My Motivation To Follow

I could name a plethora of reasons, or incentives, to follow Jesus Christ and to give Him priority. As I teach from the Scriptures Sunday by Sunday, part of what I am trying to do is to bring these incentives to bear upon the lives of those who have placed their faith in Christ. So much is gained when we gain Christ. The apostle Paul explains to the Christians in Ephesus that they have been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Throughout the New Testament these benefits are named for us—we gain forgiveness, we gain righteousness, we gain power to serve, power to resist temptation, and power to pray.

At the outset of his letter to the Colossians, Paul provides the people of Colossae with an expectation that their faithfulness will be accompanied by some practical blessings from God—they will receive from God strength, endurance, patience, and joyful gratitude (Colossians 1:11, 12; see also my earlier post on this). For some, this provides adequate motivation to make Christ and His priorities our main pursuit. But, I love the transition Paul makes—as if to further elevate our incentive to follow Christ. Paul transitions away from a list of benefits derived from following Jesus and begins to focus on the nature and work of Jesus.

I hear Paul answering the question, “Who is Jesus?”, by saying that Jesus is supreme (Colossians 1:18).

…for by Him all things were created: in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have supremacy (Colossians 1:16-18).

We make a mistake if we simply think of Jesus as Redeemer. He is Creator—all things owe their origin to Him.  He is Sustainer—all things “hold together” in Him. And Christ is the end for which everything in the Universe was made—not only was everything made by Him, but everything was also made for Him.

The New Testament is unequivocal on this point: Christ is The Supreme One. And while the benefits promised to me if I follow Christ are compelling, I regard Christ Himself to be the most compelling reason for me to follow Him. In other words, if Jesus Christ is supreme (in an objective sense), He ought to be supreme to me. Any benefits that may happen to accompany my following Jesus are, as they say, “gravy”.

I don’t want to pretend that I am an expert in treating Jesus as supreme in every aspect of my life—I’m not. But I will say this: I intend to spend the rest of my days attempting to appropriately respond to His supremacy.

If this is something that interests you, may I encourage you to listen to the message below, entitled, “The Supreme One”.

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Back To Basics

January 18 is a special date for me. On this date, twelve years ago, I was ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament within the Presbyterian Church in Canada. This year, more than any of my other ordination anniversaries, I reflected on the kind of minister I’ve become. There are some areas where I am pleased with my growth and progress. But there are also areas where I lament my inability to push forward and improve.

God is gracious. I sense His carefulness as He reveals these areas where I still need much growth. And, to keep me from despair, He also provides moments of encouragement—often in subtle, but always in meaningful ways. I recognize that God is continually shaping me—using ‘the good’ and ‘the bad’ to help me become that which He intends for me (Romans 8:28; 2Corinthians 12:7-10).

As I reflect over the past twelve years, I note different emphases within my ministry. Early on, it was my passion for Reformed Theology—as expressed through the Reformer, John Calvin, the 17th Century Puritans, Jonathan Edwards and, in our day, through the likes of R.C. Sproul and James Montgomery Boice.

In 1999, I heard a sermon that has profoundly marked my messages and my ministry ever since. At the Moody Bible Institute Pastors’ Conference, John Piper delivered a message that was entitled, “Stop Serving Jesus!” (as though He needed us). As the result of this message, duty no longer drives my ministry efforts, delight does (recommended reading: “Desiring God” by John Piper).

In my early years at St. Giles Kingsway, the principle of “Contagious Christianity” (Bill Hybels) directed our evangelistic efforts. In recent years it was “Simple Church” by Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger that compelled me to tweak our ministry trajectory. The thesis of Simple Church is that less is more—simplicity of vision and programs helps congregations to preserve their vibrancy.

This past year I read a book that I count among my top ten, in terms of its impact upon my life. “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan was written “for those who want more of Jesus”. A light goes on in my head. Yes, I still subscribe to Reformed Theology. Yes, the Supremacy of Jesus in all things remains central to my ministry. Contagious Christianity continues to provide a helpful track for evangelism. Simple Church remains a much needed model for ordering a ministry. But Francis Chan struck a particular chord in my conscience. The reason I enrolled in seminary, the reason I became a minister, is because I wanted more of Jesus…and I wanted others to have more of Him too.

Some might say that my ministry has evolved over the last twelve years, and there’s evidence of that. But I think it might be more accurate to say that it has come full circle. I’m back to  basics: wanting more of Jesus for myself and for the congregation I serve. As the hymn writer, Horatius Bonar, well puts it:

I came to Jesus and I drank of that life giving stream; my thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.