Make me Approve of You

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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.

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Become Who You Were Called to Be

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Revolution is going to turn 5 years old this Sunday. It is really hard to believe that the church God birthed in me 13 years ago while living in Chicago actually came to be with 11 people who prayed and dreamed together in Tucson, AZ. Over the coming week as we gear up towards Sunday I thought I’d share some of the dreams that drove us to start Revolution and still drive us to this day.

The first is to help people become who they were called to be. 

This might sound simplistic and something every church sets out to do, but it s the heartbeat of my preaching and our church. Jesus said in John 10:10 that he came to give life, overflowing and abundant life. All throughout the New Testament, we see places where we are told that God wants us to be holy, set apart, to live the life we were created to live. Not a shell of that life where we indulge our idols or chase empty ambitions, but life.

This means every week, we want to challenge people in our sermons to confront the idols of the heart and show people the truth of the gospel. We want our MC’s to weekly confront each other in areas where they aren’t believing the gospel, but instead are living out of lies. When people are seeking to control things, make decisions to gain approval or power, our hope is that people will challenge each other lovingly with the truth of the gospel and remind each other to be who they were created to be.

This means, we don’t believe anyone is accidental. God doesn’t need us to be someone else, live out someone else’s gifts, vision or dreams. He doesn’t need us to try to live up to someone else’s standard. He needs us to be us. He created us to be us.

For Revolution, this is the gospel piece. This is where we challenge those who are not yet Christians to take that step and begin following Jesus. For those who are Christians, this is where we challenge them in sin patterns and to be holy as Christ is holy (1 Peter 1:16).

For anyone to become who they were created to be, a few things must happen:

  • You have to talk about creation. You have to talk about how God created the world to be. People must see how they and those around them were created in the image of God and what that entails.
  • You have to talk about the brokenness in our lives and in our world because of the fall. You have to talk about the reality of sin and hit it head on.
  • You have to talk about the resurrection. The cross matters greatly, but I get fearful when I hear pastors talk about the cross and then never mention the resurrection. As Paul tells us, talk about both (1 Corinthians 15:14).
  • You have to talk about the kingdom and the reign of Jesus and what it means to live forever in the kingdom of God, the way God meant the world to be. You have to give your people a vision of what God intends and why that matters. Too often, pastors do not help people imagine a better future because of the gospel.

Bob Franquiz sums this up well in his book Pull: Making Your Church Magnetic:

Great preaching aims for repentance in each message. This is the goal of every message we teach. Repentance means to change your mind, and we must all changes minds about false beliefs we’ve had, false teachings we’ve held, false ideas we’ve hung on to, and false securities on which we’ve depended. The essence of the gospel is embracing Christ and walking away from idols. The question to ask is, “What is the false god, false belief, false idea, or false teaching we’ve held on to, and how does the gospel require us to respond?” When you preach for a decision with unbelievers, the answer is obvious: you want people to come to Christ. When you teach this to believers, it’s a bit more difficult, but something always tries to draw us away from the gospel. Our goal is to keep believers and unbelievers face-to-face with the gospel.

Your Idols Won’t Carry You

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I talked this past Sunday about the idols of the heart and what drives us to do what we do. Yesterday after breakfast, Katie pointed something out to me in Isaiah 46.

While our idols drive us and only the gospel can transform our hearts to be driven by Jesus. We also look to our idols to carry us, to give us rest, to complete us.

We look for achievement to give us rest. When we’ve accomplished enough, we’ll have enough. When we have enough school, we’ll be enough. When we’ve taken enough vacations, we’ll have enough experiences.

When we have enough power, we’ll have enough control. We’ll have enough followers, enough employees. We’ll be important and feared because we have power.

When we have enough stuff, we’ll be able to slow down and rest. We’ll be able to sit on our new deck furniture, watch our huge TV from our plush chair.

We’ll finally be able to rest, because our idols will carry us.

Except. We lose employees. This year award becomes next year’s forgotten winner. That degree becomes not enough in 5 years when someone else gets one more degree than you. That vacation next year will be a distant memory when you hear about a new place, a new resort, a new experience. That power will fade as your company gets bought out or a new boss comes in and the game changes. And stuff rots and falls apart and last years most amazing TV becomes next month’s “last season’s model.”

Our idols fail. They do not carry us. They do not give us rest.

Isaiah 46:8-9 says:

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

Top Posts of July

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In case you missed them, here are the top posts of July 2013:

  1. The Five Stages of Discipleship
  2. Why Pastor’s Should Take a Summer Preaching Break
  3. The Sins of a Pastor || The Pastor’s Family
  4. The Sins of a Pastor || Giving Away too Much at Home
  5. Adoption and the Desire to Control
  6. Finding an Accountability Partner as a Pastor
  7. 21 Skills of Great Preachers
  8. Interacting with the Opposite Sex as a Pastor
  9. The Things Pastors Know and See
  10. The Sins of a Pastor || Untouchable

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The Sins of a Pastor || Need to be Needed

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Pastors, like any person sin. While this may be surprising for some people as they put their pastors and their wife on a pedestal, it is true. Because of the nature of being a pastor and the life they live, their sins are often not obvious and ones that no one will ever know about. In fact, some of the most hurtful and dangerous sins are ones that a church and elders can unknowingly encourage. These sins are not in any particular order, just the order I wrote them in.

So far we’ve covered:

  1. Your Bible is for more than just sermon prep.
  2. A pastor being untouchable.
  3. The pastor’s family. 

The fourth sin that many pastors deal with is the sin of the need to be needed. This directly affects what we talked about yesterday and how the pastor and his family are seen.

Many pastors as they become pastors do so out of a sense of wanting to help people. This can be seen in counseling, in discipling people or walking alongside of them. They want to help people.

This can hide for a time any way, the need to be needed. This shows up when a pastor:

  1. Must be at every meeting or party for the church.
  2. Visit every person in the hospital.
  3. Follow up with every guest or new Christian.
  4. Baptize everyone.
  5. Always preach.
  6. Never take a vacation.
  7. Respond to every email and call.

Now, I’m not calling for pastors to be lazy. In fact, the last sin we’ll talk about is how lazy many pastors are.

Pastor, take a minute and ask yourself some of these questions:

  • How much do I need to be needed?
  • Do I need to check every alert on Facebook, twitter or email?
  • Do I keep my phone on during dinner with my family and answer it when it rings?
  • Do you check your email or answer your phone on your day off?
  • Do you take a day off every week?
  • Do you take all your vacation days?
  • Do you miss any Sundays?
  • Do you take any Sundays off from preaching?

You may fall prey to the desire to be needed and that may be driving you and your ministry more than Jesus. If so, take a day off, turn your phone off and take a break from preaching.

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Lies Pastor’s Believe

Saturday night I started a series on 2 Peter. One of the themes of 2 Peter is combatting the lies that we believe. All of us believe lies in our lives and those lies shape us. Lies that we aren’t good enough, strong enough, that I owe God, that we can be in control, that God doesn’t love us. Lies like these, shape us.

Pastor’s believe lies as well. I know that might be a shock, but as I was standing in front of our church, I shared for a few minutes some of the lies that I as a pastor combat.

Lie number 1, what happens at Revolution is because of me. All pastor’s know this isn’t true, but we easily believe it is. You can tell by their mood after they hear how many people were at church, what the offering was like, how the kids ministry went. Much of what they feel about their sermon is based on what they can read on people’s face, the connection they feel or lack thereof.

Lie number 2, God loves me more when I preach. It’s getting closer to summer and I always take a few weeks in a row where I don’t preach. As I get closer to it, this lie is starting to creep up. I love preaching. I feel like God has gifted me to do it and I love using this gift for His glory. It is an honor. But it is easy for me to feel like God loves me more because I preach or that I feel his presence more in my life when I am preaching.

Lie number 3, if I’m not at church, it will fall apart. As a church planter, you will battle this. Will people care about your church as much as you do? What happens if your church completely falls apart when you aren’t there? While many struggle with this, I’ve never actually heard of a church closing because a pastor was gone for a week. Revolution will not fall apart if I’m not there, but like lie #1, it is easy to fall into.

As a pastor, you need to do what you challenge your church to do. Wrestle with what these lies reveal. When you believe these lies, what does that say about you, about your belief in God and the gospel. What is the truth of those lies.

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Links I Like

  1. The deep limitations of digital church
  2. J.D. Greear on Homosexuality and the gospel part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4
  3. Are Mormons Christians?
  4. Justin Buzzard on That idol that you love, it doesn’t love you back.
  5. A biblical view of success.
  6. Ryan Huguley on 7 ways to prepare for worship
  7. 3 reasons you need to attend the Planet Rev parent meeting tonight if you are a parent at Revolution Church
  8. Scott Thomas on The pastor’s wife is simply a wife

What I Doubt about God

I had a conversation recently with some friends and they asked how you discern the idols of your heart. We talk about this quite a bit at Revolution and what the gospel truth is. While there are some questions that others have developed that are very helpful, they pointed out that for them it seems to be a moving target.

One thing I pointed out that has helped me is discerning idols of the heart is what you doubt about God first or most.

For me, with a Reformed lens, I love the sovereignty of God. I rest in it, trust in it, believe in it wholeheartedly. It makes sense, I see it all over Scripture. It answers the deepest questions I ask. It is one of the easiest things for me to believe about God. When life does not go as I planned, seems out of my control, the sovereignty of God is the first thing I doubt.

Think about the approval idol. Someone who wrestles with this has a hard time believing they are loved by God. When they sin, the have doubts about God’s grace, forgiveness, that he will accept them in spite of their sin. They need to grow in God’s grace.

When it comes to comfort, in the moments of doubt and sin, those who struggle with this don’t believe God is good. They believe there is something else that is better than God in that moment.

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Discerning the Idols of Your Heart

 

Tonight in my sermon we worked through some of the questions that can help you discern the idols of your heart. Each person has a default idol of their heart, what pushes them to make the decisions they do, both good and bad. Tim Chester points that each of us have an idol that is either for power, control, comfort or approval. They overlap and we might have all 4 at different times, but these 4 things push us to sin, succeed and live our lives.

The hope we have is that they will bring us the fulfillment we long for.

For example, when a man works a ton of hours to provide for his family, he is doing a good thing to provide for them. But he might be doing it so that his family will approve of him or that he will have the comfort he longs for.

Or, when one tries to control a situation through organizing every detail, keeping things in order. They might say they are organized or a detailed person, which might be true. It might also mean that it comes from a place of insecurity where they need to control everything instead of trusting in God.

Here are some questions we worked through tonight to discern what the idols of your heart are:

  1. What do I worry about?
  2. What do I use to comfort myself when life gets tough or things don’t go my way?
  3. What, if I lost would make me think life wasn’t worth living?
  4. What do I daydream about?
  5. What makes me feel the most self-worth?
  6. What do I lead with in conversations?
  7. Early on, what do I want to make sure people know about me?
  8. What prayer, unanswered would seriously make me consider walking away from God?
  9. What do I really want and expect out of life?
  10. What is my hope for the future? What will complete me?

Top Post of 2011 – #7: My Journey of Losing Weight

Over the last 11 days of 2011, I’ll be posting the top 11 posts of 2011. Here is #7: My Journey of Losing Weight. This one seems timely today as many Americans will eat way too much food.

Over the last week, I blogged about my journey of losing weight and keeping it off. It has been awesome getting messages from people about how this series has challenged and encouraged them. I hope it spurs you to being healthy.

You can read the posts here:

  1. How I got to where I am 
  2. The idol of food (the spiritual side of weight loss)
  3. Have a plan
  4. It’s for the rest of your life
  5. The effects
  6. Do your homework
  7. The idol of exercise & staying in shape