Beware of the Gospel Gaps

4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you (Galatians 2:4-5, ESV).

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Paul’s concern for the Galatian church was to preserve the true truth of the gospel from not just the secular world outside the church, but from those who would add law to the gospel from the inside. Each person struggles with a gospel gap in their lives.[1]  Beware of submitting to something that will enslave you—only pursue that which will preserve you—the Gospel.  (I cannot recommend How People Change by Paul Tripp and Tim Lane highly enough. Get this book!)

  1. Beware of the gospel gaps: “There are people who know the Lord, but whose live fail to produce the expected fruit of faith. Their lives are not characterized by peaceful, loving relationships, a sweet, natural, day-by-day worship of the Lord, a wholesome and balanced relationship to material things, and ongoing spiritual growth. Instead, these believers leave a trail of broken relationships, a knowledgeable but impersonal walk with God, a struggle with material things, and a definite lack of personal growth. Something is wrong with this harvest; it contradicts the faith that is supposed to be its source” (How People Change, p 2).
  2. Three kinds of blindness in how to deal with the gospel in the here and now:
    • Many Christians underestimate the presence and power of indwelling sin.
    • Many Christians are blind to God’s provisions. We have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-9).
    • Many Christians are blind to God’s process. Beware of the extremes of “I have already arrived spiritually” to “I am just waiting for heaven.” He’s called us to a life of growth, not comfort.
  3. What are some counterfeit issues that fill the gap?
    • Formalism (logistics): Involved in every activity, every committee, teaches—but Christian walk is impacted very little. Problem: Formalism allows us to retain control of my life, my time, and my agenda. Blind to the need for God’s grace to rescue. Church life and personal life separate—fail to see the need to have the gospel affect all things.
    • Legalism (fundamentalists): A walking list of do’s and don’ts, having a set of rules for everything to evaluate herself and everyone else. God is a harsh judge who places unreasonable standards, yet condemns because we cannot keep them. No joy in life because there is no grace to celebrate. This is another gospel all together!
    • Mysticism (charismatics): Careening from emotional experience to emotional experience, from one high to another. But between the highs, we fall flat and struggle with discouragement. We forget that most changes happen in life in the little moments of life. Danger is found in pursuing experience more than Christ.
    • Activism (monastics): Activist Christians’ motto is “Stand up for what is right, wherever and whenever it is needed.” Danger is focusing more on defending what is right than a joyful pursuit of Christ. Focus is always on external evils—can take the form of modern monasticism: “World is evil, separate from it.” Even the monks forgot to look at the evil inside the hearts of those inside the monastery walls.
    • Biblicism (scholastics): Know the Bible well, read commentaries, concern about “biblical worldview,” etc. We can study Christianity and not be Christ-lie. We can have a reputation for being proud, critical, and intolerant of anyone who lacks our understanding of the faith. This critical spirit is not well-received by those willing to learn and grow. Danger is to master the content of Scripture and systematic theology to the exclusion of communion, dependency, and worship of Christ. 
    • “Psychologyism” (psychatrics): One who sees Christ as a therapist for ‘hurting’ people who need spiritual healing. Focus on ones own hurts and victimization, and thus becomes self-absorbed and thus not seeing need for redemption! For these, the problem is unmet needs—the sin is against me rather than sin against God! 
    • “Socialism” (relational dynamics): Fellowship is what drives these believers. The interaction of relationships fuels the fire of their faith. The point here is to find someone(s) to whom we can relate. Our communion with people can replace a desire to commune with Christ. Church becomes a social club, and when this changes, so does our fire.

Never underestimate how spiritual drifts can bring gospel shifts, which can lead to false gospels.  A false gospel is no gospel at all!

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[a] his own glory and excellence,[b]4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[c] and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities[d] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that heis blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins (2 Peter 1:3-9, ESV).

 

[1]This term and the following lists of counterfeits are taken from Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp’s book How People Change (New Growth Press, 2008), 255 pages.

 

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The Path to the Peak: The Four Stages of Leadership Growth

We as Coloradoans understand peaks, for we see them every day!  We have an amazing 53 fourteeners here in our great state. Any of you who have hiked know of the different stages of hiking.  For us to climb to our leadership peak, we need to understand the path that God has us on to reach the summit.  Our goal is to help you navigate from trailhead to summit the different stages that you’ll come across and pressing on well.

  1. The Trailhead: You are pumped, at the trailhead ready to climb. The initial stage.
    • Characteristics: grateful to be asked to serve; enthusiastic, passionate, energetic, ready to go! You’re at the trailhead, looking forward to the summit, ready to tackle it.  You feel ready, backpack loaded with all you need.  You feel you’re to tackle the world for Jesus, so you become involved in many different lanes.
    • Initially, it’s positive for church! More people ready to go with us on the trail is always a plus. Being around people for whom this is the first trek helps the church see everything with fresh eyes again. Injects new life, energy, and ideas.  Encouraging to the church.
    • Relatively short-lived.
      • Some like what they see and how they see it; newbies on the trail are annoying. They have their routine—so don’t mess it up.
      • Some try to do too much too fast. They become weary and burnout and don’t feel they can keep up. This can lead to the next stageImportant to note on the Find Your Lane results. You’ll have some Trailhead/Pumped folks ready to conquer the summit right away.

 

  1. The hard ascent: The pressure  Your legs are wobbly, the air is thin, your water is gone–and there’s so much ahead of you.  Is there any point in going on?
    • Characteristics: Discouragement; disillusionment; making little (real or perceived) progress; ready to be done (if it’s your first go-round).
      • Outside: The trail is getting steeper. Rocks and obstacles are more prevalent. The air is getting thinner, making it hard to breathe.
      • You haven’t paced yourself well. It all seemed so smooth in your mind, but the reality of the journey set in.
    • “Unlike many fourteeners, the treeless peaks of Grays and Torreys are visible from the outset. But as we ascend, the mountains don’t appear to be getting any closer. They are, I decide, mocking me. But I am undeterred. We continue upward, the sun warming our backs on the wide-open trail. We curve left, then right, and back again as the grass-lined route undulates through the postcard-worthy valley. At the trail junction about two miles in—where hikers can choose to tackle Grays first or Torreys—we stop to rest, snack, hydrate, and de-layer. The summits still look painfully far away, but I am feeling good—enjoying myself even. Most of our fellow peak baggers—we are joined by a few hundred other hikers, though the trail never feels too crowded—head left toward Grays, so we venture right, putting Torreys squarely in our sights. Using rocks as stepping stones, we follow cairns to the saddle, which lies about 500 feet from the summit of Torreys. It is here, after spotting a family of mountain goats precariously balanced just off the path, that I notice a distinct change. The mountaintop looms large, but I’m losing my drive. I’ve consumed more than a liter of water, yet I notice a light throbbing in my head. I suddenly feel a little weak, sluggish. I know immediately I’m suffering mild altitude sickness.

      The symptoms aren’t subsiding after a five-minute break, but they’re not bad enough to force me to stop. Not when I’m so close. Slowly, we trudge the final feet and reach the summit. We are greeted by a few dozen others, beers in hand, who arrived there before us; many of them have already ascended Grays. I look south toward the sister peak. It doesn’t appear that far away—but my body simply won’t let me do it. http://www.5280.com/magazine/2013/06/higher-ground?page

  • Why? Pressure from outside. The ascent means resistance.  You begin working with people, and your ideas meet resistance; folks may not be ready, or they’ve already been done that road before. The idealism bubble is busted.
  • Pressured from inside: your lungs are about to burst. Can you manage all you’ve committed to?  Burnout and spinout. Disillusionment and discouragement visit often.
  • It’s here you must learn how to pace yourself and breathe.  Having a partner on the trail helps, especially one who has traveled that trail beforehand.
  • Every person needs a Paul (mentor), Timothy (protégé), and a Barnabas (encourager). You must at this point find a Paul and a Barnabas. Who is someone you trust and respect who could be a godly mentor? How about an encourager?

 

  1. Potential: You’re still climbing, but you can realistically see the summit. More is behind you than ahead of you.
  • Characteristics: cautious about moving forward, but focus on obstacles has turned into focusing on optimism. Fought through 2nd stage and ready to keep moving.
  • Learned much about what it takes to hike, more of where the trail is taking you, and about yourself. Skinned toughened up.
    • Without a Barnabas, you could grow cautious and pessimistic, for this is contagious. Some around you will tell you to give up or discourage you.
    • Fueled by a sense of call and conviction. You’ve moved from a task to a ministry.
    • Philippians 3:12ff
  1. Summit: You’ve achieved some wins, and now understand the perseverance it takes to reach the summit. You’re holding your 14,110’ sign, usually with someone who walked with you.  Now you come back down the mountain.  But why?
    • Characteristics: Self-regulating in accountability and execution. Understanding of role and gifts.  Internalizing of church’s mission/vision—becomes yours as well. No need to micromanage.
    • Find your Timothy: You come back down the mountain in order to help others walk the trail. Come along and help others in those first three stages.

 

  1. 2 Timothy 2:1-2; Titus 2:1-10

Being Slow to Anger: The Three Phrases Every Leader Should Absorb

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19‭-‬20 ESV). 
I fear that many leaders operate with an underlying anger in their hearts and minds that overrides the hope and joy leadership can bring. Anger over what? 

  • Real or perceived personal weaknesses and insecurities.
  • The expectations they thought leading a religious organization would bring.
  • Real or perceived in effectiveness in preaching/teaching.
  • Personal interactions with those who disagree with their direction.
  • Being told they are too young/too old.
  • Jealousy over other churches or organizations who are thriving, while theirs is not (real or perceived).

The list could go on and on. Outside of Christ, no perfect leader exists who has it all together. And yet, many leaders struggle with the fact that they aren’t where they want to be or where their organization wants them to be, and thus the outward struggle feeds the inward insecurities, which in turn feeds and exaggerates the outward issues.

The apostle James, soon after telling us about how we are to count it all joy in our trials and struggles because they develop our Christian hope and perseverance, warns us that, in the midst of these trials and struggles, not to let them define us.

“Let every person be quick to hear.”  Leaders who like to lead often want to lead in every way, including conversations with others. So quick are they to dole out wisdom and information, that they fail to listen to those around them and really hear what they are saying. I found out rather early that what someone is saying (words) is not all they are saying (heart). Be quick to hear what’s being said by praying for wisdom and understanding to know what’s being, well, said.

“Slow to speak.” Yes, uber quick to dole out wisdom and information. We’ve been around people who have been formulating responses in their minds while we are talking. Truth be told, we’ve been those people!  At one of our Wednesday night studies, one of our attendees noted that people wait on average of 17 seconds when listening in a conversation before they interrupt. That’s not the definition of ‘slow to speak.’ Show grace to those with whom you speak in order to ‘get’ their heart. People come with all sorts of baggage (see the list above). Being slow to speak does much to help them sort through their baggage and find the real answers to the issues at hand.

“Slow to anger.” In listening, you may hear that some of their issues are directed at you. You as their leader may contribute to some of the problems they experience. What are our options?

  • Get defensive.
  • Blow them off.
  • Listen and own it.

Are these the only three options? Not likely. But defensiveness is a latent form of anger. You have to defend and explain yourself and why you’re right. If they can’t make their case, walk away and blow them off. 

But by being quick to hear and slow to speak, you open up doors for constructive critiques that can help both. Granted, some of those critiques have no basis, but every critique is a teachable moment for both the one critiquing and the one critiqued.  This helps us be slow to anger. 

We could say more about those who are overly critical all the time, finding nothing positive or encouraging.  But that’s them. For the leader, these three phrases will help you produce the righteousness of God to those around you. 

Baptists Battled for the Bible–Don’t Be Surprised When Some Read It

My denomination has made the news again, this time over ideology. Prestonwood Baptist Church in Houston, TX informed the world that they would hold their Cooperative Program giving in escrow after evaluating decisions made by the SBC’s public policy arm, the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC).  Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood, former SBC president, and current member of Trumps’ Evangelical Advisory Board, believed that Moore’s comments about Trump during the primaries, where he called into questions his character and actions, were “disrespectful” to evangelicals who voted for Trump.

In social media, we definitely see a line of demarcation that usually (but not always) goes along generational lines. Ad hominems abound, and truly this is a harrowing time in the life of Southern Baptists. Clearly, Russell Moore is tracking a very different direction than his predecessor of 25 years, Richard Land. Moore (with whom I attended seminary) took a track of being very much against the Republican nominee, something Southern Baptists were not used to seeing.

We Southern Baptists remember when we battled over the authority and inerrancy of the Scriptures. This did not happen just to win a battle, but this happened over conviction to the truth of God’s Word.

Southern Baptists cannot forget this conviction, for it still applies today.  No, Southern Baptist leaders don’t have a seat at the political and cultural table like they did in the 1970s and 1980s. But we have the Bible–the Book we fought long and hard to restore to its rightful place.

And now younger Southern Baptists are reading that Bible.  And rather than seeing how Christians will be loved, they will be hated. Rather than have prestige, they see they will be persecuted. Rather than money driving agendas, the moral principles of Scripture drive agendas–more than that, the gospel of Jesus drives all.

While I refuse to get into particulars, we must remember: never allow politics or power or prestige or any person determine policy in my beloved Convention. Only the Person and principles of Jesus Christ as outlined in His Word must steer this ship. That’s what we fought for!  And that’s what we must continue to fight for.