You Aren’t Gospel Centered

book

There’s been a resurgence in the last few years around the gospel. This is a good thing. We are starting to have a larger view of the gospel, seeing the gospel as more than just how one is made right with God, how one is changed and how one goes to heaven. We are seeing the gospel for Christians as well and how the power of the gospel changes us into who God has called us to be.

This is positive.

It has also created a new thing to complain about.

Now, preachers are gospel centered preachers. If you want to sell a book, throw the word gospel into it. Parenting, preaching, church planting, maybe even write a book called the gospel. 

Now, bloggers complain about writers and preachers who aren’t gospel centered. Maybe, if you are a pastor, you’ve had someone tell you, “I’m leaving your church because you aren’t gospel centered.”

When I’ve heard this personally, what this often means is, “You don’t preach the gospel the way I think the gospel should be preached.” In other words, “I think the gospel has specific components and need to be said in a certain order (ie. the Romans road) and if you don’t say them in that order, you haven’t preached the gospel.

This has also become code for deeper preaching and not having to move forward and do anything with a sermon someone gives.

So, if you are a pastor and get someone who comes up to you after a sermon or sends you an email telling you that you aren’t gospel centered, even though someone started following Jesus in that same sermon, what do you do?

  1. Ask them what it means to be gospel centered. Most of the people who will make this complaint have a prophet lens. For them, gospel centered is the gospel they heard when they got saved, how Tim Keller or John Piper tells the gospel message or something else, but something very specific. One of the best ways to learn from them and help them understand your perspective is to ask them what they think is gospel centered. Sadly, most people who make this complaint cannot actually articulate it. I had one guy complain about this for almost a year and he could never tell me what it meant to be gospel centered, only that our church wasn’t it. Finally, he said we were to sensitive to seekers, so that made us not gospel centered. At that point, you can actually have a conversation, when terms are defined.
  2. Lovingly tell them the gospel from your perspective. As you move forward, explain to them what the gospel is from your perspective. All over the New Testament, there is evidence of Peter and Paul communicating the gospel differently depending upon their audience. This is important for a pastor to keep in mind. So, what John Piper says at a Passion conference may have a different goal and audience than your church in New England or rural Nebraska.
  3. Understand the fears that come from someone with this complaint. Most of the complaints around this, and I can say this since the camp I’m a part of, the Reformed camp is the one blogging and complaining about this issue. It comes from fear. As we watch our country become more and more liberal, people are fearful that the church is going the same way, and many are. This is a legitimate concern, not fear. Scripture is clear that we are not to be afraid. This is a great shepherding moment for you as a pastor. Many leaders miss this opportunity in an effort to be right or win the argument.

[Image]

Enhanced by Zemanta

N.T. Wright on Gay Marriage

This is so good:

You can read the transcript of the interview here.

My blog will be moving in a few weeks and I don’t want you to miss anything. Simply click here to subscribe via email so that I can serve you better and continue to help you grow to become who God created you to be.

How to Forgive Your Father

book

As I mentioned in a recent sermon, one of the hardest things for us as we see God as father is how we feel about our earthly father. That relationship impacts so much of how we see ourselves, the world around us and God. It impacts how we feel about ourselves and how we let others treat us.

As you take steps this week to let go of any hurt done by your earthly father and forgive him, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

One, remember your sin. It is easy to simply look at the brokenness of someone else and overlook our brokenness. As you forgive someone, you begin to come face to face with some of the things in your own heart. If you skip over these things or not deal with them, you will find yourself having a hard time understanding God’s forgiveness. Remember, God’s grace was extended to you and your sin, my sin, the sin of your father put Jesus on the cross.

Two, forgiveness does not mean you pretend something didn’t happen. Forgive and forget is a nice phrase, but I’m not sure it is realistic or biblical. We always remember something. It is part of our story, our life. We don’t simply pretend that hurt, broken promises, or even abuse happened. As you forgive and move forward, don’t pretend something didn’t happen as that will keep you from health and wholeness.

Third, forgiveness does not mean you have a relationship with someone. You can forgive someone and keep them at a distance, which you may need to do depending on the situation for your safety.

Last, God forgave you and this is the basis for letting go of anything. Why did God forgive you? He loved you and this forgiveness is what we are to extend to those who hurt us, including our father.

It may be hard to believe, but forgiving those who hurt you the most is not only something a follower of Jesus is called to, it is also the only way to living the life that God calls you to live. Many people walk around with hurt, that turns into bitterness because of something they won’t let go of. And that is not the life that God has called us to live.

My blog will be moving in a few weeks and I don’t want you to miss anything. Simply click here to subscribe via email so that I can serve you better and continue to help you grow to become who God created you to be.

[Image]

God Will Let You Have Your Sin

book

I was reading Romans 1 the other day and while this passage is often used as to why homosexuality is a sin, I was struck by something else. There is a phrase in vs. 24 and 26 where Paul says, “God gave them up to their dishonorable passions.”

When we choose to sin, and yes, every time we sin we are choosing to sin.

God will allow us to make that choice and experience what comes from that choice. That wording, “gave them up” is a handing over.

Often, when we experience the ramifications of sin, we get angry at God. Why didn’t he intervene? He did, He allowed us to move forward.

The truth of the gospel is that God does and will rescue us from our sin. He does give us a way out of temptation. He also will allow us to have our sin.

Often we complain about the consequences of our sin. Why does God allow our sin to hurt ourselves, others? Why do we bear consequences for what we do wrong? Why are relationships broken because of words? Why do our actions lead to bankruptcy, broken trust? This falls into the area of what God allows.

His will is not for this to happen, but is what He allows.

There is grace found in our consequences. 

When we feel the consequences of our sin, we learn that God is indeed good. In our sin, we learn that God is better than our sin and the temptations we face.

[Image]

My blog will be moving in a few weeks and I don’t want you to miss anything. Simply click here to subscribe via email so that I can serve you better and continue to help you grow to become who God created you to be.

Preaching on Topics You Aren’t Passionate About

book

If you listen to enough of a pastor’s sermons you will hear a few things:

  1. What he is passionate about.
  2. What he struggles with.
  3. What he wants to become.

Pastor’s tend to stick with what they know or like. If I had my way, I’d preach on a New Testament letter every time. Other guys would preach from a gospel whenever given the chance. A few will throw in some Old Testament wrath of God.

Sunday, as we are going through Galatians, we got to a topic that I haven’t preached a lot on. It isn’t because I don’t care about it or don’t think it is important. Truthfully, it hasn’t come up in any of the series we’ve done. It’s the topic of approval.

Now, we all struggle with approval to some degree. We all care what people think, to some degree. It is just different for everyone.

For me, my struggles center around control and power. I don’t care too much if you like me, but I do care a lot if I lose.

If a pastor isn’t careful, they will only preach on the things they find important. This can be good and bad.

It’s good because it should mean a pastor is passionate about what he is communicating. It’s good because his sermons will tend to be more thorough because it’s on a topic he likes or has read a lot about (because he struggles with it).

If you aren’t careful though, you will end up missing an enormous part of your church. Your church doesn’t have the same struggles you have. They don’t have the same temptations or history or baggage that you do.

Because of that, they need to hear sermons about things you aren’t as passionate about.

This is one of the benefits to preaching through books of the Bible. You can’t skip anything. Now, choosing to preach through Galatians, I knew I was going to hit the topics of legalism, approval and moralism. It is the theme of the book. It is one of the reasons we chose it, because we haven’t had a lot of sermons on those topics.

Pastors will also stay away from topics they don’t want to talk about. Maybe a pastor is more of a shepherd than a vision caster, so he won’t preach a lot about vision. This will lead the church to be aimless. Or, he’s a vision caster who can’t stop talking and no one gets cared for because he never preaches on it. A pastor isn’t an evangelist, so there is no talk on evangelism, just discipleship and growing. Or the other way around.

If you simply talk about what you like, care about, are passionate about or things you know about, you will keep your church from hearing all that God wants to teach them.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Make me Approve of You

book

I preached on the need and desire for approval that we all have. Granted, we all feel it to different degrees. In my sermon, I mentioned how my desire to win, to be right, to have power and control always outweighs my desire for approval. It is still there though.

This blog post may feel more like a confession that I’m letting you in on. Hopefully this will be an encouragement to you or you’ll see yourself in it.

For me, I was convicted how out of my desire for power and control, I can very easily make my relationships about my approval of someone else.

I can be good at putting incredibly high standards on people, making them feel guilty so they will ultimately do what I want.

This is how I control things. In the end, it is also how I can easily help people sin by gaining my approval.

It is interesting when we talk about the idols of the heart or the sin in people’s lives, we focus on the person sinning. We should. They are responsible. In doing this, it is easy to let the people off who cause the sinning. Granted, someone seeking my approval is not my fault and they stand before God on that. I stand before God on how I cause someone to sin or stumble.

That is on me.

As I think about legalism, the gospel, the idols of my heart and hopefully as you think about those things, my hope with this blog post is to get you to realize in your quest for approval, control, comfort or power, you cause others to worship their idol by your actions. In your quest for comfort, you might help someone seek even more control so things don’t fall through the cracks because you are so laidback and letting whatever happens happen. In your quest for approval, you cause others to seek power because you are willing to be a doormat to their sin and ego.

[Image]

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Gospel is Not Just Doctrine

book

We need to remember that doctrine is important, but it is just one dimension of the gospel. When we reduce the gospel to doctrines, facts, arguments, and bible verses, we refuse to embody the humbling, personally transforming power of the gospel. Blinded by our longings to be right, we can easily become imbalanced. As a result, we may know the truth about Jesus, but lack the power to personally change and lack an outward focus on loving others. So, while the gospel is doctrinal, it is also much more. -Jonathan Dodson, The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Discomfort the Truth Causes

book

In his book The Business of Belief: How the World’s Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers, Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us to Believe, Tom Asacker makes this point:

Our minds crave consistency in our beliefs and behaviors. We want to appear logical, to ourselves and to others. And when faced with evidence which contradicts our beliefs, our minds work to eliminate the psychological discomfort.

This is crucial for pastors to get as they preach on a weekly basis.

Often, the truth that you are preaching will contradict what people sitting their know, believe or want to believe or know.

Here are 3 ways to do this:

  1. State the obvious. Talk about what is clear to everyone in the room. If something seems weird or unusual in the Bible, talk about it. Think about what the Christians believe: God created the world out of nothing, Noah built an ark and the world was covered in rain killing everyone but those in the ark, God speaks through a bush, God becomes human and is born an infant to a virgin, Jesus rose from the dead. That’s just a sampling, but things that seem crazy. When you get to something that seems hard to believe, talk about it. Andy Stanley says, “this gives you credibility with the unchurched.”
  2. Help them through the discomfort. Talk about the difficulty in believing things, what changes the gospel will bring to lives and how difficult change is. Everyone knows change is hard. This is why we hold on to baggage and hurt for so long, it is why people don’t stick with diets and workout programs. Because change hurts. It is uncomfortable. Talk about it, give ways out of it.
  3. Imagine the future. When you apply the bible in a sermon, don’t just talk about how to live it out. Talk about how life will and can be different when this truth is applied. Say something like, “Imagine what life can be like next week, next month if you live this out, if you believe this” and then explain it. Often, people struggle to apply the Bible because they can’t imagine how great life can be if they live it out, they only think in the loss column.

[Image]

Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace

bookAs I have been working ahead and preparing for sermons this coming spring at Revolution, one of the books I read for our man series called Fight is the book, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (kindle version) by Heath Lambert is easily the most helpful, grace filled, gospel centered book on fighting temptation, pornography addiction and lust.

Here is one thing that sets this book apart:

This book is not about pornography. This book is not about the pornography industry. This book is not about the catastrophic effects of pornography. The purpose of this book is not to rewire your brain when it comes to pornography. This book is about something much better than pornography. This book is about the amazing power of Jesus Christ to free you from pornography.

What follows are 8 strategies the power of the gospel gives you to fight pornography: using sorrow, accountability, radical measures, confession, your spouse (or singleness), humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Jesus.

One of the things Lambert said that really stuck out to me is that humility is one of the best tools to fighting porn addiction (or any addiction). Addiction is an issue of a prideful heart.

Here are some things I highlighted:

  • Jesus Christ died to set you free from every sin that can be committed. That includes pornography.
  • When you believe in God’s grab towards you, you get God’s righteousness.
  • God’s grace pardons you and forgives your sin, and God’s grace empowers you to live differently and be obedient to him.
  • The first step in repentance is talk to God and tell him about your sin.
  • Mental punishments are not helpful because they deal with sin in a self-centered way instead of a Christ-centered way.
  • Jesus’ grace to change you is stronger than pornography’s power to destroy you.
  • Worldly sorrow is sad over losing the things of the world, while the focus of godly sorrow is God himself. Godly sorrow is pained over the break in relationship with God. It is heartbroken that God has been grieved and offended. The tears of godly sorrow flow from the sadness that God’s loving and holy law has been broken.
  • The person full of godly sorrow has a heart that wants to please God rather than self. Godly sorrow motivates real and lasting change.
  • Godly sorrow hates the sin itself. Godly sorrow feels the horror of disobedience and weeps over the reality of a heart that chose transgression over faithfulness.
  • To find freedom from pornography, you will need to employ radical measures in at least three areas. You look at porn when you have the desire to see it, when you have the time to look at it, and when it is available to you. Nobody looks at pornography without all three of these elements coming together. In your fight to be free from pornography, you must learn to take radical steps to eliminate each one.
  • The Bible promises that there is no prosperity for those who cover up their sin.
  • The circle of your confession should be as broad as the circle of your sin.
  • You can never stop thinking about something by trying to not to think about it. If you want to get something out of your mind, you must begin thinking about something else.
  • God wants to change your thinking, not by having us focus on the things we’re trying to quit thinking about, but by replacing old, sinful thoughts with new, righteous thoughts.
  • God wants you to quit thinking about porn and start thinking about your wife.
  • Whenever your thoughts begin to drift toward porn, see this mental drift as an alarm reminding you to pray for grace to refocus your thoughts on your spouse.
  • If you look at pornography, you are arrogant.
  • Every bad thing you do flows from an arrogant heart that is selfishly ambitious.
  • Men look at pornography out of an arrogant desire to see women in a way that God does not allow. They show arrogant defiance to God’s commands, rejecting the delight of sexual intimacy in marriage and deciding for themselves what they believe is better – looking at naked women in porn. They show arrogant disregard for God’s call to selfless marital love. They show arrogant derision for the female actresses whom they should be seeking to respect as who women who need to hear the good news of Jesus. They show arrogant disdain for their own children by hiding their sin and inviting the enemy into their home and their marriage. They show arrogant disrespect toward all those who would be scandalized if their sin was known. The root problem with men who look at porn is not neediness – it is arrogance.
  • Men who struggle with pornography often see pornography as their only sin.
  • If you struggle with porn, one of your greatest needs is to grow in the grace of gratitude.
  • Porn is only consumed by thankless people.
  • Porn is the trading of gratitude for greed. Porn trades joy in the reality God has graced you with for greed in the counterfeit world he has not. Defeating porn requires a grateful consideration of God’s good gifts to you.
  • You should not seek a dynamic relationship with Jesus because you want to be finished with porn. You should not seek a dynamic relationship with Jesus for any purpose other than knowing Jesus.
  • Your struggle isn’t just to avoid looking at porn. It’s much more glorious than that. You have the unspeakable privilege of being invited to have a real relationship with the Savior of your soul who alone has the Father’s seal of approval.
  • You cannot look at Jesus and look at porn at the same time. You have to stop doing one to do the other. A living, breathing relationship with the Savior of the world will drive porn out of your life quicker than anything else.

When it comes to recommendation for men and women fighting lust, temptation, porn addiction, this is the first book I will recommend to them.

Every Saturday I share a review of a book I’ve read recently. If you want to see some of the past books I’ve reviewed, go here.