If Jesus Is Not There

Hard to believe, but it’s launch week for Awaken Church! What started as a somewhat reluctant dream 2 years ago is now on the cusp of becoming a full-fledged reality! Depending on the day and the hour, I bounce back and forth from “over the top excitement” to “butterflies in my stomach nervous.”

I know Jesus is in this and I know this is His church…yet, I know He has called me to serve this church and this city as an under-shepherd. I want to do a good job…to honor Him by faithfully leading the people He sends to love Him, love people, and join with Him in bringing His Kingdom to earth.

One of the primary ways God has called and gifted me to lead is in preaching. From the first time I preached as a 17 year old high school senior, I knew that whatever I did in life had to include preaching God’s Word. Through the years and by God’s grace, I have been able to preach in some wonderful churches and at some wonderful events. But none of those remotely compares to the sense of responsibility I feel in preparing to preach week in and week out to the Awaken Church community.

I read a quote over the weekend that asked one of the most challenging questions I have ever heard or considered:

“The critical question for our generation – for every generation – is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisified, with heaven, if Christ were not there? – John Piper, God is the Gospel, p. 15

I was stunned by Piper’s words. Not because they are wrong or heretical. But because the question reveals more of the depraved nature of my heart. Yes, you and I are more guilty than we realize of wanting Jesus’ stuff more than Jesus Himself. But the next line brought me to tears:

“And the question for Christian leaders is: Do we preach and teach and lead in such a way that people are prepared to hear that question and answer with a resounding ‘No’?…Can we really say that our people are being prepared for heaven where Christ himself, not his gifts, will be the supreme pleasure?” – Piper, p. 15

My chief responsibility as a preacher is to lead people to fall absolutely head over heels in love with Jesus to the point that He is their greatest pursuit and object of their highest affection. That He is their pursuit…not just His help, or His provision, or His grace, as good as they are. That He is their greatest affection…not just when things are going well or when things are falling apart, but all the time.

Of course, the greatest challenge for me as a pastor is for Jesus to be MY greatest pursuit and object of my highest affection. Then, it is to love, study, know, and preach His word in such a way that the people of Awaken Church are led to the same pursuit.

And so, this must be the aim of my preaching. In every sermon. In every series. If people are not led to deeply love Jesus…to taste and see that He is good…to savor and seek Him above all else…then what am I doing?

Awaken Church…know this is my deep commitment and greatest prayer for you…that you would love and pursue Jesus, not just His stuff, above all else. I commit to lead you there by my example and in the preaching of God’s Word each Sunday. Pray for me and know that I am praying for you.

Here’s the result…

“Nothing fits a person to be more useful on earth than to be more ready for heaven. This is true because readiness for heaven means taking pleasure in beholding the Lord Jesus, and beholding the glory of the Lord means being changed into his likeness. Nothing would bless this world more then more people who are more like Christ. For in likeness to Christ the world might see Christ. – Piper, p. 16

Amen.

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3 Comments on “If Jesus Is Not There”

  1. Amy Sullivan says:

    Have you read “The Slumber of Christianity” by Ted Dekker? It’s a short but powerful book that really illustrates a lot of what you have presented. How can we just mindlessly shuffle through each day if we TRULY have the hope of what is to come? He has this vivid way of describing an encounter with God. Not a quiet whisper type but an electric, mind-blowing, physical, take-your-breath away meeting. It really “woke” me up!

  2. leedle says:

    yo…that’s good. be encouraged and enjoy these moments. proud to be walking with you.

  3. Rindy Walton says:

    Praying for u this week!!! Can’t wait to hear what God does thru Awaken!!


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