When I practice my sermons, I sometimes pull up a chair right in front of me.
I picture the 15 year old kid whose parents are divorced and who wants to kill himself everyday and hates everyone at school.
I picture the single mom who lost custody of her children because she can’t hold down a job in this economy and drinks herself to sleep every night.
I picture the hard-hearted religious hypocrite who sings loudly every Sunday at his church but goes home to beat his kids.
I think of my future wife, my future children, I think of the historical figures in the Bible sitting there hearing my preaching.
I’m not about to yell in someone’s face who has real issues that need real help.
It’s great to sound passionate. But what does real passion sound like?
It sounds like a man nailed to a cross whispering forgiveness over his own murderers. It sounds like a man raised to life calling for the disciple who betrayed him so he could reinstate him back to fruitful ministry. It sounds like Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, angry at a temple for turning God’s house into a consumer’s playground, raising a young girl to life with the words, “It’s time to wake up now, honey.”
I’m fine with loud preaching, but what are we loud about?
I haven’t posted in a while, and I already wrote this for a friend so I decided might as well post it too. Enjoy.
The word ‘brokenness’ is used as a euphemism for sin. It changes our feelings of shame at our sin to that of pity and defeated-ness at our ‘brokenness’. Do you feel sorry for broken…
It’s been a while, too long actually since I’ve posted anything publically, but I felt God tugging on my heart to post this. So here we go.
To say Pastor Steve is an anointed man is an understatement – his passion, love, trust, and dependence on Christ is boldly and unashamedly shown in his preaching, his prayers, his actions, and his convictions. It’s evident that God works mightily through him, and will continue to use him for His kingdom and glory until heaven meets earth.
I love expository preaching. I love going through the context of a particular passage, learning and emphasizing the meaning and original intents of that passage and what is means for us in this day and age. I like topical preaching too. Good biblical truths can be brought up that are capable of directly addressing and even begin healing both personal and communal sins.
I honestly don’t know where to categorize P. Steve’s sermons. I don’t know if I can even call them as the traditional sermon than as sharing life story after life story with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit moving powerfully in each one, scattered throughout with frequent “we are dead” messages. I can’t call his messages ordered or systematic, but I can genuinely say that his stories are some of the most powerful, moving truths about repentance and fellowship with God that I have ever heard.
However, one thought bugged me as we were heading home on Sunday after reflecting on retreat in the morning. And it’s this thought that prompts me to write up this reflection.
For background and context, I was cessationist until I came to Berkeley, not because I had this personal conviction that the spiritual gifts ceased with the apostles, but because I was raised in a conservative, Chinese church that had no practice of such things, and so that simply became part of my belief. Then Berkeley happened and I saw news ways in which God moves through the Spirit, whether in tongues, healing, or prophetic prayer. I came to believe in the gifts (after all, the Bible never explicitly states the gifts had ended with the apostles, and just because some charismatics abuse their gifts against proper biblical usage doesn’t invalidate the whole charismatic movement). *
What I felt wasn’t emphasized nor expounded enough was the role of these gifts in revival. The last night of retreat was comfortable for some and strange for others. Some went to sleep in peace and others went to sleep in confusion. As much as I experienced the Spirit moving powerfully the last night, I sensed the enemy planting doubt in those not accustomed to the charismatic atmosphere, precisely because we never mentioned the purpose of pursuing spiritual gifts or the purpose of the gifts themselves. And so I’d like to make two points.
1. We should pursue spiritual gifts with love for the purpose of building up the church
We should eagerly pursue spiritual gifts as Paul tells us in the Bible (1 Cor. 12:31, 1 Cor. 14:1), but for the sole purpose of building up the church and its people (1 Cor. 14:12). I pray that we don’t seek specific gifts so we can attain a sense of self-achievement, nor because we see them in our fellow brothers and sisters, and certainly not because of a pressure to false thinking that we need spiritual gifts to partake in revival, or even partake in the church community. When we get caught up and pursue spiritual gifts without love, we lose sight of our identity and mission. We begin to doubt and find our worth in these gifts. The Word of God says that even if we speak magnificently in the tongues of men and angels, or encounter vivid prophesies, but have not love, we are nothing (1 Cor. 13: 1-2). I’d rather have the church emanate the love of Christ than speak the sweetest heavenly languages without love, because it’s the love of Christ that compels us to be ambassadors for Him (2 Cor. 5: 11-21).
2. Spiritual gifts do not cause revival and are not your identity
Spiritual gifts are not the cause of revival. It doesn’t make you a better or worse Christian and doesn’t make God love you more or any less, because our identity is found in Christ and Christ alone. And it should never result in confusing or alienating people in a church, but rather the opposite – to build up the body. God is so much bigger than simply blessing us with spiritual gifts. He’s so much bigger than just tongues and healing and prophesying. Even if the Spirit doesn’t grant us the power of tongues, healing, or prophesy, sometimes we forget that these aren’t the only gifts the Spirit blesses us with. Teaching. Assisting. Words of affirmation. Knowledge. Discernment. All gifts that the Spirit freely gives us – gifts cessationists and non-cessationists can agree on (1 Cor. 12: 8-11). And God is still bigger than all of that.
Revival isn’t dependent on us. Revival isn’t dependent on whether we can speak in tongues, heal, or prophesy. Revival is dependent on whether the Holy Spirit moves and convicts. Jonathan Edwards preached fire and brimstone sermons in a monotone voice and thousands came to know Jesus because the Spirit was moving and convicting. The one who convicts isn’t the one praying in tongues, healing, or prophesying. The one who convicts is the Holy Spirit (John 16:8). So let’s pray for the Spirit to convict and move. Let’s cry out for the Spirit to work in us and bring revival to us first. Let’s die to our old selves and pronounce our victory that is in Christ Jesus (Col. 3:3, 1 Cor. 15:57) Let’s surrender ourselves at the feet of the cross and earnestly cry out for the Holy Spirit to stir us up in order for us to go out into the city of Berkeley to boldly and unashamedly preach the Gospel, to love the unlovable, bless the unblessable, and forgive the unforgivable, because Christ first loved, blessed, and forgave us (1John 4:19).
*For those wanting to know how to administer specific spiritual gifts, please read 1 Corinthians 14-15.
As Asians, we are taught to thrive academically, athletically, etc. but we are not taught how to thrive relationally and in community. God is redeeming my relational retardedness.
Was about to walk into the music room today with a friend. A college-age looking woman and man run up and ask if they could get something from the music room first. They turned on the lights and the woman took something dark from a stack of slanted chairs. At first we thought it might have been a wallet or something. At closer look just when she was about to exit the door, we see the item as it really is - a revolver.
Berkeley is filled with passionate Christians that are grounded in faith and identity, yet is so filled with broken, lost, disoriented people in search of something meaningful; even then, many are turned off by Jesus as the result the hate speeches/signs
Christians advertise on campus. Many find security instead in possession, violence, and money.
Father, would you search our hearts for any prideful judgement and weed it out. As our hearts yearn for the lost, I pray that it would cry out for the lost for the right reason. Not because we want them to act in a certain way, or to take ahold of certain standards, but that our hearts would yearn for them as Your heart yearns for them. Lost sons and daughters of the one true God.
The fact of the matter is, if you read through the instructions to the New Testament churches you will find few explicit commands that tell us to take care of the needy in our communities and no explicit commands to do creation care, but there are dozens and dozens of verses that enjoin us, in in one way or another, to be holy as God is holy (e.g., 1 Pet. 1:13-16).
The great redemptive act that freed [Christians] from their sins (Rev. 1:5) and established their right to reign as priests and kings (Rev. 5:9) is also what gives them authority over Satan and enables them to overcome Satan and all of his accusations (Rev. 12:11). Satan accuses Christians day and night. It is not just that he will work on our conscience to make us feel as dirty, guilty, defeated, destroyed, weak, and ugly as he possibly can; it is something worse: his entire ploy in the past is to accuse us before God day and night, bringing charges against us that we know we can never answer before the majesty of God’s holiness. What can we say in response? Will our defense be, ‘Oh, I’m not that bad!’? You will never beat Satan that way. Never. What you must say is, ‘Satan, I’m even worse than you think, but God loves me anyway. He accepted me because of the blood of the Lamb.’
As I go through these pictures and relive this day again, I am overwhelmed once more by the joy of this occasion: a man and a woman joining together in holy matrimony.
Now somewhere in the back of mind, I’m screaming to myself, “I can’t wait for this for myself one day!”
But the rest of my mind is thinking of and imagining a wedding of a greater magnitude: the joining of Christ and His bride, the church.
I want so badly to see that moment. For if in this fallen world of sin, something so beautiful as what took place today can occur before our eyes, how much more beautiful will the uniting of Christ, who is perfect without sin and whose love is perfect and boundless, and His church be!
‘Til then, congratulations, Vivian and Alex Leung, and may your love for one another shine and give those around you a glimpse of the perfect love between the Savior and the saved!
The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.
Not so worried about the maps app, but I don’t think there is any fix to this without a lens replacement….