, if any message were ever a feel good message, the gospel is. After all, think about what Paul said in Romans 5:20
…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, Romans 5:20 (ESV)
Now if you attend Edgewood and love our church and it discourages you to hear that some people would call us a “feel good” church, don’t let it get you down. They said the same thing about Paul’s message, and I love the quote from the great preacher Martyn Lloyd Jones who said that this is the mark of accurate gospel communication:
“There is no better test as to whether a man is preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it doesn’t matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. That is a very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel.”
Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 6, The New Man
Now it is in Romans 6 that Paul begins to clarify what exactly he means by what he has said in Romans 5 about sin increasing and grace abounding. And he begins by asking, “Doesn’t this “feel good” message just lead to sin?”…
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:1-4 (ESV)
The reason the “feel good” message doesn’t lead to more and more sin is that something else wonderful happens to us when we come to Christ: we are placed in union with Jesus. Romans chapters 1 – 5 is about how we are saved through union with Christ. Romans 6 is about how we live holy lives through union with Christ. And it happens this way – when you are united with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection, you receive power…power to live for God, power to live a holy and righteous and joyous life, and all in all power to walk…in newness of life.
For Monday, March 30: Romans 7