A Disciple is Somebody Who Hears God’s Voice and Obeys What He Says

I’m doing a series of posts on sentences that have changed my life (click to read the others). Here’s the last one (for now): A disciple is somebody who hears God’s voice and obeys what he says.

what is a disciple

I heard this sentence a few months back at a small gathering related to church planting at Northwood Church. It came at a timely moment.

I had been reading and thinking a lot about disciple-making (Matt 28:19-20). I had repeatedly wondered, “What is a disciple?” If you were to boil it down and try to define it, what would you come up with? What’s the bottom line? The goal? Then I heard this sentence.

It’s simple. Disciples hear God’s voice — in the Scriptures — and obey what he says.

Hearing God’s voice is listening with faith. This is how we receive the Spirit of God (Gal 3:5).

Obedience is the appropriate response to a God we love (John 14:15).

There are many things we try to over-complicate. Being a disciple shouldn’t be one of them.

Today, may we hear God’s voice in his word and do what he says.

Question:

Do you agree or disagree with this definition? Why?

(HT: Image Credit)

You’re Never as Good as You Think and You’re Never as Bad as You Think

I’m doing a series of posts on sentences that have changed my life (part 1part 2part 3, part 4). Here’s another: You’re never as good as you think and you’re never as bad as you think.

Never as Good as You Think

This sentence may strike you as odd, especially in light of the last one (“I am far more sinful and wicked than I ever dared believe and far more loved and accepted in Christ than I ever dared hope”). Let me explain.

This sentence comes from one of my college baseball coaches, Eric Snider. He usually said it when I was in a deep hitting slump. At least once a season, my swing would fall apart and my hitting would go in the toilet. My confidence would sink. During these moments, Coach Snider would pull me aside and remind me, “You’re never as good as you think and you’re never as bad as you think.”

Coach Snider was trying to help me see that in the 4-for-4 days I wasn’t really all that special, and in the 0-for-4 days I wasn’t really all that awful. Therefore, I shouldn’t base my confidence on my performance or on the circumstances of any one game. What mattered was who I was over the long haul.

Not Theologically Speaking

Now, I understand that there are some theological issues with this statement in an ultimate sense. Theologically, when it comes to our standing before God, it’s true that you’re never as good as you think — but it’s decidedly false that you’re never as bad as you think. The truth is that you’re far worse. Even your best acts don’t merit God’s favor (Isa 64:6).

In Practice, Very Helpful

But this sentence has helped me tremendously when it comes to dealing with the ups and downs of life and ministry. When attendance is up and compliments about my sermons abound, I’m tempted to think it’s because I’m really something. But I’m not.

And when criticism mounts or a good leader turns his back on me, I’m tempted to think it’s all my fault. But it’s not.

So many pastors are blown around by every circumstance. They gripe about how hard Mondays are because they can’t stop beating themselves up for how their sermon could have been better. What a miserable way to live.

In God’s common grace, he used Coach Snider to teach me this valuable lesson and save me — and my family — from basing my identity on my circumstances, whether success or failure. I’m so thankful.

Question:

What’s a time or situation in which you’ve been tempted to be overly puffed up or overly discouraged by the circumstances you’re facing?

I am Far More Sinful and Wicked Than I Ever Dared Believe and Far More Loved and Accepted in Christ Than I Ever Dared Hope

I’m doing a series of posts on sentences that have changed my life (part 1, part 2, part 3) Here’s another: I am far more sinful and wicked than I ever dared believe and far more loved and accepted in Christ than I ever dared hope.

far more sinful and wicked than I ever dared believe and far more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope

I first heard this influential phrase from Tim Keller, author and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. I don’t really remember exactly what message or sermon I heard it in, but he says it a lot.

This sentence has changed me by helping me see that my sin is real and serious. No minimizing, deflecting, or blaming. I bear the full weight and responsibility for my disobedience. And it’s deeper and darker than I typically realize.

At the same time, this sentence declares that my salvation is glorious. God accepts me in Christ not because of me, but in spite of me. I could not be more loved by God. This is good news!

This sentence gives humility and boldness, which rarely come together. Humility because I see I truly am deserving of God’s wrath. I’m not better than anybody. Boldness because I see that God truly loves me and is for me. As Keller says, “No swaggering or sniveling.”

Question:

Which part of this statement is most difficult for you to believe? Why?

Preaching is the Hostile Takeover of the Heart

I’m doing a series of posts on the sentences that have changed my life (part 1, part 2). Here’s another: Preaching is the hostile takeover of the heart by the Spirit of God through the Word of God.

Preaching_306x172

I’ve been in lots of conversations with young leaders and aspiring preachers who have asked, “What is preaching?” More specifically, I’ve asked and heard the question, “What’s the difference between preaching and teaching?”

To non-preachers, this must seem like a strange conversation. But to young men trying to discern whether preaching is something they are called and gifted to do it’s an intense discussion.

It was during one of these conversations that my friend and fellow Redemption Church pastor, Tim Maughan, gave his definition of preaching: Preaching is the hostile takeover of the heart by the Spirit of God through the Word of God.

He explained something like this:

There’s a difference between teaching and preaching. Teaching assumes that people are ready and eager to learn. But preaching assumes that many people are distracted or apathetic. So preaching grabs them by the throat and says, You have to listen to this! It’s a hostile takeover. And it happens through the mysterious work of the Spirit of God as the preacher depends on him and upholds his Word. There’s a foolishness to preaching. Somehow God takes flawed men and uses them to accomplish his purpose.

This sentence changed my life as a preacher in a few ways.

1. I no longer assume interest in my hearers. I have to work to capture the attention of the congregation. I have to help them see, through the urgency and relevance of my communication, that they need what God’s word says.

2. I’m convinced that there’s no preaching without God’s Word. Listeners love stories, humor, and illustrations — and so do preachers. But if they aren’t helping illuminate and drive home the truth of God’s Word, then it quickly becomes about the preacher. Sermons that highlight my ability as a communicator don’t change lives. But sermons that draw people to the living Word of God — the text and the Son — are often used by God to save and grow his people.

3. God’s Spirit is my only hope to be an effective preacher. It’s been said that a “leader” who has nobody following isn’t a leader, but is just out for a walk. In the same way, a “preacher” who is not filled with, dependent on, and empowered by the Spirit is just having a talk.

There is skill to preaching. There is technique. There are lessons learned for each preacher as he develops his voice. There is much that can be worked on and improved.

But I can’t improve on this definition of preaching. It always brings me back to what my preaching ministry is all about.

Resources to Explore:

(HT: Image Credit)

The Gospel is Not Just the ABC’s but the A-to-Z of the Christian life.

Over a series of posts, I’m writing about the sentences that have changed my life (part 1). Here’s the second: The gospel is not just the ABC’s but the A-to-Z of the Christian life.

The gospel

I’m not exactly sure who first coined this sentence — my guess would be either Dick Kauffman or Tim Keller — but I first came across it in a study called “Gospel and Heart,” that Kauffman and Keller created together. Regardless, this sentence has been a terrific summary of what it means to be “gospel-centered.”

This idea was and is so influential to me because I often thought of the gospel as something you moved on from as you matured as a Christian (the ABC’s). It was important–critically important–for salvation. But once you had salvation, I assumed you really just needed a better understanding of biblical principles.

I actually remember talking with a pastor friend who was telling me how he wanted to have the gospel be in every sermon and I thought, “How boring.” How wrong I was.

The flaw in my thinking, however, was not realizing that all biblical principles are connected to the gospel. Additionally, a robust understanding of the gospel provides the power to obey biblical principles. The gospel really is the A-to-Z of the Christian life.

I’ve now come to see the gospel as a precious jewel that can be turned and examined from countless angles, all with a fresh perspective on the majesty of God.

I’ve come to believe that the gospel can be in every sermon I preach in a way that is fresh and interesting.

Most importantly, I’ve seen the gospel continue to change and grow me in deeper ways the longer I follow Jesus.

Resources to Explore:

Question:

How have you seen the gospel as the A-to-Z of the Christian life?

God is Most Glorified in Us When We Are Most Satisfied in Him

There are a number of sentences that have changed and shaped my life. Over the next few posts, I’m going to share them. Here’s the first: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him

This sentence was coined by John Piper as a statement to summarize his life philosophy, Christian Hedonism. It changed my life because it helped me see that the biblical command to glorify God in all things (1 Cor 10:31) was not at odds with my desire to be fulfilled. God’s glory and our joy are not opposites.

But notice, the phrase is NOT “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied.” God does not receive glory from any kind of human satisfaction.

God is not most glorified when I receive my highest satisfaction from food, sex, football, friends, or family. This actually minimizes God, making it seem like created things are more valuable than him (Rom 1:25).

In reality, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. When I see God as the treasure that he is…when I go to him as the fountain of living water…when I trust in him to be enough for me…when I see that in his presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11)…that’s when God is most glorified.

The more I can find my joy in God, the more I will fulfill my purpose for existing.

Resources to Explore

CRAWL: Listen to John Piper’s sermon, “Undoing the Destruction of Pleasure,” a message he gave at the University of Minnesota.

WALK: Read John Piper’s short book, The Dangerous Duty of Delight.

RUN: Read John Piper’s long, magnum-opus book, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (link has a free PDF version) or watch Piper teach the material as a seminar.