Monthly Archives: October 2007

 

Oct

31

2007

Jared C. Wilson|2:07 pm CT

Happy Reformation Day

Using the Five Solas to highlight the gospel, I gave my first ever Reformation Day message at Element last Sunday. You can listen to it here.
I haven’t listened to it since delivering it, so I may get embarrassed later and remove it. :-)

The service was really a blessing. The expectant vibe began during worship rehearsals and lasted throughout the service. I felt a little bogged down when straying into “history lesson” territory, but every time I get to talk about the sufficiency of Christ and the great grace of God, I experience an exhilaration I can’t explain. That’s not to say I’m super spiritual, but only to say that my suspicion is that the Spirit empowers the undiluted message of the gospel. At least, that’s how I feel.

The message came first and was our “call.” The music came second and was our “response.” Our band was incredible. Their set included:
A Mighty Fortress is Our God (Martin Luther, natch)
Revolutionary Love (David Crowder)
Come Thou Fount
Mighty To Save (Hillsong)

I may be simple, but nothing inspires me more these days than to ponder and then proclaim the glory of God in the love and atoning work of Jesus. We are a people starved for the glory of God, aren’t we?

Here is my piece on the history of today from BCC is Broken last year.

|

 
 
 

Oct

25

2007

Jared C. Wilson|4:07 pm CT

Triumphalism

Just a note to those falling all over themselves to say “I told you so” in response to the Bill Hybels/Willow Creek apology/confession: Don’t be lame.

It is most unhelpful. Okay, you were right all along (as you so gleefully want everyone to know). Now what?

One blog post I read was from a guy who, after pondering whether to credit Hybels for his very difficult announcement, decided “Nah. It’s too late.”

Well, look: Congratulations on your precognition. Now let’s figure out how to be graceful in our right-ness.

Exulting in the confession of failure of someone you expected to fail all along does not seem particularly Christlike to me, and if we’re going to make this about spiritual maturity . . . See where I’m going with that?

A request: If you’re going to rejoice in whatever you perceive someone’s failures to be, at least take a next step and offer some solutions to the problem.

Despite my own concerns with (my perception of) Willow Creek’s planned response to this development, I think Hybels’s announcement took tremendous courage and humility, and that is a success all Christ-followers ought to strive to emulate.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
– Philippians 2:3

|

 
 
 

Oct

25

2007

Jared C. Wilson|2:42 pm CT

Busywork is Not "Going Deeper"

Jeff Vanderstelt, Building Teams and Developing Leaders: Part 1:

I’ve found that we fill people’s calendars so full that they don’t have any time to actually grow up. And I think we’ve bought into some things that we think actually make people grow up . . . What if someone come to me and says, “We just want to go deeper”? . . . What we fundamentally realize is that most people just want to fill their schedule with more Christian activities so they don’t have to actually live out the mission. So somehow when they got to the end of the week they went, “Whew, I did a lot of church stuff, man, that was amazing.” They didn’t do a thing for anybody but themselves. Really. So if you’re going to equip people . . . you have to say “How are we helping people make time to actually dwell in their community?” . . . They are so busy doing church work they aren’t being the Church any more.

|

 
 
 

Oct

24

2007

Jared C. Wilson|2:31 pm CT

What is Spiritual Maturity?

I think that is a really important question.

So much of what so many of us do in the church toward maturing people spiritually presupposes a unified answer to that question. But our answer is generally unspoken.

The REVEAL survey, which is now a bona fide phenomenon, having produced a startling confession from Bill Hybels, asks a variety of questions, the aim of which is to gauge “where churchgoers are.” My church participated in the survey, and I was one of the 500 or so respondents from my church to answer the survey, so I’ve seen the questions personally. They generally come from two angles:
a) How involved are you in your church and how satisfied are you with your church?
b) How do you feel about the quality of your spiritual life?

Some of the individual questions are quite pertinent to an honest assessment of one’s spiritual maturity. “How often do you read your Bible?” and “How often do you pray?” and “How often do you participate in community service or charity work?” are good questions.

But generally speaking — and here I’m not at all picking on the REVEAL survey but on the evangelical Church’s approach to gauging spiritual maturity in general — our measuring stick amounts to Participation and Feelings.

And here’s where I get hung up: I’m not sure spiritual maturity can be quantified that way.
I do think that the more spiritually mature a person is, the more connected and invested in Christian community they are, and I do think that the more spiritually mature a person is, the greater sense of their own maturity they may have. But the way this gets boiled down so often amounts to “How much church stuff do you do?” and “How do you feel about yourself?”

And frankly, some of the most spiritually mature people I know are very insecure about their sin and their own brokenness and are struggling to find their place in the modern church.

This is an extension, I think, of the Church’s previous equation of discipleship with knowing more information. We are better these days at realizing that people who know their Bibles inside and out, or who have all their theological p’s and q’s minded, aren’t necessarily any more spiritual than anybody else.
And yet we persist in measuring spiritual maturity by how further invested in church programs a person is. Someone who only attends a weekend “open community” service is considered new or young or shallow in their faith, while someone who’s at the church every time the doors are open is considered farther along. This may be generally true, but it’s still not a reliable measurement.

And I’m not sure there is one. I think spiritual maturity = “new faith” + time. And a program can’t add years to someone’s faith. Faith must be time-tested to mature. Life is what matures us. Nothing has matured me more spiritually than to be married and have children. And that’s a program I can’t get in a theology book, Bible study guide, midweek service, small group, or discipleship program.

Can we even measure something like that? What is the Bible’s measurement for spiritual maturity?
I think this comes closest:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Increasing natural tendencies toward those qualities of character are fruits of life in the Spirit. I don’t know how those can be effectively quantified.

I’ll admit the whole idea of treating people like projects to be managed turns me off anyway.

I tend to think real spiritual maturity derives from the realization that what I need today and will need fifty years from now is the same thing I needed on day one of my spiritual journey (indeed, minute one of my life): the grace of God in Jesus covering my sin. I think a really spiritually mature person realizes the Gospel is not the ABC’s of the Christian life, as Tim Keller says, but the A-Z.

And I think our spiritual maturity is directly correlated to our love for God and to our love for others. I’d be interested in how to translate that to data.

|

 
 
 

Oct

24

2007

Jared C. Wilson|2:15 pm CT

Forgiveness is About Healing

People are messy, so forgiveness is messy. People are radically broken, so grace is radically healing.

By the time we get to the end of Hosea‘s sordid ballad of messy romance, the prophet’s poetry has clearly connected Hosea’s stern love to God’s disposition toward us, and it has clearly connected Gomer’s wanton immorality to our predilection for idolatry. This is the Gospel: the overcoming of a commitment to sin by a commitment to forgive.

Our sin makes a cuckold of God. But the great love of our great God continues to woo us.

Here’s how Eugene Peterson’s The Message renders Hosea 14:1-9b:

O Israel, come back! Return to your God! You’re down but you’re not out.
Prepare your confession and come back to God.
Pray to him, “Take away our sin, accept our confession.
Receive as restitution our repentant prayers.
Assyria won’t save us; horses won’t get us where we want to go.
We’ll never again say ‘our god’ to something we’ve made or made up.
You’re our last hope. Is it not true that in you the orphan finds mercy?”
“I will heal their waywardness.
I will love them lavishly. My anger is played out.
I will make a fresh start with Israel.
He’ll burst into bloom like a crocus in the spring.
He’ll put down deep oak tree roots, he’ll become a forest of oaks!
He’ll become splendid—like a giant sequoia, his fragrance like a grove of cedars!
Those who live near him will be blessed by him, be blessed and prosper like golden grain.
Everyone will be talking about them, spreading their fame as the vintage children of God.
Ephraim is finished with gods that are no-gods.
From now on I’m the one who answers and satisfies him.
I am like a luxuriant fruit tree.
Everything you need is to be found in me.”
If you want to live well, make sure you understand all of this.
If you know what’s good for you, you’ll learn this inside and out . . .

That’s beautiful stuff.

If you are a follower of Christ, you will learn this inside and out. Perhaps the hard way. But anyone who takes the risk to redeem a sinful experience will discover that God will provide “everything we need.” There is an incomprehensible healing in the incredibly disturbing experience of either receiving a great forgiveness or granting it. This is the life of grace — the radical grace — that God calls us into when we turn to follow his son in discipleship. It is not a feeling or a sentiment or a grand ideological philosophy; it is a quality of the heart overflowing in faith and forgiveness — forgiveness received, leading to forgiveness given.

And this is one of the most incredible, scandalous demands Jesus makes upon us: love our neighbor — who happens to be anybody we encounter – and love them so much that we forgive them over and over and over again. With an endless forgiveness born of an eternal grace.

It was scandalous, for instance, when Jesus went around forgiving people of their sins, because in the theological culture of that time, only God had the authority to forgive sins. So it was considered blasphemy that Jesus would act as God would. The scandal deepens, however, in the way Jesus commended everyone to forgive each other the same way, as well.

There is a great story in Mark’s Gospel that illustrates the power of God’s forgiveness:

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he said to the paralytic — “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”

And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

What an incredible scene! This is one of my favorite Gospel stories, primarily because of the audacity of the paralytic’s friends in tearing a hole in the roof to get him to Jesus. I think that in itself is a wonderful, dramatic picture of the lengths Jesus goes to to bring healing to us. Literarily, tearing the roof off the house reminds me very much of the tearing of the veil in the Holy of Holies.

But more importantly, notice also the close connection between the forgiveness and the healing. Recall the prophet Hosea in the earlier passage vividly connecting forgiveness to restoration. The forgiven will have, as Hosea puts it, “a fresh start.”

This is the true power of real forgiveness: healing. It is not about just going separate ways, it’s not just about clearing the air, it’s not just about letting bygones be bygones. It is about the restoration of something (someone!) that is, by all indications, irreparably broken.

(This is a slightly altered excerpt from a chapter titled “Jesus the Forgiver” in my manuscript-in-revision The Unvarnished Jesus.)

Related:
Obedience is About Reconciliation

|

 
 
 

Oct

24

2007

Jared C. Wilson|2:10 pm CT

Fires

I talked with my friend Chris last night. His parents in California are on voluntary evacuation due to the spreading wildfires in the San Diego area.

Please pray for their safety and for the continued safety of all in the vicinity of disaster, including the men and women working to battle the fires.

Mark Lauterbach — of one of my favorite blogs, GospelDrivenLife — pastors Grace Church in Rancho Bernardo, an area in San Diego, and he has been posting on the fires, as well as Grace Church’s efforts to help those in need.

|

 
 
 

Oct

22

2007

Jared C. Wilson|4:07 pm CT

Yet More on Joy

A Time to Laugh: John Frye on Joy in Ecclesiastes

A taste:

Behind the wisdom writer’s call to joy is a deep-seated belief in a theology of celebration. The God of Israel called his people to joy. God’s people were to eat and drink and rejoice in his presence (when they brought tithes to the LORD). Even told to buy “fermented” or “strong drink.” What?! Nehemiah told the people not to weep and mourn, but to eat and drink, “for the joy of the LORD is our strength”. Jesus told stories of a joyful, party-throwing shepherd who found his lost sheep, and a celebrating woman who found her lost coin, and a village chief who as a father calls for a city-wide feast when his lost son came home. And there was “music and dancing” (Luke 15)!

We sorely need a theology of joy and celebration . . . For many, there is a religious knee-jerk response of guilt to every experience of joy. “There will be no joy without guilt in this house…in this church!” Years ago I got a call from a local Bible school telling me that their students could no longer attend our church because we held a square dance during the Fall season. Drabness and dullness are next to holiness. I don’t know where these ideas crept into the faith, but they certainly did not come from the Bible or from Jesus.

I think Christian kill-joys perpetuate the ancient heresy of gnosticism. Gnosticism promoted the idea that the flesh is bad and the spirit is good. So anything that is bodily or “fleshly” enjoyable—eating good fun and drinking good wine and celebrating good sex—has to be frowned upon. Only prayer and Bible reading and being quiet are holy, and certainly abstaining from sex is very holy. Yet, it was heretics who forbade those things according to the Apostle Paul . . .

(HT: Transforming Sermons)

Previously:
The Missing Ingredient: Joy
The Appeal to Joy

|

 
 
 

Oct

22

2007

Jared C. Wilson|4:01 pm CT

Timing is Everything

Just an “fyi” for anybody out there who ever feels compelled to approach your pastor/teacher/worship leader with a critique of the service:

Even if you consider your critique “just suggestions,” two seconds after the service has ended is not the right time.

:-)

|

 
 
 

Oct

22

2007

Jared C. Wilson|3:42 pm CT

How Many Links Does it Take to Get to the Center of a Tootsie Pop?

Hope you had a great weekend. We did. Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas entered the NFL record books for most field goals in a single game while simultaneously winning the game in the final seconds over our hometown team, the Houston Texans. And Element was awesome last night. Got a chance to put a couple of new speakers out front and host some great discussion in a “workshop” setting to kick off our upcoming relationships series.

Here are some quality links to get your week started off right:

Steve Mathewson on application fatigue. :-)
A quote:

For me, the challenge is reductionism. By this, I refer to the practice of reducing application to a list of ‘life application points’ at the end of each sermon. Our culture is fond of lists. Number them, or put bullet points in front of them. Either way, listeners are eager to write them down and then, we hope, to work on fleshing them out in their lives.

But one comment I heard a few years ago made me pause. A believer who attended a midwest church known for its pastor’s preaching ministry complained, “If my pastor gives me one more life application point, I’m going to scream. I’m still trying to work on the ones from four months ago!”

(HT: Transforming Sermons)

I actually linked to this a week or two ago, but it’s so dang good, I’m linking to it again:
Relational Discipleship: Off the Charts by Glenn Lucke
Please read!

Bird highlights a powerful story of forgiveness.
Becky and I just saw this story featured on CBS’ “48 Hours Mystery.”

Double D on God-centered preaching:

There are many reasons why preachers don’t preach God-centered messages. One of the reasons, though, has to do with the fear that preaching about God will be irrelevant to people’s lives today. In other words, we fear that preaching about God will lead to sermons that lack relevance.

I can understand this concern: preaching has to connect with the people sitting in the congregation before us. It isn’t wrong for preachers to be concerned about relevance at all.
The challenge for preachers, though, is to truly believe that there is nothing more relevant to people today than God . . .

Ultimately, preaching is a reflection of our theology of God. If one believes that God is all-sufficient, and that all things exist in relationship to him and for his glory, then preaching will center itself on God. If one has a lesser view of God, then that preacher will speak on lesser things . . .

Daryl quotes John Piper saying “People are starved for the greatness of God.”

Now, that’s a thesis worth seriously considering in all this current talk on “feeding”.

Happy surfing!

|

 
 
 

Oct

19

2007

Jared C. Wilson|3:49 pm CT

You Don’t Say

More laughs at The Holy Observer.

|