Speaking the Truths of Jesus

Have you ever tried to learn a new language? You know how hard and frustrating it can be translating every single word when you first start. But after awhile, something happens. Suddenly, you start not only to speak, but to think and feel in that language. You eventually start interpreting life through it. That’s fluency.

In many ways, the Gospel is like a new language. It takes time. We can be slow to learn, fast to forget, and unwilling to trust. But when the truths of God through Jesus become part of us, we start interpreting the whole world around us through the lens of God’s perspective. Slowly every aspect of our story starts to be affected by the redemption story—relationships, work, and even ourselves. Everything starts to have a new meaning. Even more, we are able to transmit the truth of the gospel in ways that speak to the real and present brokenness and longings of people.

Just like when you become fluent in a new language, you discover a new way to see the world; with the Gospel, you discover that Jesus is good news for everything.

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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.

Bringing the Gospel to Our Lips

If you and others around you are going to grow in gospel fluency, you need consistent immersion in a gospel-speaking community.

This needs to be much more than a weekly gathering of the church where the gospel is preached (though it should include this). It also should be more than a weekly Bible study, small-group gathering, or missional-community meeting (though I also recommend these). Growth in gospel fluency requires regularly being with others who know and love Jesus, speak about him often, and commit together to regularly remind one another of the gospel when they forget.

From the very beginning of the story, the act of eating has played a very significant role in the worship and remembrance of who God is, what he has done, and who we are. God provided a great place for Adam and Eve to live, with all the food they needed. They regularly had the opportunity to remember God, his word, and his work, as well as who they were and what they were called to do. For them, every meal was a time to remember God’s abundant provision and express their worship of him alone.

When we eat, we see that our food looks good. Some meals look like a painting by Monet, others look like a Picasso, but they are all works of art. We can smell our food. Just think of all the wonderful aromas of the best meals you’ve had. Don’t you love them! And as you put your food in your mouth, there’s an explosion of sensations—sweet, sour, bitter, salty. It’s like a party in your mouth! And you don’t just taste your food, you feel it as well. There are so many textures to experience. And then you hear it as it crunches, or sloshes or slurps its way into your body (some people are annoyed at this part of eating). Through all of this, you are nourished and replenished, strengthened and rebuilt. God wants us to eat and remember—enjoy and worship him—and, at the same time, have our needs met by him.

Remember what he said to Adam and Eve: “Eat from any tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat of that tree, you will surely die” (see Gen. 2:16–17). Every meal was an opportunity to remember, trust, and obey. Every meal was meant to be an act of remembrance and worship. But they didn’t remember, trust, and obey. They ate unto themselves. God designed them to trust in his ability to provide for them. Something outside of them was meant to take care of a deep need inside of them—and he would provide that something. They were not to look outside of his provision.

All of this was meant to point us toward God’s ultimate provision in Jesus. Eventually, Jesus came to be God’s ultimate provision for us. He is the bread of life that meets our deepest needs and satisfies our greatest longings. Every meal is meant to cause us to remember and worship Jesus.

What if you took time at every meal—even very simple ones—to give thanks to God, praying not just at the beginning, but throughout the meal? Our family is trying to use our evening mealtimes more intentionally. We are presently rehearsing the Ten Commandments and going through the gospel with each one of them. We also have given each night a theme to guide what we do together at the meal.

There is one meal specifically given by Jesus, to remember and proclaim the gospel—learn about that here. But for now, consider our normal, everyday meals: what if your friends, your family, your small group, or your missional community made it a point to make every single meal a remembrance and worship experience? What if you slowed down enough to remember Jesus at every meal? What if you savored every moment as an opportunity to praise God.

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

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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.

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.)

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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.)

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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.)

Comment

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.

Coming Soon: Gospel Fluency

Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life

About the book: At the core of Christianity is belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ. But how should the gospel affect our lives after we believe? And how can we speak gospel truths into everyday issues of life? In this book, experienced pastor and speaker Jeff Vanderstelt argues that all people—Christians and non-Christians alike—need to hear the gospel on a regular basis. Teaching believers what it looks like to become truly “fluent” in the gospel so that it becomes a natural part of our everyday conversations, Vanderstelt shows how the good news of Jesus is our only hope for every aspect of our lives.

Click here to pre-order the book—available February 28, 2017.

Comment

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.

Gospel Fluent Thinking

This past Sunday I spoke on Wise Thinking from the Proverbs (Proverbs 4:2-5:6). You can listen to it here if you'd like. The content is part of some work I am doing in preparing for my book on Gospel Fluency. I have found that many of us don't follow the advice of the wise father to his son: "Ponder your path". To Ponder is to slow down and examine what you are thinking and doing. The father tells his son that the wayward woman (foolishness personified) does not ponder, but wanders aimlessly down the path to destruction, while remaining ignorant of what she is doing.

How many times have you found yourself asking: "Why did I say that?" or "Why am I saying this?" as the verbal diarrhea overflows into a toilet of regret. Or "What was I thinking?" while you stand in the debris of your foolish missteps. And, "How did I get here?" as you astonishingly wake up to the reality that your lack of careful pondering has snowballed into a pitiful, mess of devastation. Maybe you just know someone else to whom this is true and now you just need some good advice for them ;)

During my message, I shared some thoughts about how we can take the time to Ponder - slow down - and let the gospel shape our thinking, which I believe will lead to steps down the path of wisdom as a result.

First of all CAPTURE your thoughts.

It was springtime in Chicago and I was at the McCormick Place to speak at the Christ & City event at the end of the Gospel Coalition conference. I walked into the large auditorium that was four times as wide as it was deep to hear Tim Keller teach. Previously there had been around 6000 in the room for the Gospel Coalition event. At this moment, there were now probably 3000-4000. I was scheduled to teach a breakout session in this same room later. As I listened to Tim teach, I found myself making notes and scratching out some of what I had intended to say. "How did he get my stuff? He had stolen a bunch of my material!" I forgot how much his teaching had influenced me – some of my notes sounded like what he was presently saying. That wouldn’t have been so bad if I were teaching much later or somewhere else, but I was going to speak right after him in the same room to many of the same audience. So, I quickly started reworking all my notes.

After Tim was done, I was ushered back into the green room to wait my turn to be called up. I finished making some final notes and then was brought up on stage. As I walked up, I realized they had forgotten my white board for the diagrams I was going to draw while teaching. Then, I turned to look out into the room and I couldn’t see anyone. Oh, people were probably there, I think, I just couldn’t see them because the lights were so bright. Now, one thing about me that is important to note, I am a relational teacher – I love to see people and adjust my teaching in light of what I sense the Holy Spirit is doing and how I see people responding. I had absolutely zero visible knowledge of what was going on in the room. As I began teaching, I wondered if there actually were any people in the room at all. It was hard to tell because there was almost no discernible response (I think they were all overloaded with information because we were at the end of a long conference with some very heady material...or asleep because they were so tired...or just saving seats for the LeCrae concert happening later in that same room). I did my best and hoped that it helped some people. Then after I was done, they ushered me away from the people who wanted to talk to me afterward because I had to make it to a dinner that was about to start. Zero feedback. Zero knowledge as to whether I was helpful or hurtful in my teaching. I was flying blind and the radio signal was off.

I went back to my hotel room later that night very discouraged and depressed. I played my talk over and over in my head and it only seemed to get worse the more I did it (the snowball started rolling and gaining size and speed - this is what happens when our thought lives are not brought into submission). I began to think I had wasted people’s time and in turn the resources of the kingdom. At one point I started believing that I must have said a bunch of heresy and D.A. Carson, one of the theologians and leaders of the Gospel Coalition, was going to have to call me in and confront me. Then they would have to publish an apology for having me speak, acknowledging that I don’t represent what the Gospel Coalition believes. I felt like a failure.

Have you ever experienced something like this? A time when you felt like a failure? Or, a time when you began to be filled with self-doubt or fear? Maybe you haven’t experienced anything like this, but have you ever found yourself consumed with some destructive thoughts? Like thoughts of hatred and rage that begin to dominate your mind crowding out all other thoughts? What about impure, lustful thoughts that seem to keep pushing you to think of women or men in inappropriate ways? Maybe your thoughts have gone more toward pride and self-righteousness, leading you to think you are better than others and to despise others that just don’t seem to live up to “the standard”.

What do you do with these thoughts? Maybe you’ve never thought about thinking about your thoughts. Its possible that you aren’t even aware of what is going on in your mind most of the time because you’ve never stopped to think about it. Have you ever paused and thought about what your thinking? Feeling? Contemplating?

STOP. What are you thinking right now?

Most of us are moving too fast to stop. Or, the idea of listening to our thoughts, paying attention to them is scary - we don't really want to pay attention to what is going on inside. Many of us go on vacation and stay busy so we don't have to acknowledge the murmur of restlessness, anger, resentment, anxiety, fear...or any other number of frightful thoughts and emotions. And then we need a vacation from our vacation because we ran ourselves ragged trying to avoid hearing ourselves. Some of us never take a break because the noise of a busy life is more comforting than the contemplation of the heart around the gospel.

Paul told the church in Corinth (2 Cor. 10:5) to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. To capture something requires taking it under control and holding it in a place. We have to stop and ask "What am I thinking?" "Why am I feeling or thinking this?" "What is going on in me right now?" Lately, I have been asking my son Caleb, "What are you doing?" He responds: "Nothing." To which I reply: "You're always doing something." The same is true for thinking: You're always thinking something.

STOP - What are you thinking right now - Capture it - Control it - Examine it.

Most of us don't STOP to capture and examine our thinking. However, the apostle Paul says this is how we begin to experience transformation - by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). Our minds will not get renewed if we don't pay attention to what we're thinking and then...

COMPARE your thoughts to What is True of God; What He has done for you and Who you are in Christ Jesus.

That night in my hotel room with my wife on the phone, we took time to compare my thinking to...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8). This meant comparing my thinking to what is true of God, His work through the person and work of Jesus and who I am now because of faith in Jesus. Jayne reminded me: "This is not about you Jeff! This is about Jesus! He is glorified in your weakness AND your 'success'. What if God wants to glorify himself through your failure. Are you OK with that? Anyhow, remember, you aren't the one who changes hearts. God does. Besides, you don't want people to be impressed with you. You want them to be impressed with Jesus." I shared more of what I was thinking, feeling, believing... and she kept comparing my thoughts to what is true, lovely, pure, etc... "God is in control, even if you failed Jeff. You don't need the approval of man. You are accepted by God! He is your Father who loves you. What else do you need?" We continued on as she exhorted me in the gospel and the truths of God's Word.

How often do we slow down to compare our thinking to what is true of God and what we have in the gospel of Jesus Christ?

And do we have people around us we can turn to for this? I hear of way too many Christians living life alone - God didn't save us for a personal ALONE relationship with him. He saved us from ALONENESS into a community - His Family. I believe if we did this more often with one another in community, we would not only have lives that better reflect what is true of Jesus, but our hearts would also be full as worship as we become overcome by the grace of God in the midst of everyday life.

Finally, CONFESS your unbelief through genuine repentance and replace the lies with truth.

In over 20 years of ministry I have heard plenty of confessions, but rarely do I hear people confess their sin. People regularly say "I'm sorry" and rarely say "I've sinned".

We generally regret the consequences of sin and then desire that they go away as quickly as possible. We say, "I'm sorry I hurt you (...and that you are so weak and hurt so easily)"; "I'm sorry that this offended you (...you should not be so easily offended) or "I'm sorry I did that (...because it doesn't feel good right now). True confession of sin, confesses sin.

I have found there are generally two reasons we walk down the path of foolishness, leading to destruction - two reasons why we don't do what is right and good:

  1. Ignorance
  2. Unbelief and Rebellion

My daughter Haylee has been struggling with fear and anxiety. She is nine. We didn't rebuke her for this ("Stop worrying. You shouldn't worry. That's a sin!) We instructed her about who God is and how powerful he is. We have been teaching her not only that he is great and in control, but also good and loves her. We reminded her that Jesus overcame sin, death and Satan - the three sources of all of our fears. And that He is both with her and for her. Along the way we have been teaching her to not be anxious, but to offer her concerns to God in prayer with thanksgiving, trusting that God can guard her heart and mind in Christ Jesus, granting her peace.  Haylee was ignorant. Not any longer. Now, if Haylee refuses to bring her concerns to God and prefers to deal with them on her own, she is no longer ignorant, but rebellious, walking in unbelief. I know that sounds harsh to some of us, but it is true. We either humbly submit the truths we know about God or we pridefully ignore them or outright reject them.

Paul says the same thing to the people in Athens after he describes the unknown god to them as the True living God who made them and everything they enjoy - Acts 17:30-31: "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."

Many of us or the people we care for and shepherd need to be informed so they no longer stand in ignorance. Our job in many cases is not just to confront sin, but to inform people with the truth of God and the good news of Jesus Christ. If they don't know the truth, how can they take captive their thoughts, compare them to Him and then respond in repentance.

However, once informed of the truth, we are no longer ignorant but informed. And when we take the time to capture a thought, compare it to Jesus and see where it is not in line with the truth of the gospel, we have a choice to make - repent or rebel. And repentance not only owns the sin, confessing it as such, but also owns the truth of God, confessing it in faith as our only hope.

That night, in my hotel room, on the phone with my wife, I repented. I saw that I was a prideful man and I was living for people's approval not God's glory. I wanted to do well, not just to help people, but to help myself. I wanted to be liked, accepted, approved of by man. I had believed the approval of man was more sufficient than the approval of God. It was unbelief in God's Word and unbelief in the gospel. I was sorry...not for the state I was in, but for the state of my heart before God. I acknowledged my sin of pride and unbelief in the complete work of Jesus that made me acceptable before God. As I confessed this sin, I also acknowledge my belief in his grace to forgive as well as my acceptance because of what Jesus had done, not for how well I spoke. I experienced healing and refreshment from his Spirit. God opposes the proud but he gives grace to the humble. We say that, but we are afraid to humble ourselves. I experienced his grace that night again.

After all of that, the Spirit confirmed that he did indeed use my talk, despite my weakness and brokenness. God does that - he works in and through our mess to show his power and glory. Crazy!

If we are ever to become a gospel fluent people, we must first of all become a gospel familiar people - we must experience it changing us first before we will have the confidence that it can change others as well. Take the time to capture your thoughts, compare them to the truths in the gospel and confess any and all unbelief and rebellion as sin and put your faith again in Jesus and his sufficient work for you!