The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Month: August, 2013

Letter #14: Evangelism is not an Elective

Dear Jonathan,

I hope you are finding my letters encouraging and that they are not simply sounding like parental lectures. That is not my goal. I just want to share with you things I wish had been shared with me during my seminary journey.

You are just over the halfway point in this process, and I honestly believe you are growing in many great ways. I do think you are at a great point to pause and reassess why you are doing what you’re doing. Why are you even going to seminary?

Do you remember our early exchanges where we talked about the purpose of seminary? Instead of rehashing all those things, I think I’ll try to restate it all very simply…

You are going to seminary in order that you may better know God and make him known.

I think you are accomplishing the first half of that sentence. In all our exchanges, I can sense your excitement as your relationship with God deepens and widens. However, truly knowing God should always lead to us making him known! So…I hope you understand something that I completely missed during my seminarian years…

EvangelismEvangelism is not an elective!

It is crazy to think that you could actually spend three to four years of your life dedicated to theological studies, but never share anything you’re learning. How could one spend so much time soaking in the riches of who God is and never tell anyone?

I nearly did just that, and I do not want you to fall into the same pit as I did. The gospel by definition is news, and news it meant to be announced…shared! As you come to know God through Christ more and more, your heart should be aching to make him known…to declare the gospel!

Jonathan, it is so important that you find ways to interact with people who do not know Jesus. Make friends who are unbelievers. I’m not asking you to treat people like projects…looking at them as mere potential converts that will give you more stripes on your Christian black belt. No. I’m simply asking you to love people who do not know the love of Christ.

In doing this, sharing your faith will happen more organically, for we naturally talk about which we are passionate. You are passionate about Christ…make him known! Don’t wait for seminary to require this of you or offer a class on it…

Evangelism is not an elective…it is a directive from Jesus!

Grace and Peace,

J

*To know/understand the premise behind these letters please click here.

Take Care How You Hear

I was  on the phone with my wife and the conversation went like this…

Holly: “Jonathan…are you hearing me?”

Me: “Oh…wait…what did you say? I heard it, but I didn’t hear it!”

Holly: “Hmmmmph! I’ll say it again…try to hear me this time!”

I would venture to say that I am not the only husband to have experienced this conversation, nor am I only human being to have experienced the phenomenon of physically hearing words with my ears while completely not comprehending the meaning/message of what is being said.

We do this all the time. We hear, but we don’thear.

Funny…Jesus often issued a warning that went like this, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” In other words, we might have the physical capability of hearing words, but that doesn’t mean the message is being absorbed into our heart and life.

Jesus issues this warning in Luke 8 right after telling a parable about four different kinds of soil: a hardened path, rocky ground, thorns riddled earth, and good soil. Seed is sown in each, but for various reasons, in only takes root and grows in the good ground.

Luke 8:8b, “…and as he said these things, he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’”

What does Jesus mean?

Jesus actually goes on to explain the parable to his disciples in verses 9-15. He tells them that the seed, which is sown, is the Word of God and the four soils are representative of four groups of people who hear this Word, but only one group really hears. It is possible to listen to the Word of God without actually hearing it, and Jesus warns us that the consequences are eternally serious.

He closes with this admonishment in verse 18a, “Take care then how you hear…”

Whenever we have an opportunity to hear the Word of God, Jesus tells us to take care how we hear. Just because we have ears that function, and we use them to sit under the teaching/preaching of the Word, does not automatically guarantee that we are actively hearing. It is extremely important that we heed Jesus’ warning and instruction and pay special attention to how we are listening anytime we get to hear his Word.

So here are five brief thoughts on how we might take care in our hearing of the Word and listen with more than just our ears…

1. We must hear with our knees.
We should spend time on our knees in prayer before we hear the Word taught/preached. This prepares our hearts to truly hear from God and adjusts our attitude toward receptivity.

2. We must hear with our mind.
The Word of God renews our minds, calling us to conform our thinking to be inline with God’s instead of the world’s (Ro 8:5-8, 12:2). When we hear the Word of God taught, we should not “lean back” and passively listen for entertainments sake, but we should “lean into” the message and actively engage our minds.

3. We must hear with our heart.
God’s Word is not meant to feed the mind alone. A sermon should never be a mere intellectual exercise in theology, but it should challenge us on a heart level. Yes, the Word of God should engage our minds, but always for the purpose of transforming our heart, calling us to deeper affection for God and others.

4. We must hear with our hands.
In Matthew 7 Jesus says, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man…And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man…” Truly hearing Word renews our minds, transforms our hearts, and comes out through our hands. Whether or not we are actually hearing God’s Word is most easily seen through our actions.

5. We must hear with our feet.
The Word of God is the best news we will ever hear, and we are supposed to take that good news to others. Romans 10:15 declares, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” This changes how we listen to the Word preached, because we are no longer listening for us! This changes how we take notes or whether we actually take notes…because now we are listening in order to be able to re-preach the Word to the next person that needs to hear: perhaps our siblings, children, spouse, parents, friends, co-workers, or people we’ve yet to meet. All I know is that if I was being given a message of life and death that could save someone who was actively dying I would consume that message and relay it with haste!

We must take care how we listen! Jesus’ words are the words of eternal life (Jn 6:68) and he has called us to take those words to the very ends of the earth (Mt 28:19-20).

So I don’t want to be guilty of hearing God’s Word in the same way I have occasionally been guilty of hearing, but not hearing my wife.

I don’t want to hear without actually hearing.

As a matter of fact, I want to express my love through using the ears I have been given to actually, actively hear. So next time we sit under the preaching/teaching of the Word, let’s join together as believers and take care how we hear.

In the mean time, think I’m going to go call my wife and apologize.

Letter #13: Exegesis ≠ An Exit for Jesus

Dear Jonathan,

So you’ve finally made it far enough along in your language studies that you are getting to do some exegesis! I’ll be honest…the third and fourth semesters of Greek were among my favorite seminary courses. I loved digging into all the nuances of the original text and seeing the grammatical connections that really made the meaning leap right off the page!

Yet, I did notice that my dedication to exegesis began to cause a problem that you might encounter as well. I began to allow my obsession with Greek grammar to invade my teaching within the church more and more…to the point that the sharing of information became my end goal.

TBS-Koine-Greek-New-Testament-004My exegesis actually became an exit for Jesus.

Now before you get all up in arms and start defending your beloved language studies…hear me out. What I mean is this…I became so overly focused on exegesis that my teaching turned into technical lectures aimed primarily at educating my people.

I was filling heads with all sorts of knowledge, but I was not calling hearts toward a “knowing.”

The primary purpose of preaching is not education (though important), but encounter! We long for the Spirit to work through the Word and for people to encounter, see Jesus in all his glory and be drawn to him! We don’t want people to just walk out of a service knowing more about Jesus…we want them to know Jesus more!

The difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus is rather simple. The former involves the head only, while the latter involves the head and heart. Knowing about Jesus is the gaining of mere facts. Knowing Jesus means my heart is stirred with a  desire for him, a love for him, trust in him.

The aim of preaching is for people to come know Jesus more and more so that they may be equipped to make him known!

Now, does this lessen the importance of exegesis? May it never be! On the contrary it increases the importance of it! I need to be pointing people as accurately as I can to the one true God through Jesus. To do this, I must carefully study the meaning of his Word. But, the end goal of my study is not to simply transfer that meaning to my hearers, but for that meaning to transform my hearers.

My exegesis should not serve as an exit for Jesus, but as an escort to him!

I’m not telling you to never talk about Greek grammar from the pulpit or never to share technical information. What I am saying is always make sure that information is not your end goal!  Your end goal is that everything you share stir up people’s hearts to want to know Jesus!

Jonathan, be a good exegete! We desperately need good exegetes teaching in our churches! But, do not ultimately be an exegete, but a worshipper! Worship the God you see and come to know as you study the text and when you teach the text…help others toward worship as well.

Don’t let your exegesis serve as an exit for Jesus, but as an escort to him!

Grace and Peace,

J

*To know/understand the premise behind these letters please click here.

 

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