Pastor Dan Borgelt
“As we said we’re going to be talking about the questions that you guys have a submitted through our Ask the Pastor series. And some of you may know that we had this series happen a couple of years ago and it was received well, a lot of questions submitted.
And one of the things I learned from that experience is that folks here at Kirkmont like to use this as an opportunity to submit some of their silly questions along with some of the more serious questions. And so a couple years ago, I was asked whether I was dying my hair, and to which I had to reply, “sometimes” (LAUGHTER).
So I found a new product that I think works much more naturally… it’s like a shampoo that you use every other day (laughter).
Anyways, I had all these questions on my desk this week and was separating them into the serious and not so serious piles and I came across this question and I wasn’t really sure what category to put it in.
Let’s just put on the screen, let you see it and maybe you can tell me…
Well, of course, the first thing that went through my mind when I read those questions, they must have meant this for different Pastor (LAUGHTER), because I’m unaware of the fact that there are people who don’t listen to me or fall asleep when I preach (LAUGHTER).
By the way, I told the first service people I was 99% confident that this came from the second service (LAUGHTER). I feel obligated to reveal that to you.
In all seriousness, what goes through your mind?
Let me just say when I first thought about dealing with this question, I was going to deal with it in a couple minutes and we’d get on to some more theologically serious questions, and we’ve got plenty of those. Thank you for submitting them.
But I do want to take the time to say thank you to whoever submitted this question because I felt like the Lord wanted me to read this question. I think he wanted to do a work in my heart and mind, and so as I was preparing I realized there are a lot of places that I can go with this, and so instead of my short, quick answer, let’s get on to another question, it became like my sermon… because I think there’s a lot of application for us. I mean, it does sort of raise some questions along the lines of like:
- Who do we live for? and,
- How much does what other people say about us or think about us matter to us?
Some of those types of issues that I think we all kind of struggle and deal with. In all seriousness just the sort of the quick answer of this though is,
What goes on through your mind, do you see someone who’s not paying attention or sleeping?
I do see that. I think I’ve told you before that I pick up on a lot of nonverbal communication when I’m preaching. I grab most of what goes on out there. And so yeah, I see that.
And I’d like to think I was the kind of Pastor who just was like, “Oh I’m so thankful that person’s getting a chance to finally rest” (LAUGHTER). That’s not what goes through my mind… and so,
Do you try to get their attention?
Well, I mean kind of. We have to be careful not to manufacture enthusiasm in the Pulpit. There’re a lot of pastors who were like start yelling, but when you really listen to what they’re yelling, it’s like that’s not a lot different than the stuff they were just saying calmly a few minutes before.
And so, I don’t do that, but I have been trained in seminary to keep people’s attention with your pitch and with your pace and with punch verbally, and then, of course, to be moving around and doing some of those kinds of things to try to engage people.
Sometimes we use the screen and things like that, so yeah, I mean we try to do that. I will often sometimes, maybe speak into someone or a certain group of people’s lives, if I sense that I’m losing them. But for the most part, I’m not adjusting anything on the fly.
Does it affect you negatively?
One of my big takeaways is just sort of, “YES”, but it’s not just sleeping or not paying attention… I just realized that through this question that there’s just too big a part of my identity and who I am that’s wrapped up in the response you get from people when you preach… and that rears itself in different ways which we’ll talk about together this morning.
But it does and it can affect negatively.
I was taught that it’s my responsibility to stand up front and assume that people aren’t paying attention and to get their attention and then to preach and keep their attention.
And so if you fail at that, you could be tempted to point the finger. But I think a good shepherd is more inclined to say, “Okay, what else could I be doing?”
Or is it a challenge for you?
Yeah. I think the person meant the question like,
“Is it a challenge in the sense that you feel like, “Hey, somehow I got to do better and keep this from happening again.”
And yes, there are some of those thoughts that go through my mind.
So I’m going to springboard from this question into some practical application and Scripture about where are we finding our identity? And how much do we value other people’s feedback of us and some of those types of things.
Here are a few just a few observations I’m going to make for you this morning.
Well first, our BIG IDEA would be that,
The Christian Life is best lived when we put others opinions of us in their proper place.
Our life, as we walk with Jesus, is best lived out when we put other people’s opinions of us and their proper place. Now, of course, by that we mean you could err of having too high of an opinion of other people–like what they think about you, meaning people’s feedback of you just really makes a massive impact on you.
You could also err on the side of taking other people’s feedback and having it not impact you at all–too really low of an opinion of other people’s opinion of you.
But it’s really not the latter, it’s the former that we struggle with most as a society–that we tend not to devalue people’s opinions of us too much, if we err and we make a mistake, it’s having too high of an opinion of what other people think of us–allowing it to impact us too much.
And so much of what I’m going to say today is designed to address some of that a little bit. So here’s a few principles we’re going to look at together this morning briefly. First,
Our identity has to come from Jesus and not others.
If we’re going to be healthy preachers, healthy parents, healthy spouses, or healthy, whatever it is that God’s called you to do, our identity has got to come from Jesus and not others. Second,
Our approval has to come from Jesus and not others.
And ultimately then we have to realize that…
We are living for Jesus and not really living for others.
These a few just sort of takeaways as I was meditating if you will on the question that I was asked, and what I think the Lord’s done in my life in preparation for our time this morning.
Okay, first this idea that,
1) Our identity comes from Jesus and not others.
As I’ve confessed to you, I realized that my identity is too tied up and connected to the people’s response to me. And of course one of the main ways that that happens in my life is through preaching. And so I’ll have too high of highs and too low of lows in relation to how people respond to my preaching.
And of course for a pastor, often the measure is numbers or attendance. And so if you’re preaching in a setting where more people are coming, then you can naturally sort of absorb that as being too positive of feedback. If you’re preaching in a setting that’s continually declining in attendance, you can find and discover that you’ve got an issue there.
Here’s the thing, God is really kind of faithful in helping us to realize when we have a problem finding our identity from him and not from others, right? He’s faithful to put us in these situations that expose that reality for us.
I’ve often thought highly of those pastors, many of whom are much better preachers than I but are in settings where the church was continuing to decline in attendance and yet somehow they just bring it every week.
And I’ve wondered, would I be the type of person who could do that?
Or do I need the feedback, this identity of from others… is so much of my identity from others wrapped up in that I need this kind of feedback?
Our social media culture has exposed this weakness about who we are in our society—that we value people’s opinion of us too much, that our identity is wrapped up in what others think of us far too much. You know, the social media world, where we’re just longing to have someone, ‘like’ how we look, and ‘like’ how we parent, and ‘like’ the house we live in, or the new haircut we have, or the restaurants we can eat at, or whatever it might be.
God will do this to you in your life. He will be faithful to expose you to the reality that maybe you have in finding your identity from Jesus and not others problem if it exists.
Romans Chapter 5 Verse 6 through 11 speaks about the identity that we have in Jesus, I think in a really cool way. The passage tells us this,
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Let’s be clear about something… when we talk about getting our identity from Jesus, we are not buying into the lie that, really what it means is that we are just perfect little people, precious little people who got their lives and acts together. That’s not what it means.
The Christian Gospel, the Christian identity isn’t an identity that’s just a religious way of thinking better about who you are,
No, really what the the Christian Gospel is, the finding your identity in Christ begins with the reality of your not a perfect person, but the difference is that the world recognizes some of those failures and flaws, even though you try to keep them from them, and they expose them, and they harp on them; they judge you for them; they treat you differently as a result, but here In this passage, what we’re going to discover is no, God knows all those things about us, but his love for us is incredibly unconditional.
9-11 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies,we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Now, I love this passage because it first affirms our identity in the reality that we are people who are unconditionally loved—that Jesus knows all our failures and flaws and went to the Cross to die for our mistakes because of his love.
That someone, I don’t know how anyone else feels about you, but what I can say with confidence that there is One who loves you so much and loves you so unconditionally that He knows all your mistakes and they still went to the cross for you.
That’s a huge part of our identity. It ought to be a big part of our identity.
I am a person who is unconditionally loved,
And that’s going to change my ability; it’s going to strengthen my ability to go through the ups and downs of feedback like my preaching, for example.
“All right fine, it didn’t go over well, ten of you fell asleep this Sunday, I’m still unconditionally loved.” (laughter)
That helps, right? It changes some things. Not only does this Scripture affirm that we are unconditionally loved, but it affirms the fact that we are a saved people; that our Salvation is done and secure and accomplished; that Christ has died for us, and we talked about that a lot at Easter last week around here at Kirkmont.
That is a significant part of our identity and it also affirms for us the idea that we are reconciled people to God.
I was someone who was an enemy of God, but I am a person now who has been made right with God. Because my identity in Jesus teaches me that I’m not only unconditionally loved, I’m saved, but I’m also reconciled.
And . this is what it means to have biblical identity in Jesus. Not just some loose idea that says were really great people. No. We are unconditionally loved, were saved and were reconciled because of what Jesus has done. It’s not what God feels about us, it’s what God has done for us in our life; it’s our new identity in Jesus Christ.
And this is going to begin to change everything about how we interact with the world around us.
Psalm 62 verse 5 through 8, which we read at the outset of our service tells us this,
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
I love this line…
7 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8 Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
This idea of realizing that our identity comes from Jesus and not from others is so important and significant, I’m convinced that someone should not begin preaching until they understand this.
A pastor in the Pulpit who doesn’t get their identity from Jesus is a dangerous Pastor. It’s not only true of preaching, it’s also true of many other aspects of life.
I wish we could somehow test this before we allow someone to get married. We ought not to get married before we realize that our identity comes from Christ… not from our potential husband or wife.
There’s a perhaps a whole host of things that we must realize that our identity comes from Jesus before we become successful at doing those things.
The application for me, as I said, is when I started to realize that there’s too great of an emotional high for me that swings too high and swings too low.
– – – – – – –
I remember a seminary Professor telling us in preaching class something like, “You’re going to give yourself way too much credit when things go well, and you’re gonna give yourself way too much blame when they don’t.”
My wife has been a voice of wisdom keeping that message throughout my Ministry. You might not realize this but sometimes we’ll have a week and there will be less people there and I’ll think ,
“Oh, they really didn’t like my sermon last week. I said something that upset them.”. Or, “I told him what we were going to preach about this week and they don’t want to hear about that subject”.
I start going all these places in my mind and my wife is always like,
“No no no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no, they were on vacation… they stayed up too late… they did whatever… they just wake up and they’re either going to come to church or not come to church. Most people aren’t really thinking about what’s the pastor going to talk about that morning and assessing whether they’re to come… you’re wrapping yourself and your identity into whether we come or not way too much.“
And it’s been helpful for me to realize that.
You see, not only does realizing our identity comes from Jesus make me a better Pastor, but for you guys, I think if you could really grasp your identity from Jesus and not from others, it would make you a better husband, make it a better wife, certainly make you a better parent, better kid; make you a better worker in the workplace, make you a better boss; make you a better teammate, make you a better coach;
…make you a better parent who watches their kids play soccer. 😁
(LAUGHTER, because he confessed once to yelling at his kid’s soccer coach).
My identity is in Christ… it’s not in my kids, it’s not in my spouse; it’s not in the size of my church. It’s just in Christ and I am unconditionally loved, saved, and reconciled to God. That’s who we are in Jesus.
2) Our approval comes from Jesus, not others
This really flows from the first one, but the second point is that our approval comes from Jesus not others.
Galatians chapter 1 verse 10 has this really cool verse. Here’s what the scripture says, and then I’ll explain it a little bit. This is the Apostle Paul, he is writing to the church in Galatia. He says,
10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Paul was the person who gave the gospel to this church… that is the basic message, that Jesus has died for us on the Cross and we place our trust in him and we’re saved—he’s done all the work.
And Paul gave them that message and a group of people came along and tried to mess with that message and give a different one.
So Paul is in a battle for the attention of the church for them to hear his message and not the supposing message. But leading up to this verse he’s told him some pretty difficult things. He’s basically is like,
“Hey, if someone comes along, even some of you, and shares a message other than the one we shared, may they be eternally condemned for it.”
And so he follows that up by saying, “Look
10 aAm I now trying to win the approval of human beings?
I hope you realize, no, I’m not. If I was I would have just said to you what flattered you the most–what you wanted to hear. But I love you enough and I care about you enough that I’m willing to say something that you don’t want to hear. Because I’m not here to win the approval of human beings. I’m here to win the approval of God.”
That’s what Paul says.
And I’ve always thought that Pastors need to give their church’s that same permission. Maybe not as much permission as the Apostle Paul had, but to a degree a certain amount of permission that says, “Go ahead like step on my toes.”
In fact, you could say, “If I go to church here for a whole year and you don’t say something that kind of rubs me wrong, it kind of makes me question whether you’re really preaching the whole truth of God’s word.”
You shouldn’t be asking yourself, “Do I like what the pastor said?” You should be asking, “Is what the pastor said biblical?”
If it is then okay, he’s got permission to win the approval of God, even if it displeases me.
Or am I trying to please people?
10 b Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Now, look… this passage does not mean that it’s wrong to want people to be pleased. In our last point we’ll see that it’s actually biblical to labor in such a way that we want people to like what we do.
In fact, sometimes we’re in blessed situations that if we do something well, it will be to the approval of God and to the approval of people as well. There are many good sermons, for example, that are preached, that both find the approval of Christ and the approval of people.
However, sometimes we’re in circumstances in our life where we have to choose. And the passage is reminding us that push come to shove we_choose_God—that God’s approval of us matters more than the approval of other people. You’re going to have to fill in the blank here. I know how this fits for me as a preacher, but you’re going to have to fill in the blank for you and your life.
And whether it’s your family or your workplace or whatever it might be,
“How does this apply to you in the sense that, finding approval from Jesus must be more important than finding the approval of other people?
For me. I made a list of the people from whom I’m most tempted to seek approval. And I created that list in some kind of a rank if you will. I think that part of the Christian Life is having even people’s approval of you in the proper rank and order.
For me, some of the top ones that I came up with was our church.
I’ve confessed that to you already. I don’t think it’s all entirely bad… that I would like the church to kind of like me… just kind of you know, right?
Our session… that’s our elders who have been biblically appointed by you to lead the church. They steer things in the life of our church and I respect their call as ordained elders, and so I think they’re up a step from the rest of our congregation as far as my desire for their approval.
My family… my extended family. I still care what my mom and my sisters and in-laws think about me. I move to my immediate family. This is important order to get right because:
I don’t want someday to have a group of Elders who really like me and I think I won their approval, and a group of children who I didn’t win their approval.
So we prioritize those types of things.
My wife, of course, is the head of all of that. There’s no other human being on the face of this planet whose voice has the ability to encourage or discourage me more than my wife’s feedback because I value her approval more than any other human being.
If you’re married, I think your spouse should be that for you as well.
But here’s the point… take the whole list of all the people who matter the most to you and put it on one side… and then put a greater than sign pointing towards the other side and on that side… and
It’s got to be Jesus. It has to be Him.
I’m blessed to have a Godly wife that often I think if I’m finding her approval I’m probably finding the Lord’s approval as well, but I do need to be a faithful enough a person that I value the Lord’s approval more than her and I’m willing to act and to decide and choose accordingly if necessary.
Jesus is not only more important than all the other people in our life, but his approval of us must also be more than the sum total of everyone else’s approval of us in our life.
Are we at that place?
What we discover from this passage is that it’s possible to grow in popularity with people but not in favor with God. Paul could have chosen a route that would have allowed him to grow in popularity with people but not necessarily in favor with God.
That’s true not only of a pastor, it’s true of classmates. It’s true of those who are in the social media world. You can have more friends. You can become more ‘liked’. You can have more attention in social media while declining in your favor with God.
You can do that with the workplace. You can get promotion after promotion after promotion, and doing all these things while declining in favor of God. And if we’ve bought into a lie, it’s to assume that as long as we’re being successful in this world, and this world is continuing to lift us higher and higher that somehow God must be doing that. However,
It’s possible though to grow in popularity and approval of men and women and not with God.
But we find Comfort this morning in the reality that the opposite is also true—that it is possible to decline in our approval of people while growing in the approval of God in the way and manner in which we live our life.
And I’ve had to just pause and put a lot of the blame on myself. If I don’t think things are going well with you and the congregation, I have had to pause and learn to say sometimes, it may not have gone over the way some of you wanted, but I feel peace that this is what the Lord wanted me to say.
I’ve learned to have to realize that there are people who come to church who have their own issues that don’t impact anything about what I was going to say. They stayed up so late on Saturday night, it didn’t matter what I did up here, they were going to fall asleep.
Some people have valid excuses: they’re on medicine, or they have health issues, or they’re working the late-night shift… and we’re just thankful that you’re here. Even if it means you might need to fall asleep sometimes.
Others of you have invalid excuses: you did stay up too late doing something silly.[00:26:33]
Let me give you a few questions to consider as I try to not bear the entire burden of how things go on Sunday. And as I give you some of these questions, I want you to think about the impact that they have on you and your life–how you might turn those to people in your life and realize, for example, as I try to relate this to your life someday, sometimes you’re your boss might just be a complete jerk, but it really wasn’t about you.
They have a story behind their life and what’s going on and they were going to act that way to the first person they saw that morning in the elevator regardless.
So here’s a couple questions for you to consider as it relates to our context.
Two questions to consider before coming to church:
- Have I treated Saturday night like Sunday morning is a priority?
Have you treated Saturday night like Sunday morning is a priority? If you haven’t and you show up and you don’t leave with something the way you wanted, you got to assume some of that responsibility.
- Have I prayed for myself, my pastor, and my church family?
I think a really good point to consider is that some of you, let’s be honest, and I’ve been here I’ve done this before, before I was in the ministry full time, I would go from Sunday to Sunday and not think about God really anywhere in between there… not real it really much to do with God, and then I show up and I wonder why the pastor couldn’t just you know, really knock my socks off.
And so we ask, “Have I prayed for myself, my pastor and my church family?
I’m convinced, and I already like our Kirkmont Sunday Morning Experience, but I’m convinced that the single greatest thing that could happen to improve our Sunday Morning Experience would be to have an enormous number and percentage of you who are committed to praying for yourself, pray for me, and pray for the rest of your church family.
I think at that started happening, and maybe it is already… but if that continues to happen, and continues to grow, and those who are doing this, we would see the power of Prayer in all of our settings and dynamics.
And then, continuing, “Questions to consider at church, before the sermon…
Two questions to consider before the Sermon:
Maybe you’re here and it’s like the introduction or we’re leading up to the sermon...
1. What am I distracted by that’s more important than God?
Of course, the answer to that is nothing, but it’s just an opportunity to ask yourself.
“What’s distracting me?
Why am I allowing it to continue to distract me?”
“I don’t really think that the Cincinnati Bengals are more important than God, but darn it whether they beat the Browns today is really on my mind.”
2. What are they talking about this morning that the enemy doesn’t want me to hear?
This is a reminder that preaching is the exposition of the Word of God and it is spiritual warfare.
And it’s a reminder of the reality that God often has something he wants to say to you, and the enemy doesn’t want you to hear it, and you should come to church realizing that there’s a battle for what you hear, and what you don’t hear.
And sometimes what God wants you to hear is not even what you want to hear. It may not produce like a warm fuzzy easy to pay attention to feeling… that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want you to hear it any less.
So He may want you to hear this thing and you’re going to have to have discipline and focus to say, “I’m paying attention because this is God’s Word and I think he has something to say to me this morning.”
Okay we said:
1) Our identity comes from Jesus and not others;
2) Our approval comes from Jesus and not others, and finally
3) We live for Jesus and not others.
Colossians chapter 3 verse 23 tells us this,
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
The context of this is a really cool context.
The Bible is giving us instruction and wisdom about how to act with one another…
– husbands and wives,
– parents and children,
and back then in the Bible part of their culture was
– slaves and masters.
And so it’s giving us wisdom and instruction. And basically what was happening is a lot of these people were in these relationships as Christians with people who weren’t Christians, and essentially the whole point is to say,
“Hey, look… the way you treat your husband or your wife isn’t dependent on how they treat you. The way you treat your parents or your children isn’t dependent upon how they treat you. You treat them
“as you would do it for the Lord”.
Your behavior towards one another is for the Lord.
Whatever you do (he sums it all up), work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
This empowers us to treat others better than they treat us… better than perhaps they deserve.
So yes, I notice when you fall asleep. Will it ever change the way that I treat you? Absolutely not. It doesn’t even remotely cross my mind.
And I think when we have our identity in Christ, when we seek the approval of Christ, for you and your life when your family members aren’t treating you the way they should—your husband, your wife, your co-workers, whoever it might be… empowers you to say, I’m living for Christ, and part of the way I live for Christ is to treat my husband as Christ would want me to treat him even if he’s not treating me the way that Christ would want him to treat me, and vice versa.
That’s what it means to live for Christ.
Notice that it tells us in this passage that this is not an excuse for mediocrity. Notice what the text says,
work at it with all your heart,
Work at it with all your heart. Just because we’re not finding our identity in others, just because we’re not seeking approval from others, and just because we’re doing it for Jesus doesn’t mean we do it mediocre.
Someone gave me this book a couple of years ago. When you guys give me books, it always freaks me out because I can’t tell when I’m reading it what you wanted me to read (LAUGHTER).
I hope this wasn’t the chapter.
“I want to examine one place where I think there’s entirely too much mediocrity in the Church of Jesus Christ.
I want to talk about preaching because of what God has called me to do. I get to be in churches around the world for about 40 weekends each year. I am with some body of Christ somewhere in the world. Often I’m not able to return home on Saturday so I will tend to service of the local congregation when I’m not scheduled to preach.”
In other words, this guy goes to a lot of different churches and he’s a pastor himself and an author.
“What I’m about to say will probably get me in trouble, but I’m convinced it needs to be said. I am saddened and distressed to say it but I’m tired of hearing boring and adequately prepared theological lectures read as manuscripts that will inspire No One by uninspired preachers, all done in the name of biblical preaching.
There is a way in which if you examine the whole process it is neither biblical nor preaching.
I am not surprised in these moments that people’s minds wander. I’m not surprised that people are struggling to keep attentive and awake. I am surprised that there aren’t more.
They’re being taught by one who has not brought the proper weapons in the Pulpit to fight for them. And with them the spiritual war that every moment of preaching actually is.”
Just because our identity isn’t in Jesus and our approval comes from Jesus and not others., it doesn’t mean that living for Jesus is an excuse to be mediocre. Right?
We do it with all of our heart. In fact, if we’re doing it really for Jesus shouldn’t it like raise the bar, and how we do it?
For me, here’s my takeaway:
I realize that I haven’t given anyone permission to give me feedback here about my preaching. And I want to put together a team of people who I can meet with regularly who are honest and discerning enough to really give it to me. Maybe some of you would like to volunteer to be on that team (LAUGHTER… but I think he was serious).
But what do you need to do as a step of application to make sure that living for Jesus is not an excuse to be mediocre at whatever you’re doing.
What do you need to do? From whom do you need to seek feedback? And maybe some of you it’s just simply going to your husband or wife and giving them permission to really be honest with you. Or your kids or your co-workers or whoever it might be in your life to give you that honest feedback. So that you can do living for the Lord with all of your heart.
Let’s invite our praise team to come up as we lead this closing song for you. You guys can go ahead and stand.
We’re doing the song called, Christ Alone is our Cornerstone. And I think it in some ways really helps summarize and connect some of these points:
- our identity comes from Jesus (He’s our Cornerstone)
- our approval comes from Jesus as our Cornerstone.
- we live for Jesus as a Cornerstone alone. Not for others.
I look forward to worshiping with you through this song and continuing in our series as we deal with your wonderful questions.
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