Tucker Stipe is a really great friend of mine (Kyle). We both studied together in the Ekklesia School of Ministry and were co-workers on staff at the church. Tucker's now chasing after an M.Div. from Knox Seminary in hopes to one day plant a church in Miami, Florida. Some of us are called to bear the cross, others are called to the beach. I have always admired Tucker's humble honesty in bearing his own soul. He is one of the most authentic people I know and you will see that in his writing. I know you will enjoy what he has to say in this guest post.
Fool's gold, everybody has fallen for it… hopefully as a kid and not as an adult. More likely someone is naive when they go down to Mexico and buy a “solid silver” necklace only to find their skin turning green from wearing it. Fake jewelry is so commonplace that no one thinks twice when they see a high school kid walk in with fat “diamonds” in his ears, because we all know he got them at Claire’s. It is the substance of the jewelry that makes the difference, not its outward appearance. Some things are genuine on the outside and yet devoid of that purity at their core which would make them so valuable. Enter case study number one:
The church of Ephesus was a great church with phenomenal leadership at various times in its life. But not all that glitters is gold. Jesus had strong words for this church when He had John write to them in Revelation 2. They were commended for being doctrinally pure, morally pure, and for persevering in their witness, but at their core there was a grave problem. They had forsaken their first love. The text is a bit ambiguous as to what love they had forsaken, their love for God or their love for one another. Perhaps Jesus left it vague for a reason. Jesus Himself, when He walked the earth, said the second greatest commandment was like the first, thus linking the two! Genuine Christian love is impossible without a love for Jesus. It seems this church had lost the sweetness that comes from a heart filled with the Spirit of Christ. The church clearly upheld the truth boldly, but without love the truth is nothing but a club with which to beat thy neighbor with.
I personally feel this tension greatly. I must admit that this would be a sin area in my life that the Lord has been teaching me and growing me in. I have often been so concerned with upholding the truth and remaining morally pure that I have forgotten the love of Christ that must compel the first two pursuits. What I have found is this, as Jesus captivates my heart more and more I have a greater desire to be pure and orthodox and yet my tenderness and kindness with people grows, I have a much greater patience with people because I am so grateful for God’s patience with me. True love cares about more than doctrinal and moral purity; true love cares about the spirit of the individual. And thus true love speaks the truth but with tenderness and care for the whole person, recognizing our own faults.
At times I think highly of my pedigree, which leads me to that prideful condemning spirit. Enter case study number two: Paul the apostle had to come to the point where he realized his resume was not impressive enough (Phil 3). It was not his pedigree that made the difference, it was his “love for Christ” (pardon the paraphrase). When Paul found his “first love” his shiny exterior became of little value to him, he even called it as good as dung! I must point out however that, that did not mean that Paul threw out his “good works,” but it does mean that he no longer put his confidence in them. Their role in his life changed. Rather than trying to uphold the law to perfection, he acknowledged that he never could and relied on the sacrifice of Christ for his salvation and the power of the Spirit for his sanctification.
It is all by the grace of God worked out in our hearts that allows us right relationship with God and one another. We cannot forsake our “first love.” The trouble with this type of sin is we are really bad at seeing it in ourselves. Often like the church in Ephesus we need someone to point it out to us in true love. If you dare, I challenge you to find someone who knows you and is around you a lot, give them permission to be brutally, lovingly honest and ask them if you come across as high-handed, demeaning and condemning as you stand for moral and doctrinal purity. Then be humble and just listen; pray that God would give you eyes to see yourself the way He sees you. Don’t rebut or make excuses, just listen! It is only in real authentic community that you can get this kind of “real talk”. If you think you don’t have anyone who would be qualified to speak into your life in that way, step one is bearing your soul with some people. This is where I am. Having moved across the country and only being here for about a month I need to bear my soul with brothers. God is asking me to reassess my life for Him and His people and to put no confidence in my flesh, but without a community to help me navigate these things I am sure to end up off track.
My fear is that I would look at myself 40 years from now and see a man jaded by ministry and who has lost his passion for making disciples and seeing lives transformed. If my confidence is in my flesh and my love is centered anywhere other than love for Lord and neighbor, then ministry will become a burden and I will continually be frustrated. Without community this slide is a guarantee, but God has called us into fellowship to guard us from this and to lead us to a pure confidence and love.
Tucker Stipe is a man who is after God's heart. He longs to see the city of Miami transformed by the gospel. His driving passion is to know his Savior and to make disciples. Tucker blogs at gospelcolumn.com on the gospel, life, family, etc. You can also follow him on Twitter @tuckstipe.