Our underlying problems with God, for Christians and non-Christians, have little to do with our inability to believe, and everything to do with what we want. Our desires, passions and wishes drive our will and intellect.
The Gospel in Me
Each month on the second Monday of the month, we gather together Community Group Leaders and folks from their groups for a time of encouragement and equipping. During that time, we cover a variety of topics related to our Core Commitments (Gospel, Community, Mission), Core Identities (Disciples, Family, Missionaries), and Core Practices (Time in God’s Word, Time Around the Table, and Time in a Third Space).
This past month, we kicked off a three-part series on Gospel Fluency–a term coined by Jeff Vanderstelt, the Lead Pastor at Doxa Church in Bellevue. In his book, Vanderstelt identifies three areas where we can grow in Gospel Fluency: 1) The Gospel in Me, 2) The Gospel with Us, 3) The Gospel to Others.
Vanderstelt begins by acknowledging that we all have areas in our life where we struggle to believe God, making us all, to some extent, unbelievers. We struggle to believe that God’s Word is true and/or that God’s work is sufficient. Left unaddressed, these wrong beliefs about God, ourselves, others, and the world will lead to wrong behavior–in other words, behavior that does not align with the way that God intends for us to live as his image bearers.
By way of example, Vanderstelt uses Tim Chester’s four truths about God from his book You Can Change to illustrate how right beliefs about God can lead to righteous behavior.
- If we believe that God is great (present, powerful), then we won’t live as if we have to be in control.
- If we believe that God is glorious (weighty, worthy), then we won’t live in fear of others.
- If we believe that God is good, then we won’t look elsewhere for what we need.
- If we believe that God is gracious, then we won’t attempt to prove ourselves to God or others.
But Vanderstelt acknowledges that right beliefs don’t come easily. There is opposition all around us and even in us, attempting to convince us that God’s Word is untrue and God’s work is insufficient.
- Satan says, “God is evil. I hate him and I will do everything to oppose him and destroy what he has made.” He uses lies, accusations, and temptations to deceive us and to divide and isolate us.
- The world says, “This world is best without God, and you are best when it’s all about you.”
- Our flesh (our sinful nature) says, “I don’t need God because I am god. It’s all about me, and it’s all dependent upon me.”
So how do we combat wrong beliefs? By learning to fluently speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) to ourselves and others. We can define Gospel Fluency, then, as the ability to clearly and confidently articulate and apply the gospel in everyday conversations.
This often begins by learning to recognize the unhealthy or unrighteous “fruit” in our lives, which reveal what beliefs (“roots”) are informing our behavior. For example, if I believe that brushing my teeth is an unnecessary waste of time, then the “fruit” of that belief will be rotten teeth and unhealthy gums. Yuck!
Regarding matters of the heart, to understand why I might be living a life of fear, anxiety, and worry, along with the desire for control, which would be evidenced by what I say and do, I need to understand what I believe about myself (Who am I?), what I believe God has or has not done, and what I believe about God (Who is God?). Each of these questions goes deeper and deeper to reveal the beliefs in my heart which are producing the fruits of unbelief. As I do this, I can confess my sin–my unbelief–to God and ask him to not only forgive me, by His grace, but also to change me by changing the beliefs in my heart.
This leads to a confession of faith. Whereas a confession of sin begins with the unrighteous fruit in my life, a confession of faith begins with the righteous roots of faith that know, believe, and trust that God is who He has revealed himself to be, He has done what He set out to accomplish through Jesus–namely, to seek and save sinners like me–and He has declared who I am in light of who He is and what He has done. The roots of true faith produce such fruits as peace, joy, and love. Visually, it looks something like this:
The reality is, just like learning a new language, becoming fluent with the gospel takes time and practice. That’s one of the reasons God calls us to live in community; we need help learning how to clearly and confidently articulate and apply the gospel to our own hearts and lives in the everyday situations that we face.
And that will be our focus at next month’s Community Group Sync: The Gospel with Us. If you’re in a Community Group, I would encourage to grab a few folks from your group and join us on Monday, October 8th at 7pm. If you’re not in a Community Group, this is a great opportunity to learn what Community Groups are all about and to find one near you that you can join.