What To Expect From A New Pastor

Ephesians 4:7-16


Contemporary pastors are expected to have:

  • The entrepreneurial skills of Bill Gates
  • The counseling skills of Dr. Phil
  • The organizational abilities of Stephen Covey
  • The authenticity of Oprah
  • The compassion of Mother Teresa
  • The courage of William Wallace (Braveheart)
  • And the humor of Robin Williams.”[1]

A good pastor is hard to find!

Stats related to Pastors:[2]

  • 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
  • 50% of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
  • 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their roles.
  • 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • Almost 40% polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
  • 70% said the only time they spend studying the Bible is when they are preparing their sermons.

Stats related to Pastors’ Wives

  • 80% of pastors’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
  • 80% of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
  • The majority of pastor’s wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.

Overview of Ephesians

The first three chapters of Ephesians address the theological foundations of the Church.  Paul’s letters contain — Declarations and Commands, Theology and Ethics, Indicatives and Imperatives.

  • The Indicative: Informs us of an accomplished fact; it is what has already been declared about you. It’s related to our justification…
  • The Imperative: Is a command or direction – and is related to walking out the indicative and is related to our sanctification.

The second three chapters contain instruction, or input, on the practical outworking of the theological foundations of the Church.

Chap 4 contrasts our unity of being with our diversity of calling.

Vs 1-6 describe this unity as a oneness, or equality of Spirit, among all believers.

In v. 7 Paul turns a corner and begins to instruct the church regarding those who are to have authority within the Church…and this is where we begin our study today…


Today we asking the question: “What to expect from a new pastor?” from this text.  I’d like to highlight 5 characteristics from these 10 verses…

1.  A Man of Grace. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (v. 7)  

  • Not A measure, but THE measure.
  • Everyone of us has been given grace according to Christ’s measure.  Every church needs a pastor who understands this concept.
  • Grace, here, is not speaking of the grace that saves us (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace in this context is God’s impartation of ability to accomplish God’s will (imperative grace not indicative grace), specifically as it relates to ministry within the Church.
  • Churches, this church, needs a pastor who understands that the grace of God, without measure, is available for our sanctification…

2. A Team Player.  And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers (v. 11) ‘Ascension Gifts’

  • Jesus was THE Apostle, THE Prophet, THE Evangelist, THE Pastor, and THE Teacher – and when He ascended into heaven He sent us His Holy Spirit as well as multiplying leadership of the Church into team ministry – a plurality of leaders (plurality means plural, or more than one).
  • A man who understands who he is and who he is not.
  • Apostle – Sent one
  • Prophet – Discernment (telescope)
  • Evangelist – A missional heart for the lost
  • Pastor – A shepherd’s heart
  • Teacher – A passion for God’s Word (microscope)

 3. An Equipper (vs. 12-13)

  • Greek word: katartismos, which means to adjust (as in a carburetor) or to mend.
  • Too repair and prepare God’s people.
  • Equippers set up systems that lead people to maturity.  How do we define maturity?
  • Unity of the faith
  • Knowledge of the Son of God
  • (A mature man)
  • Measure of the stature that belongs to the fullness of Christ (always room for growth – we never arrive this side of heaven).
  • D.L. Moody had an equipping perspective: He once said that he would rather put a thousand men to work than do the work of a thousand men.

4. A Man Who Will Speak the Truth In Love (v. 15)

  • Truth – A passion for God’s Truth…
  • Love – A shepherd’s heart…

5.  A Man Who Builds Unity Through Understanding Diversity (“Whole Body” thinker…) (v. 16)

  • Systems thinker.  Consider the human body…
  • Disease vs. Dis-ease…a systems issue
  • Unity is not a goal, it’s a fruit…

CONCLUSION  — What is a pastor looking for in you?

1. A congregation whose members live their lives as active, intentional followers of Jesus Christ. (Philip­pians 2:2-3):

2. Here’s what I always ask for from church leaders:

  • Humble
  • Own your own issues
  • Team player

3. Ask God everyday to give you His heart for lost and broken people. Jesus never says to the poor, “Go find the church,” but He says to those of us in the church, “Go out and find the poor, lost, sick, and broken hearted” and bring them to the church.

Besides this, consider the following three specific sugges­tions to build your pastor up and increase the fruitfulness of SBF’s ministry.

a. Pray for him every day. Write it down so you don’t forget. And don’t just say, “God bless the pastor.” Be specific. Pray for his health, his messages, his family, his flaws and weaknesses. Put yourself in his place and try to feel with him as you pray.

b. Go out of your way to communicate gracious words of encouragement. Don’t lie or embellish, but seek to identify encouraging attributes.  Write him a note on the registration card, send a thank you note or email; call him up on the phone. Get him alone sometime, look him right in the face, and say, “I appreciate your work and I am praying for you every day.” Don’t be satisfied with platitudes at the door after Sunday services.

c. Speak truth in love. No one is completely satisfied with his or her pastor. The reason is that all people are imperfect. Some people never seem to learn this and hop from church to church in search of the flawless pastor. That’s a hopeless endeavor. It is far better to find a church where you feel at home and to consider it your life­long responsibility to help the pastor grow. Everyone would like to change something about his or her pastor, but how many of us have devoted ourselves to earnest prayer about our pastor’s areas of growth and development? And how many of us have spent sufficient time in prayer and substantive encouragement, so that when it is time to share a concern that it is sincerely spoken in love (Eph 3:15).

[1] Kara Powell, quoted in The Church in Transition.

[2] LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention: 2010.

Preparing For A New Pastor


1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

For the next two Sundays we’re going to be looking at what you can do to prepare for a permanent pastor.

  1. Today we will consider what you as a church can do.
  2. Next week we will consider what to expect from him.

Before we look deeper into our passage for today I want to tell you that the greatest gift you can give to a permanent pastor is your commitment to learning, giving, and growing in the gospel of grace.

  • God’s grace, which comes to us through faith, seems too good to be true.  One person said, ‘God’s grace is free, but we still don’t buy it!’
  • It seems way too easy. The truth is, grace is that easy.  Or, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, grace is free but not cheap.
  • Grace is not in short supply.  But people who know how to receive it are.
  • My best definition of grace: All that God is, lavishly poured into you.

Let’s look at some context for our passage for this morning – 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

  • The first three chapters of 1 Thessalonians are looking back and chapters 4 and 5 are looking forward.
  • 1 Thess. 5:1-11 is a declaration regarding the return of Jesus Christ.  Paul calls it the “day of the Lord” in vs. 2.
  • And vs. 11 sets up vs. 12-22: “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”
  • Notice that these are the things that the church is to be doing with, for, and to one another…
  • This is a passage focused on Christian conduct – how Christians are to relate to each other. (Let’s look at it on the screen.)

Contained in these 11 verses are 17 commands – or imperatives in vs. 12-22.

Now, there is a key phrase that opens up the passage and helps us to distinguish between a gospel-centered application and a moralistic application.  It is VERY IMPORTANT that we see this.

What does it mean to be “in Christ Jesus”?  (This is EXTREMELY important and, as I said, it will distinguish between a moralistic interpretation of Scripture and a gospel-focused, or gospel-centered, interpretation.)

  • To be “in Christ Jesus” is the sovereign work of God: “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
  • We find ourselves “in Christ Jesus” through a response of faith:
  • “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17a)
  • “We live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20c)
  • “You were also raised up with Him through faith” (Colossians 2:12b)
  • We activate grace (God’s strength and power) through:
      • Honest confession – Own your own issues.  We are more depraved tan we ever realized and simultaneously more loved than we ever dared imagine.
      • A lifestyle of repentance — Luther: “The whole life of believers should be repentance.”
      • Worship – Focus more on what Jesus Christ has done than what we ‘should’ do.


With this understanding/perspective of a gospel- or Christ-centered vantage point (or activation point), let’s look at the imperatives (commands) listed in verses 12-22…

These verses revolve around how active, intentional followers of Jesus Christ are to relate to one another.

There will be four C’s: Caring, Connecting, Communicating, and Conducting…

1. Caring for our leaders (1 Thess. 5:12-13):

    • Appreciate those who diligently labor among you
      • Value, believe the best about, and respect those whom God has placed in positions of authority.
      • How do we influence those placed in positions of authority over us?  Honor them publically and they will welcome your input privately.)
    • Esteem them very highly in love [agape].  Lust is getting, love is giving…
    • Live in peace with one another.
      • When the members of the church lovingly support, respect, and follow those whom God has appointed to lovingly lead them it will promote “peace” in the church.
      • When faithful and hardworking leaders are esteemed and respected in the church, the result will be peace, harmony, and unity within the church.

2.  Connecting with each other (1 Thess. 5:14-15):

  • Admonish the unruly
    • “Lean into” those who are living undisciplined lives.
    • The term ‘unruly’ is actually a word employed in military contexts to indicate “the soldier who does not keep in the ranks.”[1]
  • Encourage the fainthearted
    • These are the spiritually discouraged who must be lovingly consoled.
    • Remember, this is not Daniel’s, Dave’s, or Andy’s responsibility – this is your responsibility…
  • Help the weak — Those who lack spiritual strength against the forces of temptation should be continually held up and lovingly supported by those who are stronger (at the moment).
  • Be patient with everyone
    • The Greek word literally means to be “long tempered.”
    • Patience is a developed inner strength and resilience that allows us to hold out under the weight of a heavy burden.
    • Patience, then, becomes a manifestation of love that helps us to hang-in there with those who are “irritating and burdensome.”[2]
  • See that no one repays another with evil for evil
    • This is a practice of non-retaliation.
    • We leave it to God retaliate.
  • Seek after that which is good for one another and for all people
    • We are to work for the benefit and well being of others.
    • Jeremiah 29:7: “Seek the welfare of the city, for in its welfare you will have welfare.”

3.  Communicating with God (1 Thess. 5:16-18):

  • Rejoice always
    • Live your lives in the atmosphere of praise to God.
    • You may be going through some difficult circumstances but what do you have to be thankful and grateful for?
    • Remember, the gospel invites us to find our joy, comfort, and delight in Jesus Christ.
  • Pray without ceasing
    • This means to carry an attitude of prayer with us through the day.
    • It’s a continually unfolding realization of our dependence on God for all that we have and are.
  • In everything give thanks
    • I looked up the word “everything” in the Greek; do you know what it means?  Everything.
    • God invites us to be thankful even in difficult times – turning to Him and asking Him what He is trying to teach us – or prepare us for — through our circumstances.

4.  Conducting ourselves with wisdom (1 Thess. 5:19-22):

  • Do not quench the Spirit
    • This means that we are to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
    • Be open to new ways of doing things…
  • Do not despise prophetic utterances
    • A prophetic utterance is God’s word for the moment.
    • There are two Greek words for the word “word”: Logos and Rhema
      • Logos refers to the written word of God in its totality.
      • Rhema refers to the word of the Lord for now.  And it should be noted that rhema words will never contradict the logos.
      • Here are a couple of examples:
        • The overriding goal of sermons are that they are to be rhema words to the congregation.
        • The Bible instructs us in the qualities we are to look for in a spouse – but nowhere in the Bible did it tell me to ask Linda to marry me.  That was a rhema word from God – confirmed by those I trusted in the Lord.
    • Last year through a series of all-church summits we determined that SBF is a “non-charismatic continuationist congregation,” meaning that while we don’t believe that speaking in tongues is the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit, we do believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12:4-10 are for today.
        • Continuationist vs. Cessationist (continuing vs. ceasing).
        • We are to make room for words of wisdom and knowledge, for extraordinary faith, for healing, miracles, prophesy, discernment – and even tongues.
            • I suspect that the tongues and interpretation of tongues that Paul refers to in 1 Cor 12:10 had some significant cultural implications
            • And they are certainty not for corporate ecstasy according to 1 Cor 14.
            • Paul clearly states that he spoke in tongues in 1 Cor 14:18, but he also indicates it is primarily for his personal and private devotional life.
            • I just think there has been a lot of really bad teaching on this topic – on both sides of this issue.
  • But examine everything carefully – In Acts 17:11 Luke writes about the Bereans who “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”
  • Hold fast to that which is good – or that which has come from God.
  • Abstain from every form of evil
    • This final injunction means we are to separate ourselves from any form evil.
    • “Doctor, doctor I broke my arm in 14 places.”  “Well, don’t go in them places…”


As we close let’s read the final verses in 1 Thess. 5…

23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely [it’s God who does the work]; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass [again, it’s through God’s calling and transforming power that we are changed].

25 Brethren, pray for us.

26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. 27 I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

[1] Morris: 100.

[2] Wanamaker: 198.

Soul Shift #6 — Hallowed Be Your Name


We are in a series entitled “Soul Shift.”  We have bounced around a bit, but our intent is to work our way through Matthew 6:9-13. What’s been called the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ – or, the ‘Model Prayer.’  Our objective – as individuals, as couples, as community groups, and as a church is to move from ordinary prayer to extraordinary prayer.

Here are the most important principals we have learned so far about prayer:

  1. Gospel-centered (or, Christ-centered) prayer is less about petition and more about worship and adoration.  (The focus is on what Christ has done.)
  2. Prayer is not as much about trying to get God to do what we think He should do, as it is about learning to want what God already wants (i.e., prayer changes us).
  3. Probably the most important aspect of a high-quality prayer life is viewing God as a loving, kind, and adoring Father. 

By way of review, The Lord’s Prayer is made up of nine parts:

  1. The address: Our Father in heaven…
  2. There are seven petitions in the Lord’s Prayer[1]:
  3. The first three are majestic and Godward:
      1. Hallowed be Your Name
      2. Your kingdom come
      3. Your will be done
  4. The following four petitions are a bit mundane and every-day ordinary – yet necessary:
      1. Give us this day our daily bread – “God, I look to you daily for my provision…”  Pastor and theologian Arthur Pink calls this, “Providing grace.”[2]
      2. Forgive us of our sins.  This is a longing for the grace to prevent us from repeating our (besetting) sins.  Pink: “Pardoning grace.”
      3. Lead us not into temptation.  This is an acknowledgement of our weaknesses and our inability to stand apart from God’s strength and power.  Pink: “Preventing grace.”
      4. Deliver us from evil.  Pink: “Preserving grace.”
  5. The Prayer concludes with a doxology – or, an ascription of praise to the One addressed: “For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”

Here’s what we know so far from the address and opening petition: “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your Name” (v.9):

The word “Our” is important for two reasons:

1. “Our” is a reference to Jesus inviting us into His Trinitarian relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. 

    • Jesus, who is teaching the disciples to pray, is the Second Member of the Trinity.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have dwelled together in infinite relational harmony for all eternity.
    • Some theologians, including (the 7th century) John of Damascus,[3] C.S. Lewis,[4] and (more recently) Tim Keller[5] have suggested that this relationship is like a dance, with each member of the Trinity deferring to and delighting in the Other.
    • The idea is that we have been invited into this dance as we enter into relationship with God.  We’ll come back to this idea of ‘dance’ a bit later…

2. A second implication of the word “our” 2,000 years after Jesus taught the disciples is an invitation to consider and celebrate the wider and historical family of God. 

    • We want to be particularly cognizant of those who have been martyred for there faith.
    • Current estimates are that just under 160,000 people a year lose their lives for the sake of the gospel.[6]
    • Again, THE most important thought/perspective that will lead us to a dynamic, extraordinary prayer life is viewing God as a loving and adoring Father.

And in this opening salvo of the Lord’s Prayer we want to view “heaven,” not as a destination, but as a perspective – a viewpoint.  Our Father sees and knows all things…

Now we come to the first petition: “Hallowed be Your Name”…

The word “hallowed” means ‘to make holy’ and signifies to set God apart as perfected in holiness.

This phrase is a plea that God would do something about His name. It is a plea that God would cause His name to be ‘hallowed’ in our hearts and in the hearts of all people.

John Piper has said, “We can tell how our theology is changing by the way our prayers are changing.”

The first and most important thing that Jesus instructs us to ask God to do—the most central, the most supreme is to ask God to cause His Name to become supremely valuable in the hearts and minds of all people.

I would like to drill-down on one of the implications of this word “hallowed,” this concept of declaring the fame of God’s name, to segue into some teaching on worship.

I believe that it’s important for us, as a church, to consider the role of worship in our lives – and in our Sunday gatherings.  I’d like to start a 30,000 feet and then move toward some very practical application for SBF…


6 basic (overlapping) principles regarding worship:

  1. Simply stated, worship is the activity of glorifying God in His presence with our voices, our hearts,[7] and our bodies.  The gospel call is a call to worship – to turn from sin a call upon the name of the Lord.
  2. As we have said repeatedly over the last couple of years – the primary purpose for gathering on Sundays is to worship God. 
      1. We worship Him with singing (this is intended to get our emotions involved), through prayer, through confession, through the giving of tithes and offerings, through engaging Chrsit in the Scriptures, and through celebrating communion (Eucharist).
      2. All forms of fellowship are secondary…
  3. At the deepest level every human being on the planet is created for worship. But this instinct, this impulse, has been corrupted by the sin nature.
      1. Jonathan Edwards spoke of ‘religious affections’ — the core of our being that orients our mind, will, and emotions toward an object.  But the sin nature causes our affections to stray, propelling us toward lesser worship relationships such as, achievement, work, food, sex—many things other than God.
      2. Biblically speaking, these things are idols.  (An idol is when we turn a good thing into an ultimate thing.
      3. **Worship is pulling our affections off our idols and refocusing, or reorienting, them toward God.
  4. The word ‘worship’ comes from the old-English word ‘woerthship’ and means to ascribe to God the worth He deserves.
  5. Worship is about treasuring God.  Job says in 23:12b, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”
  6. Worship has two parts:
      1. Seeing the worth of God.
      2. Giving (surrendering?) to God what He is worth.
      3. All worship, private and corporate, must have those two elements.

Something that is very important for us to keep in mind as we move forward is that ‘worship’ and ‘mission’ (or evangelism) are two overlapping concepts that are impossible to untangle.

Here is a well-worn quote from John Piper’s book, Let the Nations Be Glad:

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church.  Worship is.  Mission exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.  It is a temporary necessity…But worship abides forever.” 

Passion for God in worship precedes mission — because we cannot commend what we do not cherish.

How these (6) principles relate to SBF:

It’s time to move from a settler mindset to a missional mindset.  Authentic worship fuels mission.  The Great Commandment (Mat 22:37) is the fuel of the Great Commission (Mat 28:18-19).  It is time to commend what we cherish – or, to cherish what we commend.

Music preference and style are not developed or described in the NT.

The closest we have is Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16, which both instruct us to Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”

And we would be hard-pressed to say what that would they have looked like 2,000 years ago.  Preference and style are not described in the NT because they is not the point.

What we DO know is that different forms of art open different doors into our souls. But each form must have at its core true worship – seeing and responding to God’s worth.

What we are seeing around the country is that the worship wars are largely over.  Churches, young and older, want what can be called a blended worship style that mixes contemporary with (primarily) contemporized hymns.  There is a shared longing around the country for a greater theological depth in worship music.

Having said that, the repetitive and more contemplative songs are just as important as the rich theological songs.  Repetition and contemplation are good for the soul.  I have a daughter that used flash cards for the basis of her learning in middle school and high school and she graduated with a 4.6 grade-point average.  She’s gone on to earn a Master’s degree in Spiritual Formation and Leadership and she did it through repetition…

I believe it’s important that our hearts, our voices, and our bodies become involved in the worship service.  (Only at Patriots, Celtics, or Red Sox games?)

There are many, many passages that instruct us to lift-up our hands along with our hearts and our voices…

There are many passages that speak of us bowing down in worship…

There are even passages about dancing before the Lord…

And finally, at least for today, I would suggest that we view our Sunday morning worship experience like a dance.  There are three partners at any given time:

The leading partner is always God.  What does God want?  Can I ask you to be praying for the worship service weekly?  Pray for the band, pray for the one preparing the sermon, pray for those deciding about future sermon series,’ pray for the one (or ones) that are putting together the song list.

Another partner is whoever is leading the different parts of the worship service: We have a weekly host, we have a worship team to lift our affections toward God, and we have someone to exegete the Scriptures to help us to help us worship Christ in the text.

And we have the gathered congregation.  For those of us who lead different parts of the worship service it’s good for us to keep in mind Pro 27:23 – “Know well the condition of your flocks, And pay attention to your herds.”


Psalm 100

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the Lord Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise. [Tabernacle area and Temple]
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.

Joyful Noise

Ps 98:4 (KJV) — Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

Lift Your Hands

Psalm 28:2 — Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You for help, When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.

Psalm 63:4 — So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.

Psalm 119:48 — And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes.

Psalm 134:2 — Lift up your hands to the sanctuary And bless the Lord.

Psalm 141:2 — May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.

Lamentations 3:41 — We lift up our heart and hands Toward God in heaven.

1 Timothy 2:8 — Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

Bow Down To Him

Exodus 34:8 — Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.

Psalm 45:11 — Then the King will desire your beauty. Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him.

Psalm 95:6 — Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

Matthew 2:11 — After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Matthew 15:25 — But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”

Matthew 28:9 — And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.

Revelation 19:4 — And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”

Romans 12:1 — Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

John 4:24 — God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

Nehemiah 8:6 — Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.


2 Sam 6 — 14 And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod.15 So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouting and the sound of the trumpet.

16 Then it happened as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.

17 So they brought in the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 18 When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offering, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. 19 Further, he distributed to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women, a cake of bread and one of dates and one of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed each to his house.

20 But when David returned to bless his household, Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!” 21 So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my own eyes, but with the maids of whom you have spoken, with them I will be distinguished.” 23 Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.

1Cor 14:24-25 — But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.

[1] While many commentators limit the petitions to six, Arthur Pink adds a seventh – “deliver us from evil.”

[2] The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, Baker Books 1979:123.

[3] Who described the Trinity as Perichorēsis (lit. ‘circle dance’).

[4] Mere Christianity, p. 152.

[5] The Reason For God, pgs 214-222.

[7] Grudem, Systematic Theology, Ch. 51.

JESUS Is Both The PRICE and The PRIZE of The Gospel

Easter 2013The title of the message today is, “JESUS is Both The PRICE and The PRIZE of The GOSPEL.”[1]

Read Romans 5:6-11…

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

I find that there is much confusion regarding the meaning (or the message) of the GOSPEL – both in our culture as well as in the Evangelical Church (which is our tribe).

The word “gospel” as you probably know, means GOOD NEWS and is used about 90 times in the New Testament.

Before we get (back) to our text in Romans 5, I would like to make four points to help us grasp the uniqueness of the GOSPEL.  Hopefully, these points will set us up to more fully appreciate both the PRICE and the PRIZE of the GOSPEL…

1.  The GOSPEL represents a distinctive THIRD WAY to both view and live our lives.[2]

  • Traditionally we have tended to view only two types of people:
  • The religious/spiritual, or
  • The irreligious/secular.[3]
  • The GOSPEL is neither religious nor irreligious (secular), but is something else entirely (e.g., Prodigal Sons in Luke 15).
  • The GOSPEL is a third way of relating to God that comes to us by:  grace alone, through faith alone, through the finished work of Jesus Christ alone.
  • This third way, this “grace way,” is exclusive to Christianity.
  • The Christian GOSPEL cannot and does not mix with or blend with any other religious system or philosophy of life.
  • In fact, the GOSPEL is meant to replace the whole concept of religion.
  • I would add that the GOSPEL also does not mix or blend with political liberalism — or conservatism.

2.  The GOSPEL is not good advice, it is good news. 

  • The GOSPEL is not something that we do, but something that has been done for us – and something we must respond to. 
  • In Peter’s first sermon recorded in Acts 2 he was preaching to the gathered Jews and twice he told them, ‘you killed Christ’ (2:23, 36). (Acts 2:37: “Repent, be baptized, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”)

3.  The GOSPEL is the good news that we can be saved, or rescued, from the coming wrath at the end of the age (1 Thess 1:10 – “Jesus…rescues us from the wrath to come”).

  • Let’s consider the word “wrath” for a moment… You might say, ‘I don’t like the idea of the wrath of God. I prefer a God of love.’
  • Tim Keller writes, “The problem is that if you want a loving God, you have to have an angry God. Please think about it. Loving people can get angry, not in spite of their love but because of it. In fact, the more closely and deeply you love people in your life, the angrier you can get. Have you noticed that? When you see people who are harmed or abused, you get mad…Your senses of love and justice are activated together, not in opposition to each other. If you see people destroying themselves or destroying other people and you don’t get mad, it’s because you don’t care…The more loving you are, the more ferociously angry you will be at whatever harms your beloved. And the greater the harm, the more resolute your opposition will be.[4]
  • God is unwaveringly holy.  The only way into His presence is sinless perfection.  And that brings us to number 4…

4.  The GOSPEL is news about what has been accomplished by Jesus Christ to reconcile our relationship with God. 

  • Jesus left the comfort and security of heaven and condescended to become a human.  He lived a sinless life so that we could be reconciled to God. The conflict has ended. 
  • Colossians 2:21-22: 21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.
  • Becoming an active intentional follower of Jesus Christ is about a change in status.  We are either “in Christ” or not.  (Used approx. 90 times; “in him” is also used about 80 times…)
  • **Once we find ourselves “IN Christ,” we no longer work FOR (religion) His acceptance (or approval), but FROM (the GOSPEL) His acceptance (and approval).
  • **Obedience is not the obligation of the GOSPEL (or the Christian).  Finding our delight, our comfort, and our JOY in Christ is the obligation of the Christ-follower.  Obedience becomes the fruit, not the goal. (God is not opposed to effort, He’s opposed to earning.) Psalm 87:7: “All my springs of joy are in you.”
  • **The GOSPEL is not about something we do, it is about what has been done for us.

With the above in mind I would like to ask and address two questions:

1.  What is the PRICE? (Rom 5:6-8)

  • The price of the gospel is the death of Jesus Christ.
  • Verse 6: “Christ died for the ungodly.”
  • Verse 8: “But God… Christ died for us.”
  • God loved us while we were still in our sin and paid a PRICE so that we might have an infinite PRIZE. That PRICE was the death of his Son. And we find PRIZE in verses 9-11…

2.  What is the PRIZE? (Rom 9-11)

  • The gospel is the good news that God in Christ paid the PRICE of suffering, so that we could have the PRIZE of enjoying Him forever. God paid the PRICE of his Son to give us the PRIZE of Himself.
    • Justification: God’s forgiveness of the past, together with His acceptance for the future (J.I. Packer).[5]
    • Freedom from the wrath of God — we are saved to BE WITH Him, who is our PRIZE.
    • Reconciliation: The removal of the barrier of sin between God and humankind and now we enjoy absolute and unhindered access to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18: “Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”).
    • Exultation (NIV – boast, NKJ – rejoice): The highest good of the good news is finding our JOY in God.  The fullest, deepest, sweetest good of the gospel is God Himself, being delighted in and enjoyed by His redeemed people.
  • The PRIZE of the gospel is the Person who paid the PRICE. The gospel-love God gives is ultimately the gift of Himself. This is what you were made for. This is what Christ came to restore.
  • “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
  • The GOSPEL message is not that if you follow Him, everything’s going to go well, everything is going to work. The good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ is that you get Him and He’s enough no matter what circumstance comes! 


“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”   — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Communion: Rom 5:9: We have been justified by His blood…

When we see the blood in the Bible we can know that it’s a summarized or an abbreviation of the gospel message.  (There are other words that are used by the NT writers as summations of the GOSPEL — including cross, kingdom, and grace.)

Jesus said in Matthew 26:26-28…

26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

We practice an open communion… yet keep in mind 1 Cor 11:28-29:

28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.

[1] Adapted from a sermon by John Piper.

[2] Adapted from Tim Keller. Center Church, Zondervan 2012:28-30.

[3] Or, moral conformity (moralism) vs. self-discovery (secularism). See Prodigal God by Tim Keller.

[4] Tim Keller. King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, Dutton 2011: 176-78.

[5] J.I. Packer. Knowing God, pp. 206-207.

What John Piper Would Say To The Pope If He Had 2 Minutes With Him

Clarifying My Words About Roman Catholic “Heresy”

by John Piper | March 14, 2013

A re-post.  Click here to go to the Desiring God website.  With so many of us at SBF coming from Catholic backgrounds/households this is a good theological clarification…

A few years ago, I was asked on camera what I would say to the Pope if I had two minutes with him. I said I would ask him what he believed about justification. The video ended with me putting the question to the Pope and then responding as follows:

“Do you teach that we should rely entirely on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith alone as the ground of God being 100% for us, after which necessary sanctification comes? Do you teach that?”

And if he said, “No, we don’t,” then I’d say, “I think that right at the core of Roman Catholic theology is a heresy,” or something like that.

“Heresy” is a strong word. The problem with it is that its meaning and implications are not clear. Dictionary.com defines heresy, for example, as:

  1. opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine, especially of a church or religious system.
  2. any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs, customs, etc.

You can see how fluid such definitions are.

So what did I mean in the video?

I meant that the rejection of 1) the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ as an essential part of the basis of our justification, and 2) the doctrine that good works necessarily follow justification but are not part of its ground — the rejection of those truths is a biblical error so close to the heart of the gospel that, when consistently worked out, will undermine saving faith in the gospel.

The reason for saying, “when consistently worked out,” is because I think it is possible to inconsistently deny the truth of imputation while embracing other aspects of the gospel (blood bought forgiveness, and propitiation, for example), through which God mercifully saves.

I am thankful that God is willing to save us even when our grasp of the gospel may be partial or defective. None of us has a comprehensive or perfect grasp of it.

Nevertheless, God’s mercy is not a warrant to neglect or deny precious truths, especially those that are at the heart of how we get right with God. And the teachers of the church (notably the Pope) will be held more responsible than others for teaching what is fully biblical.

Thus, any church whose teaching rejects the imputation of the righteousness of Christ as an essential ground for our justification would be a church whose error is so close to the heart of the gospel as to be involved in undermining the faith of its members.

Soul Shift #5 – Our Father In Heaven, Part 2

SoulShiftI. INTRO

I used to play a game at home when my children were younger – much younger.  In this game they might have asked for money for their allowance, or we may have been playing a board game, with dice – and I would have what they wanted in my hands –and I would pretend to suddenly fall asleep. They would start giggling and laughing and crawl all over me while attempting to pry what they wanted from my clinched fists.  Those were some beautiful moments of giggles and joyful laughter and mutual longing – they were longing for the things I held in my hands; I was longing for our closeness, our innocence, and wanting those fleeting moments of sheer joy to last forever.

For me this is a picture of the activity of prayer – while we love God sometimes we are focused more on the gifts in God’s hands rather than hand of God Himself (someone described it as seeking the hand of God and not the face of God) – we pray fervently for the new job, or the return of health.  When we gain the prizes we are delighted and, often, our focus turns to the prize — and away form the momentary closeness of the good Giver Himself.

We are in a series on prayer that we are calling “Soul Shift,” where, as individuals, as couples, as families, and as a church we are asking God to move us from ‘ordinary’ prayer to ‘extraordinary’ prayer.  What does that mean?

It means that when we speak or teach about prayer in church it’s easy for all of us to instantly feel guilty.  A sermon on prayer can amount to a drive-by guilt-ing.

Is there anyone among us who is satisfied with their prayer life?

So, today, let’s not talk about – or, even think too much about what WE SHOULD DO, but let’s take a few minutes to consider WHAT JESUS CHRIST HAS DONE.

If we can lift the eyes of our hearts to see WHAT JESUS CHRIST has accomplished FOR US it will lift the “eyes of our hearts” (Eph 1:17) in worship, in adoration, in joy, in expectancy, and in delight.  It will draw prayer out of us…

Our goal, our objective is that we would leave here today more fully delighting in the Giver than in the gifts.  (Some people’s prayers go something like this: “God, if You get me out of this mess, I won’t bother You until the next one!”)

In our study of prayer we are looking primarily at what has been called The Lord’s Prayer in Mat 6.  (There is a more compact version of the same prayer in Luke 11.)  This prayer is not meant to be prayed ritualistically, but to be viewed as a pattern for prayer.

Here’s the bottom line: **We don’t need to make bigger commitments about prayer, what we really need is to think and to believe truer thoughts about God — thoughts that are shaped by the gospel, by what Jesus Christ has already done on our behalf.

We are called to work, love, to worship, and to pray FROM His righteousness, not FOR His righteousness.  That is the gospel in a nutshell – we work, serve, love, and worship FROM a growing understanding that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has won the heart and ear of God on our behalf.

Hebs 4:16: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

We come to God through Jesus Christ.  We don’t have to earn the ear of God in prayer – Jesus has earned the ear of God for us, He has won God’s ear and God’s heart for us — so we come to God in prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer is best used as a model for prayer –or, we could think of it as template – to launch us out into a place or a perspective of reflection, adoration, and gratitude.

For the next few weeks we will be looking at the individual phrases of this model prayer… learning to delight in the Giver of all good gifts.

What we will learn is 1) the initial focus is upward, with its first three requests having to do with God’s glory and 2) the remaining three requests are for our well-being. God first, humanity second – that is the ideal order of prayer.  His glory before our desires.[1]


Today I would like us to look at the opening phrase of The Lord’s Prayer:  “Our Father in heaven.”  Simply stated:

  • The word, “Our” — speaks of community. 
  • The word, “Father” speaks of family.
  • The phrase, “in heaven” speaks of majesty, transcendence (time, space, understanding, etc.), and authority. 

Let’s take some time and briefly consider each one…

1. What does the word “Our” tell us about community?

  • We have left the land of “me” and entered the land of “we.” [2]
  • The Lord’s Model Prayer begins with the acknowledgement that we have been invited out of isolation and into both the joy and the challenge of community.
  • Here’s a simple way to say it: Pro 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one [person] sharpens another.”
  • There are at least three primary and legitimate needs of every human being:
    1. The need to feel authentically human
    2. The need to belong
    3. The need to have a sense of destiny and purpose
  • It is in the heart of God to fully meet these needs in every person. 
  • The first and most important step is through conversion and regeneration, which is the restoration of our individual relationship’s with the living God
  • The next step is through significant relationships with each other
  • Some people find it helpful to think in terms of a cross (), with our relationship with God signifying the vertical and our relationships with each other signifying the horizontal – the cross, and subsequently, Christianity is all about engaging and pursuing both the horizontal and vertical aspects of faith.
  • Our culture, unfortunately, sidetracks us with counterfeit opportunities for community.  The neighborhood bar is possibly the best facsimile there is for the fellowship Christ desires to give His church.  The bar is an imitation — dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality — yet it is tolerant, it is ac­cepting, it is inclusive, and it is virtually unshockable.  You can tell people secrets in a bar and they usually don’t tell others or even want to.  Bars flourish not because most people are alcoholics, but be­cause God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known (Cheers!), to love and be loved.  There are scores of people who seek to medicate their shame and pain for the price of a few beers, drinking their courage instead of turning humbly to Christ.
  • With the opening word of the model prayer Jesus is welcoming us into community.

2. What does the word “Father” tell us about family?

  • With the words, “Our Father,” Jesus is welcoming us into the family of God and identifying Himself as our older brother.
  • The Aramaic word for Father is ABBA.
  • Last week we spoke about the “Abba” Cry/Longing
    • Romans 8:15“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”
    • Galatians 4:6“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”
  • According to Jewish rabbinical teachings, slaves were forbidden to address the head of the family by the affectionate title, “Abba.”
  • “Abba” approximates “papa” or “daddy” and implies unwavering trust.
  • “Father” expresses intelligent comprehension of the relationship.
  • Together the two reveal the trusting love and intelligent confidence of a secure son or daughter.

3. What do the words, “In heaven” tell us about authority?

  • It may be helpful to view heaven as a perspective and not a physical place, like a zip code.  God is omnipresent (always present everywhere).
  • God’s omnipresence reminds us of His transcendent nature.  Transcendence is a theological term referring to the relation of God to creation.
  • And so “our Father Who is in heaven” is “other” or beyond His creation.
  • God is independent and different from His creatures: Isa 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
  • Being beyond His creation and not limited by it or to it. This simple understanding of transcendence makes our privilege of approaching Him intimately like a son or daughter would their earthly father, all the more humbling and praiseworthy.
  • Our transcendent God is also the omnipresent God and is never farther than a prayer away!


  • Pastor and theologian Arthur Pink, in his book The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, says, that in these four words: “Our Father in Heaven,”there is a “blessed balance.”[3]
  • The first two words: “Our Father” teach us about the nearness and dearness of God’s relationship to us through Jesus Christ – and they inspire us to confidence and love for God.
  • The second two words: “in heaven,” Pink says, should fill us with humility and awe.
  • He says the first two words (“Our Father”) without the second tends toward an “unholy familiarity.”  And the second two words (“in heaven”) without the first two produces “coldness and dread.”
  • **When we combine these two lofty concepts for the purpose of adoration and prayer we see a marriage of God’s unfathomable love with His immeasurable holiness.
  • In the coming week will you consider giving the best five minutes of your day to God?  Before moving to quickly to petitionary prayer, will you take 3-5 minutes of worship and adoration?  Will you worship God and ask God to open your heart afresh to the wonder, to the reality of what Jesus Christ has accomplished on our behalf.
  • Begin by thinking of it this way:
    1. No one has ever been so rich and became so poor as Jesus Christ.  He left the richness, the perfect love, and perfect communion within the Trinity of heaven.  He condescended to become a man and live a perfect, sinless life so that you and I could enjoy confidant access to a holy and righteous God.
    2. No one has ever been so poor and become so rich as those who’s hearts are awakened to the reality of what Jesus Christ has done – on our behalf.  Has your heat been awakened to that gift?
  • We said at the start that we want to focus more on what Jesus Christ HAS DONE than on what we SHOULD DO.  I invite you to spend a few moments in quiet contemplation…you and I don’t have to work to earn God’s favor.  The perfect, sinless life of Jesus has already accomplished that.  We own our own sin, we repent (surrender), and we believe that we have been made righteous and perfectly acceptable in the presence of a holy God…

[1] Hughes, R. K. Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom. Crossway Books.

[2] Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals: 18.

[3] Baker Books 1982:80-81.