Thursday, March 9, 2017

City Notes '17: Gospel Fluency Reminds Us of Who We Are and the Good News of Why We Want Jesus to be the Hero of Our Story (2 of 3)

Gospel Fluency: Jesus is the Master of Drawing Out Our Story and Our Heart so That He Can Apply His Healing and Redemption

Previous Gospel Fluency post:

City Notes '17: Gospel Fluency Helps Us Connect with Jesus Daily and Believe His Good News for Every Area of Life (1 of 3)

This is the next post based on Jeff Vanderstelt's new book, Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff Life. As wonderful as the Gospel is as the history-altering, world-restoring, and personally transforming Good News of Jesus, I can too often run past my God and Savior when I need to turn to Him in the day-in and day-out concerns and hopes of my week. 

This book helps me freeze and take a good look at reality – that I am not the hero of my story and that God has never asked me to be. Jesus welcomes me in my weariness and invites me to share my life so that He can redeem what I've settled for or sold out to. He is the gracious God who reminds me of who I am by sharing with me again and again what He's done for me out of His great mercy because He is the God of gracious and ferocious steadfast love. 

Here is another teaser excerpt from Gospel Fluency that reveals more of what this means and how God meets us in our deepest needs.

Gospel Fluency: Drawing Out the Heart

Jesus is so good at this. Whenever I consider how I can grow in being a person of understanding who listens well, I think of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). Jesus didn't start with where she was wrong. He actually started in a humble posture of receiving from her. He asked her for water, and she poured out her soul.

You notice this if you read the Gospels. Jesus regularly said just enough to invite further probing or create intrigue. He also loved to ask questions so that the overflow of the heart (belief) would spill out of a person's mouth (words). I have found that when people, including myself, are invited to say out loud what they believe, they come to realize something is wrong. 

Jesus slows down, draws out the heart, and listens. As he did this at the well, the Samaritan woman's heart spilled out. And as it did, He guided her in a process of confession – not just of her behaviors, but also of her beliefs. She had been looking for love in all the wrong places and had clearly misunderstood God and how He interacts with humans. As Jesus engaged and listened, He was able to show her how He could provide what she most thirsted for.

The love she was looking for was standing right in front of her. And the God she should worship would go with her wherever she went. He wasn't on this mountain or that. He said He wants to come to human hearts like an unending stream of water that refreshes the soul. She believed Jesus, and then went to tell her whole village about Him.

Jesus was the hero of her story.

Gospel Fluency: Sharing Jesus as the Hero of Your Story – The Story of God in Your Life

Jesus became the main character in the woman's story when she went to the village ("Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" + John 4:29). Over the years, I've grown in telling my story – His story, the Story of God – so that I am the supporting character, not the main character. This change is part of growing in gospel fluency.

(1) Creation is all about identity. What do we believe about our origin and purpose? We all have fundamental beliefs about our origins – who or what gave us our existence, made us who we are, and shaped us into the people we are today. We all have learned to find our identity in someone or something. "How did we get here?" and "Why are we here?" are the questions we are answering in this part of our stories. 

The key question is, "What is my identity in?" 

Many find their identity in their parents or other significant influencers. However, as these influencers fail them, people move on to other things, such as work, fitness, appearance, or possessions, for their sense of identity. When I teach people how to tell their stories in light of the creative narrative, I encourage them to identify what they looked to or still tend to depend on for their sense of identity. What do they trust for their sense of worth and value?

My identity was based on people's approval of me based on my good performance, or at least my good image. Before Jesus, and even at times since I came to faith in Jesus, I didn't view myself in light of how God sees me.

I encourage people to start their stories by talking about their background, some of their early shaping influences, and how these provided a framework for their sense of identity. Though we were created as image bearers of God, because of sin, we all have been born into brokenness, and the image of God in us is distorted; also, we have been raised by broken image-bearers who have given us a distorted picture of God, self, and others.

(2) The Fall is about brokenness. In this movement of our stories, we share what has destroyed or is destroying our identity and purpose. The world is not as it should be. We are not as we should be. Brokenness is all around us and in us. Why are things broken? How did we get broken? Who is to blame for our brokenness? These are the kinds of questions people are dealing with in the fall movement of their stories

The key question is, "Who or what is the problem in my life?"

Everyone believes in a dominant problem that is keeping them from being who they were made to be or doing what they believe they are supposed to do. Most people tend to blame someone else for what is wrong. Often, it is what their parents did or did not do to them or for them. You will often find that when that which people look to for their sense of identity (their creation stories) fails them, that is what they blame. Sometimes their perceived problem is the culture around them or the failure of friends or coworkers. And sometimes they see themselves as the problem.

This is close to the truth, but not close enough. The problem is in us, but it isn't in how we appear or even in how we behave. It's much deeper than that. The gospel informs us that the real problem is sin – our unbelief in God. We rebelled against God and looked elsewhere for our identity, purpose, and truth, so God turned us over to our sin. And sin destroys. As I teach people to write their stories in such a way as to make Jesus the hero, I also encourage them to take ownership of their culpability in their brokenness. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Identity what you have done that is broken. What have you believed about God, others, and yourself that is wrong? And how have your sinful beliefs led to sinful behaviors?

In my story, I highlight that my problem was that I looked to man for approval and acceptance. I had exchanged worship of God for seeking the approval of man. When I tell my story, I take ownership for how I responded. I came to a place where I realized that I had let others have too much power in my life. They had become my image of God instead of Jesus. I had to repent of looking to them and turn to Jesus. I couldn't keep blaming someone else for how I responded to God. I had to take ownership of my sin. Yes, a person hurt me. Yes, it was wrong. But I had sinned in looking to him to be God for me.

Some people share about being abused or abandoned, physically or emotionally, as they tell their stories. All abuse is wrong. However, we need to help one another move from allowing abusers to continue to have power and control over us, making them the center of our stories, to taking ownership for how we respond to them. When we tell our stories and fail to confess our sins as well, we often fail to show our need for a Savior, too. Jesus won't be the hero of the story if we don't really need a Savior for our sin.

(3) Redemption is about rescue and deliverance. Everyone is in need of a Savior. Everyone needs to be rescued and delivered. This is the part of the story where we share who or what we look to in order to save us or rescue us

The key question is, "Who or what is our Savior?"

Everyone is searching for a solution to their problem. For some, it's better friends, spouses, children, or grandchildren. Some look to exercise and diets. Others believe work will save them, or the money they earn from working will do it. Every savior, every solution, every answer, and every person falls short of addressing our real problem. Only one Savior can deal with our real problem of sin, and that is Jesus Christ.

At this point of our stories, I encourage people to share who or what they were looking to for deliverance and how they came or could come to see that Jesus is a far better Savior, who rescued and redeemed them from sin and their slavery to it.

In my own story, I share how I idolized man and looked to others to grant me acceptance and significance. However, they always let me down. They could never say enough or do enough to address how I had sinned. I also looked to myself to try and measure up or make up the gap. I couldn't do it. In fact, it was exhausting! Only Jesus measures up for me. And only He could make up the gap of my unrighteousness with His righteous life. He paid the debt I owed for my sin and idolatry. He not only forgave me, but also healed my wounds and built me back up. Through His Spirit, He poured the love of God the Father into my heart, and as a result, I could forgive others. But it doesn't end with forgiveness. The good news ends with everything being made new!

(4) New Creation is about our ultimate hope. There is a deep longing in every one of us for change, for transformation, for better – for all things to be made new. Everyone is looking forward to a final conclusion, a complete fulfillment of our every longing, a hopeful climax to every story. This is the happy ending we all long for. And this hope drives us all. We all have things in our hearts and minds that we are expectantly hoping for. In the last part of our stories, we share what has changed in us, as well as the ultimate change we are longing for. We share how we've been transformed and what our ultimate hope is. 

The key question is, "What has changed and what will change?"

We were created for more than this. What presently is not what is to be. And every one of us longs for better, for more, for a new creation. The question is: "What is our version of the new creation?" The gospel tells us that the new creation includes a new you, a new heaven and earth, and a new King at the center of it all – Jesus Christ. There will be a day when there will be no more sin, suffering, or brokenness. We who belong to Christ will be made perfect and complete. Heaven and earth will be new and united.

When I instruct people in writing their stories, I encourage them to share how Jesus has changed or could change them and is changing them right now. I also encourage them to share about their hope for everything to change. The gospel is not just about what has happened. It's also good news about what is happening right now and will happen in the future.

We will be saved. And God is still saving me. I am so much freer when it comes to my concern about what people think of me because of Jesus. When I fail, I am not as devastated as I used to be because I know I am forgiven and Jesus's work is sufficient. I am growing to be more like Him every day, and as a result, I believe He is being more and more glorified through me, because the more I become like Him, the more others get to see what He is truly like. And I can't wait for the day when we will see Jesus face to face and, in a moment, become like Him.

Next post: City Notes '17: Gospel Fluency Helps Us Get to the Root of Our Unbelief so We Can Turn to Jesus and Experience the Fruit of His Spirit (3 of 3)

City Notes are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read this year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read.

Here are links to previous City Notes books:

+ Sully

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