We Must Be a Broken People

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Our Church has been finishing up a five-part series. The last of which was on the

 

“perseverance of the saints”. This biblical idea basically means that though our salvation is secure, we as Christians will persevere in our faith until the end. We won’t throw our love for Christ aside, we won’t give Him up. Ultimately though, we recognize that God is the one at work within us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Contemplating this concept is difficult for me. God clearly calls us to turn from our sins and always be repenting and turning back to Christ. This being the fruit and proof of salvation. And then there’s the other side: it’s ultimately God who’s doing the perseverance in and through us. It’s crazy to think about!

However mind-boggling God’s sovereignty is, He is teaching us much through our Wednesday night home-groups through our church. We talk in a group of 12-18 and

 

discuss the sermon from Sunday. We read through selected scriptures and open the floor for discussion. We eventually got on the topic of “how to recognize those who are persevering and those who are not”. Because, what sets good-works-salvation-bob apart from by-grace-through-faith-alone-Nolan? We externally do the same things, don’t we?

God led me back to a verse in Luke 18:10-14.

 

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This account is always a humbling reminder of what a broken heart before God looks like. It’s not flashy, it’s not proud or arrogant. It’s not perfect, It’s just broken.

We look at the pharisee and think he looks pretty good, by cultural standards. And the tax collector is pretty much the scum of the earth. At face value we could make a judgement call and say the Pharisee is “persevering”, but is he?

Jesus is getting deep here. The pharisee is pompous and arrogant before God, flaunting his spiritual “goodness” (aka filthy rags). He thanks God he’s not like other people. He thanks God He’s not like “those” people. He’s literally placing his good works on a false scale. This made up scale places the Pharisee as creator, the “other people” as the measured standard, and rigs it to go in his favor. He tries to “trick” God into thinking he’s good.

The contrast is this lowly tax collector. By societal standards, a thief, a swindler. The scum of the earth. But his prayer sounds much different. “be merciful to me, a sinner!” He recognized his sinfulness before God. He realized that he deserved nothing other than condemnation. And he physically expressed it by beating his chest is anguish over his separation from God. Naturally from the outside you’d think “this guys screwed up!” and he certainly was. But there’s a difference between these two screw-ups.

One was broken. One was not.

We have this idea in the Church that if we show our brokenness we will be shunned. And this should never be the case. This ‘scum of the earth’ Jesus was referring to was not scum to Him. But rather this man was the one who was saved in the end. Not the one who “looked good”.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

An arrogant, thinks-they’re-put-together-person is not persevering in Christ. They are persevering by themselves.

A broken, contrite heart recognizes their own flaws. They turn to Christ for forgiveness and reveal themselves to be the truly persevering. And what does the latter example have that the former doesn’t? The Holy Spirit himself.

As a Church we must be a broken people. We must. Without brokenness and vulnerability what do we have? White-washed tombs and people not getting the spiritual nourishment they desperately need. We must be broken before we can be healed.

When God Becomes our Satisfaction

My heart hasn’t had much of a desire for God and His word for a while now. Many days I would only pray that God would help me to want Him at all.

It’s a strange type of faith when you wake up in the morning, hoping that your spark of joy in Christ will be ignited. It’s almost like the joy is laying dormant, not necessarily gone altogether.

I don’t know if anyone has experienced this in their walk with Jesus, but it can be very discouraging. Wondering if there’s something wrong with you, wondering if God has abandoned you, wondering if your different sin struggles could have caused this.

As I wrestled with drawing near to God, i knew already that I was the one who moved. I’m the sinner, I’m the law-breaker, God didn’t become less amazing in the past few months, my own fallen self just wasn’t appreciating his Glory.

Something has changed in the last few weeks though. As I wrestled with some personal struggles, God used a combination of a music artist, a preacher, and His Word to grab hold of my heart.

He read from Jeremiah 2:13:

 

“for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
    the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
    broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

We expect Jeremiah to give a laundry list of all the things they didn’t do right, all the things they need to work on, but instead we see something different. God says they have only committed two evils, they forsook God, and made cisterns of water that couldn’t hold any water.

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God’s using this powerful imagery to show them who the ultimate satisfaction is. The cisterns of false gods, food, money, power, sex, recognition, etc. were all cisterns that didn’t hold any water. In essence, even in the Old Testament we see God’s leading us to the heart of the issue: God and God alone can satisfy the deepest longings in our hearts. We can try to make relationships, money, and anything into a pseudo “cistern” but when we pour our satisfaction into it, it goes right through the bottom onto the floor. Left emptier than before.

And this has been my problem. As I’ve started my business, Iv’e felt a deep longing for financial stability, for recognition as a “business owner”, to have more freedom in my life. Though these can be good things, they’d slowly evolved into things I’d become obsessed with.

As my insecurity grew, and my idolatry turned to other things, I found myself medicating my idolatry with more idolatry, a broken cistern smashed into another. Many of us understand this vicious cycle, whether struggles with lust medicated with more lust, or desire for money medicated with visions of future financial success, or even personal insecurity turning to athletic races to gain self-worth.

All these things are worthless. They don’t satisfy. There are many more sins that I struggle with, but they’re all born of these two sins found in Jeremiah 2.

We forsake God. Whenever I want something more than Jesus, it’s an idol. Whenever I place my whole life into something other than Jesus, I become an idolater.

And God designed us this way, we were created for Him, we were created to enjoy Him above all things, and when we realize that nothing else satisfies our souls like pursuing and loving Jesus, we then find balance in the rest of our lives.

I’m slowly learning this on an upward climb to joy. I’m beginning to grasp it in little ways: being freed from worrying about clients because Jesus has purchased my eternal security on the cross, being freed of lust because God is far more beautiful than anything else in this created world, being freed of self-doubt, because God has my steps in His hands and has created me in His perfect purpose to accomplish His ultimate will.

These are only a few examples, and i haven’t lived them out perfectly, but God is working on my heart!

 

Emotionally Fat but Spiritually Famished

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were driving home from Church. We pulled into our driveway, stepped out in our nicer clothes, guitar in-hand, and proceeded to walk up the driveway.

For some context, there’s a church across the street from us, so there are usually cars parked beside the road sunday morning.

Anyways, an older lady was walking back to her vehicle and she noticed us.
Seeing our clothes and guitar she deduced we had come from church. She asked us if we had, and we said that we just came back. Her reply at that point was something that’s stuck in my heart for weeks now, not so much for her motives (which i’m sure were pure), but rather for the deeper significance behind it.

What were her words you ask? Just two – “Good job!”

Why is this significant? Because, as a Christian, going to church isn’t a “good job”. Church was never meant to be something that you do once a week, you get a pat on the back, and then you live your week like the rest of the world (Colossians 3). Stepping foot in a building doesn’t automatically make you a Christian, or even a “good” christian, if there ever was one (Romans 3).

The real question is “what is a Christian”?

-The American churchis emotionally fatbut spiritually famished-.jpgThis american “christianity” has shaped us into a lifestyle of comfort, materialism, and godlessness under the guise of “i-go-to-church-a-few-times-a-month-so-im-a-christian” mentality. This is not Christianity. The buttery-smooth speakers who entice the flesh with little regard for Christ and him crucified. Never mentioning death to self, never mentioning that you could die for being a christian, only plopping you down in a seat and allowing you to consume until you’re emotionally fat and spiritually famished.

And before i’m misunderstood, attending church is VERY important in the Christian life. Or, i should rephrase, meeting at a church house and having fellowship with THE Church is essential to the christian life (Hebrews 10:24-26).

From scripture, there’s an interesting connection that i noticed while teaching the 7th and 8th graders a few weeks back. I asked a trick question, “what’s the difference between a christian, and a disciple?”.

***dead silence***

Me – “Nothing!”

If you are a Christian you will be a disciple. Matthew 28:19 equated sharing the gospel with making disciples. It’s not different. If you want to see people saved you MUST see them discipled. It’s not a “come to the front” moment, it’s a “lay down your life, give everything you have, and submit to a Christ into a life of godliness”. This doesn’t sound comfortable!

We want our cars, our houses, our boats! We want security! But Christ says to lay them at his feet. Don’t cling to them. Having a house or most anything isn’t sinful. But our hearts can so easily entice us into relying on them for our joy rather than Christ.

As one of my favorite songs says “You possess your possessions or they posses you” (Switchfoot – “If the House Burns Down Tonight”).

And I think that’s the danger of so called american Christianity. We love being comfortable, rich, and fat, more then we love Jesus. And this is an eternal error.

Sure, there’s a whole lot more to being a christian then what I’ve mentioned, but I want to make this clear – If you are a Christian, you are a disciple, and you are to die to yourself and make disciples. Don’t neglect fellowship with the saints. Don’t just go, sit down, and leave. Fellowship is building each other up, maybe encouraging, maybe rebuking.

But either way. I think the American mindset of Christianity has it all wrong.

So, as you see the myriad of people coming in tomorrow for Easter Sunday, welcome them with open, loving arms. But don’t sugar coat the gospel message. The Christian life isn’t easy, but it’s so very worth it.


Key Verses:

Matthew 28:19
Colossians 3
Hebrews 10:24-26

 

 

 

The Gospel and Fundamentalism (Part 2)

Click Here to read Part 1! (p.s. Happy November!)

So what does the Bible say about fundamentalism and fundamentalists alike?

Firstly, we have to understand our Theology. God is perfect. We’re not.

We’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. We’re bycross-66700_1920 nature children of wrath (Eph 2:3) So really, we don’t deserve anything good. We deserve justice for our sins just as a good judge punishes criminals for there acts justly. That justice is hell, the wrath of God being poured out on those who haven’t repented and trusted in Christ.

If we can’t escape our sins, then someone else will have to pay for them in our place. God sends Jesus Christ to live the perfect life we can’t live, and to die the death we deserve to die. God poured out the wrath that should’ve been on me, onto Christ. Thus cancelling the eternal debt I owed for my sins.

Praise the Lord for such a great savior!

So now that we have the gospel straight, we can move forward.

In response to the idea that we’re called to “condemn” people, I think we need to look at what Christ did, He didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). This doesn’t mean we don’t call all people to repentance and faith (Luke 13:5). We just do it in a way that’s loving, truthful, and seasoned with salt (1 Cor 16:14, Eph 4:15, Col 4:6).

I guess a practical way of breaking it down would be simply, does your gospel presentation contain the truth? And does it contain love?

Because if you neglect the truth, you do the world a disfavor in not calling them to repentance. Without it you will miss the core of the gospel, leaving the world with nothing tangible to believe. Good intentions get nowhere without good content.

Without love, your words become meaningless. You may say some truthful things, but if you come across as careless not many will want to listen.

Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive response to this issue, I’m simply trying to provide a short response. I and I’m sure many others have failed in these areas, and we always have room to grow!

Thanks for reading!

Some Resources For You!

I decided, because I had to go and update my auto insurance (which took a decent chunk out of my normal writing time) to give you all a list of awesome resources I have found invaluable in my walk with Christ, below are links and pictures, enjoy!

(click on the pictures for the link)

Desiring God
-For everything related to The Bible and life, plumb the depths of their many articles and sermons!
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Bible Gateway
-A great resource for looking up and reading scripture!

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Plugged In
-When it comes to new movies, it’s hard to tell how crude it’s going to be. Plugged In gives you every instance of Sexuality, Cussing, and anything else before you even watch it!

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Downcast (APP)
-The BEST podcasting app i’ve ever found, though it’s only on iOS, the interface is clean and easy to use. I found ALL of the sermons I listen to and easily download them daily. I great tool for sermon and teaching consumption.

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Gospel Community

A community built on and driven by the Gospel is a powerful thing. The gospel empowers a community of believers to forgive, love, confront, and much more in a way that cares for other believers’ souls and nurtures our own.

Now I’m not referring to Church alone, though that is a necessary gathering of the Saints in every way, and I can’t and won’t minimize that vast importance of a local church body. heb 3n 13But within the Church there are those who wish to pursue deeper relationships with other believers outside of the Church House, and this should be encouraged by our local pastors and overseen in a Biblical way, so as not to start some heresy.

So in my case, one of my deacons started a small group where we meet and go through a book called “Gospel Centered Discipleship” where we talk about things we as a body need to be doing and truths we need to be applying to encourage, exhort, and come alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ. Though the book certainly isn’t easy or comfortable at times, it has shown me the immense value of having a group of brothers and sisters who are in unity together share how we’re doing in life and in our walks with Christ. Also of even more encouragement are a smaller group a brothers (within the group) who I can encourage and be encouraged by for more personal struggles that are closer to home for us guys.

All said, being in a gospel community is of the utmost importance for these (and many more) reasons:

  • It’s a time to be transparent and real about struggles. (instead of just saying “oh… I’m good… u?”)
  • We can be accountable to (in my case) godly men who care for my soul.
  • I can help keep other men accountable.
  • It’s a time to pray for each other.
  • It’s a caring atmosphere to lovingly convict (and be convicted) of sin.
  • Rigorous Bible study.
  • Much, much more!

Anyways, thank you for reading and I hope that you find (under the authority of your local pastor) a small group to be a part of. It’s an indispensable gift God has given us as provision to fight sin and love God. If you don’t know where to start, talk to your Pastor about him starting a book study, I’m sure he’d be happy to see someone exited to grow more in Christ.

Gospel-Driven

I’m currently reading a book recommended to me by a friend titled, “Am I Called?” it’s all about considering your calling, but specifically the pastoral calling. Wherever God is taking and calling me to, one of the book’s chapters stuck out to me in a powerful way.

The “Gospel” is almost an innocuous thought to us sometimes, meaning we tend to think “gospel” and then think of a prior decision we made, a thing the pastor shared at church, or maybe even Billy Graham. I don’t know if anyone can relate, but weightiness doesn’t immediately press on my soul the moment I think or hear the word of “Gospel”.

gospel 1The main idea is this: If the gospel disappeared, would your life change? Would mine? Is the gospel so central to our being that if it were to become non-existent we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves? As the book stated, many “Christians” in ministry would still have their jobs if this were so. And that is a very sad reality indeed.

We need to be gospel-driven in every area of our lives, we need to preach it to ourselves daily, and we must remember what Christ has accomplished then and now for our lives to be transformed. Don’t treat the gospel as a card you signed as gospel 2your ticket to heaven, but rather treat it as God’s provision throughout your life to conform you into the likeness of Christ. (Romans 8:29-30)

I know this was short, but it’s something I’m learning a lot about lately. Thanks for reading!