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I was ruined at 19.  I saw the Holy Spirit come down and change the subject on the streets of L.A. to Jesus.  It was known as “the Jesus Movement” — from around 1969 to 1972.  I thought this was just how ministry was done, this is what to expect.  All my life since I have prayed and labored to see breakthrough spiritual power of that magnitude.

I am seeing it.  We are seeing it.  But this time, it’s better.  The Jesus Movement was more like a power surge.  Kaboom.  It came, it went.  Much good was done.  But it was too soon over.  This time, however, we’re planting churches, forming coalitions and networks, building websites, writing books of lasting value, and much more.  This time, it’s built to last.  This is thrilling.

These advances are pouring out of a broad renewal in the biblical gospel.  Union with Christ crucified and risen, regeneration, justification by faith alone, sanctification by grace, the church as ground zero for the purposes of God, and so forth — robust gospel doctrine is being run up the flagpole through The Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel, Acts 29, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Reach Records, and so forth, and a new generation is saluting.  I see this as evidence of God’s power in our midst.  And here’s the cool thing.  It’s not as though a human committee met in a hotel conference room somewhere to mastermind the progress of the past decade.  God has done this himself.  And it’s no stunt.  He has a plan, and he’s working his plan.  He is creating conditions for an even better future, if we will steward his blessing wisely.

How can we do that?  How can we live in such a way that, twenty years from now, we won’t be regretting how we handled our historic opportunity?  What can we do, within our limitations, not to squander what God is giving us but to parlay it into even more?

1.  Humility.  The Bible is clear: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).  Humility listens.  Humility cultivates courtesy and restraint in speech and manner.  Humility looks for win-win outcomes.  Humility watches the other guy’s back.  Humility values self-awareness and is open to gentle correction.  Humility esteems others highly and looks for their strengths and talks them up warmly and sincerely.  Where gospel humility is, God is.

2.  Unity.  “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).  Al Mohler’s theological triage illustrates how to chart pathways into unity while avoiding theological minimalism and erosion of distinctives.  But above all else, unity is “good and pleasant.”  Unity is a relational tone that pleases the aesthetics of the heart and conscience, and that too is a function of authority.  Moreover, theologically responsible unity hasn’t been so possible and indeed available, as it is now, in my entire lifetime.  Let’s guard it.  Here is a goal for every one of us: “For the rest of my life, God helping me, I will not lose a single Christian friend, but I will cherish every Christian friend.  However irritating my friend might be at the moment, I will get over it, because this friend is a gift precious in the sight of God.”

3.  Risk.  “Be strong, and let us use our strength for our people and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him” (1 Chronicles 19:13).  Let’s keep after it — planting churches, replanting churches, and all the rest, as God enables us.  Calculated risks for the advance of the gospel, whatever our various capacities, reverently leaving the outcomes to God, are surely pleasing in his sight: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23).  As we see each other showing strength and taking risks and advancing the cause, let’s cheer each other on.  This isn’t easy.  It takes courage, selflessness and sacrifice.  But more deeply, we are seeing the Lord doing what seems good to him.  Plenty of reason for good cheer and bold risk.

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6 thoughts on “Steward the blessing”

  1. Joshua O. says:

    We’ve been and are praying for more and more and more of New Englanders to be “ruined” by the gospel. And praise King Jesus, we are beginning to see just that! Thanks again for coming up last fall and encouraging us at the Lead Conference. Loved this encouragement this morning too!

  2. Keith Howard says:

    Amen. Thanks for the encouragement, Bud! Your posts never cease to bless this simple pastor.

  3. Steve Fisher says:

    Thanks Ray – the “movement” came to Nashville as I remember around 1971-1972 in the form of a caravan of Jesus freaks – they came under the banner “Christ Is the Answer” and had a tent for preaching set-up near downtown Nashville for two or three months – we had some of them come out to talk with our youth group – I have never been the same since.

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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