We don't know if leaders are born, but we do know they're made.
I love to read, write, listen, etc. about leadership. But here's something we all know:
Information and insight alone do not a leader make.
Even with all of that content and insight and information, that's not what make a leader. Great leaders rarely mention podcasts or conferences when they talk about their leadership. When you tell your story about leadership, you're probably not going to talk about conferences, articles, podcasts, information, insights.
What makes a leader is response to:
- Unexpected Opportunity
Leaders are rarely the first person to see an opportunity, but leaders are often the person to seize an opportunity. When leaders talk about what made them leaders, they often talk about opportunities they seize when others moved on.
- Unavoidable Adversity
What makes a leader a leader is not unusual adversity but unusual response to adversity.
- Unquestionable Calling
It's as if there's a need that has a grip on you that you can't shake.
It wasn't the calling, adversity, or opportunity that made them a leader. It was there response.
Right now in your life you're bumping up against one of these three things. Some of you right now are trying to decide if you need to act on an opportunity. When you look back on your life at the things that made you a leader, you're going to talk about whether or not you took advantage of an opportunity.
There's something that you're bumping up again right now that makes you want to go back, to the larger church, the business you know, the thing you were educated for, etc.
Some of you are at Catalyst these three days because you're battling with a calling. 15 years from now when you tell your story and talk about what made you a leader, you won't talk about a book or podcast or conference. You'll talk about your response to the calling on your life.
Think about Bible stories, business stories, isn't it about one of these three things. Aren't those your favorite stories. Isn't that what made these leaders, leaders.
We are part of this, and this is part of us. This is a part and a growing part of your story right now. As you think about, not these things because you have no control over them, but as you think about your response, I would say to you: This needs to be a story worth telling.
At some point you're just going to look back at your response to one of these things, you are on the potters wheel, you are in the ovent.
The younger you are the more important this is, but the younger you are the less consequential this will feel. When you're 30 or 40 or 50 years old, you're going to look back and say, "I had no idea how big of a deal that decision was." You're going to look back either feeling like the guy who just missed getting hit by a car or with regret.
This will determine how God uses you and what kind of leader you will become.
In light of our theme, Brad said, it would be great if you shared part of your story.
I want to tell you three or four incidents in my life where God helped me become a better leader.
I was a child I was raised in a home where I was told, "God has a plan for your life; you don't want to miss it." This is one of the most significant, shaping things in my life as I look back on my childhood and adolescence. Psalm 32:8.
My dad refused to make decisions for me. He'd make me so mad. He'd just tell him to pray about it. My dad tells me the story of Eli and Samuel. That's a spooky story. You shouldn't tell that to kids.
I grew up in an environment where there was a sense of destiny.
When I was a junior in high school, Elton John came to town, and my adad was the pastor of a large Baptist church. So Elton John is coming to town and the concert's on Sunday night. And my dad says to me, "Well you just pray about it, and you just do what God tells you to do." Of all the things that happened that year of high school, that's about the only thing I remember. My dad's reputation was on the line. And he put it back on me. And I prayed and said, "God, if you don't want me to go, just tell me with that audible voice." They didn't make the decisions for me.
My senior year a guy came to our youth department and taught us how to journal. And I began it the fall of my senior year. Here's my first journal entry at 17.
I need to tell my boy at a young age that God is going to use him in a great way.
That's the impact of my dad speaking
The greatest thing you do as a leader might not be what you do but who watches you do what you do. That is why it is so critical that we let God make us and shape us into the leader he wants us to be.
Not only do actions speak louder than words, sometimes they echo into the next generation.
When I was a freshman in college the youth department in our church wasn't very good. And we brought in this youth pastor, Sid Hopkins. And he was doing things and making stuff happen. And he called me in and said he wanted me to lead a Bible study on Wednesday nights. I didn't want to do it. I only did because I was in awe of Sid, but he told me, "I have a title, but you have influence."
This was the first time I was thrown into an arena where I had no idea what to do and I was totally dependent on God. You remember the first time that happened, and you're walking away wondering what you're going to do. So I wrote a verse on one side of a 3x5 card and one idea about it on the other. ANd I talked about that one week, and I did it week after week after week. And God birthed in me the power of taking one idea and making it stick, but not because I had some great idea.
God may choose to make you through an unexpected opportunity for which you feel totally unprepared.
When I got out of seminary I became a youth pastor and went back to work at my church. This was the mid 80s, and I don't remember what happened, but for some reason the gay community was angry at our church. I can't remember if it was just because we were Baptist or because someone in our church said something.
So the gay pride parade went near our church. And one year they decided to time the parade to go by right when we let out of church… so we decided to leave early and go out the back.
So I asked my dad (the pastor), were you going to talk about homosexuality on Sunday? He said, no, but I was going to leave after church on Sunday, and I was wondering if you would preach for me on Sunday night. So I asked my dad if I could preach on homosexuality. We didn't preach on any kind of sexuality, much less homosexuality.
Well, of course, we let out of church early… which just gave everyone enough time to get over to the parade. So I went over and I saw the UMC with water and signs that said everyone welcome. Now they were the liberals, so I knew we couldn't be like them, but I liked the fact that everyone was welcome.
Earlier that day my dad announced the title of my sermon for that night at church, "Homosexuality: Interpretation or Intention." I don't remember what the sermon it is about and no, it is not available. The first sermon I ever heard on homosexuality, I preached.
Pay attention to the tension.
Every once in a while you're going to be stirred by something, and you're just not going to be able to move on. Pay attention to the tension.
That's how God rips you out of the comfortable. That's how God makes a leader.
John Hambrick says, "We walk toward the messes."
I was stirred that day. I want us to mean it when we sing, "Just as I am."
17 years ago my wife, Sandra, and I are sitting at lunch. We were just scared. We were going through a lot of transition with my parents divorce, we had just lost insurance, we had two babies in diapers. You ever been scared as an adult? There was just all of this stuff. And we were just leaving and going to nothing.
You've been there. God gets more milage out of adversity than anything else. He does more shaping and making out of adversity. It's fun to open our hands and watch God put stuff in our hands. You will become an open handed leader.
But the only way God will make you an open handed leader is by taking things out of your hands. And if you close your hands, you will deny your potential.
If you take advantage of opportunity, push through adversity, and follow calling, you will be made a leader worth following.
Some of you are on the precipice today, and your response will determine the type of leader you become.
When they ask what are you going to make?
And I said a cannonball.
I was in a plane the other week, and I was sitting in the emergency exit row with this guy from Texas, and suddenly the engine stopped, and this guy's like, "Y'all might have noticed we're pulling to the right."
And I'm like "Ya think?" And I"m excited, we finally get to use these slides! "Do a cannonball." But we didn't get to use the slides...
I want us to do a cannonball with our lives.
Ephesians 4: Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
The problem I had was I lived with all of these surfers, and God used to call them "dude." "Dude, what should I do?" "Dude, do this!"
I don't hear from God like this, but I do have the inspired Word of God, and I do hear from you about the inspired word of God and His character.
I used to go to these Bible studies... but I stopped. I was creeping Jesus and me out, because I was learning all of these things about Jesus... I was stalking him.
I still meet with the same guys I have for 15 years, but we call it a Bible doing.
I don't need a Bible study. We're called to help the hurting, we all know.
I was at a church where the pastor's son had leukemia. You know how you lay hands on him, but only the three guys around him actually do? I said, no, let's have him crowdsurf. We're the guys who lift each other up and don't let go.
We're called to love extravagantly. Those of you who know me know about Carol, my neighbor. 15 years ago we had this thing called, "Sell your house." You put it on the market. We were just moving across the street, so we weren't looking for a buyer, we were looking for a neighbor. And we sold the house to Carol
So one day Carol calls me and says, "I have cancer." And I said, "Carol, I'm never calling you again." So I went out and got walkie-talkies, and all year, we've been talking on walkie-talkies. No one has cancer on walkie-talkies. Extravagant love isn't efficient.
A couple of weeks ago Carol took a turn for the worse.
So I went and visited her in the hospital, but before I went in I asked the nurse to bring her the walkie talkie. The more extravagant we are with love, the least it's wasted.
Not every calling you're going to get is for you.
I tweet every morning a thought on Scripture. And then another one in the evening. And I can't be a pill in the middle.
A couple of weeks ago I flew into Dallas, and this guy had asked me on Twitter if we could hang out while I was in Dallas. I told him I was only in town for a few hours. He started circling the airport waiting to pick me up when I wasn't expecting him.
Who's calling your name?
Some of you have awesome parents. Chisel what they have to say in stone. Others of you didn't get that version. Stop listening to them!
If you're going to live a life worth of the calling you have received you have to stop listening to the stuff on the editing room floor.
If I wrote a book on marriage, it would be titled, "Don't talk about stuff." I'm a lawyer, so I can't talk about that. And I spend a solid 20 minutes practicing law. So I come home and play how my day was on the piano.
I'm not going to shake your hand. I'm a hugger. This is not a business trip. We're the family of God.
We decide we're going to change the way that we used to be for the way we can be.
Everybody wants to make a difference in the world, but nobody wants to be different.
Jesus got more and more available as time goes by, but I get less available. So I put my cell phone number on the back of the book.
Stop blending in. But we don't do it with black armbands or hoodies.
We don't have to get it all right.
I quit something every single Thursday.
I quit my law firm every single year. I blow it up. And then every year I ask everyone who works there to do it with me another year.
So I sailed to Hawaii with my buddies. We get this Navy guy to be the navigator. But his orders change two days before, so they made me the navigator.
Did you know there's a difference between true north and magnetic north? Between here and the parking lot, it's like a quarter inch. From Long Beach to Hawaii, you miss the entire chain.
I'm drawn to the stuff in my life that's magnetic, the junk on the editing room floor. We need to orient toward true north.
I quit stuff every Thursday. Like if you're dating a guy and it's not working, just quit. And when he asks why, say, "It's Thursday."
I just moved offices two weeks ago, and I'm over a bakery. All day long I smell the smell of rising bread. It's called Charlie's breads. It's not the best bread, but it's the best Charlie can do.
If we keep offloading good stuff and create margin, Jesus will fill it.
They used to have this key on typewriters called the interrobang. Isn't that exciting? It's a question mark and an exclamation point. That's where Jesus is.
Clear the decks every year. What's the first thing you'd add back in? The second? The stuff that usually messes us up is like number 54.
We started this orphanage that has all of these kids who used to be child soldiers and things like that, but we don't talk to them about that. We don't pretend it didn't happen, but we don't talk to them about it.
We need to stop focusing on our past too.
Have you heard of tarp surfing? You've got to run out to a home depot. It's like making a wave out of a farm and surfing along it with a skateboard. We did this with the folks in Uganda who obviously haven't ever surfed before.
Infinitely creative, that's who you guys are. We think of these creative ways to say you're not who you used to be.
I've been connected to Uganda for a while. I'm actually the Consul General for Uganda. You what that makes you? It makes you my envoys. Do you know what that is? It doesn't matter.
You know what this means, if I want to visit any country, they have to say yes. Because I'm the consul of Uganda, the Ugandan flag flies over my house. But people who come over don't realize it's Uganda.
God uses the foolish things to blow the minds of the wise people so that no one will boast.
If you want to live up to the calling you've received, you need to free yourselves up to act differently.
I took this witch doctor, Cabi, to court this year. Uganda has never tried a witch doctor before. He was involved in child sacrifice. We tried Cabi and got the conviction, and it's always this little kid who does it. It was Charlie. He put Charlie in prison.
I visited Cabi in Lizera Maximum Security Prison. It's beyond overcrowded. THere's only one four foot door as an entrance. People go in and die there. They don't come out. There are no other doors. No other windows.
You know what Cabi said? He said he needed to be forgiven. Cabi came to Christ. I didn't want him to, but he did. So I asked Cabi what he wanted to do with his life. So I ask the warden, has anyone ever told these people about Jesus here? And he said no. So in a couple of weeks, Cabi is going to share the Gospel with them, and I'm just going to carry his briefcase. Will he get it all right? No, the only thing he'll get right is Jesus.
God says that what was done on the cross will never be undone. Romans says that nothing at all can separate us from the love of God. That's truth. That's true north.
I've been married to my wife for years. You know what she's been telling me the whole time, "Work the plan." But she's never told me what the plan is. But she doesn't need to. All of the good stuff in your life, that's it. The stuff you stink at… not that. The stuff you should quit on a Thursday… you know what, some of it, don't wait 'til Thursday. Just stop it. And don't have a Bible study about it. The people in your life should point you toward Jesus. That's why we're there.
Here's what we've got to do. Clench your fists. There's going to be stuff that tics you off. I'm upset about something, so I want to do this, to clinch my fists. If I've got clenched fists, I could get mad at a grapefruit, but open your hands. When our palms are up, we can't get mad. Even today, as God continues to work with me, he says, "Palms up."
Even though I don't hear God's voice, I can't help but be palms up when I 'm with palms up people like you.
We point toward Jesus, and when we do we encounter people who have the interrobangs, we encounter witch doctors.
Dever: How do Evangelicals around you in Dallas do contextualization well?
Chandler: I think primarily if you're talking about contextualization, you're asking how do you remove the barriers. We have more older brother types, people who believe they're Christians. We have our witches and warlocks but more older brothers. In Dallas, you have to come pretty aggressively after, "These things don't make you a believer." I think you have to come after it more aggressively than you would in Seattle or New York where that wouldn't be the dominant culture. I think there are places you can't be as aggressive. If I'm in the UK, I need to be me, but I need to be a more careful me.
Dever: Pastor DeYoung in Michigan, would you say your church is as good at contextualization as The Village Church?
DeYoung: I'm sure we do contextualization, although I don't think that's what people would say we're good at. I don't do anything consciously to contextualize the Gospel, but I'm sure we do subconsciously. I do hope that the ministry that I and otehrs have in our church that we are listening to people and the jobs they have, the struggles they have. I'm much more interested in learning what they're trying to say than I am by trying to exegete the culture. I want to hear what they're saying. I want to think of contextualization in terms of what are the edges I need to rub against, all within what the Bible says is true. By and large I think people would come and think we're not working nearly as hard at contextualization.
Dever: But you would agree that even in your sermon illustrations you are contextualizing.
DeYoung: Yes, there are sermon illustrations that just come. You're hitting 40% of the people sometimes based on where someone is born, when they were born, etc.
Dever: Earlier I was talking about the transience of DC, and I have to be careful that when I'm talking publically I don't characterize the whole of DC in that way, because it's not.
Thabiti: I think a lot of things culturally are freighted in that word. In a church with 30 nationalities, I'm trying to study to be plain with the text. People won't get teh same cultural references, doesn't mean I'm not doing any contextualization.
Chandler: I think what both of you have described is contextualization. You're trying to figure out how to contextualize the Gospel to the people you have.
Dever: I'm gonna call dad in in just a second. I've just got to let the kids get all the toys out. Thabiti, what I'm trying to find out is what you're not cool with.
Thabiti: Matt says contextualization is at least what I'm talking about, but it may also be more than that. So that's what I may be concerned about.
Chandler: There are places stylistically that I have to be careful. I hit people hard. The harder the better where I am, but I have to be careful with that in other places. ANd then you can get into dress and making sure you look one way as opposed to another way.
Thabiti: I'm comfortable with that. THe first thing you have to know about communication is knowing the culture. I'm in a place that places a high emphasis on civility. Coming from DC, I wasn't used to that. So the congregation has had to teach me how to preach. THere's loaded language around that term on how to exegete and engage the culture. On one level I'm nodding along. On another level, I don't think we're good at thinking about the deep structural part of culture. I think we have to be c areful about what we adopt.
Mohler: We have to get out a couple of Gospel principles. We don't want to be offensive for the wrong reason. We don't want to be unnecessarily offensive to outsiders or to brothers and sisters in the church. If we have Muslim neighbors, we don't serve them ham for dinner. That's just common sense, it's not contextualization in some formal sense, but it is contextualization. The conversation started in missiological circles, where a lot of mischief has started, which is part of where our concern is.
I think we remove anything unnecessary that is offensive, but we run into trouble when we start to use cultural mechanisms to attract people to us, that is when we begin to run into trouble. As if some thing in teh culture could help the Gospel.
We're all doing it. It's just part of life. My fear is when we turn it into a missiological principle.
Chandler: On some level, you have to exegete culture to know what the offenses are. In other places culture can be helpful. Think about Paul and the unknown gods. Paul redeems culture to spread the Gospel.
Mohler: Here's Paul, who's not a complete stranger to Athenian culture. He was able to handle that culture. If we go in and say, "Here's an unknown God, and I can relate to that to try to spread the Gospel."
DeYoung: What I mean about exegeting the culture in a negative sense, it's like "I've read this article and now know what all 20 million New Yorkers or all African Americans or all white people are like."
My concern is that yes there is a personality of the preacher, but I don't want any of our preaching to be such that people think everything was great except the Word. That sounds like contextualization that can build a crowd and give false conversions that you are concerned about.
Mohler: I'm thinking a couple of things, and I want to think Biblically.
The Apostle Paul was willing to be all things to all people. That didn't mean he changed his moral understanding or theological convictions to any degree. That did mean he was willing to forego some things he may have thought was his right. As one who had been a Jew of the Jews, he had to get over his prejudice. Some of us need to be as shaken out of our unbibilicalness as much as peter.
Here's what concerns me. At the Evangelical Theological Society meeting, the liberal wing of revisionism was being driven by missiology. There was a missiological mandate. If we want to reach people with the Gospel we have to do this because it wouldn't make sense otherwise. I mean, if we think about where it would make sense, it would make sense to Jewish people and to Greek people, and that's it. But Paul says the Cross is foolishness and a scandal, no matter what our culture is. Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom. The very people we think wouldn't need a whole lot of explanation are the very people Paul names first as having rejected it. We sin when we think as white-bred Americans that our culture is receptive to the Gospel.
DeYoung: As Piper says, the Gospel creates categories.
Dever: This is a conversation we could easily keep going. Is there something you would recommend they read.
Chandler: Without knowing the person, I get real hesitant. In The Explicit Gospel I talk about the idea of the slippery slope. Without knowing who all is out there, I would want to know you personally before making a recommendation.
DeYoung: I would read something by David Wells, he has a number but Encouraged to Be Protestant is a good summary.
Mohler: I don't have a resource, but one final point. In humility we need to admit we give heed to context, and all of the choices we make are affected by context, but the moment someone comes to us and says, "You have to change this to reach more people." Reaching Muslims is ground zero for this overcontextualization.
I think that something like The Insider movement, something like insinuating anonymous Christians is a problem. As Thabiti said, with Islam, you can't assume outward conformity is simply outward conformity. I would recommend The Gospel for Muslims by Thabiti.
There are two very critical areas in which we have yet to show the sort of passion, enthusiasm and growth we need.
- An Earnest Committment to Global Missions
- Our Committment and Passion for Personal Holiness
Hebrews 2:14 tells us to strive for peace with everyone and holiness, without which we cannot seek the Lord. We are striving for a personal, progressive, actual holiness, without which we will not see the Lord.
Those who do not have some evidence of grace and holiness, will not see the Lord. If there is not at least a desire and yearning for holiness, you ought to question whether you are truly saved. Let us think about and strive after not just that which God has saved us from but that which he has saved us to.
This sermon is not about why as much as how do we grow in holiness. There are thousands of people right here, thousands or hundreds of dozens sitting in our churches each Sunday desiring to grow from one bit of glory to the next. How will we help them get there? LEgalism? License? Platitudes?
1 Corinthians 15:10 - Paul says that on the one hand I am working very hard. Our work is not only a response to the grace of God, it is the effect of the grace of God.
Let me give you two Biblical images for the Spirit's work:
- The Spirit as Power
The spirit is granted to strengthen us. Eph 3:16
Rom 8 - The Spirit that dwells in us is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.
He is a mighty rushing wind, not just a little vapor. Christians who think they can never change dishonor the Holy Spirit.
- The Spirit as Light
The Spirit reveals sin. John 16. To expose the world to sin, righteousness, and judgment.
Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. This is what happens when you preach with conviction and God really works in your life. Things scatter. God in his mercy shines a giant spotlight on the people's sins. This is what you're trying to do when you preach and teach. This is a prayer God has always answered in my life. I pray, "Lord, show me my sin." God is gracious to turn on the lights and show you your sin.
We have, in our bulletin, every week before the message, a prayer for illumination, that God would speak through His Word to lead us into all truth.
How does it happen that you preach and two people, one needing to be comforted the other convicted and they both get what they need? Because the Spirit works in them.
The Spirit throws a spotlight on Christ, not just revealing your sin. When the Spirit converts, it is never apart from throwing a spotlight on the glory of Christ. We become what we behold. We want to become like Christ. When the light comes on and you run to the darkness, that's resisting the Spirit, quenching the Spirit, grieving the Spirit.
The Gospel Drives us to Godliness out of a Sense of Gratitude
This is not a debtors ethic, but this is the response fitting to grace.
Even in hard hearts, human gratitude exists. When you give a kids a gift, they're grateful. Now, it lasts for all of about 5 minutes.
Gratitude crowds out whatever is course or ugly or mean.
If you have an anger problem or a bitterness problem, you can be sure you also have a gratitude problem.
Certain sins become more difficult when you understand your position in Christ. If you are an heir to the whole world, why envy? If you are God's prized possession, why be jealous?
It's easy to become convinced we can never change. We may think God can forgive 7 times 70, but that's 490, and I've sinned more than that.
And that is where we must do spiritual warfare with the sword of the Spirit and remember verses like Romans 8:39.
We are to understand our identity and union in Christ and to live that way.
Whenever something evil resonates with people made in the image of God, you have to think there is a half-truth there and a damnable lie.
There's a Lady Gaga song, "Born this Way." And there is a truth there. We cannot be other than we are. But we can be born again. And in Christ we can be different.
We mustn't think justification is all about faith and sanctification has nothing to do with faith. We are justified by faith and in a different sense sanctified through faith.
You must be very cautious with this language, because we must mean something different in the word "by" in sanctified by faith. We are justified by faith totally apart from anything we do. Faith plays a role in sanctification, but let's not import the same phrases lest we confuse people. Sanctification is the fight of the faith fueled by our belief in the Gospel, in the truth, in God's promises.
You can go through Scripture. Start with the beatitudes. You start to hear promises that fuel your fight for holiness. If God promises that the meek will inherit the earth and you want to be somebody, prove yourself, maybe you need to be meek. I don't know if you'll have a big church or house or family, but I want to give you the earth.
Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. I will not look over to my left because I want to see God, not just at the end but today.
Do not let effort be a four letter word in your Christian vocabulary.
Scripture tells us again and again to put off the old self and put on the new to make every effort. The reward of eternal life go to those who conquer.
We work to kill the flesh and be alive in the Spirit.
The child of God has two great marks about him. His inner peace and his inner warfare.
Striving, working, fighting, these are Bible words and have a good lineage in Church History. Calvin, Hodge, and more
We must understand that when it comes to sanctification look to the Lord or be gripped by the Gospel. Sanctification is not by surrender but by divinely enabled toil and effort. Let me bring this down to us and apply this to us as ministers and as we work with our people. How does this work with us and our people.
Pastors, you understand that being a pastor is hard work. You don't have the luxury of knocking off early on Friday and coming back to town late on Sunday. Others may work harder than us, but we work hard.
Sometimes you do have to leave the vacation early to come home and do the funeral. Sometimes the sermon is a labor of love and the accent is on the labor. As I tell my people all the time, not every sermon is going to be a home run. Sometimes you feel like you cranked it over the upper deck. Other times it's a bunt single. The longer you do this, the preparation gets easier because you have more tools, you've done this before, etc. IT gets harder because you think you know what's in Scripture, you know what's in there. How long should you spend on your sermons? However long it takes until your soul is helped. If I don't have my soul being thrilled or challenged, they won't notice in the first or second week, or maybe even in the first or second year, but a few years in they will. You know who often notices first, you do. You're often the first one bored. It takes hard, creative work.
You can present the Gospel in a foolish or shallow way. When I am most prone to laziness as a pastor, the Internet. It's like every 15 minutes you're checking the Internet. You need to work hard at resting. You need to work hard at going to bed on time. You need to work hard at guarding your day off. It's not hard to work 80 hours as a pastor is not hard. To work 60 or 50 or 40 is hard work. YOu have to guard your schedule. You have to learn how to manage time. Sometimes we're not all working hard. It is the easiest job in the world to be selfishly ambitious and be utterly and totally lazy. No one will check on you. What does it mean that we labor and we toil when we preach?
I think many of us are getting to the point that we are scared that the Bible would have them do some stuff and not do some stuff. The Great Commission tells us to teach people to obey. If you're not interested in obedience, you're not interested in the Great Commission. I don't care how many converts you have. I don't really know any anti-nomians, but what is plaguing some of our churches? The world looks at us and is afraid we might be homophobic. God is more concerned that we might be nomophobic, that we might be afraid of the law. Do you remember that in the Old Testament law came after Gospel. God didn't tell the Israelites to get everything right and then He'll save them. God saved them and then gave them the law. Yes, Law leads to Gospel, but also Gospel leads to law. The Bible insists on the commands.
If you preach on David and Bathsheba and never say anything about God's mercy, then you're not preaching the Gospel, but if you don't say anything about sexual sin, you're not preaching the text. Or you're preaching on Luke 18. Jesus gives the application, "so that they would always pray and not lose heart." There's a legalistic way to do that, tell them they don't pray enough. Prayer, evangelism, recycling, whatever. You know how to do this as a preacher so that everyone in your church feels guilty about everything you're preaching about. Don't preach it legalistically. So, what do I do? So we say, God wants us to pray, but we climax with "But God will always forgive us when we don't pray." So what do we do? We need to talk about the command to pray and the motivations we have to do that, but there's still a command. There's something to do.
You preach not just the content but the mood of the text. Depending on your background, training, etc. you can make Psalm 23 hellfire and damnation. Others can turn "brood of vipers" in to "Three Ways God turns Vipers into Sheep."
You cannot assume that everyone in your church needs a kick in the pants or everyone in your church needs a hug.
Making an effort to be holy is not somehow sub-Gospel. God saves you from the wrath of God, unto holiness, for glory.
The benediction from Hebrews. It is the resurrected Christ who will work in you both to will and to do according to his good pleasure.
They need to fight, strive, labor, toil and make an effort. Sanctification won't just flow out of you because you're in love with justification.
Here are the two points you need to understand.
Holiness does not happen apart from trusting.
Trusting does not put an end to trying.
1 Timothy 1
What do you think is the greatest hinderance to the Gospel and the advance of the Gospel in the Middle East?
Perhaps it is the Christians' lack of confidence in the Gospel.
As I sat listening to the evangelist who said this, I realized that he exposed me with this question. Is there any mark that your live displays a deep and unshakable confidence in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Since misery loves company, is there any evident mark, any compelling evidence that certifies to your own soul that you have a deep and unshakable confidence in teh good news of Jesus Christ? Do you have confidence that the Gospel can trandform the people we think are far from Christ, or do we underestimate the Gospel's ability to transform even the worst of sinners?
The title of this talk refers to terrorists, but think of the person you think of as unreachable. It could be a muslim terrorist, but it could be the prostitute or the drug dealer, or drunk uncle Clint or your third grade teacher. Who is that person who causes you to shrink back from sharing the Gospel or to think there is something more that is needed. Am I confident, down in my bones, in an unashamed Romans 1:16 way in the power of the Gospel to transform? Is Romans 1:16 really our boast? If it is, is it evidence?
My goal is to help us recline on the strength of the Gospel and to cultivate a deep confidence in the Gospel.
- The Great Change in one Terrorist's Life
Paul calls Timothy to deal with false teaching, to deal with falsehood. False teachers were leading to false converts, turning away from the converts and back to the Law.
In v. 11 when Paul mentions the glorious Gospel, the mention of the Gospel seems to have a certain effect on him. You know what happens when your favorite song comes on the radio, it brings you back. That's what happens with Paul at the mention of the Gospel, so verses 12-17 break in on the instruction that Paul has been giving to Timothy, and Paul gives a before and after picture of his life.
This is a man completely transformed, a Christ appointed, Christ empowered servant of Jesus Christ, but he's not always been that. Paul had a past. "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecuter and a violent man."
The first question that tumbles out to me in this before and after picture is this: Why do you suppose Paul continually remembers these things so vividly, when we think of the hard-living, we must remember that some of their sins are not so easily forgotten. Years have passed in Paul's life, but he still remembers the cries of those he persecuted.
A lady said to me, "God gave up on me a while ago." And what she needed was for me to have confidence in the Gospel. She needed me to proclaim that nothing could take away her sin but the blood of Jesus.
WHy do you suppose Paul threw himself so fully into this career of being a blasphemer and a persecuter and a violent man?
In a word, Paul was lost.
As our brother Al shared yesterday, words are necessary to share the Gospel. What do you suppose happens when CHristians lose words in their vocabulary? We lose those concepts, those ideas. Words are containers for meaning. I don't hear as often Christians speaking of those outside of the Church as being lost.
Let me give a brief definition of those who are lost. We might define lostness as those who have a convinced blindness and misdirected affections which leads to eternal damnation.
Paul was convinced, it was an ought for him. He tought it was the right thing to do. He thought he had the right idea, but he did not. He was not suggesting the way to receive mercy was to remain ignorant. He was just describing his own situation. He was convinced he had the light when he did not.
John 3:19 - The light has come into the world, but men love darkness.
If we lose the concept of lostness, we lose everything. WE lose the need for missions and evangelism, because God would not punish a seeker earnestly searching for him. This means, beloved, that we had better get real about these things. We had better preach this Gospel in all of its unpopularity and man shaking wrath, but also in all of its gracious glory. We have to confront people with the eye-opening Gospel.
- The Great Cause of that Change
The Gospel. The terrorist became an apostle because of the Good News.
- The Gospel supplied his need.
Paul speaks of the mercy he received. In the Gospel, God punished Paul less than he deserved. The grace of God was poured out abundantly along with the mercy and love of God. I picture Paul at the base of Niagara Falls, grace and mercy pouring down on him.
I suspect this was sweet to Paul. He was so mindful of his life when he was outside of Christ, without God and without hope. He's come to see that all of the benefits of Christ are bound up in our union of Christ. Perhaps he meditates on this so much because he's so familiar with the bankruptcy of life apart from Christ. All that Paul lacked was not supplied in Christ. The blasphemer was given faith. The violent man was made to love. All of that comes in Christ. All that once ruined him was made whole in Christ.
- The Gospel is Trustworthy
I love it when God puts the cookie on the bottom shelf where I can reach it. Verse 15: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. God says, "Hey knucklehead, put your confidence here, on the Gospel." We should trust the Gospel because it is trustworthy, it bears the weight of our confidence. The Gospel is a steel pillar, a steel rod for our ministries, for our preaching.
- The Great Celebration of that Change
The purpose of our unredeemed past is to celebrate the greatness of our redeemed present. How often do we underestimate the power of the Gospel to transform the terrorist, to transform those whose front yards were littered with beer cans.
- If we're confident in the Gospel, we're going to position ourselves to release the Gospel.
Are we trying to share the Gospel or do we think we need to rehabilitate it?
- We would redirect our fears from man to God. We would fear being unfaithful more than we would fear being unfruitful.
- We would endeavor to preach the Gospel in every circumstance. On what Sunday do we think there are no lost people in our congregation or that our people do not need to hear the Gospel. We would work from every text to the Gospel. God only has one message from Genesis to Revelation.
- We would be careful with new converts and our evangelistic message. We would be careful not to view Paul's Damascus road experience as archetypal for conversion. Many are much more gradual, but we think of Paul's conversion as paradigmatic. To confront people with the need to decide for Jesus in the moment is to have a punctiliar understanding of conversion. Is our confidence in our method or in the Gospel.
- Study the Gospel in deeper and more varied ways. If our confidence is in the Gospel, we will dive deeper into its truths. Take a different aspect of the Gospel each month and ransack the Scripture searching for how the Gospel magnifies that particular truth. Roll it over in your mind.
- Seek to open eyes, not just transfer information.
That opening of eyes is critical to conversion, unless people see that they are lost, they will not be brought to conversion.
- 1 Cor 2:5 - Preach the Gospel in such a way that their faith will rely on the power of God.
Piper: Danvers Statement, we tried to articulate a vision of how men and women are equal in the image of God and yet complement each other in their differences best when the differences are seen and recognized in society, the church, and family and not minimized. We also decry the abuse or belitting of women, so we wanted to distance ourselves from that. So it came up in one of our meetings that we call it "Complementarianism," as men and women complement and one another, so we hope to steer a Biblical path between the nulifying of those differences and the domination of women. Women are not to be doormats or absent minded.
Host: Egalitarianism had been around in Evangelicalism since its beginning. Why did the Danvers Statement and Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood happen in the 80s?
Piper: I don't remember culturally but personally I was teaching at Bethel and there was a rise of aggressive feminism. And so I felt the need to respond.
Russell (Chairman of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood): What I fear is that we have people who can check off the complementarian box but aren't actually living that out. We need to define what a complementarian marriage looks like. I have had in recent years new situations. A woman came to me and said that her husband wanted to become a woman, not that he wanted to leave her but just that he wanted to become a woman.
Greg: Functional egalitarianism among the young people I council is really all over the place. Young men think there is no difference between egalitarianism and complementarianism until there is a decision where there is disagreement.
Host: Why is this essential?
Piper: It's not essential to be saved. But once you move beyond that level, there are serious implications. Hermenutically for the Gospel, it is significant. If you do the hermenutical gymnastics necessary to avoid complementarianism, there's a high risk of getting the Gospel wrong. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. If you say there is no head in marriage, then you are saying there is no head (Christ) in the church. It is written on male and female hearts to malfunction long term, even if ministry is currently now successful.
Greg: In order to get to an egalitarian position, you have to bring into your hermenutic some bad DNA that will eventually work on other texts as well.
Russell: When the US Military went into Iraq, you saw a statue of Saddam being torn down. Marriage is designed to show you Christ in the church. God creates Adam to have someone like him to be taken from him. Adam didn't just need someone to be with but someone to complement him. It's not a question of whether or not we will have male headship, it is the quality of male headship that we will have. Complementarianism is not saying "Women submit" but "Wives submit yourself to your husband." She is refusing to submit to men generally. She is submitting to her current or future husband.
Host: Guys are going one of three ways. One is that guys are leaning into complementarianism. Two is that guys say we're going to backburner this. Three is guys who begin to question the issue itself.
Russell: I think there's a fourth path: hyper-masculinity and femininity. When people embrace this issue, they are forced to become counter-cultural in this society. When you see that man who is working two or three jobs so that he can provide for his wife and children, when you see that woman who isn't working so that she can pour into the next generation, you're seeing something that looks increasingly strange to the outside culture. In our printed materials we seem to say the supermodels shall inherit the earth.
Greg: When you're the pastor of a local church, it's impossible to backburner the issue. You have to make decisions about who will teach, read, and lead on a regular basis. I think we tend to mess up when we frame the conversation in negatives, in terms of what women cannot or should not do. I begin by saying there are many ways that women are to be serving in the church and list what those are. And then, yes, I'll say there are a few things women are not supposed to do in the church, and that shouldn't be offensive to us, because that is what God set out in the Scripture.
Host: Is there an acceptance or embrace of this message in our culture?
Piper: I talk to pretty conservative places, so it's not a fair sample. The answer is yes. It's different with young people today than it was in the late 80s. THese guys have churches full of young, articulate, flourishing women who are embracing complentarianism. Can I answer your other question? There's a line of continuity between simple homespun egalitarianism and gay marriage. Using the "There is neither male nor female" passage in that way ends there. The question that egalitarianism has never been able to answer is that when a child asks what it means to grow up to be a man or woman, it won't do to talk about plumbing, because that's not your personhood. And you can't just talk about courage or humility because the child will say, no, I mean a man and not a woman. If you can't give some idea of complementarity, it won't work.
Host: You just segued into an important conversation. There are some folks here who don't buy into complementarianism.
Russell: First, you have to deal with the Biblical texts. There are some texts specifically addressed to men and women. So you have to deal with those texts. I think you also have to deal with actual Biblical complementarianism, not a caricature of it. When Jesus is giving himself up for his Bride at the Cross, his Bride doesn't want him to. Peter tries to defend Jesus.
Greg: I think the objection that I run into from the young people I try to pastor is a misunderstanding that role between men and women speaks to dignity. No, God given role does not speak to dignity. Within the context of equal dignity, God has every right to give out roles.
Piper: I'd start with Ephesians because I think that's the clearest. It carefully walks through, beautifies marriage. It's what every woman wants, a man who will lead her and respect her, and be strong for her. Then I'd go to 1 Timothy 2. The two things that a woman is prohibited from (teach and have authority), is what distinguishes an elder from a deacon. Walk through the 8 or 9 evidences in Genesis 1-3 about the differences in role.
This letter was written by the quintessential pastor. 2 Cor is the pastoral epistle par excellance. This is the most personal of his letters. We get to know him personally and pastorally in a unique way.
2 Cor 4 contains many things for pastors, especially the temptation to lose heart. This was a constant temptation for Paul. 2 Cor 11 talks about the daily anxiety on Paul for all of the churches. He was familiar with the temptation to lose heart with the church, especially the Corinthian church.
Here in this chapter we encounter Paul's resolve not to lose heart. It actually frames the chapter in verses 1 and 16. These are remarkable statements in light of all this man suffered. These are remarkable statements, though tempted to lose heart, he resolved by the grace of God not to lose heart.
What informed that resolve? How do I have that resolve? The temptation to lose heart is a common temptation to lose heart. This is especially true every Monday when we evaluate and receive evaluation our Sunday sermon.
Even the best pastors are subject to this temptation. I was with one of my favorite expositors of Scripture, whom I respect and admire, and he asked me to pray that he would not bomb so regularly when he preached. And that evening he preached an amazing sermon, and later lamented how he bombed once again. There is no pastor exempt from this temptation.
Gradually, imperceptibly, over a period of time, you have been losing heart. I believe this conference is a gift from God to strengthen and encourage your heart.
I'm trying to prepare you for all that's about to take place, so that we don't waste this conference. This conference is a gift from God, and I don't want any of us to waste it. Purpose to lean into every message. Listen humbly and not critically to each and every message. Use the time during meals to review what you found helpful during the message. Let's humbly lean into every message.
We gather as needy men. We have not gathered to impress one another. We do not gather to simply critique each other. We need grace, and grace will be provided in abundance by God in the preaching of his Word.
Let us draw others into our lives as well. Let us draw others into our life and heart. If it is not well with your soul, then communicate that at the appropriate moment of time. Sometimes grace is just a humble acknowledgment away.
Let us draw others into our lives so that we might receive help for our needy souls, so that we might not waste our lives. I know there have been times that I have not done that at conferences, I've wasted messages or conferences.
So, what does a pastor do when he begins to lose heart for his role?
- The Call of Christian Ministry (v. 1-6)
Paul references his call. "Having this ministry." Then he describes the nature of his ministry. "What we proclaim is not ourselves but Jesus Christ our Lord." Paul's ministry was fundamentally one of the proclamation of the Gospel.
It is this ministry that has strengthened Paul not to lose heart.
The Corinthians became a living illustration of v. 4-6, and it is this reflection that sustains.
Pastoral ministry is about an ongoing confrontation of the god of this world with blindness, with hardness of heart, with remaining sin, but we do not lose heart because we have this ministry, this message. Since we are called to preach this message, we do so with integrity, and we must resist any impulse to tamper with this message. We are not innovators. We are proclaimers. We don't proclaim ourselves (v. 5). We don't preach to draw attention to ourselves. We preach to draw attention to him. And when we have been captivated by God's glory, why would we want to draw attention to ourselves?
Some 30 years after Paul's conversion, he writes to Timothy, "Though I formerly was a persecuter and blasphemer, I received mercy." The man never got over this. What about you? Have you gotten over it? Have you become acclimated to it? Are you amazed you have been called to this ministry? Do you live with an amazement that you have been called to this ministry? In light of my sinfulness and God's holiness, the only explanation for having received this call is God's mercy, because every day, horrible, sinful stuff takes place in my heart. I am not worthy of this task. I am horribly unworthy for this task.
And yet, I have been entrusted with this task, called ot this task. And yet because of His mercy, He dispells the darkness when I preach the Gospel. When I preach the Gospel, sinners see that face. They hear the cries of Calvary. They see him as the one the Father raised from the dead. They see the Lamb slain seated on the throne. Sinners see all of that and turn from their sin and trust in their savior for the forgiveness of their sin and trust in this ministry and message that we have the privelege to proclaim.
It's to easy to become preoccupied with someone's besetting sin and not keep their conversion in view. A friend came to me the other day and wanted to meet with me to just thank me for preaching the Gospel at the time he was converted. After that meeting I went back to work with fresh energy, fresh eyes.
- The Context/Conditions of Christian Ministry (v. 7-16)
Paul knew it wouldn't be easy. He understood the call was not only to proclaim but to suffer and serve. It takes place in the context of personal weakness and a fallen world hostile to the Gospel.
Bewilderment, persecution, being struck down. These were not philosophical categories to Paul. He experienced them first hand.
Aspiring pastors, young pastor, this is what you have to look forward to. You need to have this theology of suffering in place prior to your experience of this or else you will be blindsided. If you are interacting with an older pastor, I would use these categories to inform your study of another individual or someone who is mentoring you. Every pastor is familiar, to differing degrees and in different ways, with suffering. Every pastor knows what it's like to be bewildered.
I'm so glad Paul was bewildered, had an "I don't know" in his pastoral toolbox. This is soothing to my soul.
Struck down, this would appear to refer to Paul being stoned in Lystra, but there are many ways you can be struck down. A friend who helps you start the church abruptly leaves and slanders you as he goes. A staff member who has served you for a number of years announces he's leaving and badmouths you as he heads for the door. Depression is perhaps the most common way of being struck down for pastors. "Lecture to my Students" by Charles Spurgeon - The Minister's Fainting Fits. Spurgeon talks about physical maladies, mental maladies. "Some minds appear to have a gloomy tinge almost essential to their individuality." There are some that are more apt to gloom. It is part of the ordinary pastoral experience. "When you cannot trace his hand, you must learn to trust his heart."
In the midst of this, we discover that God is wonderfully at work. If you never suffered, your congregation would never be able to observe the power of God in your life. And they want to see if the Gospel makes a discernable difference in your life when you are suffering, and though we encounter these harsh realities in verses 8 and 9, but the accent in these verses is not on the harsh realities but on the grace of God. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, struck down but not destroyed. The access is on the "but not." Paul is celebrating the grace of God that sustains us in the midst of these harsh realities, and these should bring great strength to our souls.
Ultimately it's not about Paul's resolve, but the sustaining grace of God. It is about the power of the sustaining grace of God. Left to myself I would be crushed, destroyed, despairing... "BUT NOT." Every pastor has "but not" written over his life. This will serve your wives big time. There have been many times my wife has been trying to provide me a Biblical perspective, and I don't want to hear it. She tries but then leaves it alone, and at some point there will be a "but not" perspective.
In verses 10-12, Paul describes the paradox of ministry, always dying, but never lifeless. Some of the dying seems mundane, weekly sermon preparation while someone is outside. Wives you die each time you give up your husband for the sake of sermon preparation, for the sake of ministry. Death is at work in you. Some dying is more pronounced, accepting a call to a more dangerous place or a less fruitful place or being a support pastor rather than a lead pastor.
But how sweet is the result? "Death is at work in us, but life in you." Life in the form of the Gospel, of the transfer of the Gospel to the next generation.
If you look behind the curtain at a genuinely fruitful church, you will find dying pastors.
But it was in the midst of those harsh circumstances that Paul found the but nots.
- The Hope of Christian Ministry (v. 16-18)
Endurance in ministry is rooted in an eternal perspective.
Paul had this eternal perspective. He studied the unseen. He gave careful attention to the future. He became aware of this inner work of renewal taking place that foreshadowed the future resurrection. He was also aware that the flesh was wasting away. This is like a segment of my conversation with my friends every time we're together. We're more aware than ever that we're wasting away.
But here's the difference the eternal perspective provides, as he compares present suffering with future glory, he concludes there is no comparison.
This isn't my normal comparison. My normal comparison is to tell people it could be worse, but Paul didn't do that. He compared today's suffering with future glory. And Paul's stories are all worse than yours. When you talk about being struck down, you talk about someone saying something mean to you, and he shows you his scars.
The older you get, the more you need to understand how to look at the unseen, the future. I still spend way to much of my time looking at the present.
Looking at the future strengthens your resolve, and you are ready again to preach and endure. You have fresh hope. You don't lose heart.