A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
“If there is anything in us, it is not our own; it is a gift of God. But if it is a gift of God, then it is entirely a debt one owes to love, that is, to the law of Christ. And if it is a debt owed to love, then I must serve others with it, not myself.” Martin Luther
After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Luke 2:46
“The teacher encourages the student morphs – moth to beauteous butterfly soars”
Mala Naidoo, author
When God directed me to start the Emboldened blog He also led me to a few simple quotes to put on the homepage. I didn’t know at the time one day I’d be using those quotes for this week’s study on Jesus and His teaching nature! Of the few quotes He led me to, I included this one by Joyce Meyer:
“If you leave church and are not convicted, asking questions, or emboldened then either you are at the wrong church or you weren’t paying attention.”
How many times have you left church and within an hour couldn’t remember what the sermon was about? You couldn’t even pull up the general topic in your memory?
I recently heard someone say that we don’t go to church to sit and put in our “dues” to God. It’s where we should 1) be rejuvenated for the mission and 2) get more training for the mission. And the second we leave the doors of our “God classroom” we should be at the ready to embark on the commission which Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19. When church becomes a place where we leave just feeling like that was a “nice” experience, at best, or an obligation, at worst, we owe it to our personal faith progression to re-evaluate the situation.
When I started going to church my family ended up at a large Presbyterian church nearby. The pastor was just what I needed at the time. He was more counselor than teacher. And when I left each Sunday I felt he had really spoken to the problems I was having and reminded me that God loved me. The sermons were light on scripture, maybe one or two mentioned, and heavy on personal stories. But I soon found that sole message to be not quite enough. I wanted to know more. And the “teaching” sermons were what I gobbled up. As my husband can attest, I’m very curious. He constantly reminds me that I like to ask questions that seem to have no answers.
As a developing Christian, we should all be asking questions about God. If this “almighty being” is to be the center of our universe, the touchstone for how we live our lives, and the message we herald, shouldn’t we know everything we can know so we are prepared when sin enters our sphere? So we can be prepared when a seeking, fellow man starts asking us questions?
From learner to teacher. That’s exactly the path Jesus took. Here’s the rest of the scene when Jesus’ parents found him, as a boy, in the temple courts.
"Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers." Luke 2:47
And so, I constantly seek to learn more about this awesome God. At the beginning of this year my husband and I were directed to a new church. My son-in-law and his friend host a Christian men’s podcast called “Supplement the Faith.” They heard on a local St. Louis radio station a show called “Core Christianity.” The main host is Pastor Adriel Sanchez, who unbeknownst to me at the time, is a pastor in my town. They raved about his sound, Christian doctrine and told us we had to go check him out.
And so we went. The music was not my favorite – very simple and traditional hymns. The style of service was more formal than I was used to. But when Pastor Adriel gave his sermon I realized I was listening to a teaching pastor. That day, my church “program” was scribbled all over with notes!
In a brief period of time, I’ve learned a lot from and about Pastor Adriel. He and his beautiful wife have four little children with another on the way. This young pastor, who has led his fairly recently planted church for only about seven years, can be heard on the radio and podcast throughout the world via Core Christianity – which is a question and answer format. His youthfulness stands in contrast to his calm, confident poise. I recently asked Pastor Adriel if he’d be willing, in his busy schedule, to talk about his pastoral style.
And if you are on your faith journey toward learning more about His Word, I encourage you to tune in to either Pastor Adriel’s sermons at North Park Presbyterian (PCA) or the Core Christianity podcast. The questions asked on the podcast might just be something you get asked one day!
Kris: You seem to be drawn toward being more of a “teaching” type pastor than say a “counselor” type. How do you think you developed that style?
Pastor Adriel: I have a firm conviction that from the pulpit my job is to communicate God’s word clearly, and seek to apply it to the folks that God has entrusted to my care. Teaching or explaining the Bible is really important to me because I know that God’s word is the source of life. I do seek to provide biblical wisdom or counsel at times – but often that happens in the context of one on one conversations within the church.
K: Who are your favorite Christian authors/pastors?
PA: I love reading the Christian classics. St. Augustine’s Confessions, Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians, Calvin’s Institutes, C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I nerd out on church history, so I really enjoy reading the early church fathers. As far as living authors are concerned, I like books by theologians like Michael Horton, and pastors like Tim Keller.
K: What got you involved in doing Core Christianity and the podcast?
PA: One of my seminary professors invited me to be on a podcast he had hosted for decades called the White Horse Inn. Over time, we started thinking about a new project that would reach a broader audience helping them to understand the core doctrines of Christianity. A lot of research has come out recently highlighting how little Christians know about their faith – so this was a huge need. Our goal has been to answer basic listener questions about the Bible and the Christian life, and in the process to point folks to Jesus and his gospel. As we grow in our understanding of God’s word, we’re enabled to love and serve God better.
K: What do you like most about doing the podcast?
PA: I love the live element. I think it makes the show exciting, because we can’t really anticipate what kind of call we’re going to get. As a pastor, I also love it when I’m able to answer a question for someone and I can tell audibly that they’re encouraged by God’s word.
K: What are the most frequent topics you get asked?
PA: Questions related to marriage, assurance of salvation, finding a good church, and how to properly apply God’s law are common from our audience. Depending on what’s going on in our broader society, we also will get questions on current events.
K: What question have you gotten that “stumped” you? And what was the funniest question?
PA: Never been stumped! Just kidding. Actually, sometimes we get very obscure Bible questions, or questions for which there is no clear biblical answer. I find those questions to be the most difficult to handle. As far as the funniest question we’ve received… not long ago someone asked if there were fish on the ark too. That one made me chuckle.
K: Which book of the Bible do you enjoy teaching the most and why?
PA: I find that whichever book I am preaching through tends to become my favorite book for that season. Believe it or not, I had a ton of fun preaching through Leviticus a couple of years back. I also really enjoy preaching through the Gospels. I preached through Mark early in my ministry, and like to revisit the Gospels from time to time in-between other books.
K: Which book seems to be the most misunderstood?
PA: As I field questions about the Bible, I think one book that’s frequently misunderstood is Galatians. Many believers don’t have a proper understanding of the distinction between the law, and the gospel, and they struggle to understand how God’s law (and various OT commandments) are to be applied today. Galatians is helpful because it speaks to this kind of problem.
K: Do you see value in studying the entire Bible — not just the New Testament — and why?
PA: Absolutely. Jesus said in John 5 that Moses wrote of him, and in Luke 24 that the entire Bible was about him. The entire Bible gives us a glorious picture of redemptive history, and each story in that history is meant to instruct us in one way or another (1 Cor. 10:11). If you don’t study the Old Testament, you’ll miss out on so many of the riches in the New Testament, and you’ll miss out on Jesus as he’s revealed in the types and shadows of the Old Covenant.
K: What are your overall personal goals as a pastor for say the next 5 years? 10 years?
PA: Honestly, I just want to be a good husband, a good dad, and a faithful pastor. My goal is to grow in that for the next 5-10 years.
Thank you to Pastor Adriel for his time! Whether it be through a teaching pastor, Bible study groups/individual, Christian authors, a radio show or Christian podcast, these days we have so many resources at our fingertips to get to know God. As Christians, we must make it a priority to place this knowledge of His ways firmly at the forefront of our lives.
I wanted to leave you today with this quote about being a learning and then teaching Christian:
He who asks will have; what more did he ask for? But he who seeks will go further; he will find, will enjoy, will grasp, and will know that he has obtained. He who knocks will go further still, for he will understand, and to him will the precious thing be opened. He will not merely have the blessing and enjoy it, but he will comprehend it.
Since the resurrection of Jesus, Christians seem to have been in an interesting battle. The concept of how we are saved has led to many sermons, books, and even paper nailed to church doors. The prevailing answer in the modern church age is, of course, that we are saved by grace. The grace of Jesus Christ dying for our sins.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9
That passage from Romans couldn’t be clearer and yet the concept of being saved by works and/or financial contributions to the church ran throughout Christendom for a long time. Unfortunately, much of our Christian thinking seems to have swung so far in the opposite direction that we have forgotten the other lessons in the Bible.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? James 2:14
As my BSGs work our way through a study of Revelation I keep hearing a few of the same messages. 1) We must repent of our sins and accept Christ today and 2) Our deeds will be counted in eternity. That balance of accepting God’s grace and also working to please Him echoes so many other Christian balancing acts.
Expressing God’s Truth while showing God’s Love
His Word is both bitter and sweet
To live in this world but not of it
Accepting chastisement as a method of God’s love for us
I wonder how many of us each Sunday (or whatever day you attend church) receive constant training on how to walk those balance beams?
This week’s Jesus Mindset focuses on being a humble servant. The character trait requires of us to first be somewhat practiced at being a loving friend. For when we take action in the name of God without a loving spirit it becomes almost impossible to be humble. I’m sure each of us can think of a person in our lives who took on responsibilities simply to gain some sort of recognition. A church body that forgets Jesus’ primary character trait – loving friend – becomes like the church of Ephesus. They were “doing” a lot and building larger, more grand buildings but doing it without love.
“The church used to be known for its good deeds,” said one wit, “but today it’s better known for its bad mortgages.”
The evolution from love of neighbor to deeds without love creates a hulking body that God eventually is clearly unhappy with. And so, we find ourselves searching for the balance. This week I will highlight three people. Two sisters and a quiet, humble man. Each has their own way of “feeding” God’s lambs. Each have different personalities. They each find a way to reach that balance of knowing they are saved by grace and yet God asks more of us.
I love this quote from the book, “The Hiding Place,” which tells the story of love and servanthood in the face of extreme adversity. This moment takes place as a member of the family is about to die. They remind her of all the amazing things she did in life because “accomplishment” meant so much to her. But in her final moments Jesus spoke to her heart and reminded her of God’s truths.
“How can we bring anything to God? What does He care for our little tricks and trinkets?” she asked. And then as we listened in disbelief she lowered her hands and with tears still coursing down her face whispered, “Dear Jesus, I thank You that we must come with empty hands. I thank you that You have done all on the Cross and that all we need in life or death is to be sure of this.”
Tante Jans, The Hiding Place
With empty, well-worn hands. Hands worn with the work for Jesus. For when we die we won’t take the certificates of recognition, the medals, the bonuses with us. But each person we have fed, in His name, will be etched in our hands and hearts.
Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37
Jesus has plenty of work for us to do. The majority of that work could be called “grunt work.” It requires us to get uncomfortable and place our trust solely in the Lord’s hands. You probably won’t receive any money for it or a headline in the local paper. What we will receive is a smile from Jesus.
My friend Betsy told me the other day how, while out shopping, she saw a homeless man in an adjoining parking lot. He was in a wheelchair. As she got into her car Jesus placed the thought in her head, “Go give him one of your ‘blessings bags.’” Her church provides these bags to hand out to anyone in need. She had never just walked up to someone and given them a bag.
But that day she pulled out of her parking spot and drove over to the man. He was struggling trying to get his wheelchair closed up so he could lie down on the same spot. As she approached the man, she could tell he was drunk. But she kept moving forward. She inquired, “Do you need some help?” And he said he did. She helped him get situated and then offered a blessings bag, which he readily accepted. As she left she acknowledged to herself that she wouldn’t have taken that action previously – some other force pressed her forward.
You see, Betsy has been a loving Christian for 60 some years. She has always served her church and family well. Recently she has been working on the “obeying God” part of her faith progression. Listening for His voice and taking action to be His humble servant. God has told her it’s time to move forward.