RE: coming out

Since coming out to the world of social media the other day, I have observed a lot of people discussing what my theological and ethical stances are on sexual desire and expression. Some folks have asked me questions about this directly, and others have simply affirmed and honored me for stances they perceive I am holding. I generally welcome the feedback and conversation.

Nevertheless — as much as I think it is important to weigh our beliefs and practices against scriptural teaching, and to discern how to humbly follow Christ’s leadership in these areas — I want to be clear that I was intentional about avoiding the opportunity to define all my stances in one post. I have PLENTY of opinions related to all things at the intersection of LGBTQ issues & faith… There are a couple of those opinions I’m sure I won’t be quiet about forever. But all of that ultimately is not the hill I want to die on.

For one, I don’t want to always play into the silly culture war — if I can avoid it.  Secondly, I simply don’t need to tell the whole world what I think is right. I’ll more likely share about that with folks who share in common with me some fundamental assumptions about the very nature of truth. I can’t expect everyone to live the way I live when we don’t have the same core values or give allegiance to the same sources of authority.

Beyond that though, I could also just say this: It wasn’t an ethical or moral stance that made me fall in love with Jesus in the first place. And it wasn’t the tossing out of an ethical or moral stance that helped me figure out how to get more free from shame or how to grow more integrated as a person. I’ve long wanted far more clarity and resolution about all my “stances” than I’ve been able to find. But that has apparently never been a big priority to Jesus, in comparison to His own insistent pursuit of my simple trust. Our connection is thriving, and that doesn’t rise and fall on what an amazing job I do at managing my sexuality, coming to correct doctrinal conclusions, or identifying myself according to any expected criteria. Our relationship is covenantal, not contractual.

For the record, if you want to know if I’m “pure” or not, I can answer that in two ways:

— On the basis of my own merits and performance — Nope. I don’t have any purity to assert. The quality of my lifestyle, behavior, convictions, and intentions would not earn me anything in the big scheme of things. Feel free to assume the worst.

— On the basis of how Christ has so generously and thoroughly transformed the very essence of who I am, bringing me into holy union with Himself — 100%! I’m dead to sin and as pure as can be (Romans 6:11, 2 Corinthians 5:21). I’ve got His own righteousness flowing through my veins (even on my worst days), and I did nothing to achieve that or make it happen.

It is “because of Him [I am] in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” 1 Corinthians 1:30. He chose me (John 15:16). And He offers His full embrace to all humanity (2nd Corinthians 5:19-20).

My biggest conviction is the same as Paul’s… “Indeed, I count everything [that brought me status] as [dead to me] because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. [May I] be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which comes through trust in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on trust” (Philippians 3:8-9). That is ultimately the only thing that puts my heart at rest.

Wherever you are in your own process, I hope your heart will find its rest in that place of security too.

In Christ alone, my hope is found…

And as He stands in victory

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me

For I am His and He is mine

Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

 

Related Post:

A Bit About My Faith & Sexuality

A Bit About My Faith & Sexuality

Hesitations

I’ve gone back and forth a few times about whether or not I want to talk about my sexuality much in public. I planned on making a post about it back in November of 2019, and I even had a specific date picked to do so. It was going to be a Sunday. The night before, the pastor of my church randomly called me out of the crowd and prophesied over me that the trajectory of my life was going to be forever different because of that weekend. That seemed like exactly the kind of overly-dramatic boost of encouragement I thought I needed. So I wrote an article, posted it on my blog… and shortly thereafter removed it, without ever publishing it to social media.

My life went on as usual.

All that said, I’ve shared this with a number of you in person or in my home group already. Nevertheless, I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I still need to be more open about it. Especially with some of you that I’ve only come to know in the last couple years. God’s Spirit has seemed to be haunting me lately, regularly impressing upon me to more thoroughly address this subject. So rather than continuing to resist His clear prompting, I’m going to course-correct a bit before entering into 2022.

Here is the long and short of it…

From the time I was a young child I can remember having attractions primarily for other males. For many years I tried various methods of changing my orientation. I cried out for “holiness” in my personal prayer times. I went through countless Charismatic deliverance and inner healing sessions. I endlessly claimed and confessed to be straight (in Jesus’ name!), trying to manifest what I wanted to be my reality. I occasionally dated girls and basically led them on in the process. Then late into my twenties, I started to develop stronger-than-usual feelings for a bisexual guy I worked with. 

For the first time in my life, I realized my attraction to a guy was much more than just the shallow, lustful feeling of a “temptation.” My romantic interest was mixed with a deep, genuine care for this guy — and I was terrified of that fact. I slowly let my heart become attached to him, and when he didn’t reciprocate I was pretty crushed.

I went on a brief fast in the beginning of the next year, asking God to give me clear counsel. Instead of giving me answers, He gave me more questions. That week launched me into a much longer process of more deeply assessing all my most fundamental assumptions about my theology, and I welcomed the Lord to guide me towards a deeper understanding of truth through it all.

When it came to my orientation particularly, I only thought I had two options at the time. I could keep attempting to live as a straight man and hope my same-sex attractions would eventually go away. Or, I could embrace my sexuality honestly and leave orthodox Christianity to go look for relational fulfillment outside the Church.

I was constantly talking to God about how to move forward and was struggling to discern what He was saying in response. 

A Vision of A Butterfly

One Thursday night during this season I went to the Gateway House of Prayer for a young-adult worship gathering. We were all pouring our hearts out to the Lord in song, telling Him how much we trusted Him with our futures. I was sitting in my seat praying quietly, “Jesus, I do trust you. Yet I sense you want me to reconcile with my sexuality somehow. What does that look like? Do I need to come out to all of these people in order to more sincerely invite them alongside me in my journey?” I was so confused, and thought that coming out might mean I would then be pressured to leave my community or to jump into a type of dating life that I didn’t feel comfortable with.

Only moments later, my friend Stacia went up to the microphone and asked if she could share a prophetic word with the room. She’d had a vision come to her mind, and she said it was a picture of a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. It had rainbow colored wings. She felt that God was encouraging us to embrace the transformation process He was leading us to and to become more authentic in our expression of what the Holy Spirit was doing within our lives. My buddy Steve then came up to the microphone and said God was further telling him, “This is all to be done in a posture of surrender to the Lord’s will.”

Needless to say, I was floored. I felt like God was answering me directly, but I still had no clue what it would look like to “come out” of my own cocoon in a more public way. So I continued opening up to only a select few individuals, and (though the process constantly intimidated me) I researched further on how to integrate being same-sex attracted with sincerely honoring the Lordship of Jesus.

A Constant Learning Process

For the next several years, God was faithful to carefully lead me one step at a time to exactly the places I needed to be. He led me to online support groups. He brought me great therapists. He helped me discover the Revoice Conference in my own hometown — a gathering for non-straight believers of all denominations who were seeking to honor their understanding of what the historic, biblical boundaries are for sex and marriage. All of this and more was opening my eyes to a whole world of wisdom and insight I had previously been completely oblivious to.

At the same time, I was also getting close to some really incredible guy friends — including my best friend Jackson. I was starting to find that my orientation didn’t have to drive a wedge between me and other guys who I wanted a strong relationship with. Though it was a long battle of learning how to navigate different friendship dynamics, I was finding a more significant measure of genuine intimacy and companionship — even outside of a conventional romantic partner. God was giving me more of the brotherhood and family that I saw Scripture suggest was available to me (Psalm 37:4, 2 Samuel 1:26, Luke 18:29-30). 

Time for Metamorphosis

Flash forward to 2019. I was at home listening to a sermon by Lyle Phillips of Legacy Church in Nashville. In it, he talked about how Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Lyle talked about how Jesus — even in His divine perfection — could only accomplish so much in His ministry on earth without going through a death and resurrection. It wasn’t enough for Jesus to reach the masses via His miracles and His sermons. He was called to reach whole generations yet to come, and that would only come through a deeper surrender to the Father’s plans for Him on the Cross.

Lyle encouraged his listeners to embrace their own transformation process, sacrificially laying aside a version of themselves they were comfortable with so that God could bring them into a more full realization of His own vision for their lives. Lyle compared this process to a caterpillar being transfigured into a butterfly through metamorphosis, and I knew the Holy Spirit was once again trying to grab my attention.

It was time to lay aside my false “straight” identity altogether, yielding my own will in order to enter into a new phase of life. God had more sons and daughters (both gay and straight) who would benefit from hearing more parts of my story. I had to take up the “cross” life seemed to be offering me. That is, I was being invited to let go of trying to hold onto an image and reputation that I pretty desperately wanted to cling to.

Around the time of my birthday that year, I ended up sharing a long version of my testimony with 20 or 30 folks in my home group. My community responded super warmly and graciously to me. I found I was able to build even closer relationships with some of them than I had before. I was able to talk about how the Gospel has transformed, empowered and redefined me throughout the context of my somewhat unique life experiences. I’ve found over and over that it can resonate with people no matter what their own background is.

What Lies Ahead

From here on out, I hope to continue the same type of conversations all the more. I want to celebrate all that God has done in my life through the years, and I don’t want to always tiptoe around parts of my story that people might not have a good theological framework for. I think Jesus gets glory from it, and that’s what matters most to me.

There’s probably a lot more I could say about my experiences and about what I’ve learned from them, and I’ll likely continue to make posts related to all of this at times in the future. But for now, I just want to say thank you for reading. I’m excited to further share my heart with you in any future interactions we might have.

For those of you who are curious to learn more about this subject — below are some other great, relevant resources that have helped me over the years. I hope you’ll glean from them as much as I have!

Much love to you all… & happy New Year’s!

— Destin

Recommended Resources:

https://www.postureshift.com/ 

https://www.centerforfaith.com/

https://www.lifeonsideb.com/thefoursides 

https://www.youtube.com/c/Revoice/videos

https://www.prestonsprinkle.com/theology-in-the-raw/916-misty-irons 

Essentialism vs. Existentialism

Do our choices ultimately form who we are becoming? Or do our choices tend to flow from the center of who we already are at a base level? Do we “make something of ourselves” — or simply learn to express who we’ve been made to be?

As I understand it, how we answer these questions determines whether our philosophical framework is more an “existentialist” one or an “essentialist” one. And in the Christian community, which stance we take in the philosophical debate is likely to correlate to the theology we develop about subjects like “sanctification,” “depravity” and “identity.”

I heard a local megachurch pastor recently assert that “every part of our being” is marred by sinfulness, and that we need to constantly try to make decisions to become more free of sin’s mastery over us. Five minutes later his message took a turn and he then stated that Jesus has already radically transformed us and liberated us from the power of sin “at the core of our being.” Such statements are flat out contradictory to one another, but I continuously hear similar contradictions coming from every corner of the Church world. With such contradictions also come all sorts of mental gymnastics used to try and explain and reconcile this mixture of ideas that (if we’re honest) simply do not fit together in a functional way.

As I see it, a lot of this confusion comes from the fact that we go back and forth between talking as if we’re existentialists trying to define and better ourselves to talking as if we’re essentialists who have a fixed, God-given sense of self. We speak about human nature without clarifying which framework we hold to most tightly or which we are operating in from one moment to the next.

What is the fruit of these countering philosophies (and their related theologies)? What aesthetics do these notions hold? What are their implications? Are we even holding to what we assume we believe consistently? Or do our assertions about these subjects lack clarity, definition and sensibleness?

From my vantage point, it seems that a lot of this is still pretty fuzzy in our collective thought. I propose it would do us all good to more seriously think about how we’re thinking about these matters.

Guest Post: “Beautiful”

Today, I had a friend casually tell me that they adored my soul.

And then suddenly I was crying awkwardly by myself in Starbucks. 

We live in a society where what you do and how you look is often seen as more important than who you are. In fact, think about it — what is typically the first thing you ask a new acquaintance?

“So, what do you do?”

You are what you do, what you supposedly contribute. I’ve witnessed this first hand. Since I can remember I’ve been introduced to people as “the dancer.” It was as though, aside from my career, I had no identity. 

But where are you left if that identity is taken away from you? 

A couple months ago, I was forced to contemplate that question. Suddenly, I found myself unable to do the one thing I’d always been known by. I couldn’t dance, I couldn’t even walk comfortably. Now let me tell you, I freaked out

Not only did no one else know who I was outside of being a dancer, but I hadn’t the slightest clue either.

If I couldn’t dance, what was I? Was I useless now?

I sank into depression, trying to push my recovering body too hard. I restricted my diet, often going all day on a single cup of coffee. My anxiety kept me up at night and during the day I was always a second away from tears. Mentally and physically exhausted, I found that I had nothing else to give. 

It was then, finally, that I started to notice things about myself. 

I could make people laugh. I gave excellent hugs and was a good listener, with friends often coming to me just to vent and be heard. I was capable of making people feel comfortable and a little less awkward. I had a proficiency for language and found peace in writing. I read books I’d somehow never found the time to read before. I found that I was brave, I was strong, and I was so, so LOVED. 

You are not what you do. 

Even if you had no elaborate career to offer, no incredible talents to show, you would still be valuable. 

Because you are you. 

Look around you. See the colors in a sunset. Feel the wind kiss your skin. Listen to the trees as they rustle their leaves. In all of this crazy, awe-inspiring beauty, you were somehow included. Deemed worthy and needed. A necessity, something given for the world to be more complete. That in itself is incredible. You, just existing. 

You are beautiful. 

I love you.  

— Ericka Goss

Follow @Erickadances66

Venerating Jesus

     I’ve touched on in the past how I believe there is a massive reformation movement taking place right now within the Body of Christ. By God’s grace we are correcting a ton of theological and practical errors we have been making for a very long time, learning to better and more consistently express the true heart of the Gospel. God’s House is being reconstructed and it is starting to look drastically different than it did just a few decades ago.

     As the reformers of our generation continue this work of reconstruction, we need to avoid developing our own set of structural errors to replace the previous ones. One such erroneous approach that I have found some leaders to be taking is to undermine the unique glory and honor that is due to Jesus Christ. The logic goes something like this;

     Jesus was a great prototype for what all people are called to be. He set a wonderful standard. He became a role model. Yet we must not venerate him too much — for in doing so we hold him to an unattainable position above us. We elevate him to a higher level than ourselves and lose our drive to actually emulate him and continue his work.

     Jesus meant to show us what it is like to be human though, and we all are filled with the Christ-nature that he embodied so well. We can all carry on his fight against the powers that be.

     There is a lot of truth to this line of thought, in that we are all empowered to carry on Christ’s legacy of impacting the world. We are filled with His Spirit and taught to follow in His ways. He is our Elder Brother. It is of utmost importance however to note that He is also the Second Person of the Triune Godhead. He is the complete expression of who God is in bodily form. He is not God’s only child, but He is the only begotten Son — the one in whom and from whom the rest of us get our identity in the first place. Further, He is the one who dreamed us up and loved us from eternity past.

     If there is anyone deserving of being “idolized,” it is Jesus. We are Jesus’ creation, Jesus’ brethren, and Jesus’ desired Bride. Also, we are redeemed by His blood… not just by His example.

     If there is anyone deserving of being “idolized,” it is Jesus. 

     There are two primary reasons that come to my mind as to why it is important to clarify all of this. First of all, if Jesus is merely our example of how to be humane, then we are all still basically under the Old Covenant Law. We are all still bound in the system of trying to perform and prove ourselves in order to feel like we are good enough people. We still live under the burden to try to improve or fix ourselves, to be the solution to our world’s systematic problems, to master following the right teachings — and to do it all in our own limited abilities. This is humanism, moralism and legalism. It does not give us the beautiful message of transformative Grace that Christ’s atoning work on the Cross did. It leaves us having to become our own saviors in some form or fashion.

     That is actually an unrealistic pressure that Jesus came to deliver us from.

     The second problem is that without venerating Jesus, we actually undermine our own ability to follow Him. If Jesus is just our template to follow, then we can always compare ourselves to Him and end up feeling like failures. If He is the object of our devotion however, He Himself actually becomes our fuel and our inspiration for carrying on His mission in our own lives.

     Paul wrote that “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” In other words, as we lovingly adore Jesus, as our hearts gaze upon His beauty and we esteem Him above all else, we are shaped by His Spirit to look increasingly like Him in our present state. Those of us in Christ discover and manifest our truest selves in worshiping His glorious God-self. This is key to how He nurtures and develops Christ-likeness within us.

Those of us in Christ discover and manifest our truest selves in worshiping His glorious God-self. This is key to how He nurtures and develops Christ-likeness within us.

     Simply put, wherever you give your attention is where you end up heading. If we set our sights on all the problems we need to fix, the problems just get bigger in our eyes. We look for who is at fault and we get more introspective or more critical of others. We then become contributors to the problem ourselves.

     If like the Bible says though, we set our focus “on things above, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand,” it is inevitable that we will grow in His character, see from His perspective and be beautified. We will more naturally channel the authority being released in His Throne Room here to the earth and actually become His hands, feet and mouthpieces. We are utterly dependent upon the effectiveness of this process, of this relationship, of this communion that we have access to in the Presence of the King of Kings.

     Be reminded, if you really want to emulate Jesus, He “Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” Then, when the opportunity presented itself, when the need arose, or when He was interrupted, He would rise to the occasion and glorify His Father.

     Likewise, if we give ourselves to a lifestyle of worship, contemplation, and fellowship with the exalted One who is “the way, the truth and the life,” we will more consistently ourselves walk as “little christs” multiplying across the earth to His credit. We will be more effective change agents and we will be anchored in the hope that only He provides.

     Best of all, Jesus will have the hearts of those whose love He died to win. Let us give Him that reward freely.

Follow @dmichaelSTL

Don’t Hold Back

     I am convinced that most people do not have a clue how much glory is packed inside of them. We are made in the image of God and redeemed in Christ, filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing we are lacking in the love of God. We know that we are all so unique too. Even with all of that being true, most of us fail to recognize what we are carrying.

     We have so much potential.

     We have so much to offer the world around us.

     Every where I look (when I am seeing with God’s eyes, at least) I see massive gifting waiting to be developed. I see sharp-looking and stylish people who should be modeling. I see funny and intelligent people who should be writing and speaking. I see imaginative and strategic-thinking visionaries who should be changing the world and bettering society. I see artists, prophets, influencers, community builders… waiting to make their contribution. They are waiting to lift their voices, to take their stage, to be the face of the move of God happening in our generation.

     Most of us are only scratching the surface of what we are actually able to be and to do. We are just “toying with the idea,” while the earth is groaning for the manifestation of the sons of God.

     I don’t want to miss my part in the drama of history. I don’t want false-humility, inferiority, or apathy to hold me back from fully investing myself in the dreams God has for me. I want to really go for it, and I want to be a friend who challenges my loved ones to do likewise.

     So let me just remind you,

You are sanctified.

You, in your own way, are a mover and shaker.

You’re heart has been made new in Christ and your deepest desires are in line with His.

Let what is inside of you out.

     Create your own content. Tell your own story. Reach your own crowd. Don’t hide your beauty — someone will really appreciate it. You are called to make your mark for the glory of God. He is your biggest cheerleader and loves to see you do brave things!

     You are the Father’s masterpiece of grace (Ephesians 2:10) and He likes to put His handiwork on display. So now and everyday, don’t hold back.

     Let your light shine.

Follow @dmichaelSTL

You Are Not Your Own Worst Enemy

     One of the most annoying things I hear on a regular basis is the idea that “you are your own worst enemy.” For the sons and daughters of God, this is simply not true. In fact, you are not your own enemy at all.

     Christians tend to articulate this idea by saying that you are still “in the flesh,” bound with some carnal, sinful nature. You need to repetitively “die to self.” Humanists say they same thing essentially when they always talk about how our “ego” controls us. Both seem to think this problem is inescapable and always in need of our attention.

     Whether in religious or secular terminology, the idea is that we all are inherently selfish and proud creatures, and that to do something selfless for the good of others is contrary to our most basic nature. This is ludicrous.

     The truth is, we are all made in the image of our Heavenly Father. His nature is selfless, self-sacrificing, and other-centered. He is Love and His Love is genuinely caring. For those of us who have put our trust in Jesus, the image of our Father is redeemed in us. As His children, filled with His Spirit — His very heart — we overflow with the same love (John 7:38). It is our JOY to serve others, not our task.

It is our JOY to serve others, not our task.

     Yes, there is effort expended in putting the needs of others before our own. Nevertheless it is energizing when we esteem the well-being of others above our own comforts. We are fueled by the passion we experience along the way. As Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work,” (John 4:34).

     This joy is ours is precisely because we were designed and reborn in such a way that service to a higher calling would bring us a sense of reward and fulfillment in life. It is not contrary to our deepest desires or truest nature when we care for others and make sacrifices to serve them. It is an EXPRESSION of our truest nature. 

 It is not contrary to our deepest desires or truest nature when we care for others and make sacrifices to serve them. It is an EXPRESSION of our truest nature. 

     As John Crowder says, “you look just like your Daddy.” Your first and primary nature is as eternally cruciform and kenotic as His. “We have the mind [the way of thinking] of Christ,” 1st Corinthians 2:16.

     Loving others is only insincere when we are doing it because we think some external voice is telling us we have to do it. When we know how unconditionally loved we are by the One who knows us best, service to the world around us becomes a privilege, a delight, and an adventure. It is not a burden or a requirement that we need to challenge ourselves to try to reach for. We do not have to be talked into it through pressure.

To Be Humane is To Be Godly

     Further, we should know that our humanity is not our problem. Our ability to appreciate our own humanity (as it has been sanctified through the Cross) is actually what makes us humane. It connects us to others and helps us to esteem them as the beloved children of God that they are as well.

     Ephesians 6:12 says, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” There is a real enemy to resist, but that enemy is not within. Within us is the living Christ — the hope of Glory. Within us is the compassion and humility needed to see the value of others and fight for them to experience the same goodness and kindness that we have been given.

     So yes, do hard things for the glory of God. Live on mission, go low in humility and service, expend yourself fully on the fulfilling the vision. Do it BECAUSE it’s what you want though, not in spite of what you want. 

     You and God are on the same page in your desire to do good to others. He is with you and for you in this endeavor — and you should be for yourself in it too.

Follow @dmichaelSTL

The Incarnation

     I’m such a fan of the Incarnation.

     Philippians 2:5-11 says in The Message,

“Christ had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human…”

     This is such an incredible doctrine.

     The idea that God — the One we call Transcendent, the One we call the Ultimate Mystery, the One we say is Highest, Holiest, and altogether unlike us — joined Himself with human flesh, forever.

     Aside from dying for us on the Cross, how could this Being better display His radical humility?

     Because of the Incarnation, we see that divinity and humanity are not entirely separate realities. Our human experience — our bodies, our personalities, our full range of emotions… even our weaknesses and limitations — it is not offensive to God. He wears it as His own. He joins us in our suffering, our pain and our finite-ness. And He’s chosen to do this on purpose.

“Our human experience… is not offensive to God. He wears it as His own.”

     What once seemed like a distant, ethereal spiritual reality is now as tangible and relatable as any other mortal brother or sister.

     Further, we see that God is not an abstract force, a consciousness, or merely the ground of all being. God actually has a face. We can look at His iconic Image and say with so much clarity that He is indeed beautiful.

     All of this is because God is eternally personified in Jesus. And we did not come up with this idea… He did!

“God is eternally personified in Jesus.”

     In lowering Himself to our level, God destroyed our idolatrous concept of Him being a proud, distant, authoritarian leader sitting on a lofty throne. Instead, He is Immanuel, “God with us.” He has revealed Himself as the kind of Deity who walks and serves and shares in life through our eyes. His strength looks like meekness displayed at full force.

     No longer can our Lord be accused of being aloof and unmoved by our situation. He is present and involved. He is a co-participant in our often mundane and difficult existence. He bends to our level, held back by nothing from pursuing connection with our hearts.

     And in becoming one of us, Christ dignified and divinized our race. He showed that to be human is not to be lacking in glory. We look at this Man and see what it is like to be a beloved son of God. He displayed an identity we can all walk in, without first ascending through religious rituals into some higher state.

“He displayed an identity we can all walk in, without first ascending through religious rituals into some higher state.”

     We are fully accepted and fully understood, right down here where we are. This is a Message of Heaven’s reconciliatory peace, favor and good will to all on earth (Luke 2:14).

     This is why I love Christmas.

     Happy Advent everyone. The Lord has come!

Follow @dmichaelSTL

A New Starting Place

I find the following passage of Scripture profound in revelation…

Acts 27:22-31 reads,

     So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

     “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

     “Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

He is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed His offspring.’

     This passage is incredible. It sounds starkly different from the way the Gospel is communicated today.

     Notice that Paul does not call his hearers to apologize for their sins in order to attain a relationship with God. Notice he does not start from a place of saying God is distant, needing to be appeased before He will draw near. Paul does not speak to this prebelievers as outsiders waiting to be given the gift of acceptance. He speaks to them as if they already belong in the family of God. It seems they already have His sustaining presence fueling their lives.

     They simply need to repent (i.e. change their idea about the nature of God) and trust in the One who was raised from the dead on their behalf.

     This reminds me of Psalm 82:6, which says, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.” This was a verse Jesus quoted to defend His own divinity (John 10:34-36). It suggests that we are all numbered among God’s children.

     Modern preaching often presents Jesus as being the “bridge” to God — the One who can help us cross a big divide and get back into a place of nearness with the Lord. The truth is Jesus is God Himself, and He proved through His incarnation, death and resurrection that He is willing to dwell among us and fight for our well-being whether welcome Him to or not.

     Christ demonstrated that God is never withdrawn from us. He loves to befriend even the most sinful of humans.

     If we want to really help others wake up to see God for who Jesus revealed Him to be, we must stop offering a narrative that begins with separation from the Divine. Further, we must reveal to our brothers and sisters their truest identity, which has been unchanging from the creation of the world.

     We are God’s offspring. Our life is and always has been found in Him.

     As we preach the Good News to the lost, let this revelation be our new starting place.

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The Next Reformation

There are so many voices right now vying for the future of the Church. I feel like everyone with any kind of big-picture vision for Christianity is picking up on the fact that we are on the cusp of a major reformation, akin to the one that took place 500 years ago in Luther’s day. There are a whole host of ideas about what exactly this reformation will look like, all competing to be the dominant re-definition of our Faith.

As I see it, much of this competition for our future is the because the Lord Himself is working aggressively to move us into a new place. While in Cairo, Egypt in September of 1982, Mike Bickle heard the audible voice of the Lord tell him, “I will change the understanding and expression of Christianity in one generation.” God has it on His own agenda to bring massive transformation (in a very short amount of time) to His Church and the way she proclaims His Gospel.

Mike Bickle heard the audible voice of the Lord tell him, “I will change the understanding and expression of Christianity in one generation.”

There may be many reformation movements burgeoning in the earth today, but the one that the Lord Himself is initiating has yet to come into full manifestation. Every element of the current reformation movements that is in line with God’s agenda will contribute to this new Reformation. Much of what we are now calling reformation though will eventually prove to be counterfeit and lose its fanfare.

As a student of theology, I am of course very opinionated myself about where we are headed. The following are three traits that I see as defining this reformed, budding version of True Christianity:

A New Identity: The last great Reformation corrected the idea that we can be justified by our works, rather than by the grace of God alone. However, Protestants continued to teach the false notion that believers carry a sinful nature which has to be suppressed or killed off progressively as one goes through a life-long process of sanctification.

In this new reformation, we will see that Christ has not only justified us in God’s sight, but He has sanctified us too. Hebrews 10:10 says, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Verse 14 goes on to say that “by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”

This is not to say that we do everything right as Christians. Not is it to say we have no room for growth and maturity. It is to say though that our identity is not defined by what we do wrong. Our identity is defined purely by what God says about us, and that will never change.

As this new Reformation grows, Christians will come into greater agreement that we are presently “dead to sin and alive to God” (Romans 6:11). We will take more literally the fact that we are beloved children of God carrying His pure, divine nature (John 10:34). We are righteous and clean at the core of our being, and not merely in a legal sense.

As we are healed of our damaged self-image in light of these truths, we will also begin to see the radiance of God’s image hidden in all of humanity. The result will be an unprecedented new passion for evangelism and humanitarian work to redeem and protect that Imago Dei wherever it is found.

Experiential Revelation: The Protestant Reformation further brought to our attention the centrality of Holy Scripture in our worship. We came to recognize that the Bible carries a weight of authority that is unequaled by other sources when it comes to defining our theology and providing guidance to our lives.

The next reformation will stand on this foundation, but move us forward to recognize that we all have been brought into relationship with the Divine Word of God who is still speaking today. We will continue to weigh our ideas in light of the written Scripture, but we will also widely recognize our utter dependency on personal communication with Christ via His indwelling Spirit.

Charismatic experiences will no longer seem rare or optional for us. The whole Body of Christ will be operating in a dynamic, intimate relationship with the Presence of God. This will move prophetic worship, prayer and contemplative practices to the forefront of our corporate worship gatherings. Rich Bible teaching will continue (and continue to grow richer), but preeminence will be given to the hosting the manifest glory of God. “Bibliodolatry” will not keep us from mystical revelation any longer.

We will realize that the “priesthood of all believers” extends beyond us all having access to the Bible (which was a huge step forward in our progress in the past). We will all know our direct access to Jesus — who is Himself our living definition of perfect theology.

A “Gospel of the Kingdom” Mentality: Somehow the last Reformation left us in a place where believers were awaiting to experience God’s Kingdom when they died and went to Heaven. Very little of God’s will was ever expected to be actualized here on earth.

This new reformation will emphasize that Christ is already, presently the Risen King of Kings – and the scope of His Kingdom is unending. Truly “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

This is Good News, because it means God is already changing the way everything works in society. As N. T. Wright has brought to light in his newest book, the day Jesus died is “the day the revolution began.” The evil systems of this world have ever been coming undone in the wake of Christ’s Finished Work, and His victory over darkness will only continue to be enforced.

Believers will continually recognize and preach this reality more, and in the process repent of wanting to escape the world to experience Heaven’s bliss. We will instead make a better use of the time we have until Christ’s Second Coming, discovering endless creative outlets to reveal and release Heaven’s blessing. Together we will work to nurture abundant life and justice anywhere it seems to be presently lacking. No longer will our spirituality appear to be ethereal or impractical. Our message will carry weight and impact now wherever the Love of God is preached.

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