Final Words: The Seven Statements Of Christ On The Cross

seven-statements“Listen to this, oh ye purpose-driven, upwardly mobile, goal-setting high achievers.  He has done what we could not do.  Because we could not get up to God, God climbed down to us, got down on our level, and here, in the bloody, unjust crucifixion, we have at last descended to our level.  God has finished what God began.  It is finished.

What now is to be done by us? Nothing.

What might we learn from the lessons of this day?  Nothing.

What are we supposed to do for God before nightfall?  Nothing.  Did you miss his words?  ‘It is finished.’”

Thank God Its Friday by William H. Willimon

Christianity is synonymous with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; we should be preaching it week in and week out.  But, the Passion Week allows us to focus on His death and resurrection even more than usual.  There are so many rich traditions to practice during the Passion week, but one of my favorites is meditating on the last sayings of Jesus Christ.  There are many different books that could help guide your meditation, but here are three of my favorites:

The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross by A.W. PinkReformed pastor/theologian, A.W. Pink, is a guy you can always count on to get the job done.  In this work, Pink walks categorically through Jesus’ last words; he identifies them as words of: forgiveness, salvation, affection, anguish, suffering, victory, and contentment.  This work will undoubtedly help you experience the Cross in a new way during the Passion week.

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Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words from the Cross by William Willimon:  Willimon is undoubtedly a master wordsmith.  Pastoral and always provocative, he provides a great work on the seven last words from the cross.  Eugene Peterson nails it when he says this book is, “[an] urgent, demanding, glorious gospel work, [with] an altar call implicit in every paragraph.”

thank-god-its-friday-encountering-seven-last-words-william-h-willimon-paperback-cover-art”Passion: How Christ’s Final Day Changes Your Every Day by Mike McKinley: In this book, McKinley writes with an earthy, pastoral voice as he unpacks the drama of Jesus’ crucifixion.  ‘Passion’ is thoroughly rooted in the beauty of the gospel, and draws us back again and again to reflect on the timeworn truths that coincide with the reality of Jesus’ Crucifixion.

blogger-image--1086986184My hope and prayer for us is that we would experience the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ afresh this Easter.  Meditating on the words that Jesus cried out on the Cross is a great way to stir our hearts with affections for the sacrifice that our Lord and Savior endured for us.  It’s through his death and resurrection that we can now have an intimate relationship with our Father; let us rejoice and celebrate this during the Passion Week!

I Am Not Afraid I Will Lose Strategy – I Am Afraid I Will Lose My Soul

Not afraid

The story of the church in Ephesus can be told in five seasons. Season One, Ephesus is planted and begins to grow from Paul’s missionary work in A.D. 52. Season Two, Church Multiplication begins A.D. 54-57 during Paul’s third missionary journey as

  • the mission becomes wholistic
  • the miraculous abounds
  • and people burned their former occult items. (Acts 19:8-20)

We see the multiplication of disciples and the church itself in Acts 19:20. The spreading of the gospel didn’t stay in Ephesus either, but

“This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:10)

Season Three is sustained growth between A.D. 58-66. About a decade after the church had been started, Paul wrote a letter to the Ephesians commending their faith and love. A careful reading of this epistle shows that they had done well. They appeared well organized and busy. During these early years they had been growing, expanding and doing the will of God. He commends their sincerity (Ephesians 6:23-24). Season Four between A.D. 67-87 is the maturing of the Ephesian church as Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3-4), Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:25), and Apollos had all spent time watering the Ephesian church. Teaching is to Christians what watering is to plants – necessary and strengthening (1 Corinthians 3:6). It should have been one of the most thoroughly instructed of all the first-century congregations. The picture now is a well-watered and self-sufficient church. But then Season Five: it’s been 30 years since Paul’s last letter of commendation. And we find a startling letter from Jesus himself to the church in Ephesus. These people who started off so well, with authentic intentions to be faithful to the mission of God, find themselves losing their souls.

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. – Revelation 2:1-4

This fills me with fear and trembling. As a pastor, planter, and leader, I am not afraid I will lose strategy. I am afraid I will lose my soul. I am afraid of Ephesus. I pray season five never comes to Sojourn. Ephesus was hard-working, discerning, and enduring in the mission… but without their first love. Let’s pursue the wonderful craze of gospel-centered ministry, but let’s be careful to let our gospel-centeredness not be in name or even words alone. We were made for God and redeemed by God, to have blissful and loving communion with God. Church multiplication is crucial to the mission of God and I am grateful that church planting continues to be in the vogue. But may we labor together to plant, grow, and multiply healthy churches, while being cautious to never lose our first love. May all the planters and pastors of this generation aspire to be able to look back at their life in 50 years and joyfully exclaim to Christ: “You loved me first. You are my first love, sweeter now and when we first began.” To see more about our efforts on being a renewal driven church planting network check out Sojourn Network here or stop by our booth at T4G next week in Louisville. (The story of the seasons of Ephesus has been adapted from Churches that Multiply: A Bible Study on Church Planting. Elmer L. Towns & Douglas Porter. Beacon Hill Press, Kansas City: 2003).

Multiply Or Die: Ed Stetzer On Healthy Church Multiplication

All SNFor our April 6, 2014 Sunday Evening services we will have Dr. Ed Stetzer in town to preach on Church Multiplication. Stetzer believes that denominations and networks that fail to multiply churches “…have lost a big part of their purpose.” Multiplication is not optional, rather it is central to the mission of God’s church.

Dr. Stetzer often sees denominations and networks falling into similar pitfalls when it comes to multiplication. Here’s a list of his top six steps towards multiplication to counter the most common pitfalls:

1. Recognize that Multiplication is Part of Health.

The reality is that healthy living things multiply for the survival of their species. The lack of multiplication is an indicator of an unhealthy organism. If your denomination or network is healthy, it will have a strong emphasis on multiplication at every level.

2. Have Unity Around the Essentials.

Your denomination or network must have a well-defined plan for multiplication that includes (with explicit clarity) the theological, missiological, and ecclesiological expectations for churches within your ranks.

3. Define Cooperation Clearly.

Your denomination or network must clearly define cooperation. This step is closely related to the second. Cooperation occurs around a common set of beliefs– a common theological confession that leads to missiological cooperation.

4. Follow and Build the Right Leaders.

Church partnerships must follow good leaders and build leaders for the future. Don’t let your leadership choices be accidental; cultivate the kind of leaders that will continue to develop your denominational identity and lead a multiplication movement.

5. Celebrate Multiplication.

We celebrate the things that are important to us– and people get that. So, healthy denominations celebrate multiplication. I have said it before, but it bears saying again: What you celebrate, you become.

6. Grieve the Fact that the World is Filled with Lost People.

Finally, grieve lostness. It is that simple. Hurt for those who have not been transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Son God loves (Col 1:13)

Dr. Stetzer has been a formative mentor in my life and a dear friend to Sojourn Community Church. Please join us on this Sunday evening, April 6 at 5pm and 7pm at our  Midtown campus to hear more form Dr. Stetzer himself on the importance of Church Multiplication. Sojourn’s primacy agency of multiplying through church planting is through the Sojourn Network. If you are going to next week’s T4G conference, be sure to stop be their booth.

(The above is an adaptation of “Multiplying in Partnership: thoughts on the Work of Denominations and Networks” from “The Exchange Blog” run by Ed Stetzer on Christianity Today’s website).

A Great Communion and a Great Commission

On Thursday I preached for the chapel of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on John 20:19-23 focusing on renewal driven mission. I believe renewal driven mission flows from our great communion with Christ outward. fulfilling the Great Commission. You can watch the sermon here.

During the sermon, I shared this chart of comparing the ways we can feel like an orphan spiritually versus being a child of God.

OrphanDo you ever feel like orphan?

If you are in Christ, you are not. You are a beloved child of God. Renewal driven mission comes from being soaked in the truth of our union with Christ.

This chart is from Justin Buzzard’s blog, and originally from the work of World Harvest Mission. I also mentioned the story of World Harvest Mission’s founder, Jack Miller. You can learn more about World Harvest Mission and Jack Miller here. I am truly thankful for Southern as our partner in the gospel and my alma mater.

 

 

Jesus Rested & You Can Too

rest-daniel-blogGod has called us to life with him that is vastly different from our sub-human life of exhaustion. God has both created and redeemed us to rest by trusting Him, stopping our work, and enjoying Him. In previous posts we have explored the sub-human life of exhaustion and God’s design for rest in Genesis (creation) and Exodus (redemption). But now we will look at our ultimate example of rest and the one who secured our rest, Jesus.

The New Model: Jesus Retreating

Jesus himself models trusting, stopping, and enjoying in the gospels. I love looking at Jesus’ retreats in Mark’s gospel. Mark writes with such intensity, almost like he’s ADHD, and the frequent pauses that Jesus makes are in stark contrast to Mark’s writing style. (The English Standard Version of the Bible shows Mark using the word “immediately” 36 times in his 16 chapters.) Mark’s gospel moves from event to event at a frenetic pace, yet Mark shows an intimate and intentional Jesus trusting God, stopping his work, and enjoying being in his Father’s presence nine times.[1] There was a clear pattern of trust-stop-enjoy in the life of Jesus. One of my favorite examples is Mark 6:45-46:

“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.”

After feeding five thousand people, Jesus goes and climbs a mountain so he can pray. He was likely exhausted from the day’s events, yet he knew that the health of his soul was more important than anything else, even sleep. I picture Jesus slowly, methodically plodding up the mountain, gazing out across the water and breathing in the salty air above the Sea of Galilee. Jesus, deep in his heart, trusted God. He stopped from his work. He took time to simply enjoy the presence of his Father. Jesus was God’s Son in God’s World resting in God’s Spirit in these retreats. King of Universe, resting with His Father filled with the Holy Spirit. Rest is what he was enjoying. Trinitarian rest is what we are invited into. We often feel invited into God’s mission and work, but not into his rest. They are not opposed to one another, that is a false dichotomy. Serve at your church or witness to your neighbor from a rest you continually and voraciously pursue in God.

Jesus enjoyed rest while on mission. Jesus prioritized rest and the model he gives us is not one of simply sleeping in or going to the movies. No one in all of history has had a more important task to complete than Jesus. Yet we see him putting his work down and retreating. Jesus sees that sometimes battles are won by retreating. No matter what you are doing right now, regardless of how demanding your job is or the pressures of that project that is due soon, the health of your soul is more important. What you have before you is not more important than what Jesus was facing. Learn from his model and learn to retreat. Jesus stopped his working, trusted that his Father knew best, and he went away to enjoy God.

Hard Work: Rest in Hebrews

We’ve moved rapidly through the Bible in these posts, but hopefully the fog concerning rest is lifting and clarity of rest forming that: rest is one of the central themes of God’s story and we enter that rest as we trust God, stop our work, and enjoy God. The writer of Hebrews gives a beautiful summary of what we have covered in his first four chapters. He begins by declaring the greatness of our God in creation and moves to discussing the rebellious nature of God’s people. In chapters 3-4 he talks about rebellion within the context of rest. He describes rebellion against God as rejecting the seventh-day rest for which God created us. Hebrews 3:19 is one of the most haunting verses in all of scripture.

“So we see,” he writes, “that [the Jews] were unable to enter [God’s rest] because of unbelief.” Rest is directly tied to unbelief and, if you’re anything like me, that verse leaves you feeling helpless. I struggle with unbelief! How will I ever enter into God’s rest? The writer goes on to tell us to “strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” If our rest depends on our belief and our effort, the cause is hopeless.

But then comes Hebrews 4:14-16:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession… Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

There remains a deep, soul-satisfying rest for God’s people made available through the great high priest Jesus. In his opening sentences, the writer of Hebrews affirms that

“after making purification for sins, [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

The good news of the Gospel is that we are loved and accepted today into a whole new way of living not because we have earned it or deserved it but because Jesus, our great high priest, has made purification for our sins. We are now filled with the empowering Spirit of God, and we are now told to make every effort to enter into this rest as people who will, in fact, one day enter that rest.

We pursue rest, like Jesus, by learning to trust God, to stop our work, and to enjoy him. We make every effort to do this because we were created for rest and we have been saved to join God in his rest. It seems paradoxical to pursue rest through hard work, but all great things in life require hard work. Where we are headed, we will live with God himself. He will wipe every tear from our eyes, there will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain. We will freely drink from satisfying waters. We will see the face of God and will no longer be trapped in darkness for he himself will be our light. We will reign with God as princes and princesses of the universe for all eternity.[2]

Can there be a sweeter rest than knowing and being known by God in a land where there is no sin and suffering? You and I were created for rest with him. We sinfully rebelled against God, but Jesus came and redeemed us so that we might rest. Now, we spend this life learning to rest as a foretaste of the eternal rest that is waiting for us. Trust God because he created you, he loves you, and he is leading you. Stop living out of your sinful compulsions. Enjoy God by experiencing him in all of his soul-satisfying goodness. God is leading us to his forever rest. 

Application

Spiritual disciplines are practices the Church has embraced throughout history as aids in her pursuit of rest. They are not ends in and of themselves but are intended to be springboards, which launch us into experiences of God himself. Here is our free ebook from Taking Back Sunday* which includes guide of how to rest and appendixes full of spiritual disciplines to explore. We invite you to begin your journey of rest with God by trusting, stopping, and enjoying with us.

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[1] Mark 1:9-13, 35, 45, 3:13, 6:30-32, 6:45-46, 9:2-13, 14:12-31, 14:32-42

[2] Revelation 21:3-4, 6, 22:4-5

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