Part 10: Unstoppable | March 11, 2018
Thanks so much for joining us today. I’m Jonathan Deatherage. I’m here with Pete Briscoe after he preached his tenth sermon from the Reset series on the “Unstoppable Church” from Acts 5.
Pete, good to have you here.
Thanks, Jonathan, great to be here.
There’s so many things in the sermon I wish I could ask you questions on. [they laugh] There’s so many good jewels, so many good nuggets, that I’d love to hear your thoughts on more. But for the sake of time, we’ll stick to just a few good questions.
First question. I noticed that you talked a lot about the Life of Christ. You even said that at Bent Tree if someone’s going to ask what Bent Tree’s about, a good answer is, “We want you and everyone to experience the Life of Christ.” Why is that concept so important to us, first of all? And second of all, how do you think that concept of the Life of Christ affects the vitality of the Church as a whole?
Well, the reason it’s important is because it’s the point. It’s the point of the gospel. So a lot of people think the point of the gospel is to get your sins forgiven. But that’s the means to the end. The end is being in union with Christ. It’s being one with the Godhead. It’s being welcomed into the community of the Trinity, if you will. It’s remarkable! It’s partaking of God himself. It’s what makes our message unique, the message of the church. So we talk about it a lot.
The contrast was in our text today. If this was of human origin, it’ll fail. (Gamaliel’s powerful words) If this was of human origin, it’ll fade, too. But if it’s of God, there’s nothing you can do to stop it. So the Life of Christ is all about God working in our life. That’s unstoppable. If we’re trying to do anything—as Christians, as disciples, as leaders, or as churches—in our own strength, it’s bound to fail. It’s an absolutely crucial distinction that we, obviously, have to constantly remind people of, because we tend to forget it.
It makes me think of what you said about the Trinity: three equals around the table. The Life of Christ, this union that we share with him, it is the amazing, astounding reality that, as you said in your sermon, they’re talking about you and how much they love you, how much they see you. They know you. There’s a fellowship there. That’s an astounding reality that we don’t talk enough about in church, in general.
Yeah, it’s fascinating, Jonathan. I’ll tell this story here; I didn’t tell it in my sermon. After reading that book, Libby and I were on a hike on our sabbatical, and I told her about that little concept: three equals sitting around a table talking about us. And she said, “So what do you think they’re saying about you right now?”
We were just having a very honest conversation, and my response was, “I think they’re a little disappointed.” She immediately said, “No, they’re not.” And I said, “Well, I think maybe-” “No, they’re not.”
She took me back to Romans, and we had this incredible conversation where I was really honest with myself. I felt like God was disappointed in me for some reason. I can’t remember what it was at the time. But the truth of Scripture is [that] if I’m in Christ, there’s no condemnation. Zero.
The Trinity is never sitting around talking about what screw ups we are. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are talking about their depth of love, their concern if we’re heading in the wrong direction, their pain and their grief around that, but never condemnation. Always thinking for us, and about us, and in love. It’s a fascinating concept.
Yeah, that’s good, man. I could sit in that for a while. I know that’s even something that my wife, Erin, and I have been talking about: How does God see you? I think that’s such a penetrating question for someone’s soul. How do you think God sees you? And yet there’s so much healing when you come to the truth that, “No, he’s not disappointed in you. No, he’s not. Let’s talk about what the Scripture says.” That’s awesome.
You dropped another bomb - I would call it a bomb [Pete laughs] - because you said it in the sermon and some ears perked up, that Jesus is not only the source of our forgiveness, but he’s the source of our repentance. Help me to process that a little bit. What does that mean?
You know what? That was a shock to me as I was studying the text, too. In the original language it simply says that Jesus gave repentance and gave forgiveness of sins. Same language. It’s like, “Wow!” Because I always thought I bring the repentance [they laugh], and he brings the forgiveness of sins, right? It makes sense when you think about it theologically. Christ really is the source of anything good, anything real, anything holy. Even the act of turning to him, he has to enable us to do it. You can take that too far, and it can become some weird kind of Calvinistic thing if you’re not careful.
Right, which I don’t believe. But there’s this interplay of Jesus and me working together on these things. So repentance certainly is mine, but he’s not hanging me out there saying, “Come up with repentance.” He’s actually providing that for me, too. I mean, it’s just another picture of how he is the source of everything. That’s a powerful thought.
We often talk about dancing versus marching at Bent Tree, and that goes back to your sermon series in Galatians several years back [Dance Lessons]. It just made me think of the image of dancing: he’s leading, we’re following. There’s this almost indiscernible oneness of movement as we’re responding to his leading.
Yes! We’re both involved, but he’s obviously providing the energy and the source for it.
You also talked about the importance of being sourced in the Life of Christ. As you laid it out: choosing the Father, embracing the Son, and allowing the Spirit to work. I’d love for you to talk us through a typical moment, maybe almost even the self-talk, that you have to do as you’re in that moment and you realize, “Okay, I could choose to go to something that’s not Life in this moment, or I could choose my Source.” What’s that self-talk? How do you make that distinction?
Well, if you think about following the Father, embracing the Son, and allowing the Spirit to work, what would the opposite of that be? The opposite would be choosing the world, embracing yourself, and not allowing the Spirit to work. Blocking the Spirit, right? And that’s what many of us do. So the choice is really around those things.
Let’s pick a scenario out of the sky. Let’s say you and your spouse (or your roommate, or your best friend) has a fight. It’s that yucky, after-fight feeling where it’s still kind of hanging in the air [they laugh]. It hasn’t been sorted out yet. You haven’t debriefed. You haven’t asked the, “Is there anything else?” question. You haven’t done any of that. It’s just been, “Eeeeeee…” and you’ve separated for a while.
For me, in that moment, the self-talk is something along these lines: “Well, I could try and go in there and fix this. If I do it in the flesh, I’m going to be trying to protect myself. I’m going to be trying to make myself look good. I’m going to be trying to win the argument, whatever it was.”
I’d be choosing myself.
I’m choosing myself. I’m not even asking the Spirit to do anything. And I’m just going in with my solution.
Or, I can pause and I can ask a very simple question: “Father, what do you want me to do? Jesus, I know you’re going to be the source of restoring this relationship, so Jesus, please do it. Holy Spirit, tell me what I just did wrong. Tell me my stuff.”
And then I can come in and I can lead with what the Spirit just told me. “Okay, here’s what I did wrong. I’m so sorry. I don’t know why I did it,” or, “Here’s why I did it.” Just honesty.
Then, whoever you’re talking to may say, “Well, you did a couple other things wrong, too.” [he laughs] But now we’re talking at least.
And there’s humility there.
There’s humility. And you’ve asked the Spirit to tell [you], so if [your spouse or roommate or best friend] is going to tell you [what you did wrong], well, you’ve asked. So you’re coming at it from a place of humility, and softness, and tenderness, as opposed to trying to win.
Off the top of my head, that would be an example of how it might look.
Yeah, that’s great. Yeah, I’ve seen that play out almost exactly in my life as well. That’s a great one.
I loved how you talked about [how] the disciples were unstoppable, the testimony you brought in there in the end. They were told not to speak in the name of Jesus, and they didn’t [stop speaking in the name of Jesus]. They were unstoppable, even in the face of persecution.
It made me think about how, for so many weeks now, you and I have been talking about that kind of tension that rises up when it’s time to speak of Jesus in a social setting. Sometimes it’s social discomfort, in the least. Sometimes it’s family disownment, or whatever else. When we’re choosing the Father, embracing the Son, and allowing the Spirit to work, we see [how] the apostles were able to face persecution. How does this concept bridge that gap for me as I’m in that social situation?
In keeping with our last little conversation there, it’s the same self-talk. It’s the same conversation in our hearts. The Holy Spirit brings someone to mind. We talk all the time about the three D’s [of evangelism]: develop a relationship, discover their story, and then discern the next steps. So you developed a relationship with someone, you’ve taken some time to listen to their story, and you’re praying, “Holy Spirit, what’s next?”
Let’s say the Holy Spirit brings you to work one day, and you see them sitting in their cubicle and you can tell they’re troubled. The Spirit just lays into your heart, “Go see if they’re okay.”
“Okay, I’m going to obey the Father. God just told me to do something. Jesus is the source of anything good I can bring to that person. I’m going to remind myself of that truth. If anything good is going to happen to that person, Jesus is doing it through me. And I’m going to allow the Spirit to move me into that place, and to empower me to do this.”
If you can, pray through that before you head over there. And then you just head over there. You’re in the Spirit. You’re available to the Lord for him to do his job. The Spirit has impressed on your heart to go do this, so you’re walking in obedience. He’s gonna do something. Now it’s taken out of the realm of, “What do I need to do,” to, “Okay, God work.” ‘Cause remember, if it’s of human origin, it will fail. But if it’s of God, you can’t stop it.
I was also impressed with the thought that when you’re in that situation, we’re focusing and thinking more about the Life of Jesus, thinking more about his work. ‘Cause I think that is so much the pressure. When you’re like, “Oh! It’s the time! What should I say? What should I do? How should I present myself? I don’t want to seem judgy. I don’t want to seem preachy.” All those things that go through [our minds]. I think it just gives us the relief [to know], “Okay. This is Jesus’ work. This is the work of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. I’m just stepping into it.”
Yeah. And most of the time there’s not going to be any of that stuff. The Spirit says go, and you go.
- “Are you okay?”
- “Not really.”
- “What’s going on?”
- “I just got news my dad’s got stage 4 cancer. He’s been given 2 months to live.”
- “Woah, I’m so sorry. How can I help?”
- “Well, I don’t know how you can help.”
- “Can I pray?”
- “Well, yeah.”
- “What’s his name? Okay, I’m going to pray every day. I want you to give me updates. And I’ll be praying for you, too.”
I mean, that’s it! All of a sudden, you’ve just entered into a spiritual relationship with that person. I have never in my entire life had someone say no to me when I ask, “Can I pray about that?” Ever once. Even if they don’t believe in God, they’re like, “I’ll hedge my bets, you know?” [they laugh]
Why not?! It’s not gonna hurt! So it may be something as simple as that. I think we build it up in our mind that I gotta get all my apologetics ready before I go talk to that person who’s hurting. They don’t really care about the ontological argument right now. They’re hurting because their dad has cancer, and they just want to be loved. So it just takes it out of that realm, and makes it much more doable.
That’s awesome. Well, speaking of prayer, would you close our time in a word of prayer?
I would. Let’s pray.
Father, thank you for this beautiful story in Acts 5. I love it. The more I studied it, the more I loved it: the unstoppable attitude that those disciples had. And it wasn’t anything in their flesh, that is for sure. They were a bunch of misfits, really, in the flesh. But boy, empowered by the Spirit, walking in obedience to the Father, as Christ was their source, they were unstoppable.
Just make us that way, Lord, in our everyday life, in the life of our church, and in the life of the Church in America and in the world. Just let us be that, I pray, as we surrender to you. And I pray it all in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Amen. [to audience] Well, thank you so much for listening with us today again. I hope that you experience the freedom and fullness of Jesus today in your life. We’ll see you next time.