Have you ever tasted the goodness of the gospel? If so, has the flavor of the gospel become tasteless to you? Do you long for the power of God to resonate through you? D. A. Carson has warned against a slow but sad progression of the gospel:
1. From a generation that believes the gospel and all its implications…
2. To a generation that assumes the gospel but identifies more with its implications…
3. To a generation that loses the gospel altogether.
Is the Church as a whole in danger of losing the power of the gospel? Have we forsaken the true gospel for substitutes?
Jeremiah 2:13 (HCSB)
13 For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.
Father, open our eyes to truly see the “good news” of the gospel. May we continually encounter You and go forward as Your gospel-speaking people for a lost, confused, blind, hurting, and forgotten world.
1. Who or what is the spotlight really on?
If the figurative spotlight in our church services is on anyone other than God, it is not worship. If the spotlight shines brighter on human performance than on the gospel of Christ, it is not worship. If anyone other than Jesus is receiving our adulation and applause, it is not God we worship.
2. What message are we communicating?
The message of the church—the message the world needs to hear from us—is not, “Come and have a good time,” “Come and be entertained,” or “Come and find your best life now.”
Tozer said: “Christ calls men to carry a cross; we call them to have fun in His name.”
The message of the church is the message of the cross. Lest we forget, Jesus’ cross was a source of entertainment only for those who mocked Him as He hung on it.
3. How are lives changed?
“But our methods are attracting and winning people!” some will say.
Tozer addressed that sentiment: “Winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ?”
1. It brings us together as the gathered church.
2. It brings focus to our wondering thoughts.
3. Seeing others worship encourages us to pray.
4. Hearing other voices ignites our passion for God.
5. It engages our entire bodies (or it should). A dead-man can’t sing.
Lecrae, John Piper, & John Ensor
Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things in your word
(Psalms 119:18). Touch me with your salve that I may see
). Enlighten the eyes of my heart
Your Word is full of promises,
flowers of sweet fragrance,
fruit of refreshing flavor when embraced by faith.
May I be rich in its riches,
be strong in its power,
be happy in its joy.
May I abide in its sweetness,
feast on its preciousness,
draw vigor from its manna.
Lord, increase my faith,
for Your name’s sake.
- Valley of Vision
1. Be Who You Are If Jesus lives within you, He will speak through you. Matthew 5:16 (HCSB)
16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Don’t try to be someone else. Only do what you are called
to do. As a Christ-follower, you are to care about everything Jesus cares about, but carry only what He has given you to bear. His voice will lead and empower you to do His will. Matthew 11:28-30 (HCSB)
28 “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
29 All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.
30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
2. Flee Self-sufficiency God will only give what you will receive. Flee pride and embrace humility. Isaiah 41:10 (HCSB)
10 Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand. James 4:10 (HCSB)
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. Luke 1:46-48 (HCSB)
46 And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
47 and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior,
48 because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave. Luke 1:74-75 (HCSB)
74 since we have been rescued from our enemies’ clutches, to serve Him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness in His presence all our days. 3. Propel God’s Glory It’s not about our glory, but His. All praise and worship belong to Him.
In The Great Divorce
, C. S. Lewis has one of his characters observe: "There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself . . . There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ."
Your ministry will fall when it becomes about you
, instead of the true eternal Kingdom. Matthew 24:14 (HCSB)
14 This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.
Amos 5:24 (HCSB)
24 But let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream.
How can Christians stand up for justice and righteousness, while empathizing with those who are different from us? How can we realize that their experience is not ours?
Ephesians 3:10 (HCSB)
10 This is so God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens.
Apart from God’s wisdom, we are utterly helpless to have anything worthy of eternal praise. As Russell Moore stated, “[W]e will need churches that are not divided up along carnal patterns of division – by skin color or ethnicity or economic status. We will need churches that reflect the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10) in the joining together of those who may have nothing else in common but the image of God, the blood of Christ, and the unity of the Spirit. When we know one another as brothers and sisters, we will start to stand up and speak up for one another.”
Personal Renewal and Revitalization for Church Leaders By Chuck LawlessNobody I know is more knowledgeable about church revitalization than Thom Rainer is. As long as I’ve known him, he has sought to help the established church regain its footing and force. He continues to help those congregations through his recent work in revitalization, and churches will be stronger because of this work.
At the same time, I am concerned that leaders experience renewal that facilitates revitalization of the churches they lead. Leaders whose fire is re-lit are more likely to invest in the work that revitalization requires. So, church leader who longs for revitalization to occur, I am writing to you.
Here is my simple suggestion for moving toward personal renewal and revitalization: remember what it was like to be a young believer, and then recall what it was like to be a rookie pastor. Even if those days were difficult, I suspect most of us have memories that can reignite the fire. Below are some of my personal memories.
As a young believer, I…
Seven years after I became a believer, I began serving as a pastor. As a rookie pastor, I…
- was amazed as I heard the Word. It was fresh, new, alive, and powerful. I couldn’t wait for Sunday to come, when I would hear more in Sunday school and worship.
- hungered for teaching. I wanted to know all I could about God, and every new truth fascinated me. Wonder consumed me as I learned.
- wept over my sin. Grace was potent in my life. I did not want to disappoint the God who gave me mercy. When I sinned, my heart broke in repentance.
- passionately shared the gospel with others. I did not worry about what kind of response I would receive; I just wanted to tell others what Jesus had done in my life. I’m sure I was at time obnoxious, but my passion was genuine.
- cherished other believers. I really loved them because they really loved me first. They became my Christian family, in fact, because my parents were not followers of Christ.
My summary is simply this: when I was a young believer, and later when I was a rookie pastor, my life was marked by zeal for the Word, dependence on God, brokenness over sin, love for the church, and passion for evangelism. Where I lack any of these today, I need personal renewal and revitalization. Where I lack one or more, I hinder revitalization in my church.
- prayed continually. To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing as a pastor – so I desperately needed God’s help. From preaching to evangelizing to leading, I covered it all in prayer.
- read Hebrews 13:17 with great reverence. It astounded me that God would ever use me as a pastor, and it almost frightened me that I would answer to God as I cared for the souls of my church members. Responsibility hung heavily over me.
- shared the gospel frequently. That’s what I thought pastors were supposed to do: love lost people enough to tell them the good news, and lead the church to do the same. I would never have imagined a pastor who was not also evangelistic.
- rejoiced in the baptismal waters. Baptizing was an incredible privilege. Up close and personally, I was blessed to be a part as new believers proclaimed their faith through this church ordinance.
- believed the best about the church. They were, after all, the people of God. I believed in them first because the folks in my home church had modeled Christian love for me. Then, the church I pastored loved their “little preacher boy,” too.
Where do you need personal renewal and revitalization?
Luke 9:23-24 (HCSB)
23 Then He said to ⌊them⌋ all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it.
Galatians 2:20 (HCSB)
20 and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
The Church, as has said the great French preacher, Lacordaire, was born crucified and until, like her Divine Head, she falls into the ground and dies, she abides alone, the life-giving streams cannot break forth from her bosom. It is not, as some one of our British brethren has said, a great stir in the realm of fleshly doing, but a Divine dying, which will bring the Church again to a flaming Apostolic zeal, and a fruitfulness comparable to that of primitive Christians.--F. J. Huegel