RSS

Tag Archives: Anxiety

SUNDAY NT SERMON: “Peace of the King” by Tim Keller – Ephesians 2:19-22

Series: The King and the Kingdom – Part 5 

Tim Keller preaching image

Preached in Manhattan, NY on August 20, 1989

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:19–22

We’re looking at what this passage in Ephesians 2 tells us about the church of Jesus Christ. This week and next week we’re continuing to look at this passage. Tonight we’re going to look at what it means to be citizens of the kingdom.

More than a few years ago, the Baltimore Orioles had a third baseman named Brooks Robinson. The Baltimore Orioles are a baseball team in the major leagues. Robinson was an okay hitter, but he was an incredible fielder. He was incredible at third base. At one point when he was at the peak of his career, somebody made this comment about him. They said it was almost as if he came down from a higher league and was just tuning up and getting ready to go back. Except, of course, we know there is no higher league. So it was a tremendous compliment.

How would you like to do everything in your life … your work, your play, your relationships … in such a way that people looked at you and said, “This person looks like they’ve come down from a higher plane, a higher league, and they’re just tuning up to go back?” The Bible tells us that’s what should be true of Christians. That’s what can be true of Christians. It’s all because of this verse and this particular statement, this truth: “… you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people …”

Philippians 3:20 says the same thing only in a slightly different way: “… our citizenship is in heaven.” The word citizenship here is a good little Greek word, politeuma, from which we get our word politics. Your politics are in heaven. Your way of living with people, your way of conducting yourself in the world should have the aroma of a higher league, a higher plane from heaven itself. That’s what it’s saying.

What difference would it make if that were true of a group of people? What difference does it make if a certain group of people are citizens of heaven? What difference does it make if that group of people live out their citizenship, grasp it and live it out? What difference does it make? All the difference in the world. It will mean the difference of whether or not there will be joy and stability in the private life and creativity and excellence in your public life, your professional life. I mean that.

To get the hang of it, imagine you’re in some totalitarian country. You’re there as a U.S. citizen. What condition are you in? On the one hand, you adapt. You learn the language of the country, right? You observe its customs. Of course you adapt. But at another level, at the most important level, you’re a U.S. citizen. The duties and the rights you enjoy are those of a U.S. citizen. That country and that government, as totalitarian as it is, though you have to give it respect and know it can harm you, you don’t belong to it. It really does not have the same rights over you it has over its own citizens.

The Bible says that is what it means to be a Christian in the world. The Bible says in Colossians 1:13 that the moment you receive Christ as Savior your citizenship is “transferred … into the Kingdom of his dear Son …” At that moment you have a whole new set of duties and rights, a whole new way of conducting yourself with other people, a whole new way of relating to the world. Your politics are completely changed. That’s what it says. A whole new way of dealing with the world.

Malcolm Muggeridge, who was a man who became a Christian later in life and was a pretty well known writer and critic in London, says after he became a Christian, “As Christians we know that here we have no continuing city, that crowns roll in the dust, and that every earthly kingdom must some time flounder. As Christians, too, we acknowledge a King men did not crown and cannot destroy, just as we are citizens of a city men did not build and cannot destroy.”

What if any group of Christians, what if any group of people lived as if this was true, reminded themselves of it every day, and worked out the implications in a consistent and diligent way in every area of their lives? What would we be like? We’d be the most compelling (that’s the word I like to use) community of all the many communities of humanity.

Now if we want to do that, let’s just try to understand a little bit more about what this is teaching. What does it mean to be citizens? What is this truth? Now this verse 19 gives us this truth both negatively and positively. First it tells us what we’re not anymore, and then it tells us what we are. It says, “… you are no longer …” What? “… foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people …”

Let’s look at it negatively first and then positively. “… you are no longer foreigners and aliens …” Now the word foreigners, xenoi, from which we get our word xenophobia, which means a hatred of refugees and people of other races, literally means a stranger. It means a person who doesn’t fit, a person who has sat down and his surroundings are completely unfamiliar. He doesn’t know the language. He doesn’t know the culture. He doesn’t know the customs. He is disoriented. Everything is unfamiliar. He feels cut off and isolated. He just doesn’t fit.

Now what is intriguing here is the Bible says if you’re not a Christian, that is your condition in the world. It doesn’t say you’re out there having a good time before you become a Christian. It says, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens …” No longer. Colossians 1:13 says, “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son …” Here we have Ephesians 2:19 saying, “You were in a state of alienation, of strangeness.”

The point is if you are not in touch with the Creator, if you are living a life of disobedience, if you are not living a life of faith in Jesus Christ, the condition you are in is one of fragmentation, of incoherence, of isolation, and of being in pieces versus being whole, coherent, unified, and free. Now the Bible teaches this everywhere. It’s not that before you become a Christian you’re in a great state and then you get into a kind of, “Let’s get down to business.” Before, you were having a lot of fun.

People over the years have said to me, “I’d love to become a Christian, but first I want to enjoy my life.” Of course, at that point what you have to say is, “Whatever you think it means to become a Christian, you are so far off the wall; you can’t do it when you want to.” Here’s a person who says to me, “I know what it means to become a Christian, but I want to have fun for a while. Then I’ll become a Christian. I can do it when I want to.” Anybody who believes that doesn’t know what Christianity is and couldn’t possibly do it.

No, the Bible says before you are a citizen of the kingdom you’re in a state of strangeness. You’re in pieces. For example, there is a word that comes up often in the New Testament. It’s the word anxiety. Jesus says, “Have no anxiety about anything, but consider …” Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything …” The word anxiety in Greek (merimna) literally means the state of being in pieces.

Let me give you a definition of worry. Worry is being out of touch with the boss. I hope this is true for some of you. Imagine you work in a place where you have a boss over a department. If that boss is not only a wise person, but let’s just say he is also your best friend, your dearest friend, your closest confidante, you’re able to go about your job in a very relaxed way. Why? First of all, you’re not afraid of messing up. You’re not afraid of making one little mistake. You’re not going about it really worried or anxious.

Not only that, if something goes awry in the department, if something happens that is very strange and confusing, you don’t panic; you say, “Well I figure I’ll find out from him. I don’t have to worry. I know I’ll learn about it. I know I’ll get the inside scoop. I know I’ll be brought into it. I won’t be marginalized. I won’t be on the outside.” So you have this peace about your job. You’re in touch with the boss.

What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to be a citizen of the kingdom? On the one hand it means you are in touch with the person who is in charge of all of history, all circumstances. If you are not on close speaking terms, if he and you are not in a position of being intimate, then you get worried about things. You don’t know what’s going on. You get scared. You get frightened because you’re not sure, and you’re in pieces. That’s what the words worry and anxiety mean.

I’ll put it another way. If you are living out of touch with God, if you’re living a disobedient life, then you’re a person who is not obeying your own owner’s manual. If you buy a machine and you get out the owner’s manual, the person who built the machine tells you how to maintain it. If you oil it with a certain kind of oil at certain intervals, the machine will hold together, stay coherent, and be in one piece. But if you fail to do the maintenance that the designer who built the thing knows it needs, it will very soon go to pieces. It will fall apart.

Essentially what it means to be a believer is you come and you submit to the owner’s manual, which is the Word of God, the person who built you. This isn’t busywork. This isn’t the sort of thing my seventh grade algebra teacher used to give people to keep you off the street. Busywork. It’s not what the Word of God is. A Christian is somebody who has come in under the Word of God, submits to it wholly, and as a result finds he or she fits into the world of this God. You feel like you fit because when you do these things, you’re doing things you were built for. When you don’t … fragmentation. You feel like you’re in pieces.

There was another Presbyterian minister, a man in my denomination, who had a relationship with a young French scientist named Philippe some years ago. Philippe, though he was friendly with this pastor, was an atheist. They had many talks, but he was never convinced. At one point Philippe fell in love with a woman named Francois, and they decided because of their careers the worst possible thing they could possibly do for their careers would be to get married. It was true. If they got married, it would definitely ruin somebody’s career, or both.

So they sat down and they reasoned it out. They said, “We don’t have to get married. Besides that, we don’t have to stay together. We have these hormonal needs, and we’re fulfilling each other right now. When we go to other places, we can find someone else to fill those hormonal needs. There is absolutely no reason why we should ruin our lives.” Two years of emptiness and unhappiness, and they finally got back together, and they got married.

Philippe wrote this pastor this letter, which I think is very revealing and quite intriguing. Remember, this man is not a believer at all. He says, “I don’t know why it’s so hard to live without a permanent commitment.” Now of course the Bible explains that, but he can’t figure it out. “My scientific understanding of man is that we are the result of chance happenings in the universe. Our desires are the results of genes and instincts and hormones, so love is actually an illusion. But I never realized my ideas had drained life of its joy. My lover, Francois, and I cannot live on the basis of these views even though we’re sure that they are correct. It’s almost as if we don’t understand who we are.”

He is a stranger in the world he believes in. He doesn’t fit. His own views are out of accord with who he really is. He is not following his owner’s manual. He experiences fragmentation. He is in pieces. The Bible says when you become Christians, when you receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, “… you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but …” Let’s look at it positively “… fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.”

Now the reason I think Paul brought up this idea of citizenship was because in the Roman world individual cities were actually not just cities as we know them, but city-states. So a person who was a citizen in a particular city would be traveling around the Roman Empire and would continue to have the duties and the rights of a citizen of that city wherever he or she went.

So for example … Some of you might be familiar with this. Paul was a Roman citizen. When he was in Philippi, because he ran afoul of a bunch of people, they threw him into prison. Now most people could just be thrown into prison by the local authorities, but if you were a Roman citizen what was one of your rights? Yes, you couldn’t be thrown into prison without a trial. That was a right.

After he had spent a night in prison, Paul explained this to the Philippian supervisors. They were aghast. Why? Because he had rights. Though he was outside of Rome, he had rights that were still intact. That’s what Paul is thinking about here. A Christian is somebody, though he doesn’t live in heaven, who has the same rights and duties of a citizen of heaven. Now what are those rights and duties? Unfortunately there is an innumerable list, but I’m going to suggest just three of them tonight.

1. The right of appeal

Now by that I mean that a citizen has the right to go to the top if necessary. We already said Paul had the right not just for a trial, but Paul, as a Roman citizen, had a right to appeal to the emperor. Other people did not have that right. Can you imagine what a tremendous right that was, what a tremendous privilege it was to be a Roman citizen and have the right to go to the emperor if you weren’t happy with how some other authority or supervisor had treated you?

If you’re a Christian you have the same right, only it’s far greater than what Paul had. Take a look at Jesus. Again and again blind men approach him, children approach him. What do his followers say? The disciples are always saying, “Get back. Our boss is too important for such as the likes of you.” What happens there is Jesus always is turning around and saying, “Cut it out,” or to put it another way, “Suffer the little children to come unto me …” Jesus is the kind of emperor who, if you are his citizen, is always interested in your case.

We read a passage earlier in “Words of Encouragement.” Romans 8: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus …” What is that? That is the right of appeal. You had better not take that seriously. You had better not be like the German journalist whose name was Heinrich Heine. As he was dying someone said, “Do you believe God will forgive you?” Though he had lived a life of licentiousness and rebellion and unbelief, as he was dying his last words were, “God will forgive. That’s his job.” The answer to that is, “No, that’s not, any more than somebody from Zambia can appeal to George Bush for justice. It’s not George Bush’s job to give justice to everybody.”

The fact is that right of appeal is a right of access we talked about last week. Because of what Jesus Christ has done for you, you can go all the way into the central height for justice for your case. Because of what Jesus has done, he has opened the way right into the King. In the Old Testament, one of the best stories in the Old Testament, just a great story, is the history of Esther. At one point Esther has to go in to see the king of Persia, the emperor. She knows if she goes in she could be put to death to approach the emperor. If he puts forth his scepter, if he stretches his scepter out, that shows he has favor on her. She can approach.

If, on the other hand, he does not put his scepter out, she is put to death. What does she say? Now this is another sermon, and I’ll get back to it someday, I guarantee you. She says, “I’m going to do what I have to do, and if I perish, I perish.” Yeah. “I’m going to obey, and if I perish, I perish. I have to obey. I don’t have to live.” Now what happened is the scepter came out, and that’s a picture of what it means to be a Christian.

My dear friends, if you’re a citizen of the kingdom, if you’re a citizen of the King, the scepter is always out. Always out. I just want you to know, some of you in this room are afraid to go in because you say, “I know some things, and God knows what those things are. Why should he listen to me?” If you’re a citizen of the King, the scepter is always out.

That brings up a very important point at this spot. This concept of citizenship tells you an awful lot about what it means to be a Christian. Christianity, bottom line, is a status, a standing, a legal standing. I once heard a person talk to a pastor about people in his church. At one point the person was saying to the pastor, “Well there are some people in your church who are Christians and converted and some people who are not.”

The pastor went through the roof. The pastor said (and many, many pastors would say this), “Don’t you dare say that. These people out here are all trying their best. There are different degrees of Christians out there. Only Jesus Christ was a real Christian. Everybody else is on the way, so don’t be so judgmental.”

It makes sense, doesn’t it? No. It’s a complete repudiation of what this verse is saying. There are no degrees of citizenship. You either are a citizen or you’re not. If you’re not a citizen, you may be applying, and then you become one. It happens in a moment. Some of you might be in doubt about your approach to God for this very reason because you don’t understand the citizenship of the kingdom.

You say, “I know things I’ve done. Some days I feel like I’m doing pretty well at living according to God’s standards. Other days I’m doing lousy.” Another thing that really gets you kind of confused is you see people who are not believers at all, who repudiate Christianity, and who are living far more disciplined, well-controlled, moral lives than you are. You don’t even want to go near God. You say, “How could I do that?”

Friends, what makes a person an American? The color of his or her skin? The language he or she speaks? The fashion he or she is wearing? What makes a person an American? None of those things. What makes a person an American? Is it race? Citizenship is what makes you an American.

What makes you a Christian? The fact that today you’ve been better than yesterday? This is it. What makes you a Christian is … Have you applied for citizenship? Was there ever a time in which you said, “Lord, I know I’m an alien. I know I have no right to be accepted by you, but I no longer trust in my own efforts. I trust in what Jesus Christ has done for me. Accept me for that sake. Bring me into the kingdom?” You applied for citizenship, and anybody who applies for citizenship like that, who humbles himself or herself like that, gets citizenship. That’s a moment. That’s what it is. You cross over the line. Appeal.

Some of you will not approach God with your problems. Some of you don’t feel like you can go near him. Why? Because there is a little voice that says, “He hardly ever hears anyway when you ask him. Beside that, why should he? He hardly ever does anything when you ask him. Beside that, why should he?”

There is only one answer to that kind of voice. I don’t know what you’re saying. If you’re saying to it, “Well, I’ll try better tomorrow,” you yourself know maybe you will do better tomorrow, but then what about Tuesday? The only answer to that kind of voice is, “I’m a citizen.” The right of appeal.

2. The right of escort

Let me tell you about the War of Jenkins’ Ear. Have any of you heard of the War of Jenkins’ Ear? I hope not. In 1739 when Britain was at the height of its naval power, a particular … You’re laughing already. I haven’t even told you this story. This is true. Honest. It’s Sunday. I’m a preacher. We’re in church. I wouldn’t tell you a lie now, okay?

There was a lone British vessel that was attacked wrongfully by the Spaniards. In the battle the captain (his name was Captain Jenkins) had his ear cut off by a sword. He saved the ear, and he put it in a bottle of liquor to preserve it. He sailed back to England. He went into Parliament. He told everybody what happened, and he held up the ear.

By the way, visual aids are very helpful in speaking. I was trying to think of a good visual aid for tonight, and I just couldn’t come up with one. I’m sorry about that. This was a corker. He put up his ear. Parliament declared war on Spain, and it was called the War of Jenkins’ Ear. Now on the one hand, wouldn’t you say one particular human being is not worth going to war for? From one perspective, yes.

Captain Jenkins, as one particular human being … in fact, just his ear … is not a good enough reason to go to war. But Captain Jenkins, as a citizen of the British Empire, is enough reason to go to war. Why? Because each citizen represents the Crown, or better yet, an attack on a British citizen represented an attack on the Crown. All the might of the British Empire escorted that one citizen, Captain Jenkins, back to the scene of the crime.

Now friends, if you’re a citizen of the kingdom, you have all the power of the kingdom escorting you through your life. You do. The kingdom is power. That’s another sermon, too. Second Corinthians 10 says, “We fight with weapons that are not earthly weapons.” They’re not actual Uzis. They’re not actual swords, but they are spiritual weapons. Let me just give you a couple.

First of all, you have kingdom power against your own internal weaknesses, your sins. Don’t you know you have habits, fears, drives, and desires that have been ripping you up for years, that have been holding you back for years? What are you going to do about them? Are you going to give up? You have kingdom power. You have the Word of God, which is alive and active and which can deal with those things. You have the Spirit of God. If you don’t know that and if you’ve given up on yourself, you’re not thinking like a citizen; you’re thinking like a slave.

Let me give you an illustration that is worth repeating. I will, and draw it out even more later on. Imagine a person who had been a slave all of his life in the South of the United States up until the Civil War. Every day he used to come into a town. He would walk up and there would be men who would come and laugh at him, jeer at him, say, “Get me a drink of water,” and order him around. He had to because if he didn’t they could beat him within an inch of his life, and it was perfectly legal.

Then one day Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation, and that person is now a citizen. The next day he walks into town, the same guys are there yelling and screaming and telling him to do all kinds of things, only this time he knows if he doesn’t do what they tell him to do, he is a citizen, and though they could still make trouble for him, he can make trouble for them. Now it’s not easy after 40 years of being a slave on one day when you’re told you’re now a citizen to suddenly start acting like a citizen. Probably what the guy will do is continue to act like a slave. That’s natural. He is still a citizen, but he is acting like a slave.

That’s what a lot of us in this room are like, because the moment you were transferred into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, the fears in your life, the pride in your life, and the sins in your life that were ordering you around because, before you got into the kingdom of God they were in your life with the full rights of citizens, your sins are now illegal aliens. They no longer have power over you. You do not have to do what they say. Are you going to act like a slave or like a citizen?

It’s not going to be easy, any easier than it would be for that man, but the only way you’ll ever overcome the things that are in your life is to recognize that truth. The only way that man would ever stop acting like a slave is to remind himself, to tell himself, and to begin to step out on the basis of what is true legally.

That was mighty, mighty hard to work into his personality after all those years. It’s hard for us too. But do you believe God’s power is escorting you through life? Do you believe you have God’s power in your life to deal with those things? Are you acting like a citizen or like a slave? Not only that, God is escorting you with his power through history.

The Bible does not say if God is your King you won’t have troubles, but the Bible does say, “… all things work together for good …” That means in a sense God is overwhelming and overpowering troubles that come into your life so they are the things you need to change you, to help you, and to grow you. Remember Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers? In Genesis 50:20, he looks his brothers in the eye. Why isn’t there any bitterness?

Because Joseph was sold into slavery, he was able to rise up into great places of power in Egypt. He looked at his brothers and said, “… you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” God escorted me through history. With his overwhelming power he worked out for good even the troubles that came into my life.” That kind of power is in your life, too. God is your escort if you’re a citizen of the King.

3. The duty of representing your people

If you are a citizen you represent your people. If you’re a citizen you represent the king. Here we’re told if you’re a citizen that makes you a nation. If you’re a citizen you’re part of a nation. First Peter 2:9 comes right out and explicitly says, “You are … a holy nation …” Or right here in verse 15 of this same chapter it says, “God takes Jew and Gentile and makes them one new man. You’re a new humanity. You’re a new race. You’re a new nation.”

Now the word nation in 1 Peter 2:9 is the word ethnos, and the Bible says when you become a Christian you become a new ethnic. What is an ethnic? How do ethnics differ from each other? Well I’ll tell you. An ethnic group is something very different than an organization or a club, isn’t it? Two clubs differ from each other only in a couple of areas, like how do the Optimists differ from the Boy Scouts? Well they differ in age. They differ in activity.

How does a German differ from a Chinese person? In all kinds of ways, because your ethnicity, your culture tells you how to live in every way, doesn’t it? It tells you how men and women relate. It tells you how parents and children relate. It tells you how to dress. It tells you what is good art. It tells you what is good labor. It tells you good business practice. It even tells you what is humorous and what isn’t, right? Your culture tells you everything.

What does it mean when the Bible says, “You have become a new ethnic?” This is radical. It means if you’re a citizen and you know you’re a citizen, the church is not just a lecture hall, the church is not just a social club. It’s a counterculture. It’s a pilot plant of what humanity would be in every area under the lordship of Christ. It’s a counterculture.

We’re told in Deuteronomy 4, God says to the children of Israel, “Obey the laws I give you so the nations will see how wise and great you are and how wise and great I am.” That means our citizenship, it says here in verses 19–20, is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. That’s the Word of God, the New and the Old Testament. As we submit every area of our lives to his lordship, we become a new ethnic.

When the world looks at us, it shouldn’t just see people who come and get kind of a high every so often or come and get a little enrichment. If you’re a citizen of the kingdom, that means Christianity cannot be another file in the crowded drawer of your life, another Weight Watchers program, another enrichment program. Instead, it should be the center of your life out of which every part of your life is controlled. Every part. To be a new ethnic.

If you don’t understand this, you can’t understand a lot of things in Scripture. For example, 1 Corinthians 6 says, “No two Christians should ever sue one another in court.” Did you know that? First Corinthians 6. You didn’t know that. Well what does that mean? Is that just busywork? How did God come up with that one?

It’s very simple. If we are to be the people of God, if we are to be a new ethnic, if we’re to be a pilot plant showing the world what a new humanity would be underneath the lordship of Christ, we need to show the world justice. If we can’t work out our own disputes, if we can’t show we know how to deal fairly with people, work out disputes, and work out justice within our own community, we’ve bought the ranch. We’ve blown the ball game. For two Christians to go to court means you’ve failed to be the people of God. You do not understand your citizenship at all. You don’t understand what it means to be an ethnic.

It also means the church is not a place to come just simply to get a little bit of inspiration for the week. It is a counterculture. You come here because you’re saying, “How in the world do I get my Christianity out in every area of my life, including my public life?” If you’re in fashions, for example, have you ever sat down and worked out what the Bible says about clothing? The Bible says a lot about clothing. God invented clothing, you know.

He invented clothing both to conceal certain things and to reveal certain things. Have you ever worked that out? Have pastors, Christian people in the fashion business, and other believers worked together to figure out what some of those principles are so we can work them into our public lives and hold each other accountable? A counterculture is a place where we give one another support to be citizens of the kingdom in every area of our lives.

It’s going to be very hard to get that off the ground because for the last 50 or 80 years, the churches have gotten no concept of citizenship. We see the church as simply a lecture hall or a social club, and we don’t give that kind of thing because we don’t have a concept of the kingdom. That is a duty: to represent, to exhibit the King. Now there is another part, but I won’t even deal with it. I’ll deal with it next week. That is being an embassy and spreading the kingdom, but we won’t get to that. I’m going to close up right now.

My dear friends, here is the bottom line. In this room my guess is there are some of you who are citizens who are living like aliens or strangers. There are some of you on the other hand who are aliens who are living like citizens. Let me explain. Some of you are believers. You received Jesus Christ as Lord. You’re citizens, but you’re not living like citizens. Are you living in fear that somehow God is not going to help you with your problems?

You’re not living like a citizen. You have the right of appeal. Are you living in anger because your life has been messed up? Angry at people for having done it? Angry at God? You’re not living as a citizen. You don’t see the escort God has for you. Some of you are living cowed before problems in your life, and you’ve given up on yourself. You’re living like slaves and not like citizens.

The main way some of you are not living like citizens is you’re just being mindless about your public life. In your private life you’re a Christian. That means on the weekends and the evenings and whenever you get off, but the rest of the time you don’t look any different. Nobody ever looks at you and says, “That person looks like they’ve come down from a higher league.”

There is a distinctiveness and a creativity about Christians who try to work out their citizenship because they know they’re a new ethnic and they’re going to do everything in their lives, including their public work, ethnically Christian. Are you a citizen but you’re living like a stranger, you’re living like an alien, you’re living like a slave? Are you? My friends, demand your rights but don’t demand them of God. He has been offering them. Demand them of yourself. Don’t demand them of God. He is the source of those rights. Look at yourself and say, “You idiot. Why are you living like this?”

Then there are some of you I would think who are living like citizens who are really aliens. Now what I mean is you expect God to take care of you. You expect God to bless you. You expect God to escort you. You expect God to listen to you. Yet you’ve never actually applied for citizenship. Well how do you know if you’ve done that? Very simple.

Number one, you have to admit you’re an alien. Let me tell you, nobody has ever come to the United States and tried to become a U.S. citizen without at least admitting they weren’t one. You have to admit you aren’t a citizen before they’ll ever let you be one. A lot of folks just won’t do that. “I’ve tried my best. I’ve lived a healthy, clean life.”

My friends, you can’t become a citizen until you admit, until you say, “Oh Lord Jesus Christ, I owe you everything because you invented me. You made me. I should be loving you with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, but I don’t. I have no rights before you at all. I am an alien.” Then secondly, you turn around and you say, “Oh Lord, because of what Jesus Christ did, oh Father, because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, he bought my citizenship for me.”

As you transfer your trust from yourself to Jesus Christ, he transfers your citizenship from darkness into light. When you do that, you’re in. You’re a citizen. Are you a citizen? Are you a citizen living like an alien? Are you an alien living like a citizen? Let’s apply this to our hearts in a moment of silent reflection. Take time. Think it through. Go to him, pray, and apply this truth to your own heart. With the Spirit’s help, let’s do that now.

 ABOUT THE PREACHER

In 1989 Dr. Timothy J. Keller, his wife and three young sons moved to New York City to begin Redeemer Presbyterian Church. In 20 years it has grown to meeting for five services at three sites with a weekly attendance of over 5,000. Redeemer is notable not only for winning skeptical New Yorkers to faith, but also for partnering with other churches to do both mercy ministry and church planting.  Redeemer City to City is working to help establish hundreds of new multi-ethnic congregations throughout the city and other global cities in the next decades.

Dr. Tim Keller is the author of several phenomenal Christo-centric books including:

Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It (co-authored with Greg Forster and Collin Hanson (February or March, 2014).

Encounters with Jesus:Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions. New York, Dutton (November 2013).

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. New York, Dutton (October 2013).

Judges For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (August 6, 2013).

Galatians For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (February 11, 2013).

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World. New York, Penguin Publishing, November, 2012.

Center ChurchDoing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, September, 2012.

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. New York: 10 Publishing, April 2012.

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. New York: Riverhead Trade, August, 2012.

The Gospel As Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices (editor and contributor). Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York, Dutton, 2011.

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (Retitled: Jesus the KIng: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God). New York, Dutton, 2011.

Gospel in Life Study Guide: Grace Changes Everything. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2010.

The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York, Dutton, 2009.

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Priorities of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. New York, Riverhead Trade, 2009.

Heralds of the King: Christ Centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney (contributor). Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009.

The Prodigal God. New York, Dutton, 2008.

Worship By The Book (contributor). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1997.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 1, 2013 in Sermons, Tim Keller

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

THE SECRET TO DEALING WITH FEAR AND ANXIETY

prayer before a cross

By Ed Welch

“Humble yourselves.” That’s the secret. It has been there all along, but we rarely use it.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Fear and anxiety sufferers like myself have tried on a number of Scripture passages over the years. We might start with Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life . . .” (Matthew 6:26). When we need something easier to memorize we move on to Philippians 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

These passages work very well as counters to low-level anxiety. But, in the face of an anxiety assault—they aren’t enough. At those times, they can sound like mantras that are devoid of power, which is actually a good thing. Anxious and fearful people can easily slip into taking Scripture as a pill. Take one passage twice a day for two weeks and your symptoms will be gone. When the pill doesn’t work we have two choices. We search for another treatment, or we confess that we are using Scripture as a self-help book for symptom relief, in which case it is time to get back to basics. If you choose to get back to biblical basics, Peter’s exhortation to humble ourselves is a great place to start.

I had an anxiety assault recently. I was facing perhaps the worst fear I could imagine, and there was nothing I could do about it. What a mercy that I was confronted with the call to be humbled before the Lord. It resulted in a simple prayer.

“Lord, you are God and King. I am your servant. I know you owe me nothing. For some reason you have given me everything in Jesus. I trust you. And please give me grace to trust you.”

A few minutes later, my prayer moved even closer to Scripture.

“Father, forgive me for always wanting things my way. By your mighty hand you have created all things. And by your mighty hand you have rescued your people. I want to live under your mighty hand. Please have mercy.”

It sounds very simple—and it is—but it changes everything. This is the secret to dealing with fears and anxiety. The words of God, and the comfort of the Spirit, become much more obvious when we are repentant and humble before him. No deals—“if you spare me from this suffering then I will . . .” Just simple trust. We trust him because he is God, not because he is going to immediately remove our anxieties or our fear-provoking situation.

This passage has been a secret because we have typically entered it at verse 7, “cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” But to understand its meaning, you need to start with the preceding verse, “Humble yourselves.”

“Humble yourselves” is the only exhortation in the passage. This is what Peter wants us to hear (and obey). If we jump in at the middle—it makes no sense. We can’t cast our cares on him until we have recognized that he is God and we are his servants who have also been elevated to become his children. A paraphrase could read like this (and I highly recommend putting Scripture into your own words.)

Humble yourself before the Lord. This shouldn’t be too difficult. After all, he is God and King, Lord of all. He is the Creator. You belong to him. The creature is the possession of the Creator. Humble yourself before your King. And here is one way to express this new-found posture of humility: cast your cares on him. Did you catch that? When you come humbly before the King he reveals his unlimited love. Who would have thought? He actually wants you to cast your burden on him. You were never intended to carry those burdens alone. He is the mighty God who never leaves. You can trust him. And this casting is no mere act of your will. It comes as you know that he is God and you are not. Oh, and you can be sure that he will lift you up from your kneeling position and give you more than you ever expected.

A little wordy, in contrast to Peter’s more succinct version, but rambling and embellishment give us more time to meditate on the logic of the passage.

The secret is to
…pause before you head into your favorite passage on fear,
…consider the greatness of God,
…add some of your own confession and repentance as a way to drive the message of humility home, and         then
…remember some of those sweet words of God to fearful people.

*Source: http://www.ccef.org/blog/secret-dealing-fear-and-anxiety – April 19, 2011

If you want to read more on fear, Ed has written two books on the subject: Running Scared andWhen I Am Afraid.


Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a neuro-psychology specialty from the University of Utah as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary. Ed has been counseling for over twenty-six years and has written many books and articles on biblical counseling.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 27, 2013 in Devotions, Help For Mid Life

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Dr. R.C. Sproul Answers The Question: “Why Don’t We Know God?”

WHY WE DO NOT KNOW GOD

In order to speak to the question, “Why don’t we know God?” we must first grant that we do, in a sense, know God. So we can hardly speak to the question, “Why don’t we?” without making the kind of distinction that Dr. Packer makes. Dr. Packer distinguishes between the different ways in which we may know God. He speaks of the distinction between notitia and cognitio, that is, the difference between an intellectual awareness or mental apprehension of something and a more profound or deep relational knowledge of someone or something.

Obviously, the Bible uses the verb “to know” in at least these two ways and perhaps even more widely. There are different levels, degrees, or ways in which we can know things and persons. That is why the Scriptures say on some occasions that men do not know God, that men are in darkness concerning God, yet on other occasions that men do know God. Unless the Bible is speaking with a forked tongue, or unless we violate radically the Reformed principle of the coherency of Scripture, we have to conclude that the Bible is speaking from different perspectives about different kinds of knowledge. Perhaps we can circumvent the dilemma by making these distinctions. But one thing is certain: no one knows God at the depth to which it is possible to know God. And that is the question with which we must wrestle: Why do we not know God as intimately, deeply, personally and comprehensively as it is possible for us to know him?

Willful Ignorance

The answer to that question does not require an extended dissertation. The reason that we do not know God as intimately, deeply, personally, and comprehensively as we possibly could is because we do not want to know God intimately, deeply and comprehensively. Moreover, even though we may be redeemed, even though we may be “the elite of the elect,” there still remains within us the residual elements of our fallenness. Our natures have been regenerated, but the sin that dwells within us has not been eradicated and will not be, this side of glory. So as long as there remains any disposition within us to sin there is a propensity toward ignorance of the things of God. I would like to focus our attention on a detailed analysis of why men do not know God to the degree that it is possible to know him. The basis for this analysis is the first chapter of Romans, beginning at verse 18.

In the part of the prologue that is found in verses 16, 17 and 18, Paul maintains that he is not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith. Then we find the thematic statement of the Epistle: “For therein [that is, ‘in the gospel’] is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” This is the topic sentence for the whole Epistle: the righteousness of God is revealed through faith. So, in a word, Paul is concerned with revelation. But notice, he begins in verse 18, not with the revelation of God’s mercy, grace, or justification, but with the revelation of God’s wrath: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”

What we find here, as always in Scripture, is that God’s wrath is never arbitrary, capricious, irrational or demonic, but that it is always a response to something evil. God’s wrath is revealed against unrighteousness and ungodliness. It is not a wrath revealed against righteousness, godliness or piety, but against unrighteousness and ungodliness. Unrighteousness and ungodliness are general terms—wide-sweeping, wide-encompassing descriptive terms. But we must not stop here, for Paul moves from the general to the particular. He does not leave us to wonder about what particular form of unrighteousness, what specific kind of ungodliness is provoking the wrath of God. Rather, Paul names the child. He mentions it in the second clause of the sentence: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold [that is, ‘suppress’] the truth in unrighteousness.” The specific provocation of God’s wrath is human suppression of truth.

If you go to different translations of the Bible, you will find a wide variety of English phrases used to translate the last part of verse 18. The old King James Version says, “who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” Some translations say, “hindering the truth.” One translator has preferred to say “repress the truth.”

Let us go back to the old King James Version: “holding the truth in unrighteousness.” That whole phrase seems a bit archaic, does it not? How does one hold truth? Truth is an abstract thing; truth is not quantitative. How can we use tactile, empirical terms to describe truth? We do not hold truth; we hold a wristwatch, or we hold onto something. But there are different ways to hold things. If I hold a wristwatch, that is one kind of holding. If I hold onto a lectern, that is another kind of holding. If I hold my wife, hopefully that is an altogether different kind of holding. What kind of holding does the apostle have in mind here? Well, notice that we can hold something up, or we can hold something down. The verb used here literally means “to hold down, to incarcerate, to hold back,” and it suggests the notion that one must use force to repress a counterforce. The way I like to think of “holding down” is of a giant spring compressed to its point of highest tension. In order to hold that spring in place, one must exert all kinds of counterpressure to keep it compressed; otherwise it will spring up by its own tension and perhaps even injure the one who is seeking to hold it back.

So why is Paul using this verb with respect to truth? He is talking about the human effort that brings the wrath of God upon man. It is man’s active, positive resistance to God’s truth.

Sufficient Revelation

The reason that God is angry is further elucidated in verse 19, where Paul says, “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has shown it unto them.” If Paul had merely said, “What could have been known about God was available to man,” that would have been reason enough for God to reveal his wrath against those who did not avail themselves of a divinely given opportunity to know him. That in itself would have been a serious sin against our Creator. But Paul is not simply saying: God has made knowledge of himself available to men and men have never made use of this opportunity. No, he is saying that the knowledge of God which he has revealed to all men has been made plain, not obscure, and that mankind has rejected it.

Let me comment on that with an illustration from the academic world. There are different ways in which you can bring students to a state of knowledge. You can say to them, “Look, we have a course in the Doctrine of God. I am the professor in this course, but I am not going to teach you anything; I am simply going to moderate the course. Each student is responsible to lecture. If you want to know about the Doctrine of God, just go to the library and find those books that have something to say about the Doctrine of God and then come in and give your paper.” That is one way I could do it. Or I could say, “Look, I want you to do heavy research about the Doctrine of God. So I am going to take all the books in the library that deal with the Doctrine of God and put them together in one place on the reserve shelf. I am going to make it easy for you to discover this information.” In other words, I would be facilitating the student’s efforts to learn something about the Doctrine of God. Or, finally, I could go even further. I could put those books on the reserve shelf, and then I could take the student by the hand, march him over to the library, show him where the reserve shelf is, take each book off the shelf, open it up to the first page, and say to him, “Listen to this,” and start to read it.

I think that Paul is getting at something like this last illustration. God does not just make the knowledge available. He shows himself to us, as the apostle says. How thoroughly that knowledge has been received remains a question. But one thing is certain: God has revealed himself to all men with sufficient clarity and with sufficient content as to render men inexcusable. He has presented himself with enough clarity, with enough revelation, to remove the cry of ignorance as a justifying reason for a person’s rejection of him.

Assured Results

Paul goes onto say that when men refuse to honor God and refuse to acknowledge him even though they know he is there, their thinking becomes “foolish” and their minds “darkened.” Have you ever read the works of David Hume? Have you ever read the works of Jean-Paul Sartre? These men are great thinkers. David Hume, I think, is one of the most formidable opponents that the Christian faith has ever had to wrestle with. How can men who have clearly and blatantly denied the existence of God be so scholarly, so knowledgeable, and manifest such high gifts of intelligence? The answer is in this text. Once a man refuses to acknowledge what he knows to be true he can go on to construct magnificent systems of philosophy. He can manifest gifts of intellectual acumen and brilliance. But if he is consistent, if his starting point in the procedure involves an obstinate rejection of what he knows to be true, his system can end only in futility. Imagine the scientist who starts his scientific endeavor by denying what he knows to be the basic facts. The only way such a scientist can arrive at any kind of truth is by a happy inconsistency, by compounding his errors to such a degree that possibly he will be fortunate enough to stumble onto some truth.

The pagan adds insult to injury, Paul continues, for not only does he begin his systematic approach by refusing to acknowledge what he knows to be true and thereby working continuously with a darkened mind but, having done this, he tells the world that he is wise. Paul says, “ … professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” Sinful man, after he repudiates what he knows to be true, then has the audacity to say to God and to the world, “I am a wise man.” But God says that the wisdom of sinful man is foolishness!

In the Scriptures the designation “fool” is not primarily an intellectual evaluation. When God says that a man is a fool, he is not saying that he is dull-witted. He is not saying that he has a low I.Q. or that he is a poor student. The term “fool” is a judgment of man’s character. It is more of a moral evaluation than an intellectual one. It is the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God.”

Foolishness is in many of the catalogues of serious sins in the New Testament, along with adultery and murder and things like that. Foolishness is a moral refusal to deal honestly with truth.

Undefined Anxiety

We notice next that men’s foolishness of compounded. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged “the glory of the incorruptible God” for images resembling mortal man, birds, animals or reptiles. Therefore, “God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”

What happens after the truth is held down, after the truth is repressed? Is there a vacuum? No! Immediately an exchange takes place. Substitution occurs.

It is valuable to talk about this in contemporary psychological terms. Johannes Spavink, the Dutch scholar, finds in this text a statement about man’s psychological prejudice. Spavink asks: Why do men repress or suppress things? He says that knowledge which is most likely to be suppressed is knowledge which comes to us in the framework of the traumatic. We try to push down knowledge that frightens us or is unpleasant. We have a kind of psychocybernetic system with which we screen from our conscious mind those things which are unpleasant. But the question I ask you in modern psychological terms is this: Is the memory of a threatening or traumatic experience destroyed by our repression? I do not know of any psychologist or biochemist who would say that those memory notions or images are destroyed. Rather, we bury them or push them down.

So, our present state of consciousness is dark, but the knowledge has not been destroyed. For example, let us say that I have repressed negative feelings about my mother. I am not even conscious of these feelings. But I begin to have undefined anxiety. I begin to worry, and I do not know why I am worried. When I begin to experience restlessness I go to a psychologist to help me work through my anxiety state.

The doctor says, “What’s the matter?”

I say, “I have anxiety.”

“Why do you have anxiety?”

“I don’t know. That’s why I came to see you. I’m worried, and I don’t know why I’m worried. Help me to find out.”

The doctor begins to probe my inner man to see where the injury is and how I can be brought again to health and wholeness. As he goes through my medical history he does not pay attention simply to the words I say. He is also carefully observant of my mannerisms, my gestures, and every kind of symbolic activity with which I am communicating my deepest feelings. Eventually in our discussions he notices that every time he asks me about my mother, or every time I say something about my mother, I twitch my shoulder. So he thinks, “Every time Sproul says something about his mother he has this awful twitch.” He asks, “Do you have any kind of bad feelings about your mother?”

“My mother?” (Twitch) I ask in astonishment. “I don’t feel anything bad about my mother!” (Twitch)

But he knows that somewhere in the past I have had a bad experience with my mother, and he knows that this knowledge has not been destroyed but that it is only exchanged for the gesture. In this way it is (perhaps) still a problem but not quite as threatening as the original experience. In the same way, most people do not say simply, “There is no God”; rather they create a new God, one who is less threatening, less terrifying, less of a problem.

Let me illustrate this. A few years ago I was watching the David Frost show, and he was interviewing Madalyn Murray O’Hair. They began discussing whether or not there is a God, and David Frost suddenly became a great champion of the Christian faith, defending it against O’Hair. The discussion got so out of hand that Frost became angry and decided to determine the controversy by a show of hands. He turned to the studio audience and asked, “How many of you believe in some kind of supreme being, some kind of higher power, something greater than yourselves?” Almost everybody in the audience raised his hand.

I waited breathlessly to see what Madalyn Murray O’Hair would say to that kind of response. She said, “Well, what do you expect from the masses who come to this studio? What do they know? Give them time to catch up with modern knowledge, and this myth will disappear.” That is the tack she took. I thought that if she had been clever she would have said, “Just a minute, Mr. Frost. Let me pose the question.” Then, turning to the audience, she would say something like this. “I know that some of you believe in something higher than yourself, some higher power, some faceless, nameless, contextless, unknown god who makes no claims on your existence, who never stands in judgment over your morality, who does not demand the sacrifice of your life. Anybody can believe in that kind of god. But do you believe in Yahweh, the Lord God of Israel, who thunders from Sinai, ‘You will have no other gods before me’? Do you believe in a god who demands obedience to his perfect law and who calls men to repentance? How many of you believe in a god who makes absolute demands upon your life?” What do you suppose the vote would have been like?

The “Supreme Being,” the “Ground of Being,” “Ultimate Concern”—all these titles are nonthreatening. They have no substance. They represent our most sophisticated efforts at idolatry, in which we exchange the truth of God for a lie, a nonthreatening lie. They speak of a God who never judges us, who never calls us to repentance, a cosmic grandfather who says, “Boys will be boys.” That is the kind of God we have, not only in the secular world but in our churches.

The Immutable God

When I was writing the book Psychology of Atheism, I worked through three great attributes of God: holiness, sovereignty, and omniscience. But then I remembered a sermon I had read years before by Jonathan Edwards entitled, “Man Naturally God’s Enemy.” I wondered what Edwards had to say about why men hate God. So I went back to read that sermon. At the beginning Edwards said, “There are four things about God that make men hate him.” I thought, “Four things? What did I miss?” And I wondered if Edwards had found the same things I had found.

He said, “The first thing that terrifies man is God’s holiness.”

I said, “Aha! I got one right!”

Then he said, “The second thing man hates about God is his omniscience.” By this time my opinion of Edwards as a scholar was rising.

He went on, “The third thing that men hate about God is his sovereignty.” I could hardly believe that I had put my finger on the same things. But what was the fourth one? What had I missed?

I turned the page and read, “Perhaps you are wondering what the fourth one is?” Edwards had stolen the words right out of my mouth. Then I read: “The fourth thing about God that men hate is his immutability.” Immutability? Why would that be so threatening? Why should that bother us? Edwards explained. “Man faces this dilemma: Not only does he know and know clearly that God is holy and omniscient and sovereign, but he knows that God will always be holy, he will always be omniscient, he will always be sovereign. And there is nothing we can possibly do to make him less holy, less omniscient, or less sovereign. These attributes are not open to negotiation. We cannot find God involved in a process of change whereby he can enter into certain mutations to compromise with us.”

From age to age, the hound of heaven brings his light into a world of darkness; but men love the darkness rather than the light because their deeds are evil.

About the Author: Dr. R.C. Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education ministry located near Orlando, Florida. His teaching can be heard on the program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and in 40 countries worldwide. He is the executive editor of Tabletalk magazine and general editor of The Reformation Study Bible, and the author of more than seventy books (including some of my all time favorites: The Holiness of God; Chosen By God; Reason to Believe; Essential Truths Of The Christian Faith;  Knowing Scripture; Willing to Believe;  Intimate Marriage; Pleasing God; If There’s A God, Why Are There Atheists?, and Defending The Faith) and scores of articles for national evangelical publications. Dr. Sproul also serves as president of Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and Reformation Bible College. He currently serves as Senior Minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew’s in Sanford, FL.  The article above was adapted from the chapter entitled “Why We Do Not Know God” from the book: Our Sovereign God: Addresses Presented to the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, 1974-1976. James M. Boice, ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Paul David Tripp on What We All Hate: Waiting!

5 Reasons Why God Calls Us to Wait – By Paul David Tripp

In ministry you will be both called to wait and also find waiting personally and corporately difficult. So it is important to recognize that there are lots of good reasons why waiting is not merely inescapable but necessary and helpful. Here are a few of those reasons.

(1) Because We Live in a Fallen World

We are called to wait because the broken condition of the world makes everything we do harder. Nothing in this life or in your ministry really functions as originally intended. Something changed when sin entered the world, and in rebuking Adam, God summarized that change: “cursed is the ground . . . through painful toil you will eat of it. . . . It will produce thorns and thistles for you. . . . By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Genesis 3:17-19). Sin brought friction and trouble and pain and sweat and a thousand other “thorn and thistle” complications to absolutely every aspect of life. We find ourselves waiting because everything in a fallen world is more laborious and entangled than it really ought to be.

Sin also put greed and fear and arrogance and jealousy and self-worship into the souls of all who live this thorn-and-thistle life. We must wait because, by being selfish, impatient, competitive, driven, anxious, and angry, we make life and ministry harder for one another in an endless variety of ways. This is why the seemingly easy leadership conversation becomes the full-blown conflict, why the once-sweet ministry relationship gets stained with hurt and acrimony, and why the church at times sadly functions as a tool of personal power rather than an instrument of worship and redemption.

Processes and people are all affected—everything and everyone has been damaged by the Fall. We must wait, because in a world that is broken, everything we do is harder and more complicated than it was ever meant to be.

(2) Because God Is Sovereign

We must wait because we are not writing our own personal and ministry stories. Life does not work the way we want it to, in the time we want it to. You and I do not live in the center of the universe. That place is forever occupied by God and God alone. Our individual stories and the stories of our churches are part of the great origin-to-destiny story that he alone authors. Waiting becomes immediately easier when you realize God is sovereign (and you are not) and when you further reflect on the reality that he is the ultimate source of everything that is wise, loving, and good.

Waiting, therefore, is not a sign that your world is out of control. Rather, it is a sign that your world is under the wise and infinitely attentive control of a God of fathomless wisdom and boundless love. This means you can rest as you wait, not because you like to wait, but because you trust the One who is calling you to wait.

(3) Because God Is a God of Grace

Waiting is one of God’s most powerful tools of grace. It’s important to realize in your ministry that God doesn’t just give us grace for the wait. The wait itself is a gift of grace. You see, waiting is not only about what you will receive at the end of the wait. Waiting is about what you will become as you wait.

In calling us to wait, God is even rescuing those of us in ministry from our bondage to our own plan, our own wisdom, our own power, our own control. In calling us to wait, God is freeing us from the claustrophobic confines of our own little kingdoms of one and drawing us into a greater allegiance to his kingdom of glory and grace. Waiting is more than being patient as situations and other people change. Waiting is about understanding that you and I desperately need to change, and that waiting is a powerful tool of personal change. God is using the grace of waiting to change us at the causal core of our personhood: the heart. Now, in ministry, that’s a good thing!

(4) So We Can Minister to Others

Waiting is central to any ministry activity. If you are truly committed to being part of what God is doing in the lives of others, you will be willing to wait. Personal heart and life change is seldom a sudden event. Usually it is a process. You and I do not determine when and how the winds of the Spirit will blow, and people do not often become what they need to become overnight.

This means that in ministry we are called to have the same conversation again and again. We are called to pick that person up after each failure, to be willing to forgive and forbear, to remind him or her once more of God’s presence and grace, and to be willing to have our lives slowed down and complicated in the process. People of grace and love are always people who are willing to wait.

(5) For the Increase of God’s Glory

Finally, we are called to wait because everything in life and ministry exists not for our comfort and ease but for God’s glory. The whole redemptive story is written for one purpose and one purpose alone: the glory of the king.

Waiting is hard for us because we tie our hearts to other glories. We so often are tempted to live and minister for the glory of human acceptance, of personal achievement, of power and position, of possessions and places, and of comfort and pleasure. So when God’s glory requires that these things be withheld from us—things we look to for identity, meaning, and purpose—we find waiting a grueling, burdensome experience.

Waiting means surrendering your glory. Waiting means submitting to his glory. Waiting means understanding that you were given life and breath for the glory of another. Waiting gives you opportunity to forsake the delusion of your own glory and rest in the God of awesome glory. Only when you do that will you find what you seek, and what you were meant to have: lasting identity, meaning, purpose, and peace in Christ. In this way waiting is is much more than a burden for you to bear; it is a precious gift for you to receive with joy.

Dr. Paul David Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is “Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life.” Tripp is also professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. Tripp has written many books on Christian living that are read and distributed internationally. He has been married for many years to Luella, and they have four grown children. *This Article originally appeared on the Gospel Coalition Web Site on October 24, 2011.

 

Tags: , , , ,

Book Review: When Will My Life Not Suck? By Ramon Presson

How To Live and Thrive in the Real World

 Most people have thought and spoken something similar to the title of this book. I for one think the title is unfortunate because it makes the book sound more sophomoric than it actually is. However, I think that every Christian has thought or uttered the words of the title – if not the actual words – definitely with the attitude that the title conveys. It’s actually a very good book which deals with and answers a lot of the questions and struggles that Christians wrestle with living in a fallen world.

The author primarily uses the apostle’s Paul’s writing to the Philippians as a guide in helping the reader deal with scars from the past, moving from “why?” to “what next?” and going from discontent to contentment. If there is a theme that ties everything together it’s the fact that we can use everything in life that we have encountered and integrate into our lives for something good and in order to bring glory to God.

I think this book has a lot of good principles from the life of Jesus, the apostle Paul, and the author’s personal life experiences as a counselor and pastor (he is very transparent and authentic) in order to show how we can go from our default modes to a God oriented way of thinking that leads to a productive, effective, and purposeful life.

The book is very encouraging, helpful, and full of wise advice. I recommend it highly – especially for people who feel like they have been given a raw deal. It will help get you out of the doldrums and onto the right track again.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Book Review: Turning Mountains into Molehills By Warren W. Wiersbe

How To Turn Your Mountains Into Molehills

 This concise devotional by the prolific writer Warren W. Wiersbe consists of 30 short devotionals (one for each day of the month) originally aired over “Songs in the Night” – the radio broadcasts of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago.

I have read through this book several times over the years. It is especially good to read when you are battling discouragement, depression, or going through some kind of adversity. Each chapter stands alone and is full of Biblical principles, insights, and applications for helping you turn your own personal mountains into molehills by being reminded of God’s power, sovereignty, and love for you in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

I hope that you will get this book and be encouraged as I have so many times over the years. I highly recommend it as a treasury of reminders of God’s love for you, and how He always works out everything for our good and His glory.

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: