by Pat Badstibner, President of World Prayr, Inc.
This document was created for The Mill Church leadership as they transition from a staff led to an elder/CTM (deacon) led church order. They are also changing their message to a more gospel-centric one. As they do, they want a gospel-centered leadership model to build on and they believe this article lays the foundation. Energion Publications is publishing it because we believe that gospel-centered leadership fits superbly into the third keyword of our mission statement, “Empower!” Gospel-centered leadership is empowering to all believers because it is also God-centered (Philippians 2:12-13).
“The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve.”
Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, – Matthew 28:19
Leadership is the art of influence. As an ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20), a priest (1 Peter 2:9), an excellent one (Psalm 16:3) and one who is the praise of the glory of God (Ephesians 1:12), we have been called to be influencers for the kingdom in the ordinary and the extraordinary. As we exhibit the love and grace of the trinity, we will be influencers (Ephesians 4:4-6).
As the Holy Spirit works out the life of Christ (Philippians 2:12-13) allowing us to bear fruit, the outflowing of that fruit will not only be greater influence but an increasing desire to influence (Galatians 5:22-24) and impact others for the glory of God (Philippians 2:14-18). When Christ gave the disciples the command to go out in the world and make disciples, he was calling them to be influencers and to make other influencers.
It has been stated that siblings who grow up in a family of older siblings will often learn to talk and walk sooner, than those who do not, there are always exceptions. Nonetheless, the reason this phenomenon occurs in families is the influence of the older siblings. When a three-year-old influences a baby to walk they have exhibited the art of influence and thus leadership. In like manner, setting an example of leadership, Paul tells the Corinthians to follow him as he follows Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Leadership in organizations is found in relational leaders and in those who lead strategically. Both do so though through influence. Leadership can be found in among friends and family as one leads as an example of showing grace, mercy, love, forgiveness and exhibiting how to glorify God in all things (1 Corinthians 10:31). Often it is said that leaders are born, this may indeed be true. However, the believer has two births and on the second birth (John 3:7) Christ gave all the ability to influence.
Even if that influence is exhibited only in a one on one relationship showing someone how to read the Bible or pray. The greatest way we are called to lead is in helping others know what real worship is. Now how do we worship? This quote from Brother Lawrence answers that;
“The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were on my knees.” – Brother Lawrence. Practicing The Presence of God.
In this way we both give God our whole heart, soul and mind and love others as God loves them (Matthew 22:36-37). As it is in increasing in the knowledge (Philippians 1:9, Ephesians 3:14-21) that the God who knows us loves us without question that worship is inspired (1 John 4:19). Worship that is the aroma of our lives as we express gratefulness for that love with every breath.
Any model of leadership that doesn’t have that as it’s central purpose is broken. Our broken leadership models and understanding of leadership started in the garden. Can you imagine the garden? It was beautiful, serene and peaceful. The perfect habitat to coexist, commune, worship, and experience the Almighty.
Our original parents did not ask, “Who Am I?” They knew. They were the ones created in His image. They were His representation, the ones that walked with the triune God and the cherished ones.
They were the apple of His eye, his excellent ones, the ones he rejoiced over and sang over. His prized creations, the jewels of heaven and the physical exhibition of His Glory. They did not ask, “Why Am I here?” They knew.
They existed to worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Their very breath was to reflect the holiness and beauty of the Godhead. They were there as part of God’s agenda, he was not there to fit in theirs. They were there not to be great or declare how to be great but to exalt the greatness of the living God. Their work, play, and relationship were to showcase the attributes of the One.
Their lives were not their own. Paradise was not created for them. They and paradise were the reflection of what God is. They and it were perfect. Thus they had no need to ask; “Is there more than this?” Every moment of their lives was concerned with worship and enjoying connection with each other. They did not compartmentalize their lives, every moment of their life was about enjoying the very presence of God.
This is why God was not a benefit or a concept that made life work, easier or helped them fill what they felt was missing in their life, He was their all. Then because of disbelief sin entered (John 16:9, Hebrews 3:19). Once disbelief enters, life is no longer found in God alone. And we begin to think and trust in our ability to find the answers to the questions our parents once knew.
Trying to find the answers ourselves or within ourselves leaves us on a never-ending search. A search that sets us on a journey to establish our identity and significance by what we do or don’t do or what we produce as a result of our leadership. A Journey to establish, prove and state our identity and significance in our leadership of others through self-aggrandizement.
Falsely believing that the best way to do this is to divide our life is into time segments as we divide, work, time with family from worship and the enjoyment of God. In segmenting our lives we still may not still find rest as the very segmentation only brings the need to fulfill another kind of law, as we fight for balance. Hindering the enjoyment of God in every moment of life, as we only allow such enjoyment to be experienced in the segment of life that has been created for such a purpose. Interesting thing about our parents whether their time was labelled as ours is or not, they had the same amount of time as day and evening made their day, as it does ours. The only difference was in the purpose of their day, their purpose was to commune with each other and God, ours seems to be more involved in a search for what was lost.
This search only ends as our understanding of the height, width and depth of God’s holiness and love grows (Ephesians 3:14-21). The more our understanding increases of this love the greater our desire to exhibit this love to others will be. In our growing desire to exhibit not only God’s love but His holiness the less we care if others see us fail, stumble or notice us (1John 1:5-10), after all it’s not about us. Where there is failure in leadership as the result of sin somewhere either in the leader or the ones, they are leading there is a lack of understanding the love of God.
This knowledge and understanding brings awareness that real leadership is not found in the doing (Psalm 147:10-11). In doing so much as we labor and exhaust ourselves in trying to please both God and man. Laboring from a position of placing false hope in that others notice what we are doing (Hebrews 6:19) or we ourselves feel good about what we are doing in order to feel right.
Laboring to prove ourselves enough, capable, reliant, independent or sufficient. This form of labor places us on a hamster wheel consistently running to reach a seemingly never-ending quest for that which we need, love.
The hamster wheel of life will often find us forgetting that Christ has called us to rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-30). A rest that can only be found in living LOVED, not to be loved. This is the good news the gospel brings to us who are called to be influencers and the news we must remind ourselves of daily in order to be effective influencers. This is why part of the return journey to paradise is taking our minds and spirits beyond what we accomplish or are doing and back to experiencing God in every moment.
Once the perfect demanding Law left us fearful, disbelieving and laboring tirelessly to fulfill its demand. Now that we are “In Christ,” that same Law that once labelled us as failures now reveals to us what real leadership looks like. It provides a picture and a description of what it is to be a leader that God has enabled to lead even in the ordinary and mundane. This is why gospel leadership is not about doing less or more.
It is about rediscovering that which our parents knew, the enjoyment of God in every moment of our life and as a result helping others know that same joy in their lives. John tells us that Christ accomplished so much that the “whole world would not have room for the books that would be written,” in three years (John 21:25). Whether shipwrecked or in prison Paul labored tirelessly for the kingdom and on behalf of others (1 Corinthians 15:9-10, 2 Corinthians 11:23-33). Besides our parents knowing time as we do, this provides further proof that rest is not found just in the absence of activity but in our reasons for why we are active.
Even in our rest (Yes, Indeed yet us know the peace of isolation, bodily and mind rest and the laughter of triviality (Mark: 38-40).) we must worship God, and, in our labor, we must ask what our purpose is. As it is not the busyness of activity that makes us weary, but the driving need to be involved in the art of busyness just to be enough and establish life. Labor surely brings the need for rest but the weariness that comes from the consistent struggle to establish significance, make ourselves enough or establish life is what wears on us the most. Only as we labor, with gospel intentionality do we truly find rest. A gospel intentionality that allows us to find rest as we experience the sweetness of worship even in our busyness and help others discover sweetness in worship no matter how loud the demands in their life are screaming at the moment.
Gospel-centered leaders are those who know longer lead by using others but lead in seeking connection as they know that they and others experience sweetness of worship and the love of God through such connection. This is why the labor of gospel-centered leader is found in being an influencer who is helping others find sweetness of worship in connection with God first and others next. The result of such labor will be helping others know that no matter the activity they find themselves involved in they are learning to be hedonists who find joy and pleasure in communing with the giver of all of life and expressing that joy to others. Learning to help others learn that gospel-centered rest is found not in being less busy (This is actually an impossibility, as even if our minds are only active we have the same amount of time to fill every day.) but in following our older brother Paul’s example in laboring abundantly in being givers not takers.
What wonderful news it is for the one who learns that their labor of finding life within themselves can cease because they have been given life (1 John 5:11). News that creates a desire to lead by influencing others to stop laboring to be free and independent but to find freedom and rest in being vessels, howbeit broken and messy ones. Vessels who now are laboring to bring the good news that frees the slaves and sets the captives free (Isaiah 61:1-3) from a life lived in tireless search to be enough. A vessel used to awaken the hearts of others as they see in our leadership a deeper understanding of the depth of the gospel and what it is to be known by, loved and united to Christ.
A growing understanding of Christ’s love for us will increase a desire in us to outdo others in love, prefer others above ourselves and look beyond our own interests (Romans 12:10, Philippians2:4). Thus where we once had to take to have life now, we give so others may know life. For those who are “In Christ,” all is worship, a worship that others see even in our labors a sweetness (Romans 12:1-2, 1 Corinthians 10:31). Those who are not “In Christ,” are left to lead by focusing on the same things they have always focused on.
As they pursue with intentionality in labor to achieve and gain. With a focus on getting the work done in order that they and those they lead are found to be significant, objectives are met, and life is established. Christ-cantered leaders no longer have to labor for significance, to establish life or simply to get the task list done. Now as they are empowered by love their doing involves glorifying God, loving others and bringing heaven on earth. This is why their labor is even a sweet spot of worship.
Because we are significant, loved and our identity is in Christ we can find rest in knowing that at the end of the day after we have labored because we are the bride of Christ it is not up to us to ensure the results of our labor but that such surety lies with our Bridegroom (Proverbs 16:9, Matthew 6:29-34, 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, Colossians 1:15-16;3:23). This type of leadership requires us to learn to live beyond the senses to what we cannot sense, enabling us to view what we do differently (Colossians 3:1-3). To see that all that is real, right and brings life is not in US, but in the living God.
The journey is sometimes a marathon and sometimes a sprint. Given that, there will always be different rates and variables in how we run, and our hearts motivations will never be as they should be. Sometimes our labors will bring fruit and other times they will leave us parched from the heat of the law of demands, expectations, responsibilities and todo lists. When the desert gets dry and it will we will need to reach for that long cool drink of clear gospel water, lest the weariness of the desert leaves us passionless.
As leaders our influence will soar as we grow in our ability to recognize our growing need for the key of the kingdom, GRACE. A key, that continually reveals to us that we are not loved because of how far, how much, or even in how fast we run. Instead we are loved simply on the grounds that the one-way love of the beautiful Bridegroom always flows bountifully and unconditionally.
This is why the ones with the greatest influence in the kingdom influence through walking in the light of day in admitting their weakness as they reveal how important the key called grace is. Leading others in understanding that God’s best work is often found not in our success but in our failures. Teaching others that even when things are dark, and weakness is being exhibited more than strength, God’s love and grace flows prosperously and unrestricted. As the spotlight shines on our doubts and questions, and we should and will have them, may it reveal that our hope lies not in our ability to be leaders of noted exception but that we are learning how much we need the key to the kingdom.
This same key will lead us to experience suffering, weariness, frustrations and failures as life shattering God encounters. Silently and sometimes with great outbursts these encounters will make us cry out of need for the lover of our souls to speed His love to us. A love that when encountered will never cease to grab our affections.
As our affections are grabbed by the Bridegroom we will desire more to love, empower, enable, support, labor besides, encourage and point and tell less. Since we accept that in doings is found the sweetness of our worship and the beauty of connection as it is expressed in helping others grow in their understanding, insight and knowledge of the love that binds it all together. In order that those who they influence are learning that God is more than a concept to help them fill what is missing or make life work. He is the Holy, Holy, Holy who now loves them freely and abundantly.
He is the one the One that makes all of life sweet. As we exhibit the reality of these truths, we will influence others in knowing how to rest best through practicing the presence of God in every moment of life, no matter how busy. Leaders whose leadership is an act of continuous worship to be givers rather than takers will find refreshment in every movement of life, no matter the ongoing activity. When they fail to worship, and they will the empowering love of the trinity will always enable them to influence best by through living a life of repentance (Romans 2:4) as they realign their hearts to know sweeter worship.
“It is not necessary to have great things to do. I turn my little omelet in the pan for the love of God.” – Brother Lawrence. Practicing The Presence of God
(Featured Image Credit: Adobe Stock #135117421. Not public domain.)
by Pat Badstibner, President of World Prayr, Inc.
Now, before I get started let me say that some of my favorite teachers are expositors and I love good expository preaching, but often it is nothing more than instructions on how to be better, have a better life or change without creating lasting change. Imagine tomorrow that you stumble on a five-page letter I wrote my wife Becky, but rather than starting at the beginning of the letter you start on page 3. On page three you see me discussing things with Becky that I’ve been discussing with her for some time.
You see me giving instructions on things that need to be done, need to be addressed and need to be taken care of. You see me encouraging her to take certain steps, take certain actions and follow up on certain things. Now, if you read the letter you might think; “WOW, Pat sure is bossy.” You might ask, “Where is the love in this letter?” Not realizing that you have started in the middle of the letter, missing the first two and a half pages in which I proclaim my affection, adulation, and love for Becky. If you had started in the beginning, you would have seen a love so rich you would have seen that the instructions you read on page three were to protect that loving relationship in order that others could see how much love existed between Becky and me.
There would have been no question in your mind of where the love was or where the affection in my letter was. No longer would you see those instructions as something Becky had to do to earn my love, maintain our relationship or make me happy but you would now see them as a guide to ensure that our love could be experienced in its fullness and depth of sweetness. You may even desire to be in such a loving relationship yourself.
Yet, because you read my letter out of context, apart from the loving message in the beginning, all that is seen is law and instructions on how Becky was to conduct her life, what her actions should be and what she should do. Rather than seeing Becky as a treasured jewel, loved beyond measure and that which I desire more than my very life, you may walk away feeling that if Becky doesn’t act certain ways, perform the way I want her to my love for her will not be as rich and I will be strongly displeased with her. Rather than seeing that these instructions and directions are there because I love her you may see them as a measuring stick for me as to determine how much I think Becky loves me.
In the halls of Christendom can be heard those reading page 3 of my letter to Becky without beginning at the beginning of the letter, for example, as they expound on a passage like 1 Peter 4:7-10 uncovering truths, instructions and directions found in this passage. Nonetheless, just as with those who are found reading page three of my letter these truths leave their listeners with the feeling that there are indeed things they can do to improve their lives, be happier, find within themselves the answers to maintaining their relationship with God and ensure that God’s love flows freely.
Yet, just as the reader who did not start at the beginning of my letter but page three read my letter out of context so does the expositor who begins in 1 Peter 4:7-10 without reminding their listeners of the gospel truths found 1 Peter 1:1-6. Not only do they take the passage out of context, but the expositor has also failed to meet the need. They surely have given most of their listeners what they want but not what they need.
On any given Sunday morning in the great lecture halls can be found the Samaritan woman at the well. She has come back to the well to draw from the well the same polluted water she has drawn before. Water that is polluted from the words “do more, it’s up to you,” “try harder,” “change this and step it up.” The water she is drawing can never sustain her, will always leave her thirsting for more and having to return to the same polluted well. Life is not happy, she knows that life is not as it should be, she’s searching for something that will bring her what she so desperately longs for, to be loved, to matter and to be significant.
Along with the Samaritan woman can be found the daylong laborers who have labored tirelessly doing all that they thought was right. Yet, they now see others who have not labored as they have and are now secretly crying out unfair. They are unhappy that their lives don’t seem to be as easy as those who appear to have labored less. They are in search of that which will enable them to make their labor easier. They want better instructions for next week so that they will not feel so drained, so tired, so worn out from laboring so tirelessly.
Along with the Samaritan woman and the daylong laborers is found the self-righteous brother. They have seen their brothers and sisters who showed very little love to the father, who didn’t act the way a son should obtain blessings, their inheritance, their reward, life as they wanted and now, they feel unloved. They feel they have lived life as they should, done all the right things, said all the right things and yet life is not working as they feel it should.
Not only is life not working as it should, but they also find those who call themselves brothers and sisters getting more, though not living as they should. They are found questioning the Father’s love for them, wondering why the Father feels so distant and why it feels that the Father’s love is not flowing freely towards them.
If they have come to the hall to listen to the great orator expound on the truths of 1 Peter 4:7-10 then the Samaritan woman may find herself getting instructions on how to have a better marriage, how to have better communication, how to be a better mate, how to draw water from the polluted well better or how to even change the well they are drawing from to a different well. The daylong laborer will find what they came for, as well. They will surely find instructions on how to improve their labors, how to change their work habits, how to invest their money so that they do not have to work as hard or retire early and how to work differently. The self-righteous better will indeed find; “how-to” steps on maintaining their relationship with the Father, improving their relationship with the father, removing the restrictions on the relationship with the Father so that love flows freely and how to please the Father so that the Father smiles on them with more favor.
The expositor though who only reads from page three of my letter or 1 Peter 4:7-10 has taken truths out of context and thus will do more harm than good. As they leave their listeners with hope in their ability to change, be different, do better and step up their game. Their listeners remain self-reliant, self-sufficient and feeling it lies within them to make life work, easier and maintain their relationship with the Father. They have not dispensed the water that quenches the thirst of the Samaritan woman that causes her to leave stating, “never has such a man told me such things.”
Surely others have dispensed the same or similar advice that will tell her how to have a happier marriage and make life work. The daylong laborer has been told how to make his labors easier, no doubt. And the self-righteous brother has been given how-to steps in having a closer walk with the Father, right?
This begs the question will giving them more of what they have heard really change their life or meet what they really need? If the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again, while expecting different results then why do we think that hearing hints and shades of the same instructions and directions just packaged differently really will create change in us? Do we really believe that found within those who simply expound on truths that allow us to keep looking within will enable us to experience rest from our labors and increase our knowledge of the love of the Father?
It is the failure, fault, and weakness of the expositor who gives no thought to the fact that his listeners are made up of the Samaritan woman, the daylong laborer, and the self-righteous brother. Thus giving them nothing more than that which they want, rather what they need. What they want is answers, instructions, and change that will enable them to make life easier, happier and better. What they need is to be broken of such efforts, to reminded over, over and over again that life is found outside of them.
In order to give this, the expositor must recognize that what their listeners really are in search of is to be loved, significant and to know they matter. The expositor is only able to meet these needs when he begins at the beginning, not the middle. When before going to 1 Peter 4:7-10 he keeps his exposition grounded in the gospel found in 1 Peter 1:1-6.
No matter how many times they have started at the beginning of the letter. Only here will the Samaritan woman be awakened to a life-changing love and desire instructions not to gain but to give. The daylong laborer will no longer seek to labor for life but labor because they have found life. And the self-righteous brother is able to see how deeply His Father loves not because they have earned or entitled to it, but because it is a one-way love that comes from the Father and flows freely.
Here is the first video regarding how a title fulfills the mission of Energion Publications. We intend eventually to have such a presentation for every title.
Read more from Allan Bevere at The Sound of Sheer Silence: A Lectionary Reflection on 1 Kings 19:1-18.
You can read more at: The Jewish Jesus of the NT Gospels.
Last week, I heard a statement, actually a mission, of a ministry; “Helping Christians act like Christians,” while I was driving, I almost wrecked my car. Suddenly, I had images of Tom Cruise jumping over motorcycles and putting on masks. Talk about Mission Impossible!
Yet, our minds are often so focused on DO that this represents the way we think. And this is what placed me on a bridge one night ready to jump as I considered the fact that I might never be able to DO again. An award-winning artist, my whole life had been defined by being able to do DO. Dozens depended on my ability to perform for their livelihood and the ability to feed their families. Leader among men in my church, who was known for his ability to help Christians act like Christians.
Till I was struck with a crippling disease, left with an uncertain future, wondering why God was mad at me, feeling like I was going to let dozens and my church down, entering a world of silence with doctors predicting I may never be able to walk without some sort of aid, much less DO again! As I stood on that bridge there were five prominent thoughts in my mind;
My dear friend Henry said it best recently. “The devil is a gambler, he gambled on the jump. Grace won that night.”
I didn’t have the answers that night and the pain of not knowing the answers to those questions was as painful as the physical pain I was feeling. Yet, looking back it was not the bright lights that hit me in the face from the emergency road crew that night that kept me from jumping but God’s loving sovereignty. It was God’s loving sovereignty as he broke my self-righteousness, my idea of obedience, my self-sufficiency and my idea of what a Christian should be to instill a different message, a message of grace.
The gospel without the law is not true …
What follows is the heart of that message. The beginning point of that message is helping others to grow in the knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18, Philippians 1:9), which comes through the gospel. It is not that the gospel is Christ, but that gospel speaks of Christ. The gospel without the law is not true and leaves the hearer unable to express in his life that which they have discovered through the gospel.
Yet, the law without the gospel is nothing more than a powerless to-do list unable to accomplish anything but make one weary from living life. I know firsthand about being weary from trying to enough to be right in the eyes of other Christians and God. I was famous for my to-do lists, after all.
The law without the gospel is nothing more than a powerless to-do list.
I had grown up with a Christianity that was all about DO. That night on the bridge, thousands of hours of study and what is now fourteen years later brought a different message.
I learned that there is grace found in both the gospel and law. Imagine a society where there is no law, we have all seen the effects of a lawless life. However, the law must always remain that which describes God’s character and that which describes how God always perfectly acts. Impossible to do or live perfectly (I sure tried hard enough, my family has the scars from me attempting to do so.), shouting always at us that we are not enough, nor will we ever able be on our own.
We don’t have to be enough because ABBA Father is enough.
As it does so it points us to a gospel that tells us we don’t have to be enough because ABBA Father is enough. Jesus made us enough. Yet without the law shouting at us, we may be tempted to rely on that which is most natural to us. It is indeed natural to us to want to be right, to find sufficiency and rightness in ourselves, only a law that screams failure at us can break us of such a natural bent to find significance or reason to matter in what we do, rather than what Christ did. This is why many will answer that the reason why they are significant is that they are obedient, repentant and walk right lives.
Never realizing that only by trusting in a law that no longer represents God, His character or His actions can they lay claim to such a hopeless plight. Those who ignore the voice of the law screaming failure at them, so they run to the gospel, ultimately imprison themselves on the hamster wheel of trying to be enough. As they run harder and harder to be more or prove themselves enough within their own abilities. Only to discover as John Paul Getty once remarked when asked how much money is enough, “just a little more.”
They may pretend that the law is not screaming at them or they do not hear the law laughing at them running on the hamster wheel, they may even state such, as they remain caught up on the hamster wheel of performance and perfectionism. Yet as the law screams louder to the falsity of such claims, they run faster as they remain unwilling to walk into the light with one’s failures, weaknesses and sins (1 John 1) with both God and man, hindering the fellowship of both.
In order to bolster their natural bent to a form of self-righteousness, towards a rightness, the idol of sufficiency, striving to be enough they are attracted like flies to those grace messages that do not call them to face their weakness or their failures, but such messages forget important truths. Truths that remind us that there are two parts to the equation of “His grace is sufficient for my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).” The first part everyone seems to understand, but the second part of knowing one’s weakness is often forgotten. Along with forgetting that real grace is only given to those who have heard the voice of the law that they are not enough, nor will the most uprightness, the most right person, the most together of us ever be enough alone ( Psalm 138:6; Proverbs 3:34; Proverbs 29:23; Matthew 23:12; Luke 1:52; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).
Yet, to such messages, they run like moths to light not realizing that such light may, in fact, endanger them. This is evidenced by this statement regarding society as a whole.
Bolstering, maintaining, and protecting self-esteem is the sacred cow of modern society. It’s a grievous evil to do anything that might cause others to feel bad about themselves or their performance.
— Dan Rockwell.
Those who long ago downgraded the voice of the law in such a way that it only appears to give them instructions on how to run better on the hamster wheel of life hunger and thirst, long to hear more of the words that tell them how to perform better, do more, be more pleasing and more worthy. Give me instructions on how to improve, how to do better, then I can surely hold on to the hope that I’m improving. Tell me what to do their ego screams as it clamors for that which it falsely believes makes them significant, makes them enough, makes them matter.
Of course, it is not their ego they think they hear, but simply directions on how to be enough to prove themselves worthy and pleasing, they will say.
The longing for some form of righteousness is not an aberration perpetrated by capital-R Religion but a foundation of what it means to be human. — Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What to Do about It — David Zahl
Never realizing that such behavioral, morality-based teaching only keeps hidden the real bread, real water that will quench their hunger and thirst to be enough, to matter, to be counted significant. Forgetting that real rightness comes not from within themselves, but outside of them.
This is why one must hear the bark of the law as it robs one of all hope in improvement of oneself to be enough in order that one rests in knowing that because one gave the ultimate performance, they now are enough. When our answer to the question of “Why Are We Significant’” shifts from; being about what we are doing, what others believe about us, doing enough to matter, being obedient enough, working hard enough, making all the right calls, being seen as right or having it all together to
Because God has declared us His song of glory, The praise of His grace, The Crown Jewels, The reflection of the Trinity and The beloved of the Son.
We fully come to understand that when Christ said, “It is finished,” he was telling us we could stop working to be enough, accepting that we already are. Here is where we discover the beauty that we no longer have to find within ourselves the ability to be right or enough in order to have a sense of our own righteousness but accept that we have Christs. It is because we fail to act on these truths, we remain stuck on DO.
When Christ said, “It is finished,” he was telling us we could stop working to be enough.
This is the battle, the war that rages in us, why Paul said, “sin showed him he coveted,” why Paul struggled to find within himself the ability, why we long to hear those to do messages, why we focus so hard on being right, winning being seen as enough and wind up stuck on the hamster wheel running for just a little more to indeed prove we are enough. When we accept that in Christ we are deeply loved (Colossians 3: and are enough our affections are moved Godward.)
Then the law reveals the true grace contained within it as it enables us to love the one who loves us first back and love others outdoing them in love and giving them greater honor. As our minds are transformed, we move from finding hope within ourselves to be right to ask, “How do I express that which I now am. Thus essentially moving from DOBE to BEDO. They realize that Colossians 1:10 is not an instruction on how to do more, but because they are more exhibit that they believe they are,
Those who know me now will often say it seems Pat has one message. It is a message that begins with helping others go deeper in the gospel to discover a God who is neither mad at them nor asking them to apply to be the latest spiritual performer but One who loves deeply. That springs forth from a passion to ensure that others know what I did not that night on the bridge.
This post is by Pat Badstibner, president of World Prayr, Inc. Under Pat’s leadership, World Prayr, Inc. produced the book Walking in God’s Grace, which you can preview below.
“We know that because Jesus is our Shepherd, we can find contentment, experience courage, enjoy communion, and live in confidence despite the valley of the shadow of death and the presence of enemies. (My exposition of Psalm 23) … But hearing, meditating, and considering this truth, why do we not regularly find contentment, experience courage, enjoy communion, and live in confidence?
Over the latter half of 2018 we looked at growing in our understanding of our weakness. Now, if you ask me now if I am physically, materially and emotionally weak, I will tell you I’m older, poorer and my disease can be very wearying. God has intentionally made me weak, through that weakness I have learned deeply at the foot of grace.
If you had asked me that question twenty years earlier, others would have told you of my feats of strength from lifting stone columns, three guys couldn’t lift, to bending rebar, to lifting the back end of full-size pickup trucks with my buddy. Materially, Becky did not work, she drove a new car every two years, we lived in a two-story home and spent more than some make in a week eating out. Nobody would have ever considered me emotionally weak, but all these things essentially made me extremely weak.
They made me; self-sufficient, fiercely independent, self-righteous, self-postulating, self-aggrandizing, intimating, emotionally out of touch (Didn’t care either as everyone I knew depended on me), self-enabled and self-satisfied or so I thought, Answering those three significant questions of what I did, owned, accomplished, who owed me, who I was connected to, who was helped by me, what I did for my church and who I helped. You name it, I could lay it right down with the best of them. Rated one of the top in my field of my peers, Who’s Who of American Business, the product of a multi-million-dollar company, performing at levels most could never conceive, but I was weak and didn’t even realize it.
The lack of realization made me even weaker because even though I was saved, knowledgeable in scripture and a leader in my church, I really couldn’t truly reach for the one thing I needed the most. Considered; extremely successful, giving, living a righteous life, dependable, of high moral character, sacrificial, I was still out of touch. For, this is what I thought Christianity was about, behavioral and performance Christianity was my calling card. I lived it and preached it.
Blue collar Christianity was my key to happiness. No, I didn’t believe that God was there to make me healthy, wealthy and wise. Yet, I surely believed he was there to make life work and I only reached out when it didn’t. Otherwise, I was too busy doing to be in order to be seen as a Christian worthy of being called one. No one would ever have said about me, “can you believe he calls himself a Christian,” In fact, it might have been said, “you know they should spend some time with Pat so they can see how a Christian ought to be.”
In fact, my pastor once preached a sermon on what it takes to be self-employed, the good, bad and ugly, and everyone thought he used me as a model for the sermon. Yep, that was me; the church’s largest employer, the leader among men of a 500-member church, the one ready to give, buy the equipment, teach the class, pay for the next men’s outing and yet I was weak.
I was so busy doing to be that my family was something I bought and earned, not loved and enjoyed. I was so weak but did not realize it because my aim was to low. I thought Christianity was about what I needed to do, who I needed to help, how I should live, being seen as a Christian worthy of the calling. I thought the message was about getting others to change, perform, do more, work harder, be smarter and increase in knowledge only (I missed that part about understanding and insight, growing in depth of knowledge of what is the height, depth, width and breadth of God’s love.). The reason I missed it was my aim was too low.
I thought Christianity was only about shining and pleasing God. I missed the fine print that God was already drooling over what is the praise of His glory, me, because it pleases him to do so. Had very little understanding of a law that was not easily satisfied and continued to bark harshly at me. As it that revealed that underneath that sense of self-propagated holiness my aim was too low.
If my aim had been higher God would have been more to me than just a concierge assisting me at my beckon prayer call by performing various tasks in order to make sure my life continued to work. The counselors I listened to both internally and externally made sure I knew that I was doing all that a Christian could do or be expected to do, I was at least head and shoulders above most in; my study time, my reading (A friend once remarked, “Pat is the only guy I knew that reads five books when he goes on vacation.”), my devotional life, my worship, my theology, my outer obedience but all of these things kept me from seeing how weak I was (These things are extremely important, when the heart is checked).
I was quite satisfied; with myself, my life, the answers the counselors were giving me, what I was contributing, the part I played in life, church, husband, father and friend. I had plenty of creed (Can you say Pharisee!?), was making a real difference and I knew grace was enabling me to do this (Though in truth, because I saw no weakness, refused to acknowledge weakness, I really had only needed a little grace to give me that extra push and had no clue how much grace I actually needed, because I had no understanding of my weakness)
To top it off, not only was I already pretty good at performing, I was surely improving so much in my performance that I had heard God was going to be starting a new act and was considering me for the starring role. I was God’s partner, he needed me, and I of course needed him. I had to believe God and I were partners because if I didn’t then why did I matter, why was I significant? Surely, I was not significant or matters simply because God said so! There had to be more to it, right (Yes, I know we are partners in kingdom building with God, but we are not partners with God in finishing what he has started.)?
There was something missing, something lie beneath the surface that would eventually erupt, I was incredibly weak in my understanding of the depth of gospel truth, and consequently my aim remained perpetually low. I was missing the flashing red district that lie beneath that fueled the belly of the beast’s desire for more creed, more acknowledgement, more accomplishment and pushed me harder and harder.
My aim remained on morality improvements, performance or behavior modifications (Better devotionals, prayer life, more involvement, bigger doings, greater acknowledgment) or establishing soundly the answers to those three questions. In actuality, this was the only reason I needed Jesus. It wasn’t till it all broke, when the; modifications, answers, improvements, better performance, life, and relationships fell apart on me. When that law that demanded high octane performance became impossible to; quench, to drown out, satisfy and meet that I discovered what I thought was Christianity was inept at best, at worst had made me a pawn of the little guy, and imprisoned. .
When it all went quiet, and my world never stopped spinning that I started losing grasp on how I had always answered those questions. Suddenly not only did I struggle to do what I felt pleased God, to live a righteous live, to meet my own expectations of performance, meet my own code of conduct, my own standards I also began to struggle to know why I mattered, who I was and where I belonged. Everyone still wanted something from me, my family, my friends, and my church. All I wanted was the pain to end.
One night after the physical and emotional pain had become so intense (Imagine your body hurting every day for a year and a half, as though you had the flu.) I stood on a very high bridge one leg draped over, ready to jump when I was hit right in the face with the bright lights of an emergency road truck. Those bright lights kept me from jumping to my death, yet I would spend a night in county lockdown in a room with padded walls having to be forced and held down by a group of men to give me a sedative to put me to sleep. Suddenly the man who everyone admired, was the epitome of optimum performance could no longer perform. He was literally broken.
The one who everyone turned to for the answers could no longer provide them, I didn’t even have them for myself. Even more embarrassing was when my personal assistant had to pick me up after being released the next morning. Yet, here is where the journey of weakness began, a call was made, a ministry was born, and a grace odyssey began. A journey so radical in the change it produced that my late friend Dr. Howard Brown used to say, “There is a Miami Pat and a South Carolina Pat, may the two never meet.”
For the first time since I was 10, I had to reach outside myself, when I did, I saw that my aim had indeed been way too low. I was awoken to a great inability to meet as a Christian that which God demands, requires and performs perfectly. I was awoken to a law that even required more of me than I or anyone else had ever required of me. A law that brought to a light a weakness that went way beyond my physical weakness.
One that left me crippled, gasping, searching, reaching to something outside myself, and beyond me. The more I looked into this high, demanding, crippling, emotional crushing law (A law that told me I must perfectly give God all my heart, soul and mind all the time and must share His glory with no one.) it sent me running. Running to that Shepherd who lays green pastures for me and prepares a table for me to worship as a loved, treasured, glimmer of joy in the eyes of my Father. A Shepherd who turned in the ultimate performance so that I could stop performing and rest.
In learning to rest I discovered not how to perform but how to be in a relationship with the perfect lover. I learned; to enjoy Him, worship Him, love Him and others, exemplify Him and share, out of and because of love, not to be loved, to be significant or to matter. I could stop striving and pushing to work to answer those questions, because the answer lie now with the Shepard. The more I experience this refreshing, invigorating and transforming love the higher my aim remains, the higher my aim remains the freer I become, seeking to give him what his love empowers.
If you ask me what 2018 was about, it was a reminder of these truths. Doesn’t mean I work less, do less, am less busy but it does mean the reason why I am now needing to be different. My beloved friend of twenty years committed suicide for less of a reason than what drove me to that bridge that night. I have suffered with the same condition he put in his suicide note as to why he committed it for 30 years, but because of grace, God’s sovereign purpose he jumped off the bridge so to speak, when I did not.
There lies the difference, it does not lie in that I am stronger, tougher or able to handle pain better. If those bright lights had not hit me in the face at the right time I would have jumped. It was no accident that the lights appeared right at that time, nor coincidence. It was the decreed sovereign plan of God for me to be grabbed by those headlights.
However, his death has served as a reminder. Someone remarked last week, that I used words they were not used to hearing from me. Words that did not involve drive, purpose, intentionality or anything of this nature. Words that sounded like comfort, relaxed and no pressure. This was not a change, but it was part of the reminder of the lessons learned during the fourteen years, since that night. God used the roller coaster of 2018 to make those lessons fresh, again.
Yes, the answer to the question asked is ultimately our aim is too low. C.S. Lewis was right we are quite content to make mud pies while a playground filled with unimaginable riches waits for us. Yet, to discover the riches in that playground it requires us to forsake all that we have grown quite comfortable with, including how we have always answered those questions as it did me. If we are unwilling to forsake then we stand in danger of remaining like the eternal shopper who has never had a budget to shop outside of the dime store, who suddenly has been given an American Express black card but never uses it, even though someone else is paying the bill for life. Simply because they have grown quite comfortable with what they have always known.
For the next 48 hours, starting at 4:30 pm U. S. central time on January 25, 2019, the Aer.io ebook for Walking in God’s Grace will be free. You can use the preview widget below.