The Curious & Cautionary Case Of Mark Driscoll


***If you haven’t heard Mark Driscoll’s interview with Brian Houston, it will provide a glimpse into Driscoll’s heart nearly a year after he stepped away from Mars Hill Church. You can see that lengthy interview here.***

Flash back to 2011. In evangelical Christian circles, there were few pastors in America who held a more successful resume than Mark Driscoll. He was lead pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, a booming church of around 14,000 in a city famous for having more dogs than Christians. He was a prolific author featured on New York Times best seller list. He was a gifted preacher who was consistently featured on podcasts and in national conferences and seminaries. He founded the para-church organization The Resurgence as well as helping to co-found the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and The Gospel Coalition. The roster of evangelical pastors in his corner was stunning: Francis Chan, John Piper, Matt Chandler, Darrin Patrick. He was the face of the post-Emergent movement and was now the poster child for Reformed Theology. He was a legitimate Reformed rock star.

By 2012, as this burgeoning evangelical empire rapidly grew, so also was a growing concern over Driscoll’s leadership practices and accusations of plagiarism. Then came accounts of him being a pastoral bully against Mars Hill staff and church members. He had bought his way on to the New York Times best seller list. While this empire grew, cracks of ego and arrogance had started to form in Driscoll’s heart. By 2014, Driscoll was removed from Acts 29 and stepped down as pastor of Mars Hill. Driscoll’s attempts to reconcile and repent were too late in view of the damage done. Overnight he went from rock star to the most polarizing figure in evangelical Christianity.

The tale of Mark Driscoll is a sad one, but is is not unique. From Ashley Madison revelations to affairs to deep hidden sin – pastors across the US are falling at alarming rates. If Driscoll, one of the most influential pastors of the last 25 years, can wander – we all can. So what can we learn from the fallout?

Every pastor needs bold love

If you were to take a stroll through the Twitter profiles of the best and brightest in Reformed Theology you’d see a whole lot of boldness: bold beards, bold book quotes and (for some) bold choices in beer. Driscoll’s boldness make him celebrated and hated. He was fearless to feed the sheep and shoot the wolves. Yet while boldness abounded – by Driscoll’s own admission – empathy was lacking. His bold stances began to hurt those closest to him. At times, the pulpit shifted from feeding the sheep to hunting heretics.

There lies the extreme difficulty for the pastor. We are to lead in such a way that brings the body of Christ together underneath His headship while not damaging the brotherhood of the church.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped,when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. ~ Ephesians 4:15-16

We have the call to speak truth in love that the saints may be equipped and we have the call in Ephesians 5 to expose those who hinder the gospel. We are called to be both boldly truthful and deeply loving in beautiful harmony. Truth without love makes you a Pharisee. Love without truth makes you a hippie. Love with bold truth makes the pastor a useful tool in the hands of a Faithful Father, both to feed sheep and shoot wolves.

Every pastor needs accountability

Driscoll’s inner circle consisted of pastors from other churches in other states and lifetime term elders appointed by Driscoll. He had unchecked power to the degree that it was difficult to remove him from leadership at Mars Hill and even when he was removed, his presence and Mars Hill were so intertwined that the church folded once he stepped away. An entourage of “yes-men” allowed his pride to ruin his ministry.

For many pastors, accountability is lacking due to fear not pride. They lack those around themselves who they can confess sin and struggles to. They fear word will spread and that their jobs could be on the line simply because they are transparent. A church culture that lacks an element of confession is one that will turn toxic. A leader that does not have anywhere to turn with their burdens will be one to eventually cave under the weight of their own sin.

For all of us in ministry, there must come checks and balances in our lives and ministries. Having brothers to go to for confession and encouragement is vital in the life of every single believer. Beyond that, the pastor needs co-laborers to save him from his own flesh at times and to ask hard but simple questions:

When was the last time you took a Sabbath?

When was the last time you took your wife on a date?

Why aren’t you taking any of your vacation?

Are you in the Word just to know the Father more?

For many a type-A pastor, his worst enemy is himself. As Paul says in Romans 7, “what a wretched man that I am.” We all need loving brothers to remind that it is Jesus who saves us from this body of death and that it is Jesus’ kingdom we are building and not our own.

Every pastor needs community

Toward the end of Driscoll’s time at Mars Hill, he was mostly isolated from the people he was called to shepherd. Much of it was by his own doing and fractures were created in church relationships. The picture of the unified body of Christ had become skewed.

To go back to Ephesians 4, the whole church is gathered under the headship of Christ – from youth praise band drummer to lead pastor. A loving, relational, Trintarian God created us in His image to relate with Him. Yet, as Adam related to God, He saw it was good for man to have a helper to be in relationship with. We were made by a God in community and saved by the Son who came to sympathize with us. The Father bridged the horrific gap in our holiness by sending His Son to fulfill the Law we couldn’t. The gospel is God’s pursuit of His glory in relationship with man. The reality of gospel truth one that is seen in community. May we all as the bride of Christ seek to laugh together, cry together, pursue Him together, be on mission together.

May every single shepherd know that you are not alone. Your co-laborers in the gospel are facing the same struggle you are. The same temptations. The same frustrations. The same pressures. Yet, we get to preach the same gospel. Stand in the same gospel. Rest in the same gospel. That’s our hope – that we preach the same gospel to ourselves that we preach to our sheep every Sunday.

Put down your kingdom and your glory. Take up His gospel, stand on it and rest in it.

Feed His sheep. Shoot the wolves. Follow the Shepherd.

Abortion Is The Anti-Gospel

This is an article originally written by me for Desiring God. You can view it here.


“You are going to have a healthy baby boy.”

Those are the words every expectant couple wants to hear. But what happens when a couple gets the most stomach-churning news imaginable — news that there’s a medical issue with the tiny little baby growing in his mother’s womb? Parents start to ask questions. Will my baby be okay? What will our little boy’s life be like? How will this boy’s health affect our lives? Will it all be worth the struggle?

A set of parents I know had the same questions race through their minds. They brought a tiny little boy into the world — born without arms. In the face of all those fears, these parents were told the little boy would be helpless and entirely dependent on their care for the duration of his life. The news was grim as doctors painted a picture of toil and frustration in the life of this boy.

Fear and worry flooded their hearts, but for all the bad news, these parents were resting on good news. God loved this little boy. God fearfully and wonderfully made this little boy. God had a plan for this little boy. They shoved fear and doubt to the side and embraced the little boy God had given them.

Parenthood as the Gospel

The realities of the gospel are intoxicating in the book of Romans. In Romans 5:6, Paul writes, “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Christ died for us when we were spiritually helpless. He takes those who are helpless and broken and redeems us. And not only does he rescue the spiritually helpless, but the physically helpless as well.

While the gospel reveals a Savior who lays down his life for those who ran from him, abortion reveals humans extinguishing a life we were meant to love and protect. As you scan the pages of Scripture, it is clear that abortion is the anti-gospel.

Abortion says,

  • Unborn babies have value only as expendable commodities.
  • Each baby is only a clump of tissue, devoid of any purpose or life.
  • There’s not a place for you in my plan right now.
  • Disability limits a chance at any manner of a quality of life.

But the gospel says,

  • We have tremendous value as God’s image-bearers (Genesis 1:27).
  • Each one of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
  • We have lovingly “received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15).
  • God’s glory and grace shine even, and especially, in those with physical limitations or weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Abortion is an assault on the image, character, grace, gospel, and glory of God. For the Christian to see it as anything less than that is to reject a biblical view of God’s gospel and God’s glory. John 9:1–3 shows us how God himself, in the person of Christ, viewed human life as he walked among us, as one of us.

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

While the disciples saw the man’s blindness as a direct result of sin, Jesus saw him as a vessel of God’s grace and glory. Every life is uniquely formed by God to be powerfully rescued and redeemed in Christ for the glory of the Father. Every child in the womb is a masterpiece shaped by the master craftsman.

All Human Life with a Gospel Lens

That baby boy born with no arms is me. Thirty-one years later, God has crushed the professional opinions of skeptical doctors. I’ve been in student ministry for nearly a decade, I have a remarkable wife of nine years, and we have a beautiful three-year-old boy, with a little girl on the way.

I thank God I had parents who willingly and joyfully embraced me with all the challenges that came with having a baby with a disability. They could have chosen to give me up for adoption, or put me in state care, or they could have chosen to abort me. For my parents, abortion would have never been an option. The realities of me being made in the image of God and being wonderfully made in the womb by the Father were forefront in their minds.

Human life is the physical handiwork of God — created in God’s image for God’s glory. Every man or woman that is formed in the hands of the faithful Father has value, purpose, and grace. Never determine the value, quality, or sanctity of a life on the basis of socio-economic background, family structure, ethnicity, or any sort of disability. View human life through the lens of the gospel — that the work of God might be displayed in every single life.

5 Reasons Why Student Ministry Is The World’s Most Rewarding Job

A couple of weeks ago Forbes Magazine polled workers from over 400 different careers and asked these workers if they felt that their work provided meaning in their lives and if they felt their job changed the world. The survey data was collected and used to created a metric for the world’s most meaningful jobs. The results that followed produced a 3-way tie for most meaningful job: orthopedic surgeon, police chief and youth minister.

As a guy who has been in youth ministry for 9 years, initially I was surprised to see a ranking THAT high. Yet, I as I reflected on the last 9 years, I started to think about the reasons that make youth ministry so remarkable. Here’s my 5 reasons why youth ministry is truly the world’s most meaningful job.

1) The fun factor

Chubby bunny. Dodgeball. Lock-ins. Knowing you don’t have to stop going to camp. Youth ministry offers up multiple opportunities every year for even the most grizzled youth ministry veteran to be a big kid. While youth ministry isn’t all fun and games, it is truly a blessing to be able to laugh and have fun at your job day after day.

2) Every day is a new day

Being a youth pastor is never, ever, ever boring. Every day brings something new to the way it will take shape. In almost a decade of youth ministry, I think I’ve done about anything as an offical duty of my job. From changing tires, to sermon prep, to taking kids to the hospital all the way to wrangling a black snake out of church with my bare feet. This job is never dull and rarely redundant. It is exciting to wake up each day to see what God will unfold.

3) I can always bring my family to work

Some jobs have “Bring Your Kid To Work Day.” As a youth pastor, I bring my kid to work on a lot of days. And not only does my wife come to work with me, but she gets to do my job alongside me. It is an awesome thing to watch my wife pouring herself into young women. Its a greater blessing to watch these young women love on my 3 year old like he was their own brother. I don’t have to worry about bringing my work home because my whole family gets to come to work with me and be a part of the vision of the ministry.

4) The beauty of discipleship

One of the most remarkable aspects of youth ministry is that much of the impact and true discipleship happens outside of the walls of church. There’s meeting a kid at 6 am for breakfast so we can talk through the depths of the book of James. It’s praying over a crying student who has just lost a family member. It is the tears of joy when a student leads one of their friends to Christ. Much of the fruit of student ministry comes in life moments and not pre-programmed church events during the week. The investment of time is heavy, but the fruit of that toil is so very sweet.

5) I am part of God’s plan

The most meaningful aspect of this job? God chose me. A man filled with weakness. A man scared of crowds. A man who has had a lifelong struggles with self-doubt. He chose me as a vessel of His grace, to carry His good news to a generation starved for hope and love. God called me to protect and encourage His bride, the Church. My Boss is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. My Boss fearfully and wonderfully made me. My Boss saved me. My Boss loves me like few words can describe.

Simply put – I love my job.

The ISIS Beheadings Are A Call To Prayer, Not War


In the past few days reports of ISIS beheading 21 Egyptians in Libya began to make its way through American news wires and social media outlets.  As I began to read the accounts of the horror and evil being played out half a world away, my stomach was sickened.  My heart broke.  I was filled with anger.  My flesh was raging.

Yet, that was precisely what was going on.  My reaction was all in the flesh.  This scene of persecution and depravity had unearthed a part of me that wanted to go to war.  Yet, a gentle stirring of the Spirit prompted a different reaction.  Go to prayer.

Bloody Ground Brings Bold Belief

Tertullian, an early Christian author from North African famously penned,

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Those words ring incredibly true of the early New Testament church.  As Stephen’s blood is spilled on the ground in Acts 6, that same ground would bear witness to the gospel taking root all around it.  The church that we see as aliens and strangers while dispersed by persecution is the same church that is refined by fire to the glory of God in 1 Peter 1.  Fast forward to the 21st century and we see the underground church oppressed by aggressive regimes in China and North Korea but the church is growing.

The beheadings of ISIS reveals the deep depravity of man, but we are also seeing the bold plan of God.  The gospel is reaching those who hate it.  Those in the deepest need of the hope of Christ are meeting His gospel face to face.  ISIS is seeing Romans 5 fleshed out that, “while we were sinners Christ died.”

Christ died for His bride, even when she hated Him and ran from Him.  There is no region that resists the gospel harder than North Africa and the Middle East but God is doing mighty things in these dark places.  The gospel is spreading, even as evil lashes out against it.

From Persecutor to Proselyte

We must again go back to the scene in Acts 6.  As the crowd begins to stone Stephen, they lay down their outer garments to keep them from being bloodied at the feet of a young man named Saul.  A young persecutor that God would soon use as a Christian missionary and author to much of the New Testament.  God takes Saul from blood thirsty to born again to being sent out.

So why not again?  Who are any of us to say that the exact same thing isn’t happening again?  As the martyrs are proclaiming the gospel with their dying breath, the seed of the gospel is carried into the darkest depths of ISIS.  Before we burn with hate against these persecutors we must remind ourselves that these men may one day be our brothers in Christ.

Pause to Pray

As you think on this horrific scene, my plea to you is to pray in two ways:

1) Pray for the persecuted church  – Specifically in Muslim states.  The gospel is there and being shared, but pray for fertile soil, strength for the church and boldness for believers to share Jesus.  The circumstances are tough, but the gospel is greater.

2) Pray for the persecutors of the church – Their own eyes and hands are often the last witness of God’s grace in the lives of these martyrs.  May Christ become their everything, even through these horrible times.

Church now is the time to pray, not to go to war.

My Best Reads of 2014 That You Should Read In 2015

I’m a guy who loves to read in my spare time (whenever that happens to come in ministry life).  This year I have come across a few duds when it comes to quality books, but there have also been quite a few great books that I would highly recommend.  So take a look at my Top 5 from 2014 and maybe grab one to read for yourself:

1) Seeing Words and Saying Beautifully by John Piper

I reviewed this book not too long ago, but it is worth mentioning again.  On the surface, it seems like it is a book that is geared toward pastors and anyone else who teaches God’s Word.  However, Piper places a burden of responsibility on all believers in that we have a massive responsibility to tell of the wonders of God.  By looking at the lives and work of George Herbert, George Whitfield and CS Lewis, Piper reveals that displaying God’s wonder can come from expressing beauty through poetry, preaching and talking about doctrine.  This is worth a read and it even closes with a prayer that I have found myself using often before I step into the pulpit:

May the Lord Jesus Himself protect me from self-exalting, Christ obscuring eloquence.  May He grant me a humble, Christ exalting poetic habit of speaking His wonders – from the simplest in His world to the greatest in His Word – in words of joyousness, honey sweetness, golden fitness and gracious saltiness.  May He do it so that I myself may first taste, then tell.

2) To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain by Matt Chandler

live We live in a world that is stressed, depressed and frustrated.  In this book, Chandler faithfully studies through the book of Philippians and points us to a joy that is greater than our circumstances.  That joy, as Paul unfolds in Philippians, is found in Christ alone.  He unfolds God’s Word clearly and even cleans up misconceptions held by the American church, including with one of the most popular verses in Scripture:

Do you see how Philippians 4:13 is not about chasing your dreams, following your passion, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, accomplishing  anything you want with God’s help?  It is instead the testimony of those who have Christ and have found Him supremely valuable, joyous and satisfying.

To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain is incredibly faithful to Scripture and is a great read for anyone – from teens seeking to grow in Christ to pastors wanting an edifying and convicting read.

3) Family Ministry Field Guide by Timothy Paul Jones

It is no secret that modern youth ministry is broken.  The church keeps losing students in their transition from high school to college and few seem to know how to deal with the situation.  Family Ministry Field Guide offers that the problem is that youth ministry is trying to function outside of the Scriptural mandate of the discipleship for youth.  The modern American church has placed teen discipleship in the hands of youth pastors, whereas Scripture places discipleship in the hands of parents.  The church must be a parents greatest resource for parents and parents must be the greatest spiritual voice in their student’s life.  Jones does an excellent job of diagnosing the weak spots of modern youth ministry and he offers great advice for youth pastors and for parents.  This is a must read for any parent or pastor.

4) Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler

Two Matt Chandler books in my Top 5?  Yup.  Honestly, I had Creature of the Word on my bookshelf for a LONG time but never got around to it.  I had always loved and respected Chandler’s preaching but once I read To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain, I knew that I had to read this book ASAP.  Creature Of The Word is not a ground breaking and original work, but it is immensely helpful in reminding the church what the bedrock of every ministry should be: the Word.  Chandler says, “Your foundation should not be unique.  It must be the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus, which is received, not developed or achieved.”  This is such an encouraging book for anyone involved in ministry on any level.

5) The Passion Driven Sermon by Jim Shaddix


As a pastor, I have read a TON of books on preaching.  But this is by far, the most challenging and practical book on preaching I have ever read.  The Passion Driven Sermon gives an array of challenges to the preacher but one challenge stands above the rest:

A preacher’s call to preach is rooted in his call to Christ, and his call to Christ is rooted in a quest for the glory of God.

Shaddix calls pastors to not be as intent on the method of delivering the sermon as he is the source.  Root your sermon in the wisdom of God and not the wisdom of man.  In doing that, God gets the glory and not the preacher.  One of the most unique things that this book offers is applications not just for pastors but for those who sit in the pews. As Shaddix says, “Weekly sermons should be driven by a passion for the glory of God.  A passion jointly possessed by both pastor and people.”  A great read for pastors and for congregants that listen to pastors on a weekly basis.

So what about you?  What were your best reads of 2014?  Leave some titles in the comments below.

You Are Perfectly Imperfect

Flaws.  Imperfections.  Weaknesses.  Insecurities.

I think all of us are well aware that there are parts of ourselves that do not measure up to the “ideal” people that culture sets in front of us through media.  There is at least one part of our body that we simply do not like.  We don’t have a talent that we wish we had.  We struggle with our people skills.  Our imperfections seem to lurk in every corner of who we are, reminding us that we are not as good as someone else in some thing.  That one blemish in our life can consume our hearts and minds, and in that process we begin to feel insecure, inadequate and unlovable.

Yet, what if those flaws were meant to be there?  What if every single other person on the face of the earth is struggling with some shortcoming?  The truth is that we all have imperfections in our life and as much as we hate them, they were meant to be there.  As this video below illustrates, they are a part of who we are.

As a student pastor, my heart breaks when I watch this video.  I know so many of the girls in America struggle with issues of body image.  They’re constantly saddled with the burden of feeling like they do not look perfect.  But this isn’t just an issue in the lives of teenage girls.  As we see in the video, adults are prone to the same feelings of inadequacy.  These shortcomings extend beyond our physical looks and creep into our talents, personalities and people skills.  Our flaws are everywhere….and that’s okay.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well. ~ Psalm 139:14

The psalmist here is praising God because God has carefully made Him into the man that he is.  For Christians we would all admit we are carefully crafted by God and in being fearfully and wonderfully made by God, we have to acknowledge that He made us with those apparent flaws.  As God sees you and your flaws He calls you wonderful…beloved….son….daughter.  As God sees your imperfections He still loves you.

Our insecurities were never meant to define us, they we meant to refine us.  As Paul so gracefully says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  God’s power shines in our weaknesses and imperfections.  Our security and strength should never come from what we look like or what we do.  Our absolute security and strength will only come through who He is.  Our flaws reveal that our hope is in Someone greater and He loves us – flaws and all.

Before you begin to wish away your imperfections, realize you might be wishing away a part of who you are. Be content in who you are: short, tall, skinny, fat or even armless.  Don’t try to find value in what people say about you, find your identity in what God already said about you.  Don’t pick at the imperfections in your life, because you are already a masterpiece from the hand of the Master Craftsman.  Our flaws are OK because God’s grace is greater than that.

So when insecurity begins to rage in your life remember that you are perfect….perfectly imperfect.

John Piper Loves Beauty & Wants To Talk About It

Simply put, words matter.  Our words can be vessels of encouragement.  They can express love to the people that matter most in our lives.  Our words can inflict pain on those we hurl insults at.  As James 2 says, the tongue is a tiny part of the body that carries a weighty impact.  That impact stretches far beyond the moment that words are uttered, and affect others far deeper than the eyes can see.  Words are a powerful tool that must be crafted and wielded carefully.

Within the Christian context, our words are a valuable commodity.  They can exalt the greatness of God and they can just as easily tear another believer down.  Those who have submitted their lives to Christ have a beautiful message to tell.  It is a tale of sin, grace and the salvation that God has given us.  The hope of the gospel and the truth of God’s Word are remarkable messages that should always trail off our lips.  Sharing the gospel matters.  Just as equally, sharing that gospel with words that show the majesty and glory of God is something we need to pursue.

This is exactly what John Piper expresses in his new book, Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully. Now before you check out when you assume this is a book for pastors only, I want you to think this through with me.  Those of us in Christ are all people who carry about the death of Christ that we may reveal the life of Christ in how we live.  To walk in that sort of grace comes with a call to tell of all that God has taught us so that we may make disciples.  From the pulpit to the pew to the park bench, the Christian is charged to tell of the wonder and glory of God.


By using the lives of three men – George Herbert, George Whitfield and CS Lewis – Piper communicates the value of knowing the riches that we have in Christ while being able to express the beauty of that grace.  These three men had three very different callings: a poet, a preacher and a professor.  Herbert, a poet, was a man who had a gift for crafting beautiful words and phrases, but he was diligent to be certain of the Scriptural truth he wrote.  Whitfield and Lewis were both men with a staunchly theological background, but they did not overlook the value in expressing truth beautifully and poetically.  Piper says of the three men, “They made poetic effort to see and savor and show the glories of Christ.  This effort was the God-dependent intention and exertion to find striking, penetrating, imaginative, and awakening ways of expressing the excellencies they saw.”

This book is a challenge to us all to wrestle with our own faith that we may know the truth, share the truth and express the truth in a way that is worthy of the glorious God we trust in.  The Christian has a great treasure in the hope of the gospel and that is a treasure that is meant to be shared with the world.  Our words should never point back to ourselves and our intellect, but they should be words that are fitly spoken, pointing to the riches of the Father.  Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully is a challenge for all of us, from pastor to public servant,  to grasp the beauty of Christ and to express how glorious He truly is.  Our words matter and it is time we started to talk like it.

How Paul Crushes the Prosperity Gospel in Three Verses

abandoned house

Many of us have had times in our life where everything seems to go wrong at the same time.  Every choice you make is the wrong one.  You can’t seem to make enough money to pay all the bills.  You lose a loved one.  All within a month.  The world is closing in around you.  Yet, it seems like everyone around you has their junk together and everything seems to be going right.  It just doesn’t seem fair.  It doesn’t seem like God hears you.  Your life feels broken down.  You just want to give up.

Yet, you know God is bigger than your circumstances.  You aren’t ready to give up.  In times like this you readily turn to Philippians 4:11-13:

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. ~ Philippians 4:11-13

These verses have found their way onto T-shirts, coffee mugs and motivational posters.  When we want to be a better boss or crank out one more set at the gym, we rattle out Philippians 4:13.  We tell ourselves, “I can do this!”  However, is there a more misquoted verse in the Bible other than Philippians 4:13?  We want to take this verse out of context and apply it to our lives so we can be better employees, students, athletes or just better people, but that’s not the point here.  This isn’t a testimony of someone who is constantly successful.  It is instead the testimony of a man who has Christ and has found Him as His source of joy, hope and strength regardless of good circumstances.  As Paul writes these words we can’t help to think back to what he’s been through:

24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. ~ 2 Corinthians 11:24-28

Now take these verses and put them into the context of Philippians 4:11.  I am content in nearly being beaten to death.  I am content when I am nearly stoned to death.  I am content when I am shipwrecked.  I am content even when I am persecuted wherever I go.  Paul isn’t content because everything is going right.  Paul is content in the worst moments imaginable because of the constant security of the hope in Christ!  This is the anti-prosperity gospel.  His hope isn’t doing greater things, being richer and having his best life now.  His hope in this life was crucified on the cross and raised in the resurrected power of Jesus.  Our contentment can never be seen, tasted or touched.

In times of unrelenting trial, we taste a grace and hope that can come only from Christ.  We understand mercy and love unlike ever before.  Imagine if Paul has never had those terrible things happen to him that were described in 2 Corinthians 11.  Would Philippians 4:13 carry the same weight if Paul had only experience a life of success and prosperity?  No.

Now imagine your life.  Do the people in your life want to hear you wax eloquent about God’s love and grace while you drive a BMW and dress like a Gucci model?  No, people want to punch you in the face.  A life lived in contentment even in the midst of trial and frustration is a life that glorifies God alone because that contentment is not of this world.  When you can find unending hope in Christ in the dark times of life you have a life that shouts about God’s grace. Find satisfaction, joy and contentment in Christ alone and you will be able to weather the most violent storm.  Find your contentment in Him and you will show others His grace lived out.  Find your hope in Him and you will change the world.


The Gospel Centered Life


I became a Christian at 15 years old and surrendered to a call to ministry at 16.  Yet, as I grew in faith, my understanding of the word “gospel” was limited to Southern Gospel Music.  I had no idea that the word gospel was rooted in the very fabric of Scripture.  At the time, I could explain to you what the Prayer of Jabez was or how you could live a purpose driven life, but I couldn’t come close to telling you what the gospel meant.  Nowadays, you can’t walk into a Christian bookstore without tripping over a book with “gospel” in the title.  You have books like The Explicit GospelGospel and Gospel-Centered Discipleship to name a few.  There’s even a Bible study for the entirety of your church small groups called The Gospel Project.

So is this the next Christian fad in the Purpose-Driven mold?  There was Purpose-Driven everything.  You had Purpose-Driven: Life, Church, Youth Ministry, Man, Dog…the list was endless.  So is this the era the gospel-centered Christian fad?  Yes and no.  Is there a polar shift of focus on to the gospel in evangelical Christianity?  Yes.  Is this just a passing cultural Christian fad?  I hope not.

Let me explain.  There is no more vital piece of the Christian faith than the gospel.  The Apostle Paul puts it succinctly:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Paul reminds us that the gospel is not only what we received, but it is the power in which we stand and by which we continue to be saved.  The gospel is active and powerful.  The gospel grants the believer so many things, chief of which is our adoption as sons and daughters of God.  As we live and rest in the gospel, the effects are manifold.


Instead of defining ourselves by what we have done or what has happened to us, the gospel pulls us back to what Christ has done.  No longer am I defined by my job, by the bad things I’ve done, by the bad things that have happened to me or by the good things I’ve done.  When I go outside of Christ to find my identity, regardless of how noble the pursuit is, I am engaging in idolatry.  Because of the work of the cross I am adopted as a son.  Because of Christ, I am credited with the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).  In Christ I am no longer what I have done but I am what He has done.


The gospel is the ultimate means of destroying all barriers between man.  No skin color, socioeconomic background or culture can withstand the power of the gospel to break it down.  The gospel unites us all as sinners saved by grace.  That brotherhood is meant to be played out in biblical community.  The New Testament reminds us over and over that our faith, though personal, was never meant to be private.  The first half of Titus 2 lays out the benefits of having relationships and discipleship within the context of biblical community.  As Christians, we are meant to live our lives together.


Many Christians think of Doxology as a song you sing in church.  But doxology comes from two Greek words – doxa which means belief and logos which means word(s).  So basically we have “words of belief”.  As we rest in the fact of Christ as our Lord and Savior we have a story to tell.  As we wake up everyday in the understanding that we are sons and daughters of the living God, our lives will erupt with words of belief!  There is no greater thing to grasp than the fact that God loves me, has adopted me and is sending me into the world for His glory.  Our purpose of our faith is to worship.  If our belief does not drive us to worship God with our lives and our lips, it is pointless.  May a word of praise be ever on our lips!


The gospel is everything.  May today you rest and live confidently in the wondrous hope of the gospel!