A Contrast Community

Maybe it’s because the concept has been on my mind for a while, but the phrase that stood out most to me from Pastor Bryon’s sermon on Sunday was for the calling of the church to be a “contrast community.” Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount that his followers are to be “the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.”

What will take us on this path to becoming a beautiful contrast to a world that is increasingly ugly and cold? How can we retain our unique qualities and flavor lest we become no longer good for anything?

In his book The Divine Conspiracy, philosopher Dallas Willard writes, 
“We need to understand that what simply occupies our mind largely governs what we do. It sets the emotional tone out of which our actions flow, and it projects the possible courses of action available to us... Of all the things we do, we have more freedom with respect to what we will think of, where we will place our mind, than anything else. And the freedom of thinking is a direct freedom wherever it is present. We need not do something else in order to exercise it. We simply turn our mind to whatever it is we choose to think of. The deepest revelation of our character is what we choose to dwell on in thought . . .”
This insight makes very poignant the commands we see in Scripture to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly“ (Colossians 3:16) and to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

In his book, Willard goes on to recount an experience he had as a young adult in college in which he had stayed on campus during a holiday weekend. 
“I began by reading the Gospel of John while machines washed my clothes. But that was done in an hour or two, and by that time I found myself engrossed and drawn into the radiant world of John’s account. I had never experienced anything like it before. I did nothing for the rest of the day but live there in that world: reading, meditating, cross-referencing and rereading. Truthfully, my world never looked quite the same after that day. I discovered a reality in Jesus and the people and events surrounding him that I had never known before . . . And I learned something about how we do change – and how we do not. In particular, I had learned that intensity is crucial for any progress in spiritual perception and understanding. To dribble a few verses or chapters of scripture on oneself through the week, in church or out, will not reorder one’s mind and spirit – just as one drop of water every five minutes will not get you a shower, no longer how long you keep it up. You need a lot of water at once for a sufficiently long time. Similarly for the written Word.”

It should not surprise us then that when Jesus describes the process of making his bride, the Church, holy, he does it by “cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Ephesians 5:26).

Jesus said that we are to seek first the Kingdom of God. On a very practical note, there is a crucial decision I make each morning in determining my priorities, and it’s which do I open first: my phone or my Bible? If I open my phone first, I know what will happen. That e-mail will remind me of something I need to look up on Google which will lead to seeing the news headlines which will lead to seeing what folks on Twitter have to say about it which will lead to sharing that one thing on Facebook which will lead to . . . and now the kids are up and I lost my window of opportunity to begin the day quietly before the Lord and receiving his Word as the anchor point in my day. I know what the world will do first. But, in contrast, what am I going to do?

by Steve Lamp
Steve and his wife Melissa began attending Kingsway in 2014. Not normally prone to public displays of emotion, he wept during the first worship service and knew he had found home. As an avid reader, Steve believes the ideas we allow into our minds are critical to our spiritual formation. He enjoys exploring nature, playing and spending time with his two young sons and over-quoting his favorite authors, C.S. Lewis and Dallas Willard.