I’ve thought of a thousand ways to dress this up in a way that will capture your attention and stir you to action. I feel too urgent today to think anymore about how to say it just right. It’s not user-friendly or short. I trust the Lord will let it fall on the ears who need to hear it.
I have been vexed since the summer women’s Bible study. We walked through 1 Thessalonians and I cannot get out of my crawl the fact that in less than 2 years, a brand new church full of brand new Christians spread the ridiculously transforming experience of following Jesus to what is now modern-day Greece…and beyond. No email. No radio. No phone. No car. Just using words physically spoken with their mouths, backed up by a radical and noticeable change in their values, choices, view of death, the way they treated people and their response to suffering. They believed God and thought He was powerful enough to change them…for good. And it put in them a fire that burned them to the ground and left the living and true version of themselves, never to be the same again.
For the modern-day church-goer, whose primary attitude in “worship” seems to be “Oops, I Did it Again,” we can’t conceive of this kind of transformation, much less experience it. We have replaced personal holiness with authenticity and it is not the same thing by a long shot. Authenticity is good but it’s only the first page of the first chapter of holy, pure, righteous, God-besotted living. We say, “God understands that my situation is unique.” With all of the love in my heart, I say to you, “Fire on that hell!” No, our situation is not unique. The consequences for thinking that we can get away with sin because our situation is unique and “God understands” will not be good. In fact, at some point, God’s judgment IS to cut the strings (See Romans 1:24, 26, 28). That phrase in Romans 1, “God gave them over” is like the sound of “clods of dirt being thrown onto a casket.” Spiritual death has come and a terrifying silence is upon us.
Philippians 2 says that God has not only given Followers of Jesus the DESIRE to please God but the POWER to do so. That’s my sadness. To come to church week after week and to remain the exact same person (even if it’s being a nice person), doing the exact same things, going after the exact same goals in your jobs and your families and your retirement as everyone around you means you are not even getting to experience the profound adventure of faith in Jesus that comes with such peace that the word peace barely expresses what it settles inside of your soul. Being ALL IN, all burned to the ground, all dead, all out of any better hopes than Jesus and what He says to do is what it means to be a Christian. Nothing less. There is no other Gospel. Can you imagine getting in bed at night without feeling icky or regretful or weighing out what went well and what stunk or without a gnawing sense that something’s missing, without needing to medicate that gnawing with sex or alcohol or prescription drugs or TV or social media or shopping or impression management or activism or a thousand other things?
Okay, so all of that is the preface to what I am asking you to consider. My responsibility to God, as a minister of the Gospel, and to the elders, as a pastor in this church, is to equip you, the women of this church, to be and do what the Bible says we can be and do, to hold up the Word of God as the only mirror by which we can truly see who we are to be, and to exhort you over and over to be done with lesser gods and to ask God to draw you into the life which is truly Life.
With that in mind, I am begging God today to stir you up. If you are a young Christian (whether you are 18 or 81, whether you have been in the church your whole life or just started coming), would you find someone who has the fire of God in her eyes and ask her to teach you what to do next or get in a Discipleship Group (“D-Group”) at our church which will help you know the Word of God and let it have its way with you? If you are a mature Christian (no matter your biological age), would you consider what it looks like for you to follow the Biblical command to train the younger women in our church in some way? If you have suffered trauma in your life that keeps you tangled up (whether it’s something you have done or has been done to you), would you come and tell your story and let us figure out a pathway through? If you don’t know which of these women you are, would you come to me and let’s talk it through and pray and discern together what it would look like for you to live like Jesus if He were you? Scripture says it this way, “Come let us reason together. Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow.”
Curt Thompson says in his book, Anatomy of the Soul, “The process of being known is the vessel in which our lives are kneaded and molded, lanced and sutured, confronted and comforted, bringing God’s new creation closer to its fullness in preparation for the return of the King…. To be known means that you allow your shame and guilt to be exposed—in order for them to be healed.
I am begging us all to lay down the very thin and cracking veneer of having it all together and lash ourselves to the Word and to each other so that we can all forget what is behind and strain forward toward the Prize. Come be known. Come be exposed. Come be healed.
I know the holidays are upon us. It’s about to get busy for you. This is not a well-timed exhortation, but man, I am pleading with you to consider what I’m writing. Over the holidays, I would encourage us all to read two things as we pray:
- First, read whatever passage our sermons are on every day for the rest of that week. Ponder it, chew on it.
- Second, read The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield. You can get a taste of it from this article. What does this book have to do with anything I just said? It is a very radical and practical way to begin to be known and to live out the Gospel. It will unsettle you in all the best of ways. Get some friends together and read it. It will push you toward living like a glorious, bonfire of a believer in the midst of the cold, indifference of church-attending. Now that I’m writing this, I say we ALL read it together. Mid-week studies have ended for the year. The cold weather has called us indoors. It’s 10 chapters. If we read 2 chapters a week, we’d have it read by Christmas. I say we do it. Order it today HERE. Put it on your online reading device. We’ll start next week.
If you have read so far and are overwhelmed with where to begin and wondering if there’s any point because there’s already so much water under your bridge, remember this unexplainable, sacred miracle: God CAN put in you and me not just the DESIRE but also the POWER to live in a way that brings Him great glory and brings us great joy in every stage and season of life in which we find ourselves.
I love you immensely,