Driven, pt 2 – Nascar and a guy named Geoffry

I view the Christian life like a race. Not like a simple foot race, more like a car race (I’m driving an Audi R8). And it isn’t like some Nascar race:
“Where do I go to get to the finish?”
I picture it like a chase scene in a movie. We’re flying down the road, avoiding potholes and obstacles, not even entirely sure where the finish is but trying to get there as fast as possible. It’s exciting, it’s intense, and it’s dangerous. There are a lot of ways to go wrong, but we have a great Navigator to guide us through.
We are called to be driven; to not live a lackadaisical life floating around without purpose. However, this does not mean that we are driven by or towards just anything. Too often we decide we are going to be driven by ourselves towards a fulfillment of our personal desires for comfort, safety, respect, attention, and power. Our end goals are to achieve a certain status, gain recognition, become wealthy, and to accumulate stuff. This is not the way the Bible calls us to be driven. This is what the Bible calls envy, greed, selfish ambition, vanity; also, sin.

Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
-Heb 12:1-2, ESV

If you look at the banner image for this blog, first glance would lead you to think it is a simple stock photo. However, my lovely and uber-talented wife Charmaine subtly adjusted the image – look at the road near the horizon. We are called to be driven by Christ towards the cross. As the writer of Hebrews says, we are to get rid of everything that is slowing us down and distracting us from the race and look ahead to Jesus, who left us a perfect example to follow and who sacrificed himself for us. He is the author and perfecter of our faith – he started us and he keeps us going. It isn’t about us, about our wants or desires or preferences. It’s about God, about His glory and what He did for us on the cross. As Paul tells us:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
-Galatians 2:20

Crucifixion is capital punishment. We have been put to death. Our problem is that we keep trying to climb out of the casket! We keep going back to those old ways, those selfish, sinful tendencies that take over so easily. STAY DEAD! The life we live is no longer that old life, but life lived in and through Jesus Christ, our savior and sustainer, our author and perfecter, our navigator and our destination. The NIV says it well in its translation of Heb 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…”

Earlier this year, Geoffry Mutai did something that got him a lot of attention. He ran 26 miles in the Boston Marathon. I could run 26 miles, so that doesn’t impress me a lot. What impresses me is that, while I would take several days to run 26 miles, Mutai did it in 2 hours and 22 minutes. That’s an average of over 11 miles an hour for over 26 miles. Slow and steady may be ok, but fast and steady is even better. Are you locked in to Jesus, and how hard are you running the race toward him?

Fake Relativism and Lessons on Sex

So I’m reading this post-apocalyptic novel (I like those things…if the world comes to some fiery end before Christ returns, I’ll be ready!), and one of the odd little things the characters in the story talk about is time.  One night one of the characters asks several others what time it is, and she gets a different answer from each person she talks to – they had all lost the standardizing sources for their clocks and watches when they lost access to power and communication systems, and now everyone’s clock said something different.

I thought of this as I was reading the book Think by John Piper.  In it Piper says, “God is the ultimate and final standard for all claims to truth-who he is, what he wills, and what he says is the external, objective standard for measuring all things.  When relativism says that there is no universally valid standard of truth and falsehood, it speaks like an atheist.  It commits treason against God.” (p. 105)

To be honest, I’ve always had a little bit of a problem with the idea that relativism is spreading.  I didn’t talk about these thoughts much, though, until I had the opportunity to speak to Sean McDowell a couple of years ago, and he echoed some of the thoughts rattling around in my head; that relativism didn’t really seem to be taking hold in the youth we had contact with, at least in the sense that they were rejecting the idea that there could be a universal basis for truth (the idea that a universal basis for truth is unknowable can also be called relativism and is a completely different subject).  Now a couple of years later, I still don’t see the rejection of universal truth in any of the hundreds of teenagers I come in contact with over the course of the year.  What I do see is a lack of willingness to take a stand on a standard of truth because of a lack of confidence in identifying what that standard is.

As Piper puts it, God is the standard – he is the measure of all truth, of good and evil.  Since God created everything, He gets to put a definition on everything; because he is immutable (unchanging), that standard stays put.  If this is the case, our understanding of ultimate truth is dependent on our understanding of Him.  Combine that fact with what seems to be the obvious decline of Christian America, and I think we may be able to better understand where our students and young adults are coming from.  The basic cultural understanding that God exists and that the Bible tells us about who He is no longer is a given.  Because of this, our general knowledge of God and of ultimate truth as a nation and as a culture is declining.  Our students and young adults simply do not want to state that they understand something they don’t.  If they don’t see the universal standard of truth – that God exists, that He is knowable, consistent, and good – then they have no basis on which to take a stand on moral subjects.

So what do we do?  Simple: start acting like Christians.  Talk to others about Him, live what we say we believe, and point others to Christ.  Practice apologetics – give reasons for believing what we believe, be humble and loving, and trust that God is in control (1 Pet 3:15).  Do what God is calling us to do daily, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour.

I was asked by a fellow youth pastor this week how I go about teaching students, what my philosophy of Christian education is.  My response was this; I have a lesson I teach, usually every other year, called, “Why I don’t teach lessons on not drinking, smoking, doing drugs, and having sex.”  I don’t teach lessons about those things, and here is why: I have always believed the positive truth about who God is and what He has called us to do is more powerful that the negative truth about the things we aren’t supposed to do.  In my experience, the message of saying we are called to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God,” (Micah 6:8) is more powerful than “don’t lie, don’t swear, and don’t sass your parents.”  With the first, we have the promise of blessings and God’s favor.  With the second, curses.

Don’t get me wrong, the second list is still important and something worth talking about.  Just because I don’t teach lessons on not drinking, smoking, doing drugs, and having sex outside of marriage doesn’t mean we don’t talk about those things.  However, when we are focused on living a life that is pleasing to God, some of those things fall into place prettyeasily.  To talk about not having sex before marriage on its own is one thing, but to talk about it after discussing God’s plan for relationships with each other and with our spouses establishes a better foundation for following God.  The “don’ts” in the Christian life certainly exist (the 10 Commandments are an easy example), but they should be viewed within the context of a real, loving and personal relationship with our Heavenly Father and His desires for our life.

The key is understanding God’s call for our lives, on seeing Him and His truth in the scriptures; on knowing it in our minds and believing it in our hearts.  I feel confident that if knowing God is our focus, our students and our young adults will identify that truth and not only be willing to stand for it, they will proudly proclaim it to a world that, in its heart, desperately wants to hear it.

Thoughts to drive us

Some people make a great many claims, but we should not believe anyone unless their actions align with their words…There will be three effects of closeness to Jesus – humility, happiness, and holiness. May God give them to you, dear Christian!
-Charles Spurgeon

We need to discover for ourselves how to live this day in faithful surrender to God as we “continue to work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).
-Francis Chan, Crazy Love

The central dogma of the Incarnation is that by which relevance stands or falls. If Christ was only man, then He is entirely irrelevant to any thought about God; if He is only God, then He is entirely irrelevant to any experience of human life. It is, in the strictest sense, necessary to the salvation of relevance that a man should believe rightly the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
-Dorthy L. Sayers, quoted by Alister McGrath in Heresy

The Holy Spirit makes people repentant long before He makes them perfect, and he who believes what he knows will soon know more clearly what he believes.
-Charles Spurgeon

The world needs Christians who don’t tolerate the complacency of their own lives.
-Francis Chan, Crazy Love

You have the freedom to do what you most want to do. And therein lies the problem. I cannot be anything I want to be. I cannot do anything I want to do. My choices are governed by my heart, and my heart is the heart of a sinner, unless and until it is changed by the intervention of God.
-Colin Smith, “‘The Adjustment Bureau’ Adjusted”

Christ’s throne, crown, scepter, palace, treasure, robes, and heritage are all yours and are far superior to jealousy, selfishness, and greed, which share no benefit to those who participate in them.
-Charles Spurgeon (on Rom 8:17)

There are a lot of things in [the Bible] that I go, “Wow God, you did that, you thought that, I wouldn’t think that, and I wouldn’t have done that.” But when…you come to those passages, does it even enter your mind that maybe He knows something that you don’t?
-Francis Chan, “Hell: We can’t afford to get it wrong.”

Chicken and Fruit

We really like being comfortable.  Each of us defines comfort differently, but the vast majority of the time we will gravitate towards something that puts us in our personal comfort level no matter where we go.  For some, comfort means seeking out that American restaurant when traveling abroad.  Maybe comfort is only listening to our favorite music or reading a particular genre of book.  Whenever I travel, I always want to know where the closest Caribou Coffee (1.5 miles from my current location) and Chick-fil-A (12 miles from my current location) are.  By the way, did you know Chick-fil-A didn’t invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich?  What a wonderful thing, that Chick-fil-A sandwich…

Being comfortable makes us feel good, but can also become a distraction.  There is a reason your office chair has a cushion but isn’t a La-Z-Boy – when we become focused on comfort, we cease being productive.  Something Mark Driscoll said during a workshop at the Gospel Coalition national conference inChicagoreally got me thinking; “Some of you have developed a theology that justifies fruitlessness.”  I love Mark Driscoll; I think he has a great balance of a firm foundation in biblical truth and authority with an insightful cultural awareness.  However, my first reaction to this was that this was not a very fair statement.  The gospel isn’t about measurable results; it’s about faith, right?  However, as I thought about what Driscoll said, a couple of thoughts came to mind.  First was the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control (Gal5:22-23).  These are fruit that grow in our lives from the Holy Spirit – and we can see fruit grow!  This fruit is not measurable with a ruler, but if we take time to honestly self-evaluate, we should be able to see the effects of God’s hands on our heart and in our lives.

This lead to my second thought: “…faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (Jas 2:17,ESV)  There is certainly no intent by James to minimize the importance of faith here, but I believe he is emphasizing the importance of faith by weeding out the fakers – if there are no works, if there is no fruit to accompany professed faith, their faith is dead.  Martin Luther said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”  There must be something that changes in our lives, fruit that grows, signs of the changes that God is making in and through us – these are not works that earn salvation, but they are signs of that salvation that we have received in Christ.

We like being comfortable and more often than not that pesky Holy Spirit wants to push us into places where we are not comfortable, and we resist.  Then we stop seeing that fruit grow.  But we are too smart for our own good, so we try to justify the lack of fruit in our lives, emphasizing the evil world in which we live and the depravity of humanity and the decline of our country.  We will spend hours talking about the struggles all around us, of the poor who are in need and the ministries that need support in helping them.  We will add them to our prayer chains and tell the ministry workers, in effect, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” (Ja2:16) because to do anything more would require too much effort and sacrifice on our parts.

By random chance (by the way, I don’t believe in random chance), this week I was reading the chapter titled, “Serving leftovers to a holy God” in Francis Chan’s Crazy Love in preparation for Sunday School with a group of the youth at my church.  In the chapter, Chan decides to just tell it like he sees it (I like it when people do that).  This is what he says;

Churchgoers who are ‘lukewarm’ are not Christians.  We will not see them in heaven…Jesus’ call to commitment is clear: He wants all or nothing.  The thought of a person calling himself a ‘Christian’ without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd.

In speaking of the church in Laodicea referenced in Revelation 3:14-22 Chan writes, “They were comfortable and proud.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?”  I think reading that should make us pretty uncomfortable.  Not bearing fruit, living lives that lack any actual growth, is not an option for a Christian.  Jesus did not command us to “go therefore and try to make disciples…”  Check out Matthew 28:19-20 and see if you feel as convicted as I do.

Thoughts to drive us…

Recently, I’ve been really encouraged by finding and noting significant thoughts and quotes from people. I have found them on blogs, in books, on Twitter, during messages, and just about everywhere else. I will attempt to share some that have meant the most to me weekly here as Thoughts to drive us…


I’m a missionary. I’m thinking through it, praying through it, seeking counsel, and engaging the culture. Never arbitrary always strategic.

God is not impressed with you, but he loves you which is even better.
-Mark Driscoll

Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.
-Francis Chan, Crazy Love

If you understand it, it isn’t God.

God wants our best, deserves our best, and demands our best…Leftovers are not merely inadequate; from God’s point of view, they’re evil. Let’s stop calling it “a busy schedule” or “bills” or “forgetfulness.” It’s called “evil.”
-Francis Chan, Crazy Love

Believers and unbelievers alike often say, “Money can’t buy happiness,” yet it appears our actions attempt to prove otherwise.
-Jim Reimann

There are thousands of believers who never go beyond saying “I hope so” or “I believe so.” But to experience true peace and comfort you must be able to say, “I know.” And words such as if, but, and perhaps are sure murders of that peace and comfort.
-Charles Spurgeon


A lot of people get eschatology, or beliefs on the end times, wrong.  Really wrong.  We argue and fight over pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, and post-tribulation rapture (orwhether there really will be a rapture).  We point and laugh (or yell) at those close-minded pre-millennials or those wacky a-millennials.  Even many of you who have read some of these terms and don’t really know what they mean still have a strong opinion, you just put it in different terms.  I know it was a shock for me when I realized that things may not happen exactly the way they were set out in those Left Behind books – who knew Tim LaHaye could be wrong!

I don’t think people get end times theology wrong because their viewpoint doesn’t agree with mine.  I’m not sure I agree with my viewpoint on end times theology!  They get it wrong because they think that figuring out when Christ is coming back is the point.  It’s not.  While talking about the end times in 1 Thessalonians, Paul says, “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and sober.” (5:6,ESV)  We are to be attentive, to remember that we have not been put on this earth to wander aimlessly, but to accomplish tasks that God has put before us.

Too often we live purposeless lives, wandering from task to task, going to school, going to work, going to church, all without really thinking about why we are doing these things.  Before Christ returned to heaven, he told his disciples that they had work to do.  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:19-20)  He does not tell them to “Go try to make disciples” or “When it is convenient, make disciples.”  There is an expectation placed on Christ’s followers, and results aren’t just hoped for; they are expected.

So what about when this doesn’t happen?  What happens when Christians just let these commands slide, when they become unfocused and forget that they are on this planet for a reason?

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.  For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  -Rev 3:15-17

I think sometimes we try to convince ourselves that this statement doesn’t have as strong a command attached as it actually does.  These “Christians” are simply lukewarm…not hot, not cold, just sort of a comfortable medium.  They think things are going well; they have what they need for life, they are comfortable and happy.  God says they are “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”  I sure don’t want God to describe me like that!  I don’t ever want quote marks to be used when I am labeled “Christian.”  I don’t think “Christians” get to go to the same place when they die that Christians go to (see Matt7:21-23).

As Christians, we need to be driven.  Our lives should have a trajectory, we should be accomplishing something for the Kingdom of God, and there should be a purpose to what we do.  I do not mean that we should be meeting some sort of quota or that a specific set of measurable accomplishments must be met.  I do mean we should have an expectation that God is going to use us to bring Him glory and to point others in this world towards Him.  Our jobs, our hobbies, and our friendships should all be purposely used to bring glory to God.  We don’t work just to make money; we use the opportunity to share Christ with our coworkers.  Our hobbies aren’t just to waste extra time, they are to honor God with the gifts and opportunities He has given us, to enjoy His creation, and to share experiences with others.  Our friendships are not centered on what we can get from others, but on the love that we can share with those whom we come into contact, all because of the absolutely incredible love that God and poured out onto us.  We see this purpose in our lives, and we go for it, not as a nice opportunity but as a reason for our being – bringing glory to God through the life that He has given each of us.

There is a classic Monty Python sketch where a group of less-than-intelligent men are lined up for a race.  As the starting pistol fires and the race starts, one of the runners takes off to the far right, two others start spinning around, and the remaining runners awkwardly run in the general direction that they are supposed to be going, while the first runner crosses their path, still running in the wrong direction.  Do you ever get the sense that this is how we are pursuing Christ?  As silly as this may seem, we do get sidetracked and forget that we are running a race towards a goal.  That is why Paul reminds us to “run that you may obtain [the prize].” (1 Cor9:24)  It is for this reason that we have been created.  This is why we are have been put in this place at this time.  Are you driven?