I started listening to a series of sermons by Matt Chandler. He's very easy to listen to but also very convicting and bold.
I wanted to pass along the first part of this series "The Path (part 1)" [MP3]. If you'd prefer, you can read it [PDF] by clicking here.
I know I've talked often about the need to have our works match our profession of faith, but it's so hard to do that without becoming a legalist. I am sure many of you stand with me on this point. Chandler has a great way of explaining how one becomes more Christlike without becoming legalist. It is rare to hear a pastor give you a biblical HOW- I'm not sure many of them exactly know how.
Here's an excerpt of this sermon that really stood out to me:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” So by knowing the Scriptures, walking in the Scriptures and meditating on the Scriptures, we become competent and equipped for everything that God might have for us. I want to talk about how this happens. Because it’s very clear that the Bible doesn’t give us a list to choose from on anything that might come across our radar. So how much TV is too much TV? What should I do about this? Should I move here? Should we purchase this car? Should we move to this house? Should I marry this person? You’re not going to find a list for all of those things. There are a couple of reasons why you’re not going to find that list. The first would be that God’s plan of reconciling all things to Himself is a long plan. In fact, it began in Genesis 12.
Our first manuscript of Genesis 12 is 4,200 years old. Genesis 12 is where we first get that, “Here’s what I’m going to do in the world.” So the process of reconciling all things to Himself through Christ on the cross is a long process. And so the Bible becomes a missionary handbook able to enter any culture at any time in God’s planned history. So the Bible worked very well in any culture in 1809, and it works very well in 2009 in any culture. So there’s a lot of freedom in that. Here’s the second reason. If He simply gave us a list, we would all run straight towards legalism and our hearts would never be transformed. All my rule followers are like, “That’s so true.” I mean, if God just said simply, “Here is everything I want you to do, and here is everything I do not want you to do,” some of you would have like a whole flow chart on the wall. So what would happen? Those who couldn’t do the list would be devastated, and those who could would be self-righteous and impossible to be around.
So how then do the Scriptures make us competent and prepared for all that God has for us? Let me answer it this way. The Scriptures are God’s self-revelation to us, so that how we learn about the nature and character of God is the Scriptures. So by an ever growing understanding of the nature and character of God, we see Him as more and more and more majestic and we see our sin as more and more and more repugnant. So once again, a failure to understand what the Scriptures teach leads to what I think is pandemic in Evangelicalism, and that is we believe Jesus loved us at our worst, He saved us when we were sinners and now that He’s married to us, once He’s got us, He regrets it immediately. So He marries us and now He’s just like, “Oh, I just can’t stand to look at you. I’ll tell you what. Go clean yourself up and then come back to Me later.”
And so what most of us do is cease pressing into the Lord, cease learning about His majesty, His glory, His might, His grace, His character, His power, His nature and we go off here and go, “I’ve really got to fix this porn issue. . .I’ve really got to fix this lust issue. . .I’ve really got learn how to fix my mouth. . .I’ve really got figure out how to quit acting like this. . .I’ve really got to learn how to be a better father. . .” And the whole time, God’s going, “Come here. That’s what We’re doing.” And we’re going, “Aw no, I’m just so unattractive to You. Listen, there’s going to be a better version of me that comes down the pike. You’re really going to love that version of me.” And so if you understood your Bible, you’d understand what we said last week. It’s not at your worst that God finds you unattractive. It’s at your best. The Bible says, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” to Him. You have no capacity for good before a holy God. So how is this plan of yours going to work?
How many of you grew up in church? Okay, so you’ll know this one. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of this earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” Yeah, that’s sanctification.
We press into the Lord, we know the Lord and then what happens? He becomes more glorious and sin becomes more and more repugnant.
Chandler then goes to break down all the excuses we have for not getting close to the Lord- for not spending more time in prayer and reading His Word, and then makes this great point:
I think we don’t take it seriously, and we don’t pursue Him for a slew of reasons. I think you don’t think you’re going to die anytime soon. Like if you read those old school guys like Luther and Edwards, do you know why those guys pressed into the Lord as hard as they do? Because people are dying constantly all around them. The world was a dark place. And for some reason we’ve got this veil pulled over our face like all of us are living to 70.
Could I give you a promise? Could I just give you my word? If you’re a covenant member here, I’m doing one of your funerals this year. I don’t know who you are yet. Shoot, somebody might be doing mine. It’s coming, and not all of us get to 70. Because this is so far off our radar, nobody feels like they need to press in and know the Lord. Nobody feels like you’re going to have to give an account today. Nobody feels that way anymore. [...]
And then I think you live in a day and age where there’s great teaching available all over the place. So you never really learn to feed yourself. You’d rather live vicariously through other people’s studies. Which is kind of sad because you’ll never love the Lord like the people who studied that, found that and wrestled with that will love Him. Like if I started talking about all of the reasons I loved Lauren, it wouldn’t make you love Lauren. It would make you maybe go, “Oh, I wish I had that.” But it wouldn’t make you go, “You know, I love her too. She’s amazing. I love her with my whole heart right now.” That’s not how it works.
In the same way, you hearing me or some other guy talk about the grandeur and might of God is not necessarily going to make you love Him. You need to read and let the Holy Spirit engage you, chisel at you, work you over. May we repent of our laziness.
I have definitely found the more often I dig into the bible and the more time I spend thinking on the things of God, the less sin appeals to me. And sometimes my drift away from God starts very simply- I start listening to the radio, and then I watch a few shows that aren't very godly, and then I read a few books that have no concern for the commandments of the Lord, and then I "suddenly" don't feel like reading the bible very much. So, I put in my time... a few minutes at the end of the day, and then maybe miss a few days here and there, and then one day I wake up and wonder why I'm so miserable and why God is so distant.
But, when I press into Christ, I stay out of trouble.
The other day the kids were literally on my heels all afternoon. It was getting a little irritating, actually, because I would turn around and accidentally wack one of them in the head with my elbow or trip over them and spill something. My first thought was, "Man, I wish they'd just run off and play and get out of my way," and then I realized that... because they right by my side, they were staying out of trouble. They wanted to be by their mother.. and isn't that what I want? Children who love to be by my side and learn from me? Who want to assist me in whatever I'm doing?
It made me so grateful that our Lord desires us to be "right on His heels". When we're right on His heels, we're staying out of trouble. We're pressing in to Him, learning His ways, and eager to be more like Him.
Sometimes the kids get so busy playing and doing their own thing- wrapped up in their own world- that when I call them, they act like they don't even hear. I'm sure sometimes, even though they are only a couple yards away, they truly don't hear because their ears are not tuned to my voice. Sometimes they hear and ignore me. They refuse to listen because they are busy doing what they want to do. And, it's at those times I wish they were at my heels, listening and obeying, desiring to do whatever would help our family.
I can be like this as well. I get so wrapped up in things- whether it's reading a blog or a book, scrubbing the kitchen floors, or maybe watching a film- that when the Lord calls me, I ignore Him or put Him off. Like my children, I holler, "Just a second!" And that second turns into minutes and hours... and sometimes even days.
The other day my son was trying to be very helpful. We would ask him to do something, and he would come up with another "helpful" suggestion. My husband kept having to correct him, "That's nice, but that's not what we asked you to do." I realize that I also do this. I want to make my own list of things to do and then say, "But I've been obedient!" Then the Lord tells me, "Well, those are good things, but you haven't done what I asked you to do."
You know that saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." I can see how my "good intentions" are actually just a form of choosing "my way" instead of God's way. I think many legalists are drawn to this path because you can do A + B + C and think that you're a really good person doing God's will. They may be good, godly things but you're doing it on your own. You're not pressing into Christ, and so these good intentions, these good works, are but filthy rags.
I'm always amazed by how God uses the little moments with my children to teach me such (simple, yet..) profound things about Him and my relationship with Him.