Listen to Your Heart

Part of our job in growing in gospel fluency is paying attention to the overflow of our hearts.

What comes out in the form of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors finds its origin inside of us. Too often, we focus our attention on changing the external rather than addressing the internal. But Jesus was very clear that what defiles us proceeds from inside our hearts—our beliefs and our motives. The fruit of our lives comes from the roots of our faith. Just as a thermometer detects a fever, what we see or experience tells us about the gospel health of our hearts. So we need to learn to trace the fruit back to the root.

Over the years, I have learned to ask four key questions in progressive order when forming people in the gospel: (1) Who is God? (2) What has God done (which reveals who God is)? (3) Who am I in light of God’s work? and (4) How should I live in light of who I am? I encourage people to apply these questions to their Bible study and to all of their discipleship processes.

When I am seeking to discern unbelief in the gospel, I reverse the order of those questions: (1) What am I doing or experiencing right now? (2) In light of what I am doing or experiencing, what do I believe about myself? (3) What do I believe God is doing or has done? and (4) What do I believe God is like? In other words, I trace the fruit back to the root. If the fruit is not like Jesus, that is an indicator that our faith is not in Jesus. Remember, we’re all still unbelievers in many areas of our lives. We do not always believe the truths about God as revealed in the gospel; therefore, we are living in unbelief.

How do we know if the fruit of our lives is like Jesus? Well, it helps to get to know what Jesus is like. This is why we need to continue to become more and more acquainted with him by reading the Scriptures, especially the Gospels, which describe how Jesus lived. The fruit of faith in Jesus is love for God and others. The gospel makes clear that this is not something we do on your own. Through faith in Jesus, each of us is made into a pure and holy dwelling place—a temple—where God’s Spirit lives. Jesus foretold that he would send the Spirit to help us know, believe in, and be connected to Jesus, so that we could bear much fruit.

In Gospel Fluency, I shared how Tim Chester teaches that beneath every sin is a failure to believe a truth about God. I’m convinced the same applies to what we believe about ourselves. Because we believe lies about God, we also believe lies about ourselves. We believe God is unloving, so we, in turn, believe we are unlovable—disposable, unwanted garbage. We believe God is not our Savior, so we have to be the savior to our friends, our spouses, or our children… We all fluctuate between the extremes of believing we are demigods sent to save the world and demons who are the scum of the earth, and everything in between. And the reason we believe what we do about ourselves is because of what we believe or don’t believe about God.

We need to learn to speak our beliefs out loud. So often, we are not even aware of what we are believing in any given moment. We just go along, living in false belief, and, as a result, we continue to engage in sinful behaviors. I am so blessed to have a friend and partner in Jayne who encourages me to speak out loud what is going on in my heart between me and God. She is in good company with the psalmists and the prophets in the Scriptures. They knew that our transformation comes partly through our verbal proclamation of our faith—speaking out loud what we are believing in the moment. This is confession.

So often, when people are led to confess their sins, they only confess their sinful behaviors. In other words, they confess the fruit. They say: “I’m sorry I lied. Please forgive me.” Or: “I looked at pornography. I know that’s wrong. Please forgive me.” The problem, however, is that they need to confess their sinful beliefs—the roots, the stuff below the surface that is motivating and producing their behaviors, the sin beneath the sins. All sin stems from wrong beliefs—lies we believe—and ultimately from our unbelief in Jesus. And because we generally don’t go beyond the fruit to the root, we end up aiming at behavior modification instead of gospel transformation. In the gospel, we come to see that sin is wicked and our world is broken. People suffer and will suffer because of sin. We are not promised a pain-free, trouble-free, suffering-free existence. But we don’t need more self-help and we don’t need denial. We need deliverance.

When we address only the behaviors and push people to change what they do without a change in what they believe, the weight falls on us rather than God to handle the problems of the world and deal with the brokenness caused by sin. Instead, we need to trust in God’s power to change us and change the world. [We need] gospel transformation, not just behavior modification. God’s Spirit is our guide, teacher, and counselor. When those of us who belong to God confess out loud what we believe, the Spirit is right there with us to convict us of our unbelief and lead us to the truth that is in Jesus. This is how God grants us repentance. He convicts us of our unbelief and leads us to believe the truth.

(Taken from Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2017 Crossway.)


Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

Distinguishing Truths from Lies

We are at war!

Bullets are flying. Bombs are dropping. The enemy is closing in. Destruction is all around. There are casualties everywhere. But in our war, you can’t see any of this. Well, you can see the effects of it all over the place in the brokenness, chaos, and pain around us, but this war is invisible.

We are not fighting each other. Our war is not against “flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). And we are not fighting with physical weapons. We fight what is unseen with weapons that are not wielded by human hands. Our battle is spiritual, and so are the weapons we use. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. And our enemies are the Devil, the world, and the flesh.

The Devil screams out: “God is evil. I hate him and I will do everything to oppose him and destroy what he has made.” The world screams out: “This world is best without God, and you are best when it’s all about you.” And the flesh screams out: “I don’t need God because I am god. It’s all about me and it’s all dependent upon me.”

So what are we to do in this battle? The Bible tells us to (1) take our thoughts captive and examine them, (2) bring them into submission, (3) consider the fruit, and then (4) fight with gospel truths. For now, we focus on the first.

What is going through your mind? What do you regularly hear spoken in your head? What are you believing about God, his work in Jesus, others, yourself, and what you should do? This is why it is so important to know the gospel, rehearse it in our minds, and remember it. We cannot defeat the enemies of our souls without becoming more gospel fluent. And part of growing in gospel fluency is learning how to recognize what is not from God—what is not in line with the truths of the gospel.

So how do you know if what you’re thinking lines up with what is true in the gospel? Well, remember that the gospel literally means “good news.” So ask yourself: “Is this good news that I’m thinking? Is it tearing God down or lifting him up? Is it tearing others down or building them up? Is it tearing me down or encouraging, exhorting, or equipping me?” The enemy of our souls [lies: Satan] brings to our minds thoughts and words that are lies about God… One good way to learn how to discern the truth from a lie is to continue reading Scripture. If what you hear disagrees with the Bible, it’s a lie.

Satan also accuses: He loves to tear us down with accusations. And most often he tries to deny what is true of us in Christ—what Jesus has done to change us. He doesn’t want us to live boldly for Jesus, so he accuses us of things that are not true of us so that we will cower in fear, guilt, and shame… He also tempts us with promises of fulfillment through sinful pleasures or pursuits. He tries to convince us that God’s ways are not good. And he loves to offer seductive short-cuts to fulfill our longings and desires. He often tries to make sin look attractive to lure our hearts away from obeying God… The enemy also loves to divide and isolate through gossip, slander, and bitterness.

The means vary, but our enemy loves to get us to turn against one another. He loves to erode our trust and give us reasons to separate or divide. And one of his greatest schemes is to isolate us as he does it. He wants us alone so he can pick us off one by one with no one around to encourage us or speak the truths of Jesus into our lives. Watch out for the schemes. In all of them, our enemy is dead set on our destruction.

The first step is to capture the thought and examine it. Train yourself to regularly stop and closely examine what you are thinking, feeling, or believing in light of the truths of the gospel.

(Taken from Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2017 Crossway.)


Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

We All Live by Faith in Someone or Something

We all live by faith in someone or something.

Everything that we are and do is a result of what we believe. Our behaviors are the tangible expression of our beliefs. It is by grace you have been saved through faith. . . .

A gospel-fluent community that is growing in faith in the gospel is evidenced by people confessing their sins to one another regularly. A gospel-fluent community that is growing in confidence that Jesus fully atoned for our sins extends grace and forgiveness to one another. It is by grace—the gift of God in Jesus—that you are saved from the consequences and control of sin. And it is through faith—belief in Jesus’s work on our behalf. Every sinful attitude, motive, thought, or action is a result of unbelief in God’s word and work.

Paul teaches in Romans 1:18–32 that we all, like Adam and Eve and all their descendants, have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and have worshiped the creation instead of the Creator. We put our faith in the things God has made or the things we can do instead of God. God gives us over to our wrong belief and lets it produce in us what all idolatry produces—sin, brokenness, perversion, and pain. He does this so that we will see the wretchedness of sin and turn back to him as the one who forgives our sin, cleanses us from unrighteousness, and heals our brokenness.

The gospel is not just the power of God to save, but also the revelation of God that we need to be saved and that the only one who can save us is Jesus. The Spirit’s job is to reveal to us our unbelief, grant us repentance, and lead us to know and believe in Jesus. That is the work we do. We turn from unbelief to belief in Jesus. Unbelief can take several forms: (1) we don’t believe because we lack the truth about God; (2) we believe lies about God; or (3) we fail to put our faith in what we know to be true of God.

First, many don’t know who God really is. They don’t know what he is like or what he has done for us. A person can’t believe in God if he or she is unaware of the truths about God. There is no salvation—no transformation—apart from knowing God. One of the reasons Jesus came—and one of the reasons why the gospel is such good news—was to reveal the truth about God and to bring us into relationship with him. In the gospel, we have the revelation of what God is like and what God has done. God is revealed through Jesus’s life, Jesus’s ministry, Jesus’s death, and Jesus’s resurrection. What is your God like? What do you believe about God? Growing in gospel fluency requires growing in our knowledge of God as he is revealed in and through Jesus Christ.

Second, in some cases, our unbelief involves believing lies about God. Satan deceived Adam and Eve into believing lies about God, and we regularly buy into his lies as well. We might know certain truths about God, but fail to believe those truths because we are deceived into believing lies. Jesus came to dispel the lies. Regularly, we hear Jesus say, “Truly, truly I say . . .” He is replacing the lies we believe with the truths of God. Not only does he proclaim those truths verbally, but he is also the ultimate example and display of those truths. Growing in gospel fluency requires regularly replacing lies we have believed with the truths of God revealed in Jesus. One of the reasons God sent his Spirit to us is to reveal the lies and help us believe the truth about God. I regularly invite God’s Spirit to do this in my life. You can too.

Third, we often say we believe something to be true about God, but our lives show that we don’t actually believe it. We know a truth we should believe, but in actuality, we don’t. For instance, we profess belief in a God who forgives our sins through faith in the death of Jesus, but we continue to believe we need to behave better in order to make up for what we’ve done. When we do this, we are living in unbelief in the gospel. The gospel is the power of God to save us not only because our sin of unbelief is forgiven through Jesus’s death on the cross, but also because in the gospel we come to know and believe the liberating truths of God revealed in Jesus Christ. And through believing those truths, the lies we’ve believed are dispelled and the truth sets us free to really live.

So what do you believe? The gospel won’t fluently come out of you to others unless it’s changed you first.

(Taken from Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2017 Crossway.)


Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.