Last week in my blog I reflected on those situations we find ourselves in where we don’t know what to say and I offered some thoughts on how to respond wisely. Not only is it essential to often slow your voice down in relationship, but we need other voices in relationships as well.
Here’s what I mean … and I imagine this is an experience common to man. You have been trying to help someone see something in their life and they just don’t understand or see it. Then someone else comes along and says exactly the same thing to them and the clouds part and they wonder why nobody has ever told them this life-changing counsel. Parents, you know what I’m talking about! Your kid comes home from camp or youth group with awe over a truth that was illumined to them and shared it with you as though you’d never heard of it. It is perhaps one of the craziest things in pastoral ministry. People who come to understand a precious truth that you’ve been teaching, preaching, and counseling for years only to state that they’ve never heard it. In my younger (and more arrogant) years, this would drive me crazy. I so desperately wanted “credit” for faithfully teaching that or courageously sharing that with a friend. Now in my slightly older (and slightly less arrogant) years, I am able to thank God for the “other voices” in people’s lives that help them grow. Of course the spiritual reality behind it all is that not my voice or that of another is the “change agent” … it’s the Spirit that opens eyes, minds, and hearts to receive truth and delight in it!
Yesterday I enjoyed the great benefit of “another voice” speaking to a subject I love dearly – friendship. As a pastor one of my greatest desires is to see the people of God in a local church love each other deeply from the heart … to be engaged in intentionally redemptive relationships as a norm for the life of the body. But it is always of great value to have other like-minded voices teach that same truth … from their perspective, with their personality, and in the power of the very same Spirit to God’s people. A friend speaking on friendship, how great is that?! Pastor Jonathan Holmes taught us well from the unlikely friendship of Ruth and Naomi and guided us into extremely practical counsel for growing in spiritual friendship. Listen to his sermon here, or buy his book here. Listen to the wise voices God has placed in your life. Invite other Godly voices to speak into your life. But most of all know that the voice of God must ring the loudest in your ear … it is the Spirit that brings understanding!
Presenting expository sermons book by book:
1. Allows God and God’s wisdom to set the agenda, not the preacher’s wisdom.
2. Prevents preachers from indulging their hobbyhorses.
3. Allows the preacher to learn along with the congregation, rather than limiting the congregation to what the preacher already knows.
4. Requires a preacher and a congregation to learn about God as God has revealed Himself, not as they want Him to be revealed.
5. Requires a preacher to preach the easy bits and the difficult bits of the Bible.
Reverberation, Moody Publishers, 2011, p. 118
Well, we’re in a section of Galatians so rich in Gospel theology that it certainly begs the question, How do I listen to theology and have my heart be lifted high in worship and exaltation? Glad you asked. Let me suggest a few ways:
1- Worship and the affections are always to be anchored and inspired by Biblical truth, so first off, hearing the glories of justification by faith offer the very bedrock of truth from where your heart should sing and your emotions rise. This teaching (while it can be technical) is the flaming hot center of the Gospel and its sparks should ignite our praise.
2- If God’s redemptive history is like a beautiful painting, with each new piece of theology explored and exposed we get a sharper section of the glorious painting filled in and brought to life so that we can worship with greater clarity the work and wonder of God as our beautiful rescuer.
3- When we come to understand the chronology of God’s work in history, it can’t but give us an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the place in time that we get to live — after the cross, the promise to Abraham fulfilled in Christ, the law fulfilled, the curse broken, the promised Spirit available, grace flowing! Worship God for being born at such a time in His grand schedule.
4- The law brings a curse and the righteous condemnation of God on sinners, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus. When we reflect on the work of Christ over the law, we have great opportunity to worship God for being redeemed from the curse of the law, from removing us from the place of condemnation and clothing us in the clothes of righteousness. For making Him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
5- Thank God that He gives teaching, not just motivational pep-talks to go be “good” but real substance by which we can fill our hearts and minds with eternal truths revealed from heaven for our edification. Glory in a God who communicates Himself and His plan to His creatures for their good.
May God give us minds to think clearly about these great theological truths and hearts that are stirred with genuine affections for Him and His work in history.
Learning and Loving,
Thanks for putting up with my weird sorta sermon. I suppose I could have just preached on love without giving you all the RC Chapman stuff, but I want to give credit where credit is do. I’ve learned about love from this great old grandpa man. His life has “rocked” me time and again. I recommend giving him a good read, you won’t regret it.
Robert Chapman: A Biography by Robert L. Peterson (1995) Amazon.com – $10.39
Brother Indeed by Frank Holmes (1956) Free online at http://plymouthbrethren.wordpress.com/2007/07/07/brother-indeed-robert-chapman/
Agape Leadership: Lessons in Spiritual Leadership from the life of R.C. Chapman by Robert L. Peterson and Alexander Strauch (1991) Amazon.com – $5.99
May God use each of us to Live Love Outloud this year for His Glory!
I found myself this morning in the post-resurrection account of Jesus in the Gospel of John and was struck by the disciples interaction with Thomas. You remember that during Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples on Sunday evening, Thomas was absent. John points out to us how the other disciples told him all about Jesus’ appearing and then with strong language Thomas declares, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Of course I muse on what happened next. The disciples offering up every evangelistic technique known to man to convince him of the truth, offers to pray for him, maybe even a search party to go find Jesus so Thomas wouldn’t go to bed in unbelief. John gives us none of that. But what he does give us is quite instructive — “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them.” There it is! EIGHT DAYS LATER. They didn’t shun him, push him away, or in anyway distance themselves from relationship, they embraced him. A week had gone by and he still felt like he belonged to the band of disciples, yet remained unbelieving.
Of course we know the end of the story and Jesus’ appearance and invitation to doubting Thomas, but I find it helpful to note the response of the disciples to Thomas and Thomas to the disciples from his unbelief to his belief – belonging. It was Jesus, and nothing short of that, removing Thomas’ unbelief, but it was the disciples embracing that kept him there. Thomas belonged and through his belonging, at just the right time, Jesus shows up and belief comes with him. May we embrace the Thomas’ and invite them to remain, belong, find acceptance, until God opens their eyes and they see and believe.
With you in building a belonging community,