Get Perspective

This is the third installment in a series of blogs meant to push us toward leaning into the Holy Spirit and engaging areas of tension.

Check out the first two posts here:

In my first post on this subject I said that tension was built in to us by being uniquely created by God to live in relationship with each other.  Each of us having our own gifts, talents, and skills – along with our individual backgrounds and stories – means we all have different, but valuable, perspectives and insights.

Look at what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7; 12-13 (ESV):

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Here’s the point, we together are being made into the body of Christ. Not one of us alone has all it takes to display Christ in ourselves to the world around us. No, Christ is best revealed through us to the world as we relate to one another, value one another, and work with one another for the “common good.” It takes each one of us to make the whole body.

We need each other and not just so that we can make use of the skills that each person brings to the table. Paul exhorts the Philippians to “strive side-by-side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:28 ESV). We need to continually convince one another of the truth that God is for us and not against us, and His ways are better than ours.

Our perspectives are all different. We come from different places. We have carried different burdens – some that we tend to keep trying to carry alone instead of laying them at the cross of Christ. And it is with our varied perspectives that we can help each other see the gospel in new light where we have been blind. We must strive together to bring the gospel to bear in our actual lives and in how we live in this world together.

As we believe that God’s ways can be trusted and that He is for us, we can be obedient to pursue true community with one another. The tension will come. We are bound to rub each other wrong as we continually fight to put away ourselves and learn to love the way that God loves. This is The Hidden Battle that Reggie expanded on in his previous post. As we lean into the tensions of community our own idols will be surfaced, and we need to be able to speak the gospel over ourselves and each other. I truly believe that as we obediently practice community like this we will be led to increasingly submit all of life to the empowering presence and Lordship of Jesus Christ individually and as a church.  

So, perhaps we have talked enough about how good it is to lean into tension, although there is much more to be said for sure. Over the next several weeks we will be using this series as a place to practice listening in on the perspectives of others.

We have to do the work of listening first.

Francis Schaeffer was once asked how he would spend an hour if it was all the time he had to share the gospel with somebody. He responded that he would listen for 55 minutes and then, with the remaining 5 minutes, say something meaningful.

It is important to listen to people whose experiences are different than our own. I want to challenge us to listen intentionally as people share over the next several posts. If what you hear offends you, be careful to test the tension and lean into it by doing the heart work that Reggie challenged us with and by pushing to listen for the heart of the person who is sharing. My prayer is that these posts will be used to bring the gospel to bear in our own lives and allow us to learn where and how the gospel needs to be proclaimed in our community.

Spotlight: Gospel Fluency

Our vision at Redemption Church is to lead people to Jesus who lead people to Jesus, which is another way of saying that we want to make disciples who make disciples.

We have seen people saved, baptized, and joined into our community, and it is always awesome! However, it’s exceptional not normal. If we press in on it much to try to measure our “success” we may find that in reality not very many of us are leading others to Jesus who lead people to Jesus. The vision seems to imply that we should eventually be seeing Jesus transform lives all the time.

Honestly, my instinct is to believe that I am a failure. I feel ashamed. I begin to question if we would be more successful if I was a more passionate preacher or had planned a better event, class, or system. Maybe the church would be better off without me. I need to be reminded of the gospel – the good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

See, it is easy for me to forget what Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:18; “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” When I forget that it is Jesus who is building His church, I am quick to believe the lies that the future of the church rests on my shoulders, that if I fail the church will fail, and that God will be disappointed with me.

However, Jesus says that He is building the church, that He is in control, and that not even the gates of hell can cause it to crumble. If that is true, then what can I do to to wreck what Jesus is building? Furthermore, in the person and work of Jesus I see God’s true affections toward me. 1 John 4:9 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” When I believe that to be true with my heart, soul, and mind, confessing my unbelief, the Spirit draws my attention back to Jesus and gives me the ability to stand confident as a cherished child of God with eyes to see Him at work among us

Jesus is really good news for me.

Now, we’ve said repeatedly over the last year or so that a disciple is one who is “increasingly submitting all of life to the empowering presence and Lordship of Jesus Christ.” Here’s the question, how can we submit any area of life to Jesus if we can’t see how Jesus brings good news into all areas of life? If we don’t know how or why Jesus is good news for us in the everyday, then we probably won’t be able to lead others to see Jesus as the answer for their everyday either.

We totally ripped-off that definition of discipleship from Jeff Vanderstelt whose newest book, Gospel Fluency, is also super important and timely for us. Jeff makes the case that while many Christians believe that the gospel of Jesus is true and central, many Christians aren’t equipped to articulate the good news of Jesus Christ into the “everyday stuff of life.” While we preach and hear the gospel clearly on Sunday mornings in our service, we haven’t all necessarily learned how to apply it when the world presses in on us with lies about our identity, ability, value, and so on. Gospel Fluency does a great job of teaching the basics of the gospel as it lays the foundation for Christians to be able to learn and speak the language of the gospel to themselves and to others.

As a church we will be working to equip one another to become a gospel fluent people because, the truth is, if we are going to submit to Jesus in all of life then we have to be led to the gospel in all of life. If we want to lead people to Jesus who lead people to Jesus then we must be a people who are capable of proclaiming the gospel to ourselves and each other when the enemy stands against us.

I know that Jesus is at work in the hearts of the people of Redemption Church. I can see how the Spirit is surfacing some heart issues among us as we have been looking to Jesus through Matthew’s gospel. There is a tension in many as our personal kingdoms are being exposed in light of the kingdom of God. As we continue to pray that we would be led to increasingly submit to Jesus we’ll need to be able to articulate how Jesus is better than our own understanding in the everyday stuff of life.
This is in a way a book review, and in another way, it’s a challenge to keep seeking first the kingdom and the righteousness of Jesus. I highly recommend Jeff’s book. He does a fantastic job of teaching the language of the gospel, and I believe that to be something that we desperately need. The Book Tavern – next door to Redemption church – on our recommendation has some copies of both of Jeff Vanderstelt’s books; Gospel Fluency and Saturate. So stop by and grab a copy.

The Hidden Battle

In his last blog post dealing with tension, Ben stated the following: “The idea shouldn’t be to make the tension disappear but to learn how to harness its generated power and aim it together instead of at each other. The only way that happens is if we keep our eyes on Jesus, submit ourselves to the Spirit, and strive together towards making Jesus known; that’s what we were made for.”

As I thought about what Ben was calling us to think through, I was reminded of the age-old adage that the absence of conflict doesn’t necessarily equate to the presence of peace.  Our goal when tension and conflict are present should not be to simply make it all disappear; rather, we should be willing to work through it together to bring about true Biblical peace and unity.  

With that said, I think that I often look at conflict as something that happens on the outside.  I think of conflict as an entity that someone else brings to the table.  My typical response when I’m angry, irritated or frustrated is to explain those things by looking outside of myself.  My response is usually to justify my anger by pointing somewhere other than to myself.  Could it really be possible that I play a role in the tension around me?  

James 4:1-3 states the following:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (ESV)

In this passage, James rips away the curtains on our hearts and purposefully reminds us that conflict and tension are actually spiritual issues.  They are issues that are directly connected to our hearts and to our desires.  More directly put, conflict and tension often result from who or what rules our hearts in place of Jesus.  There is a battle for control of our hearts that is fought in every situation and relationship in our lives.  To better deal with conflict and tension, we must understand what role our hearts play in these situations.

According to Romans 1, my heart will either be ruled by Jesus or by some created entity (an idol).  When my heart longs for anything other than Jesus, I will undoubtedly experience regular conflicts with others.  I will love you to the end if you’re helping me get what I want, but you will just be an obstacle for me to overcome if you stand in my way.  When my heart is ruled by my own desires, I’m judging you and holding you accountable to my standards and your ability to deliver the desires of my heart.  

When my heart is ruled by Jesus, I fully understand the wickedness of my own heart and the immeasurable grace extended to me by Jesus.  People who understand their own need for grace are really the only ones capable of extending it to others.  When I find myself to be frustrated with those around me, when I sense tension and conflict from the outside in, or when I become aggravated at the experiences and viewpoints of others, I need to look inward at the desires of my heart and see if they properly align with the truths of the Gospel and the reality of grace offered to me through Jesus.  

Consider this  quote from Paul David Tripp that can be found on his website:

“You see, God’s grace is not just a past grace–the grace of your salvation; God’s grace is not just a future grace–the grace of eternity. God’s grace is a present grace–it’s a grace for what you face in the struggles of life in a fallen world, right here, right now. And what this means is–you don’t have to live controlled by conflict any longer; your relationships can change; reconciliation is possible; peace is possible! Why? Not because of your strength and wisdom, but because the God of grace has given you grace that is form-fit for just what you are going through in your relationships today, right here, right now.”

In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus says the following:

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (ESV)

As we face conflict and tension that we think is coming from external places, Jesus’ words here should push us towards examining our own hearts to see what idols or desires or anything else are actually taking the place of Jesus.  The problem may actually be internal to our hearts rather than external with the people around us.  I pray that we will surrender the desires of our hearts to Jesus before we are quick to lash out at others.

3 Requests for Lent

Lent: Matthew 19-25

As we continue through Matthew’s Gospel on Sunday mornings during this season of Lent, we will actually be looking in on the final days before the death and resurrection of Christ. Our hope is that this will be a season of individual prayer, fasting, and devotion that serves to posture our hearts together before God with both humility and expectancy.

If you aren’t sure how to observe Lent, I would encourage you to take a look at our previous blog that contains some suggested resources. Also, if you’re late to the game, I hope you won’t let that stop you from joining us in observing this season. One church member just shared with me that they adjusted the dates that they would be observing Lent because of some obligations they had coming. That is okay. This isn’t meant to be burdensome it is meant to lead us to remember Jesus who took our burdens.

I am excited as we begin this season of Lent together, and I want to draw your attention back to three challenges that we have been rolling out this year:

  • To be a church that prays.
  • To be radically committed to increasingly submit all of life to the empowering presence and Lordship of Jesus Christ.
  • To be radically committed to identifying and reaching outsiders with the good news of Jesus Christ.

I’m asking that each person in the Redemption Church family engage in these three things during the season of Lent very intentionally. So, as you fast, carve out time to pray, read the Bible, and spend time in a devotional, here are a few very practical ways to unite with the whole church in this season also.

3 Requests:

  1. Prayer – As you spend time in prayer during your daily workout, commute, or lunch break, please be sure to pray toward these three goals above. Maybe jot them down on a notecard to put in your Bible as a reminder.
  2. Discipleship – As you’re in the Word each day, ask these questions of the text:
    • What do we learn about God’s character and nature through this story?
    • What stands out to you about the work of God through Jesus?
    • What is our identity as a result of God’s work?
    • Practically, how do we live in light of our new identity?
  3. Invite – Identify 1 person you know who doesn’t know Jesus or is unchurched, and invite them to come with you on Sunday and take them to lunch after the service.