I recently attended a regional Acts29 church planting event. It was the second one I have been to. You can read about the one I attended last year here.
The guest speaker was Dr. John Hannah from Dallas Theological Seminary. He spoke about spiritual formation, and specifically, how to overcome sin in our lives.
A few things he said rang so true in my life that it was like the dawn rising in my life. Below are these things. Matt Chandler spoke as well, which was excellent. Although he is a Calvinist, he may be one of the most creative and thoughtful mega-church pastors of this generation. I will make a post tomorrow about what he said.
But here is some of what Dr. Hannah said:
A Popular Christian Lie
He said, “Someone once told me—and if I could remember who it was I would shoot them—that the longer you are a Christian, the easier it gets.”
Dr. Hannah is right. That is an outright lie. If we are really making progress in the Christian life, it gets harder and harder. Spiritual attacks become more frequent. Temptations become more powerful. The unanswered questions become more numerous.
Sure, there are a lot of positives and benefits to following Jesus, but we should never tell someone that becoming a Christian will solve all their problems. It won’t. Sure, it solves some, but in many ways, being a Christian introduces more problems than it solves.
The Christian’s Nine Lines
Second, generally, when people draw the progress of the spiritual life, they put a cross on the left side, and heaven on the right side, and a squiggly line between the two that goes up and down, hopefully trending upward.
Dr. Hannah said that in his observations, there should be nine lines, one each for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).
Notice the things that are not on this list: Bible reading, church attendance, tithing, etc.
Sure, these things may be present as a result of some of these nine areas, but the truth is that someone can read through the entire Bible every day, give 100% of their income to God, and attend church every day of the week, but be failures in all nine of the things on this list.
So where are these nine things on your chart?
Clearings in the Rain Forest
Dr. Hannah likens the Christian life to a rain forest. When you first become a Christian, and you fly over the rain forest of your life, it is thousands of square miles of impassible and inhabitable jungle, full of twisted vines, rotting leaves, and deadly predators. But as you make progress, and continue to fly over your life, you begin to see clearings appear.
You are not sure why those clearings are there, or what they will be used for, but they appear, and over time, get bigger and bigger. Then organized buildings and roads appear. And areas of the jungle become useful, habitable, and productive.
Is the rain forest ever completely cleared? No. There will always be areas of jungle that remain. Also, everyone’s jungle is quite different. Just because a clearing appears in a certain area of my life does not mean that same clearing will appear in the lives of others. That area of their life may never get cleared in their entire lives. But that is because the master planner knows what he is doing, and knows what he needs.
Waiting for a Fall
Finally, he said that when you grow in your mental knowledge of truth, but not in your participation of that truth, it’s just a matter of time until you fall into grievous sin.
Yes and Amen.