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.

Tuesday Morning Book Review || Sensing Jesus

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is Sensing Jesus: Life & Ministry as a Human Being (kindle version) by Zach Eswine. This is the second book I’ve read by Eswine. You can read my review of his book Preaching to a Post-Everything world here.

Here is my one criticism about Eswine and his writing. His stuff is great. It is challenging, soul stirring, makes you think. He just takes a long time to say it. What he says in 5 pages I feel could be said in one. Outside of that, his books are great and this one is no different.

That being said, if you are a pastor or thinking about becoming a pastor, you would do well to work your way through this book and chew on what Eswine lays out. Many pastors, in response to the call God has placed on their lives have forgotten how to be human or that their ministry is to human beings, not robots or masses.

Here are a few things that jumped out in my reading:

  • If there is anything exceptional about me and about this ministerial crowd of mine, it is that we are exceptionally broken.
  • God is the remembered one. But this does not mean we are forgotten – not by him. Not by a long shot. In fact, being remembered by him means we no longer fear being forgotten by the world.
  • We cannot fully magnify God without confessing that we are not him.
  • Greatness, even in ministry, cannot escape humanity.
  • Our goal of greatness is not the problem. How we define the word great is.
  • The problem we have rises when we suggest that obscurity and greatness are opposites, that fame in our culture and greatness as God sees it are synonyms.
  • You cannot glorify God by trying to become him.
  • The Bible simply does not teach us that if we say the right words, right things will follow.
  • How come so much of our Christian knowledge robs us of joy, wonder, awe, play, dependence, and the need to learn and humility?
  • Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
  • Going all out for God means more than going all out for our sermons.
  • One can receive accolades for preaching Jesus, yet at the same time know every little about how to follow Jesus in the living rooms of their ordinary lives.

Here is an interview that Zach Eswine did with Justin Taylor about this book:

Stop Assuming the People You Preach to Agree with You

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Two things happened recently that has really made me think about my preaching and the preaching of others.

One was at the Preach the Word conference where Justin Anderson made the comment, “Stop assuming people agree with what you believe. Unchurched people don’t agree with your beliefs, most of the churched people don’t agree with your beliefs, stop assuming.” He went on to say, “Pastors need to say less and prove more.”

Think for a minute all the statements that pastors make in their sermons, with little context or explanation. Assuming that everyone is on board with basic biblical truths like: everyone is a sinner, apart from Jesus you’ll spend eternity in hell, God loves you, Jesus rose from the dead, you have an idol that you worship.

Let me be the first to say, I am guilty of this. I have really been growing in this area in the last year thanks to the mentoring of Justin and others.

Then, in the aftermath of the tornado in Oklahoma came this interview on CNN:

Here are a few things this means for pastors:

  1. Explain things more. One of the things a good communicator does is explain what they mean. Too many pastors and communicators simply think everyone knows what they are talking about. I will very rarely use the words justification, sovereignty of God, sanctification, or gospel. I believe in all of them and love the truth of them. The problem is some people have no idea what you are talking about or have the wrong idea. I used to say gospel over and over in a sermon and one day someone asked, “Why do you keep saying gospel in your sermon? You aren’t preaching from a gospel.” Others see the word gospel simply as what gets you to heaven. Instead of saying sanctification I’ll talk about becoming the person Jesus created you to be. Now, as a pastor if you do this, you’ll get push back from the people who want “deep” preaching. That’s okay.
  2. Talk about why you believe things. If a pastor says something in a sermon, something they believe to be true about God or the gospel, explain why you believe that. If you are talking about grace and forgiveness, talk about why you believe those things. Show from Scripture and from your life how you’ve seen them to be true. Too often pastors simply give the finished product. They wrestle with a text or concept alone in their study and then say, “Here’s where I landed.” It is helpful to show some of that struggle and share some of that for your church.
  3. Have less points. I’ve talked about this too many times to count. If you have more than one point in a sermon, you are wasting a lot of time. Your church can’t remember more than one point and you can’t remember more than one point. Say your one point, a lot.
  4. Affirm the questions people have, don’t dismiss them. You as a pastor have questions, so do the people in your church. You don’t have to answer them all every week in every sermon, but affirm that their questions exist and are real. People wonder why God doesn’t heal them, why their spouse walked out, why getting fired could be God’s plan for them or if they are being punished for something. They wonder if hell exists or if Jesus really is the hero of all things. Affirm those questions. Tell them they are real and okay to ask. People in Scripture have doubts and unbelief and Jesus engages them.

What other assumptions do pastors make when they preach?

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Why God Gave us the Law

When God gives us commands, he means to help us run the race to completion, not to slow us down. In his Reflections on the Psalms, C. S. Lewis pondered how anyone could “delight” in the law of the Lord. Respect, maybe. Assent, perhaps. But how could anyone find the law so exhilarating? And yet, the more he thought about it, the more Lewis came to understand how the psalmist’s delight made sense. “Their delight in the Law,” Lewis observed, “is a delight in having touched firmness; like the pedestrian’s delight in feeling the hard road beneath his feet after a false short cut has long entangled him in muddy fields.”1 The law is good because firmness is good. God cares enough to show us his ways and direct our paths. How awful it would be to inhabit this world, have some idea that there is a God, and yet not know what he desires from us.2 Divine statutes are a gift to us. God gives us law because he loves.

-Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness

You are a Work in Progress

If you are a pastor or ministry leader, you are at the same time a person in the middle of your own sanctification. You are not yet free of sin and all its attendant dangers. You still carry around moral susceptibility. You are capable of giving way to disastrous things. You are capable of losing your way. You are capable of ungodly attitudes and dark desires. You have not been completely delivered from greed, pride, lust, anger, and bitterness. There are places where you are an idolater, where the agenda is being set by a desire for some creating thing more than it is by worship of your Creator. You do not always minister as an ambassador. There are times when you do your ministry work with the attitude of a king rather than as one called to represent the King. You do not always love God above all else. You do not always love your neighbor as yourself. You are not always kind and compassionate. You are not always patient and forgiving. There are moments when you love your little kingdom of one more than you love God’s kingdom. There are times when you love comfort and pleasure more than you love redemption. There are times when pride renders you unkind and unapproachable. There are times when you want your ministry to be about you. There are times when you’re irritated by the very people you’ve been called to pastor. You are not proud of all your thoughts. You would not want your congregation to hear all your words. You do things in private moments that you would not want seen in public. -Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling

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Links I Like

  1. Tim Challies on What sanctification is and is not. This is incredibly helpful. 
  2. Mark Driscoll on How to get things done. Helpful list on productivity. 
  3. Pete Wilson on 3 things every pastor should unlearn
  4. 4 myths attacking the church today.
  5. Ed Stetzer on Preach the gospel, and since it’s necessary, use words
  6. The idea of evangelism makes me uncomfortable

Stop Complaining

Last week I talked about the process of how we become more like Jesus (sanctification). Paul clearly lays out how this process works in Philippians 2:12 – 13. If you missed it, you can listen to it here. On the heels of this in verse 14 he says, “Do all things without grumbling or questioning (complaining).” I had always been told that this means we shouldn’t complain, “God doesn’t like whiners” I was told.

One of the points I made in my sermon was when God is making us into more like Jesus, he will help us along the way. Maybe we need to grow in patience, he will send someone into our lives who will make us impatient. If we need to trust Him more, maybe He will allow things to happen in our lives so that we have to choose between worry and faith. You get the picture.

This morning, Katie and I were talking more about it because we had small group last night and she said, “What if that verse is also talking about all the things God has already told us to do and made clear in Scripture.” Things like giving, being in community, sharing our faith, being on mission, worshiping, being a part of a church, using our spiritual gifts. What if, when we don’t do those things, we are complaining or questioning God’s ways because we aren’t doing them. Someone at our small group last night said, “I started giving back to God when I realized I was commanded by God to do it, that it wasn’t an option. That changed everything.” What if, by not doing something God has already called us to, we are questioning him and by doing that, we are stopping the process of sanctification. Paul makes very clear in verses 12 – 13 that we and God partner in the process.

What if, by not doing what God has called us, we are making sure we don’t experience all that God has in mind for us? For example, if we don’t give, we are ensuring that our faith won’t grow, that we won’t trust God and that we won’t see God move in big ways. Every time you meet someone who prays big prayers, has enormous faith, does not worry, you are talking to someone who is generous and trusts God with their finances.

So, what are you doing that might be keeping the process of sanctification from happening? What things has God already made clear in scripture, things like being in community, praying, reading Scripture, giving back to God, sharing your faith, inviting people to church, etc. that you aren’t doing. What if, you started doing those things, what would happen? Would God move in your life in bigger ways if you stopped questioning Him in that way?

Question from Saturday #2

Saturday night, we had planned to do Q & A at the end of the service, but God showed up in a powerful way and changed the way we ended the service. Because of that, I wanted to answer some of the questions that came in. Many of them asked the same thing, so I’ll consolidate. I know this isn’t the same, but it will do for this week.

Yes, Jesus’ death was the ultimate sacrifice, but don’t we need to daily ‘take up our cross’ and strive for but never truly reach perfection?

Yes, but what we do daily does not save us, it shows the change that has happened in our lives, it shows that we daily make a decision to make God the God of our lives.

When we sin, it means we have an idol problem. It means that we have decided that thing will meet our needs, will be all that we want instead of God, we have decided that thing will be more satisfying than God.

‘Taking up our cross” falls into the santification category, which means, becoming more like Jesus on a daily basis.

What do you think?