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See You in St. Louis!

I am already getting excited for our time in St. Louis.  God has always been really faithful to show up and move when we gather.  We will be covering several different topics but allow me to let some of my thunder out of the bag.

          I love how the gospel creates a holy people—I wish more pastors understood this. People don’t stumble into godliness; they don’t wake up one day knowing Jesus deeply and pursuing the conformity that Jesus commands and the Spirit empowers.  However, I am weary of giving people checklists and refuse to lay a weight on people that Jesus didn’t.  I think that’s why I have been encouraged by the idea of “Grace Driven Effort” since I first read where Don Carson said it. Paul uses great phrases to describe our growth into holiness and reflecting the Glory of God and His reign and rule over our lives.  Paul talks about “training ourselves in righteousness” (1 Tim. 4:7), “laboring in prayer," “running to win," “counting it all a loss” (Philippians 3), and “beating his body” (1 Corinthian 9:26-27).  This language doesn’t paint the picture of sitting on the couch and “falling” into godliness. 

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"...heaven isn’t a place for those who fear hell
—it’s a place for those who love God."

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          The problem as I perceive it as a Pastor is that most of those who claim to know and love God want to see sin lose its power in their lives and walk in greater intimacy with Christ; most are exhausted and have been trying to mortify sin by promises and threats rather than through the weapons grace provides. By "promises" I mean they believe that they will have life to the “full” and get a great house in heaven if they behave in this manner or that manner.  In Dallas this plays itself out with church attendance and comparing ourselves to others.  If I go to church frequently and am better than I was a couple years ago or if I’m better than other people who attend my church then I must be good.  We love to compare our strengths to others’ weaknesses and grow confident in our goodness. By "threats" I mean that many try to behave and modify their behavior because they fear hell and God’s wrath. They try to modify their behavior so they can earn their way out of hell.  The problem with this is that heaven isn’t a place for those who fear hell—it’s a place for those who love God.

            Another very popular sport in the Bible belt is fighting residual sin with our own vows and resolution—these become our defense.  In the end, you are simply pitting sin against sin and in that scenario you lose.  We fight sin and grow in godliness by using the weapons grace provides.  There are at least three:

Weapons of Grace

1.     The Word of God: 2 Timothy 3:16-17All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

The Holy Spirit illumines the Scriptures as the storehouse of weaponry in the battle against sin and for godliness; all that we need to stand and fight are found with in its pages.  The reason I think so many people stumble about when it comes to residual sin and maturing in Christ is they have no idea what the Scriptures say when it comes to those subjects.  The Scriptures are where we find and are trained to do battle in such a way that victory is found.

2.     The Blood of Christ: Ephesians 2:13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 

One of the reasons Paul constantly preaches the gospel to people who already know and believe it is the human tendency to run back to the law instead of trusting in the blood of Christ to cleanse them from all unrighteousness.  You see this especially in Galatians 2:20-3:5.  When we stumble and fall we run to God not from Him.  This is made possible by have God’s wrath removed from us and absorbed by Christ and Christ’s righteousness imputed to us.  A mark of Christian maturity and genuine Gospel understanding is not running away from God to clean yourself up and then come back but a broken and contrite spirit that runs to Him asking Him for forgiveness and strength.

3.     The Promises of the Covenant: Hebrews 9:15Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

I remember singing a song in VBS as a kid about God hating liars.  I knew I was in trouble.  If the 10 Commandments were a quiz or test I would have easily failed.  I’ve been guilty of every one of them.  The law was given to show me I can’t be perfect, that I’m going to fall short, and that I am in desperate need of a Savior (Romans 1-7).  When we stumble and fall the Spirit reminds us of the Scriptures that promise that there has been a death for those failures and that there is a new covenant resting on Christ now and not on my ability to obey the law.  This allows me to pursue Christ without fear and by “beholding the glory of the Lord [I am] transformed” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

8 Comments

Lynn McIntosh

on Sep 10, 2012 :: 2:01 pm

I really enjoyed reading the article! I found myself hanging on to every word. Thanks!

Joel Quile

on Sep 10, 2012 :: 2:17 pm

Thanks Matt for describing the place between the two camps: Pride and Fear. Sanctification isn't my job. Niether is "Sofafication" (sitting on couch and waiting to fall). Praying for Galatians 4:19 to be my great pursuit.

Gwynne

on Sep 10, 2012 :: 3:27 pm

I believe that you are right about all three. It is good to know we can come to Jesus with all our short comings and he forgives.

Aaron

on Sep 10, 2012 :: 4:16 pm

Well written! I love how you pound chasing after Christ because we have grace that allows us to. Not because of fire insurance to get us out of hell and not because we try and measure up so God owes us, because the whole point is you get God! And anything else compared to God is basically irrelevant.

Jana

on Sep 10, 2012 :: 6:44 pm

Where is the scripture reference for, "beholding his glory I am transformed"?
This is a great blog! Thanks!

Ben

on Sep 11, 2012 :: 11:05 am

Matt, I love your preaching. Preach on, bro. God is so evident in his use of you for the kingdom. I'm grateful for men like you who encourage us. Praise God.

Tom

on Sep 13, 2012 :: 6:22 am

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Cor 3:18
The preceding verses speak to what unveiled faces means- like Matt said no longer being under the Law. I love the idea of "beholding" -looking intently at something or someone (Jesus) with a sense of awe in an attempt to take it all in. It has a connotation of cherishing in our hearts as we look upon the person; adoringly, and mot wanting to miss one detail. Suspended in a time standing still contentment we hope never ends. Like looking at a new infant child closely for the first time or at your spouses eyes and seeing they are so much more than green. They are flecks of 50 or more different colors in their eyes. Beholding: looking intently at Jesus with a deep desire to be so in awe of His beauty that my heart longs to be pleasing to Him out of love and thanksgiving. Willingness to work with the Holy Spirit, and stop fighting against Him, even if it means a painful slow death of self (Gal 2:20) in order to please the heart of the One who has captivated my heart and soul as a behold His infinite beauty, splendor, holiness, and majesty. Grace driven effort puts me in the place where God can bless me by allowing me to behold more and more of His beauty :)

Bill Chomaschuk

on Sep 14, 2012 :: 10:58 pm

We are salt,let's get out of the shaker and share the gospel far and wide!

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Matt serves as Lead Pastor of Teaching at The Village Church in the Dallas Fort Worth area. He has served in that role since December 2002 and describes his tenure at The Village as a re-planting effort where he was involved in changing the theological and philosophical culture of the congregation. The church has witnessed a tremendous response growing from 160 people to over 11,000 with campuses in Flower Mound, Dallas and Denton.

Alongside his current role as lead pastor, Matt is involved in church planting efforts both locally and internationally through The Village and various strategic partnerships. Prior to accepting the pastorate at The Village, Matt had a vibrant itinerant ministry for over 10 years where he spoke to thousands of people in America and abroad about the glory of God and beauty of Jesus. His greatest joy outside of Jesus is being married to Lauren and being a dad to their three children, Audrey, Reid and Norah.

Recently, Matt was named president of Acts 29, a worldwide church-planting organization. Over the last 10 years, Acts 29 has emerged from a small band of brothers to over 400 churches in the United States and networks of churches in multiple countries.

Matt speaks at conferences throughout the world and has written a book, The Explicit Gospel, published in April 2012, his second book Creature of the Word, will be released in October 2012.