Don’t Call it Inspirational. It’s Depressing

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“Don’t call this story inspirational. It’s not. It’s depressing.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Recently listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s new podcast Revisionist History, “Carlos Doesn’t Remember.” This is a powerful and sobering story talking about the reality of privilege and the struggle of those without it in our country, in our day.

One step towards working for a better world for all is first coming to understand how others live. That’s why the gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t just begin when He is dying on a cross, or raised from the grave, but when he comes “in the flesh” (incarnation) and walks in the shoes of His people. It even begins much earlier than that though, where we see that the story of Jesus and His incarnation, substitutionary death, and resurrection life is really the fulfillment of how God entered into the world wrecked and ruined by sin. 

In the Garden, God comes into His ruined creation and asks, not “What have you done,” but “Where are you?”

God leads with empathy and entering in. 

We can do the same for others in our midst – loving and serving them and their interests, regardless of our own interests – but only if we do the work of building relationships with them. Relationships characterized not by moral judgments or simply making opportunities available, but by entering into the world and life of others and seek to be a blessing.

This is how we build the shalom Jesus brings. Not through triumphalistic endeavors or merely good intentions. But through empathy and relational trust whereby we seek the interests of others ahead of our own.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

Listen to the episode for the story “Carlos Doesn’t Remember.”

http://apple.co/29W6gEl

#empathy #know #feel #act #shalom #notthewayitssupposedtobe #gospel #incarnation

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Jesus Outside the Lines – Great deal

jesus-outside-the-lines_saulJesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Side by Scott Sauls, and Forward by Gabe Lyons.

For a limited time, this book by friend and fellow pastor, Scott Sauls, is only $5 (Kindle).

But this book is worth the full price, even for just the first chapter on politics alone!

Go check it out, buy a copy (or 12) for yourself and your friends. And please share with others!

Here’s a sample of some of the goodness that lies within!

“When the grace of Jesus sinks in, we will be among the least offended and most loving people in the world.” – Scott Sauls, Jesus Outside the Lines

 

“What matters more to us  — that we successfully put others in their place, or that we are known to love well? That we win culture wars with carefully constructed arguments and political power plays, or that we win hearts with humility, truth, and love? God have mercy on us if we do not love well because all that matters to us is being right and winning arguments. Truth and love can go together. Truth and love must go together.” – Scott Sauls, Jesus Outside the Lines

 

“Christianity always flourishes most as a life-giving minority, not as a powerful majority. It is through subversive, countercultural acts of love, justice, and service for the common good that Christianity has always gained the most ground.” – Scott Sauls, Jesus Outside the Lines

 

 

War is Over. Now the Battle Begins.

How do you know God loves you, really? When life and everything around you gives evidence of sin and suffering, what basis do we really have for continuing on?

This past week at Christ Church Mansfield, I endeavored to show from Romans 5:1-11 that there is a way to break through without breaking down in the midst of our sin and suffering, our chaos and catastrophes, or our flaws and failures.

It’s only by gaining gospel resiliency by looking ahead, looking around, and looking back, that we can have confidence to keep moving forward, knowing that with God, the war is over. Now we can fight the battle of living by faith.

Here are six practical signs that you actually are rejoicing in the gospel, even in the midst of sin and suffering:

  1. Regularly meditate and enjoy the Gospel. You study God’s Word in such a way as to better see (understand) and savor (enjoy) who God is and what He has done for you. Over the years, I have found it helpful to have a plan for reading through and studying the Bible. I even put together a sample plan for our church, which you can download here if you’d like. But there are some great reading plans available elsewhere: YouVersion, He Reads Truth or She Reads Truth, as well as the ESV Bible app. Another great resource to help you navigate the Bible with a “gospel lens” is the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible
  2. Interpret and process your life through the lens of the Gospel. What is most true of you is not your feelings, emotions, reactions, or circumstances of your life, but rather the Word of God regarding you in light of the Gospel. When you mess up (and you will), or when “life” happens to you (which it will), start to process it all not by saying, “What a mess I made there. How could God love me?” but “God loves me, despite me. Despite my flaws and failings, despite my record, yes, even now, God still loves me. I am far worse than I think, but also more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope!” That’s the beauty of the Gospel!
  3. Repent of Sin and Walk in Newness of Life. Sin is both the bad things you do (commission) and good things you don’t do (omission), but, and perhaps, more disturbingly,  anything other than God you boast in. We can make a “mini god” out of anything, and more times than not, we make one in our image and likeness. We are to repent of that tendency to find value, worth, significance and strength in anything we can do or make for ourselves, and instead, willingly and joyfully strive after obedience (“newness of life”), out of love and gratitude, not guilt or fear. Don’t doubt God’s love when you discover more character flaws – draw closer to Him! Remember the two aspects of the gospel: You are worse off than you think, but more loved and accepted than you ever dared hope! (In case you are wondering, yes, the repetition is purposeful. The Gospel leaks out of us, so we have to, in the words of Martin Luther, beat it back in there continually!) Here are some great resources that have helped me get this over the years:
    1. Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller
    2. Repentance  by C. John Miller
    3. How People Change by Paul Tripp and Tim Lane
    4. We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry by G.K. Beale
  4. Stop Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands. When we sin, or when we suffer, the tendency is to “do something about it”. Miroslav Volf paints the picture vividly in his masterful book, Exclusion and Embrace when he says that our instincts when we have been hurt, harmed, or wronged is to reach either for a shield (self-protection) or sword (others’-destruction). Instead, we are to let the open arms of the God-man, Jesus Christ, on the cross welcome us “in” to the happy life of God Himself. Don’t quiet your conscience when you’ve messed up, discover you’re a wreck, and rediscover that you are a failure with reference to your performance or your circumstances. Hold tightly to God’s love for you in the Gospel, even as you let go and stop clinging to your own performance, record, or anything you can do to take matters into your own hands.
  5. Embrace Self-Forgetfulness When Faced with Criticism. Take criticism well, letting it illumine and inform the areas of your life where you can repent and live out a new obedience. (And yes, that is another reference to a Tim Keller book that has had a huge impact on me in regards to this – right now it’s $1.99 on Kindle, or $4.69 in paperback).
  6. Worship Your Way Through It. The only way we can break through without breaking down is by focusing your eyes on Jesus. See and savor Him as your highest, greatest, and most enjoyable reward. Nothing – not even death, let alone failure, fear or frustration – can intimidate you out of holding onto Jesus above all else. Sing with the saints:

Look and see our God

And celebrate the power of the cross

And the empty grave

And now we’re free

Let the Redeemed

Lift up your heads

O look and see our God!

(“Look and See” by The Village Church)

How Grace Works

There’s a reason why God has to save anyone by grace, and grace alone, and not anything we can do.

The apostle Paul uses two “heroes” from the OT to prove this point in Romans 4, Abraham and David. He shows through their lives that even they were made right – justified – through God’s act of grace, not their efforts and achievements. They lived by faith and stood on grace, because only God can “make beauty out of ugly things” (U2), or in Paul’s words, “God justifies the ungodly.”

The good news of the gospel is that grace and life comes to screw-ups and failures. In other words, God justifies the wicked, not the winsome; the ungodly, not the unblemished

Quotable/Tweetable Thoughts

“God justifies the wicked, not the winsome; the ungodly, not the unblemished.” – Chris Gensheer

“Not only am I completely incapable of making God love me more, I’m equally incapable of making him love me less.” – Scotty Smith

“An idol is pursuing something you want, but don’t possess; your boast is holding on to something you have, but don’t want to lose.” – Chris Gensheer

“To “credit” righteousness is to bestow a positive, not merely forgive a negative.” – Chris Gensheer

“I’m much more interested in grace because I’m really depending on it.” – Bono

“Grace makes beauty our of ugly things.” – Bono

Christ Church Mansfield exists to love God, connect people, serve the city, and reach the world with the transforming power of the Gospel in Mansfield, Arlington, Midlothian, Burleson, Cedar Hill, Fort Worth and Dallas TX, and beyond.

Member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Southwest Church Planting Network, and The Gospel Coalition.

Skeptics, curious, misfits, and mavericks welcome!

For more go to http://www.christchurchmansfield.com

A Way to Be Good and Right Again

Two weeks ago, I preached and unpacked Romans 3:19-31and the two greatest words possibly in all the Bible, but definitely in Romans so far:

But now.

One secular writer has said that “… the problem with justifying my own existence…is not that I’m such a bad person, but that I could be, and that I should far better than I really am.” In Romans 1-2, Paul has established that every single person does understand – through conscience – that they ought to be living in a certain way, and yet no one does it. Everyone is struggling for righteousness, and no one is getting it.

This is where we get the two greatest words in the Bible, “but now”. But now in the Gospel there is a new reality, a new possibility, a new way to be righteous, to be “good again” (Kite Runner).

The “but now” of the gospel is more than mere forgiveness, it’s justification. Instead of saying, “You may go”, justification says, “You may come!”

The Heidelberg Catechism puts it like this:

60. Q. How are you righteous before God?

A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.

Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, of never having kept any of them, and of still being inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without any merit of my own, out of sheer grace,God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, and as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me.

All I need to do is accept this gift with a believing heart.

This is the essence of faith in Christ.

Part of the sermon series Romans: Unlocking the Gospel | Unleashing the Power  at Christ Church Mansfield, from Lead Pastor Chris Gensheer. For more content or to know more about the ministry of Christ Church, go to http://www.christchurchmansfield.com.

Why Everyone Needs the Gospel: Sin (Sermon video from Christ Church Mansfield)

The central problem of not only Romans 3:1-20, but everything we’ve covered so far in Romans can be described in two words found in v. 9 – that we are “Under Sin”

To be “under” something is to be in a position/condition that compels you, influences you in certain ways. “Under the influence of…something” is “impaired” and therefore “unable” to drive responsibly. But it also means to be “subject to”, to be “acted upon” and “constrained” – to be “under someone’s authority”. Sin is not just impairment and inability, but also slavery.

The witness of the Bible is that everyone is enslaved by and therefore, in a position of being influenced by sin to such an extent that no one is righteous before God on their own.

Paul strings along several passages, mostly from the Psalms, but one from Isaiah 59, that shows us what this slavery to sin compels us/influences us to do: “Turn away from” God with a “Runaway Heart”

“Seeks” – speaks to our aspirations and motivations. You seek out what you most want. And Psalm 14:1-3, quoted in Romans 3, says that “There is no one who seeks God…All have turned away.”

Sin warps our desires, because it infests our hearts. Remember, we are “worshipping creatures” (Romans 1), and if we are not worshipping the Creator, we are worshipping some aspect of His creation, and that is when “our foolish hearts are darkened” and our thinking/understanding/reasoning spirals downward in futility. When we worship something that has “eyes but cannot see”, we lose our ability to see, interpret, understand; when we worship something that has “ears but do not hear”, we lose our ability to discern what’s going on around us; when we worship something that has a heart of stone, our hearts become less responsible. We will resemble what we revere – what we most want, what we seek – and it will either be for our ruin (if not God) or our restoration (if God alone).

The righteousness we need is not one we can achieve by works of the Law, but only one we can receive by grace, through faith in the only One who perfectly lived up to the Law’s demands.

“The way the truth and the life” (John 14) comes to the wayward, the liars, and the destroyers.

Part of the sermon series Romans: Unlocking the Gospel | Unleashing the Power  at Christ Church Mansfield, from Lead Pastor Chris Gensheer. For more content or to know more about the ministry of Christ Church, go to http://www.christchurchmansfield.com

Facets of the Gospel (2): Wrath

Came across this quote in my study this week on Romans 1:16-32, and thought it particularly helpful in thinking about God’s wrath as it relates to the gospel and “all ungodliness and unrighteousness”.

Picture taken from NCPR website. Click picture to go to news source link.

Pippert here is extremely helpful in seeing how we have no problem with the concept of “wrath” when it comes to “unrighteousness” – predominately effecting life in the “horizontal” dimension (e.g. injustice, wrongdoing; against “neighbor”). But if we live in a world created by a “higher power”/Supreme Being/Creator, should we then not be surprised that there is a wrath provoked by our genuine neglect or lack of regard for said Creator (i.e. “ungodliness”; ingratitude, unresponsiveness, arrogance toward, etc)?

Here’s the quote and the question to ponder is:

“Why would we have a problem with God’s wrath against all sin and it’s effects, if we have any problem with sin’s effects in the form of cruelty, wrongdoing and injustice throughout the world?

“We tend to be taken aback by the thought that God could be angry. how can a deity who is perfect and loving ever be angry?…We take pride in our tolerance of the excesses of others. So what is God’s problem?… But love detests what destroys the beloved. Real love stands against the deception, the lie, the sin that destroys. Nearly a century ago the theologian E.H. Glifford wrote: ‘Human love here offers a true analogy: the more a father loves his son, the more he hates in him the drunkard, the liar, the traitor.’… 

“The fact is that anger and love are inseparably bound in human experience. And if I, a flawed and sinful woman, can feel this much pain and anger over someone’s condition, how much more a morally perfect God who made them? If God were not angry over how we are destroying ourselves, then he wouldn’t be good and he certainly wouldn’t be loving. Anger isn’t the opposite of love. Hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference…. How can a good God forgive bad people without compromising himself? Does he just play fast and loose with the facts? ‘Oh, never mind…boys will be boys’. Try telling that to a survivor of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia or to someone who lost an entire family in Rwanda…No. To be truly good one has to be outraged by evil and implacably hostile to injustice.”

– Rebecca Pippert, Hope Has It’s Reasons (100-01)

Facets of the Gospel: Justification by Faith from Calvin

John CalvinIn studying each week through Romans for our series at Christ Church Mansfield, I often come across many great thoughts, quotes, and illustrations. Here is a great quote from John Calvin on how the gospel is in fact good news for a sinner like me.

“A man is said to be justified in the sight of God when in the judgment of God he is deemed righteous, and is accepted on account of his righteousness; for as iniquity is abominable to God, so neither can the sinner find grace in his sight, so far as he is and so long as he is regarded as a sinner. Hence, wherever sin is, there also are the wrath and vengeance of God. He, on the other hand, is justified who is regarded not as a sinner, but as righteous, and as such stands acquitted at the judgment-seat of God, where all sinners are condemned. As an innocent man, when charged before an impartial judge, who decides according to his innocence, is said to be justified by the judge, as a man is said to be justified by God when, removed from the catalogue of sinners, he has God as the witness and assertor of his righteousness. In the same manner, a man will be said to be justified by works, if in his life there can be found a purity and holiness which merits an attestation of righteousness at the throne of God, or if by the perfection of his works he can answer and satisfy the divine justice. On the contrary, a man will be justified by faith when, excluded from the righteousness of works, he by faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, and clothed in it appears in the sight of God not as a sinner, but as righteous. Thus we simply interpret justification, as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favor as if we were righteous; and we say that this justification consists in the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.” – John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (pp. 37-38)

The Center of it All

In part 33 and final sermon in our series The Way of Paradox: Following the Right-Side Up King in an Upside-Down World, A Study in the Gospel of Mark, Lead Pastor Chris Gensheer shows us what it means to be gospel centered, to see that it is all about Jesus, the center of it all, by looking at the trail, crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

More stubborn than our sin is the relentless love of our Savior, who is even now redeeming, renewing and restoring all nouns – peoples, places and things – to Himself, for God’s glory and His and our joy together.

This is what not only humbles us, but also electrifies us to live in light of the gospel.

Shareable Thoughts:

“Grace is greater than sin, and therefore can have the last and final word.” – @gensheer @ccmansfieldtx (Facebook or Google+ – Chris Gensheer, Christ Church Mansfield TX), #wayofparadox #gospelcentered

Referenced in Sermon:
Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Link to quote)

About Christ Church Mansfield

Christ Church Mansfield is a worshiping community on mission to reach this and the next generation with the transforming power of the gospel.

We exist to love God (worship), connect people (community), serve the city (mission) and reach the world (discipleship) with the transforming power of the gospel. We serve the communities of Mansfield, Arlington, Burleson, Midlothian, Cedar Hill, Grand Prairie and Fort Worth, TX.

A member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), we stand in the reformed tradition that celebrates that the church is always to be reformed; meaning, we are to be reshaped and molded into the image of Christ as declared in the scriptures.

For more free content, or to make a contribution to the ministry, go to www.cpcmansfield.org (soon to be http://www.christchurchmansfield.com)

New Sermon video – True Grit: Fight. Flee. Fulfill!

How do you deal with pressure? When the going gets tough, what do you do?

All human beings have the tendency to either fight through, or flee the other way; the classic Lizard brain “fight or flight” response. And this is good for survival purposes, but what if the stakes are even greater than just simply preservation of our lives or the mere status quo.

For all of us, it’s only when the roof caves in that the truth comes out, and despite our best efforts and tough talk, all of our strength and might fails us. Our only other option would seem to be to flee and run away. But in the gospel, we see another way – fulfillment. When the blow of God’s judgment against sin – the ways we fail God, others, and even ourselves – it falls hard on all.

But for those who put their trust in Christ – the Shepherd who was struck for His people and later vindicated and raised up in glory – can be redeemed, restored and renewed, and so fight the fight of faith to cling to Jesus through all of life’s ups, down, failures and successes.

Christ Church Mansfield is a worshiping community on mission to make to reach this and the next generation with the transforming power of the gospel.

We exist to love God (worship), connect people (community), serve the city (mission) and reach the world (discipleship) with the transforming power of the gospel. We serve the communities of Mansfield, Arlington, Burleson, Midlothian, Cedar Hill, Grand Prairie and Fort Worth, TX.

A member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), we stand in the reformed tradition that celebrates that the church is always to be reformed; meaning, we are to be reshaped and molded into the image of Christ as declared in the scriptures.

For more free content, or to make a contribution to the ministry, go to http://www.cpcmansfield.org (soon to be http://www.christchurchmansfield.com)