Matt Chandler – The Message – Making it Explicit

matt chandler

What we’ve been called to do is far more difficult than we think, because:

  • If you’re not a believer in Jesus Christ, if you are lost, the Bible says you are blind, that you are deaf, that your heart is hard. This is people being ignorant.
  • On top of that, you have what I would categorize- Religious lost people- People that speak our language, but don’t know our God. People who know the right phrases, they’ll have icehouses on their car, they’ll now our systems, they’ll wear our clothes, but, they don’t know our God. Even if  you try to rebel against where you’re from and you try to create a more pure version, in your eyes of what this is about, they will simply adapt your language and do the same thing they’ve been doing since Christ walked the earth. 

Because people caught in their sin, whether it expresses itself religiously or irreligiously, are dumb. And God takes you, and He takes me , dumb also, infuses inside us the Gospel message and sets us in the middle of dumb sheep… and they bite, and they’re constantly trying to get away. And, whatever romantic notion you have in your brain about what this is, I need to try and destroy it right now.

Our job, as undershepherds in the church of Christ is not in the middle with a well dispositioned ‘I love the mission’ sheep. Our job is on the borders. And on the borders they bite, on the borders they try to get away, on the borders they’re trying to help others get away, and on the borders it’s MESSY. It’s not clean, it’s not pretty. It is long, it is exhausting, no matter how large or small the size of your church is.

Confusion of what our message is and who Jesus Christ is, has always been there, even when Christ Himself was on earth. Let me show you some of this:

  1. The Pharisees and Scribes in Matthew 12:24 – Jesus is not only pronouncing that the kingdom of God is here, but He is also doing miracles and that is kind of a trump card on intellectual debate, isn’t it. If you’re debating ‘who’s from God?’ and one of you tells a dead guy, you’re not allowed to be dead (Jesus), and the dead guy comes back to life, you just won the argument. And so, Jesus is doing these miraculous signs and this is what the Pharisees and Scribes say about Him: „When the Pharisees heard it, they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons that the man cast out demons.'” So, to the Pharisees and the Scribes, the ruling religious elite of the day, Jesus Christ was (to them) demonically possessed.
  2. Others on the street – If you remember the story, where Jesus gathers His disciples and asks, „Who do people say that I am?” And this is what the word on the street is- Matthew 16:13-14 „ When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” So, He’s asking His disciples who the other people on the street think that He is. And so, they go through this list. Now, what do all those people have in common (that Jesus is compared to)? They’re dead. So, the ruling religious party of the day say He has a demon. Word on the street is that He is some kind of reincarnated prophet, some sort of reincarnated ghost. And the, it just keeps on getting more confusing.
  3. His family – in Mark 3:20-21 – it says, „Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” So, the ruling religious party of the day says He has a demon. Word on the street is that He is some kind of reincarnated ghost. Now, his family thinks He is crazy.
  4. His disciples – Now, what about the disciples? The disciples are with Him all the time. That group has to get it right. And so, you have the arrest, the crucifixion, the resurrection and in Matthew 28:16-17, most people know the back half of this chapter, but, it’s these 2 verses that are compelling. „Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Of the 11, some doubted. Now, think about that. You’ve got Christ crucified, risen, ascending into heaven and people are going, „Mm, I don’t know….” In the first century, when He’s there saying, „This is who I am,” there’s still all this confusion about who He is. And some of you, who know your Bible well, know that earlier He said, „Well, who do you say that I am?” to His disciples. And Peter answered, „You’re the Son of God.” But Peter – just as a general rule, if Jesus calls you the devil 5 verses later, you don’t get credit for that. If you nailed it, but then get called Satan by Christ, then you lost whatever points you got for nailing the quiz earlier.

So, there is this mass confusion about who Jesus Christ really is. In fact, in the Gospels, the only one that nails it when it comes to Jesus Christ are the demons. The demons are the only ones who nailed who Jesus Christ is when He was walking the earth: „We know who you are, the Holy one of God, You’ve come to destroy us before the appointed time.” I don’t know if you picked up on the lack of dualism in that. It’s not, „You’re here, let’s do it. Let’s fight to the end.” It’s, „Oh no, are you going to destroy us early? We know you’re going to destroy us, but we thought it was a couple of thousand years from now. Is it already that time? We weren’t paying attention. Why don’t you just throw us into the pigs?”

So there was this mass confusion about Jesus Christ, while Jesus Christ was actually here. Wouldn’t we be foolish to assume that there’s not great confusion even today? In fact, if you were to walk around and ask people, „Who is Jesus?” I think you would get all sort of answers. Some will call Him a great teacher- the ones that say He was a great teacher always makes alarms go off in my head, because He would be the only teacher that we would say is a great moral philosopher teacher, who we don’t like, nor believe any of His teachings.

By and large, you will get these junk drawers of who He is. For ex. I’m in Dallas, with a church on every corner, yet, that is no indicator of spiritual health or vibrancy. So that whole, „I don’t wanna plant a church, where there’s a church on every corner, I think that’s the wrong question altogether. And, in the middle of that, I can tell you: We lack in the city spiritual vibrancy. We got a lot of buildings, but not a lot of life transformation occurring. When I got to the VIllage (Matt Chandler’s church) in the conversations I had, I found out that some people were christians because- their parents were christians, or they were Texans, because they were baptized after kid camp, or because they were afraid they’d go to hell. So we found these people who were completely confused about what the Gospel of Jesus Christ was. As a matter of fact we found that we were baptizing a ton of people who went to church, had the testimony, but had no idea who Jesus Christ was. They grew up in church and really had no clue what the Gospel message actually was.

Published on Nov 14, 2012 thejourneystl 

From the November 2012 A29 bootcamp at The Journey, in St. Louis, Mo.

God’s people are prone to wander

If you pay attention to your Bible, this shouldn’t shock us at all. Not only were people confused about who Jesus was while He was here, but, even people who accepted later on Jesus for who He actually was, was prone to forget who He actually was and what our message actually was. God’s people are prone to wander. We are prone to leave the God we love.  We love, regardless of how many times it has failed us, the idea of our ability to better ourselves. We love taking it off Jesus and, „I’m gonna make this better, I’m gonna grow in this”. And apparently, every church in the New Testament struggled with that also because the apostle Paul, in particular, is going to pound into them the Gospel, over and over, and over again:

  1. Romans 1:13-15 – I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. 14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. Paul is talking to christians, and delayed because he is preaching the Gospel to people who already know it, people who already believe. The task that you and I have been given is to consistently and constantly, in every venue, and in every vein, bring people back to the understanding that our salvation, our hope, our sanctification is by the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone. And best practices are needed, and they are necessary. But, they will do nothing to transform the heart. I can give you 6 steps to romancing your wife’s heart. But, I can do nothing to have the Gospel of grace stir your heart towards your wife, so that you would love her as Christ loved the church. I can tell you to google romantic ideas for dates, and what a gift google is to men. But, I can’t in preaching, in teaching, in best practices give you a heart that loves your wife like Christ loved the church. I can’t do that. That’s God stuff.
  2. Galatians 1:6-9 – I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! There is only one Gospel, only one thing that can save us, only one thing that can sanctify us, only one thing that can carry us safely home. It’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s all you’ve got
  3. Galatians 2:20-3:6  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

    Faith or Works of the Law

    You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” If I can fix me, I can fix you, if we can fix other people (Because this has to move outside of you fixing you)… Here’s what I have learned about pastors: We completely get that we can’t fix us. What we don’t get is that we can’t fix others. What we believe is that we can fix others. The irony is you know you can’t fix you, yet you think you can fix others. Somehow, in your ignorant sinfulness, you’ve begun to buy into your ability to change other people. But, if you could do that, you nullify the grace of God and Christ will have died for nothing. You really think that God’s eggs are in your basket? God is not crossing His fingers hoping that I’m gonna be faithful. God saves. I don’t save. I’ve got no power. I’ve sat at the table with 2 different men and said it, and I’ve seen one man be confused by it and the other reborn by it. It is the Holy Spirit of God that granted life. I got no ability to change anyone, you’ve got no ability to change anyone. WHAT WE HAVE IS THE GOSPEL. So, regarding philosophy of ministry- I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to draw a crowd. But, just know: What you woo them with better have some substance. Cause lasers, smoke and trap doors, in the  end will do nothing to transform hearts. I don’t believe it’s difficult to draw a crowd. It’s impossible to transform hearts. You’d better feel that.

  4. Ephesians 1 & 2 – What’s that, but the Gospel at work? Philippians 1:12-17 with the apostle Paul is prison, saying, „If I’m free, or if I’m in prison, it just serves the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (21:00)

How you make the Gospel explicit

1 Corinthians 15 – verse 1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you,which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. So Paul, writing to the church in Corinth- and can we just agree that regardless how dysfunctional your church is, that Corinth wins? But, here’s the thing, I think, you have to keep in mind when it comes to the church in Corinth: Big things are happening. People are coming in, but, it is messy. And Paul says, „Remember brothers, the Gospel. That you heard it and that you were saved by it and now you’re standing in it”. Which means, we don’t move away from the Gospel, we stay anchored to it, both as our justification and our sanctification. He (Paul) carries it even farther than that. He says, „It carries us on unto the end, if we hold fast to what we believed at first.”

That needs some unpacking. That means we are held fast, standing in the Gospel ‘til the end, if we hold fast to what we first preached, which was ‘Christ, and Christ alone’.  You don’t get to add to Jesus. You don’t get to add to the regenerating, sanctifying work of Christ and be held fast! You’re putting weight on it and you’re putting weight on you that you’re not meant to carry. So, if we see, in the Bible, the reality that people are not smart, we’re part of dumb people. And God has created and given dumb people a message herald to dumb people. How do we make the Gospel explicit so that people can hear about Jesus and know Jesus?

It has been my experience that way too many people in evangelical churches know Jesus Christ like I know Troy Aikman. I know about him, but I don’t know him. They know some statistics about Him (Jesus), but, they don’t know Him. So, how are you and I, as proclaimers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and as leaders of churches going to make the Gospel explicit?

  1. The pulpit – In the pulpit, what needs to happen is: You’ve got to step out of your skin and step into the calling that God’s given you. Which means, the stage can’t be about you, it’s gotta be about the Gospel message. There’s one hero. It’s not you. There’s one person with the ability to save. It’s not you. One person who transforms, not you. You’ve got to step out of yourself and ‘all roads lead to Jesus’. You wanna talk about marriage? It leads to Jesus. You wanna talk about children? It leads to Jesus. You wanna talk about holiness? It leads to Jesus. You wanna talk about sex? It leads to Jesus. ALL ROADS LEAD TO CHRIST IN THE PULPIT. ALWAYS! That’s our message. That’s all we’ve got: The power of God unto salvation. The pulpit is the heralding of the good news of Jesus Christ.
  2. The children in the church– But, listen pastors, it can’t stop there. Let me ask you a question: What about preschool? You herald the Gospel in the pulpit and teach  morality to the kindergarteners. Here’s something that I find disappointing. As broken as, and you watched the political debates and the talk about education, as ignorant as the politicians in government say our students are, I find it interesting that the broken school systems think they can handle some advanced mathematics, some advanced science, but, we don’t think they can handle the attributes of God. So what’s it look like Pastor? You preaching the Gospel from the pulpit, but, morality in Sunday School, for the children?
  3. Your staff – What about staff culture? Your staff interactions, your team interactions reveal that you actually believe the Gospel. Let me ask you a question: Do the men and women around you, in your eyes, are they commodities that are there to meet your needs? Or, are they brothers and sisters in Christ? Sure, maybe you’re leading them and maybe you’re the chief under shepherd of the team around you that’s gonna serve. But, do you treat your team like commodities? Do they exist to serve your ends? Is there any concern in your heart, whatsoever, for them as Christians first? Any pastoral bones in your body towards your staff? 
  4. Church culture – A church that understands the Gospel celebrates. And, it celebrates in two ways. It celebrates above the shoulders. It worships in knowledge. Which means: It knows the attributes of God and the attributes of God stir up in our heart. Now, however, below the shoulders, the beauty of the God that we’ve seen, and that leads to worship. And that means that a church that has had the Gospel explicitly preached to them from preschool to puberty, into high school, into college, into adulthood, is a church that celebrates the beauty of God in worship.

There will come a day when we no longer need to exegete Scripture. In heaven, I won’t know in part, I’ll know in full and so will you, and so will all the people of God. But, you know what will never end? Informed, zealous, gut wrenched worship of our God. And when we explicitly proclaim the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, where we create and cultivate cultures where we believe and practice it you are not a tyrant in your church, nor unaccessible and unavailable. I mean to say, that you have been so moved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that you have empathy, respect and love for the people that you’ve been called to shepherd. You’re gonna need it. You’re gonna need genuine empathy and genuine compassion, cause people are dumb and they’re gonna test you. They’re gonna test who you’re in this for. There are people who God has given into my care that honestly, I don’t like. So, what sustains us as men of God, what sustains us as those called to lead and shepherd people, who are dumb like us? The Gospel does. And it’s made evident, as we walk and pour ourselves out for others, as we explicitly make known our only hope, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, if the Gospel must be explicit, for genuine transformation to occur in the hearts and minds of our people, I would, if I were you, do an internal audit so see whether you believe it. And then, I would start really paying attention as to how that’s fleshing itself out on your team, and all those closest to you.

Hey, how’s the Gospel making itself evident in your marriage?

Do you just do things for your spouse so you can get in return? Because that’s not Gospel living. Gospel living says: You give, and then you give some more, and then you give some more. The irony to me, about marital difficulty among evangelicals is that we love God for loving us unconditionally, yet it seems like tyranny when He asks us to do that to our spouse. You wanna know how wicked you are? Watch how enticed your heart is to worship and make much of God, when it really sinks in that He loves you despite you. And watch how any expectation of you, loving your spouse like that, stir up in your heart feelings of injustice. How’s the Gospel working itself out in your marriage?

How quickly are you able to forgive?

How often do you feel like you have to defend yourself? How comfortable are you with other people getting praise on your team? What if you’re the leader behind the scenes, but, someone else is getting credit? How are you with that? What of someone’s not doing what you’re doing yet their growth starts to explode. Are you able to celebrate them? Or are tey your competition? These are all Gospel issues.

You’ve got to believe the Gospel yourself. I don’t think you’re gonna make it, if you don’t. And if you do, what have you won? Are you in this for the money? The fame? That’s all transient stuff. It all burns up. It’s safe to say that God’s not impressed with any of us. No, He is on it. He has just invited us to play. Oh, that you might feel the burden, of making clear to people who don’t see clearly what their only hope is. And I’m alright with you being haunted by it, losing some sleep over it. Working out your salvation with fear and trembling, wondering if you really do believe. Are you all in? Are you in rebellion, rather than in calling? My hope is simple: I hope we get a lot of church plants all over the world, that make much of JEsus Christ, tethered to the Word. And I wanna see people not only come to see Jesus Christ, but, mature in their relationship with Jesus Christ, until they multiply themselves, and multiply what’s next. But, in all things, might the name and the renown of Jesus Christ continue to grow and spread, and may His fame continue to cover the earth as the water covers the seas.

Have you ever thought about the reality that what God had promised Abraham in Genesis  12 and 15, we’re watching happen in our day? Has anybody picked up on how many Iranian pastors have been arrested lately? Pretty crazy, for a closed country with no christians, and for 6-7 pastors this year to be arrested. I mean, exploding in Africa, exploding in Asia, exploding in South America. I mean, this God promised in Genesis 12, and, you and I are watching it. And we’ve been invited to play.

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