Becoming Like Him
About the Guest
Non-Christians often give Christians a bad rap. Do we deserve it? Pastor Scott Sauls talks about becoming the kind of Christians who are irresistible to the world. Sauls admits a lot of damage has been done in the name of Christ, and it's time we changed that. Doing so, however, will require us to boast more about Jesus and what He has done for us. Christians will need to exude the aroma of Christ by loving our enemies and responding to their insults with gentleness, and welcoming the lonely and lost into our homes and churches.
Scott SaulsScott Sauls is senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and author of Jesus Outside the Lines, Befriend, From Weakness to Strength, Irresistible Faith, and A Gentle Answer. Scott also served at New York City's Redeemer Presbyterian Church as a lead and preaching pastor and planted two churches in the Midwest. His work has been featured in publications including Christianity Today, Relevant, Qideas, Propel Women, He Reads Truth, Leadership Magazine, The Gospel Coaliti...more
Non-Christians often give Christians a bad rap. Do we deserve it? Pastor Scott Sauls admits a lot of damage has been done in the name of Christ, and it’s time we changed that and he has some suggestions.
Becoming Like Him
Bob: With family members, or friends, people at work, people at church, are you more focused on the things that separate you and divide you? Pastor Scott Sauls says maybe we should spend more time celebrating those things we have in common.
Scott: It’s almost like everybody has to wait until after they’re dead before other people will play the highlight reel of their life. Why don’t we start cultivating the practice of playing the highlight reel of one another’s lives while we’re still alive? We talk about doing that with our children; how about doing that with all of God’s children, as well? Then, when that moment comes where somebody is stuck—somebody does injure somebody else—that conversation can be had without it feeling like, “Well, wait; why do you only come to me when you have a problem with me?”—right?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, June 25th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. How would our relationships be different if we spent more time celebrating what we have in common instead of criticizing one another? We’ll talk more about having an irresistible faith today with Scott Sauls. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I was just sitting here, thinking I was going to ask you guys if it was ever hard—when your kids were at home/you were raising your kids—if it was ever hard to get them up and get them to church on Sunday; but I guess—
Ann: You would be asking that to me, solely; wouldn’t you? [Laughter]
Dave: Why do you say that?—I wasn’t there?
Ann: He’s the pastor!
Bob: So he’s gone—
Bob: —and the job of getting the boys to church is all on you.
Dave: And our boys were perfect, so they jumped right out: [Laughter] “Let’s go to church and hear Dad preach! I can’t wait to hear him talk!”
Ann: That wasn’t true. [Laughter]
Bob: If you’re talking to a young mom today, who just says: “Sunday kills me. I mean, half the time, we don’t go; because by the time we’re all ready to go, it’s 15 minutes after when the service is supposed to start.”
Ann: Right; you have fighting, getting ready—
Bob: Yes; what’s your advice to her?
Ann: I would say it’s hard to get there, but it’s so worth it. It’s worth it for more than just what you’re hearing from the sermon or from the kids’ classes. It’s creating an atmosphere and a culture in your home, saying: “This matters—God’s Word/God’s community—that matters to us,” and “We’re going to be a part of it, because the community of Christ changes lives; and we need it for the rest of our lives.”
Dave: I would add this—we’re joking, you know, about getting them there—but we did, as parents, as they grew up, we knew the value of anything is getting them around peers and community would change their life as much or more than we would.
Bob: Well, you guys know the reason I’m bringing this up is because we’re talking this week about irresistible faith—what that looks like; how we can be the kinds of people in this world that people will look at and say, “That looks like Jesus, and I’m drawn to the Jesus I see in you,” which, I know, is a passion for you guys.
We have Scott Sauls joining us this week. Scott, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Bob: Scott is a pastor in Nashville—he pastors Christ Presbyterian Church. He’s an author/a speaker; he’s written a book called Irresistible Faith—and this subject of how we become the kinds of people and how we become the kind of community of people that the world looks at and goes, “There’s something about you…” That’s what’s at the heart of this book, and you think that’s missing from the conversations we’re having in the church today.
Scott: I certainly think it can be more amplified in the conversations that we’re having today. Everything in our part of the world—not just around the church, but in the culture—just feels so politicized. It’s just become such a distracting thing to what the mission of the church and of Christians ought to be about in the world. I wouldn’t say the conversation’s not there; I think there are plenty of people having the conversation about being fruitful, impactful, life-giving—you know, neighbors in the places where we live, work, and play—but I think that conversation needs to be amplified a bit more. We need to be more public with our faith.
Bob: I’ve asked people, for years—I’ve said, “If you were to go out and do a survey on the street at the mall—you said, ‘Fill in the blank here: “Christians are the most blank people in the world,” and you can put any word you want into that blank.’”
As I’ve asked that question, I said: “What if the words that went in there were the fruit of the Spirit? What if people would say, ‘You know, Christians are the most loving people in the world,’ ‘…the most joyful people in the world,’ ‘…most peaceful,’ ‘…the most patient…’ I mean, you can just go through the list. What if those were the words people were picking up on?”
Ann: Oh, I love that. That would be a great goal; wouldn’t it?
Bob: —which is what it’s supposed to be, because that’s the fruit of the Spirit; right?
Ann: —we should exhibit.
Bob: You say that this is not just a project for us, as individual Christians, who need to learn how to abide, and how to dig deep into who Jesus is and manifest the fruit of the Spirit in our lives; but this is a project for us, as a community of followers of Jesus. The whole second part of your book is about the kind of community we need to be. What do we need to be that’s different than who we are today?
Scott: The phrase that comes to mind is: “…more shy about ourselves/more shy about our agendas and more boastful about Jesus and what He’s done for us.” I think that a lot of us, in the Christian community, have drunk the Kool-Aid—you know, we’ve just whiffed the secondhand smoke of worldliness, which leads to hostility, and bickering, and gossip, and slander. We’ve not whiffed the aroma of Christ, which leads us, not only to be the best kinds of friends, but the best kinds of enemies.
You know, the Bible talks about/Christ talks about loving your enemies—and praying and blessing—looking for opportunities to bless, even those who injure you/even those who persecute you. The last two beatitudes focus on that. I don’t think that that is something that we’re known for; but I think that the climate that we’re in, where everybody’s mad about something, actually—perhaps, at least, in my lifetime—presents us with the best opportunity and the lowest-hanging fruit that we’ve ever had, in my lifetime, to respond to insults with gentleness. Surprise the world with a gentle answer that turns away wrath, as the proverb says.
Bob: One of the things that our community can provide that goes beyond what we can provide, as individuals, is we can provide a context for relationship. You make the point—we live in a desperately lonely time. To have a welcoming community of people, who would say, “Come join us,” we’re tapping into something in the culture today that people are desperate for.
Scott: Yes; you know, the church, of all places—I mean, the Scriptures talk about how God puts the lonely in families. It talks about how the barren woman, the woman who’s never had a husband or never been able to have children—in the community of God—can have as many children, beyond her wildest dreams.
Of course, that’s a different experience than having your own biological children; but the point being that God’s answer to loneliness/God’s answer to the one and only bad thing that God said about paradise—that: “It’s not good for human beings to be alone,”—it’s not good. Even though Eve was the, case in point, answer for Adam, I think Eve was a representative answer. I don’t think marriage is the answer; I think community is the answer.
Bob: On a practical level—because most of the people coming to your church, I think, are probably married with kids?
Scott: Yes; I’d say probably there are more married people than unmarried people in our church.
Bob: Right; so how do those two distinctly different subgroups mingle and become, not just distinctly different subgroups, but a part of one body?
Scott: We emphasize the importance of cross-pollinating, generationally, and cross-pollinating, according to marital status. Single people need married people, and vice versa. We’ve seen, gradually, more and more traction, where there’s this intentionality that’s developed. You’ll see small groups pop up, where you have three couples in their 60s, and five single people in their 20s and 30s, and three couples who are married with children—intentionally.
We have people, actually, who have gathered around diversity in different ways, as well. We have people, who want difference to rub off on them; but you have to work for it; you have to be intentional about it; you have to model it in leadership; and you have to pray for it, as well.
Dave: Yes; I thought, in your section on community in the book, I thought it was such a beautiful picture. I’m looking at your title, and it was such—practicing transparency/kindness—what’s that look like?
But you just hit on something else I’d rather talk about; because I thought the way you wrote about this was really beautiful and not, often, talked about. You call it “practicing soul surgery on one another.” You share several stories in the book of people saying to you hard things for you to hear and, yet, think you needed to hear to make you better. Talk about that.
Scott: Practicing transparency and performing soul surgery on one another—that relates primarily to Galatians, Chapter 6, where Paul writes, “If any of you is caught in a transgression”—he’s talking about a pattern here, not like a one-off “I goofed up,” but a pattern—“If any among you is caught in transgression, let you who are spiritual restore him gently,”—you know, and make sure it’s gently—“lest you too be tempted.”
Matthew 18: “If a brother sins against you, go and show him his faults,” and so on. Bring in a very private subset of community in the situation if you can’t get through to him in private, or if you can’t reach agreement, and so on. But that’s all designed as one of God’s ways to transform us more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
Yes, He gives us our Bibles; yes, He gives us great preaching and great programs, like this one, to sharpen us; but we are not meant to grow in Christ in isolation, with a self-managed curriculum that we have control over. Submitting to Scripture is a huge part of that; the parts of Scripture that we should be digging into and reading the most are the parts that we don’t underline, not the ones that we do. [Laughter] Those are the ones we should gravitate toward most, because those are probably the ones we resist the most; and that’s where we need to change the most; right?
But the other piece, outside of the parts of Scripture that we’re uncomfortable with—and by the way, it’s good to be uncomfortable with parts of Scripture, otherwise you’re not really in a relationship with God. Any relationship, you’re going to get pushed back on. If it’s a real relationship, you’re going to be challenged to grow. In normal, ordinary, especially Christian relationships, we are meant to sharpen one another.
I think our American-ness and the climate of where it’s so easy to get offended and so easy to offend somebody, we’re sensitive to this; we’re hyper-sensitive to criticism. Part of that’s the culture we’re in/part of that’s the human soul—you know, where we’re made in the image of a God, whose very existence is to be glorified, and honored, and praised—so there’s a very legitimate part of us—that part of you that loves being appreciated and affirmed is the image of God in you. It’s not a defect.
But at the same time, when we idolize our own image—when our own image and reputation is the most important thing/when being right is more important than being humble and transformed—that’s where we need to figure out a way to let others speak into our lives to sharpen us and to look at those more difficult conversations, not as if somebody’s coming at us with a sword, but rather maybe the Lord, through them, coming to us with a scalpel. Surgery’s painful, but it also promotes health. It also gets rid of things that aren’t healthy, and it enhances life once you heal from a well-crafted surgery.
Obviously, if you’re giving the surgery, don’t butcher somebody with the scalpel. Cut with care—with gentleness and respect—right?
Ann: That really does take practice—and time with God—to learn how to do that.
Dave: —and trust.
Ann: Yes; I was reading—I love this, because this is what you’re talking about in the book. You’re talking about reversing the negative verdicts. You say one way we can hear the Father’s voice more clearly is to practice speaking the truth in love with each other—Ephesians 4—and that can be a very delicate place to walk. It’s hard to know—it’s hard to do in a marriage relationship. I feel like I need to go to God and ask Him: “How should I say this? Should I say that? What does that look like?”
Ann: In the church, what are some of the principles that we can put in that? I mean, I’m assuming this is with people that we love and that we know that we’re going to speak truth in love and, maybe, not the stranger that just walked in the door. [Laughter]
Scott: That is such a great question. So, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Whoever said that—
Ann: —is a liar!
Scott: —has probably never had a conversation!—[Laughter]—you know? Because Psychology Today actually came out with its own version of that: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can cut me deeply.”
Scott: Words can also be incredibly life-giving as well. You know, there’s this old Scottish preacher, now with the Lord, named Robert Murray M’Cheyne, who once said, “For every one look you take at your sin, take ten looks at Jesus.” I think that there’s a principle in there that plays into our conversation; right?
We all talk about how: “Oh, you have this love language…” and “I have this love language…” and “He has this one…” and “She has this love language…” We are all words of affirmation people. [Laughter] There’s no such thing as a person who’s not a words of affirmation person.
Ann: So true!
Scott: If somebody says they’re not a words of affirmation person, just criticize them and see how they react; right? [Laughter] Say, “See, you are a words of affirmation person!”
I think that we earn the right to offer constructive feedback by what we, in our community, call “living eulogies”; right? Why do we wait until somebody dies before we say all kinds of kind, wonderful things about them? It’s almost like everybody has to wait until after they’re dead before other people will play the highlight reel of their life.
Scott: Why don’t we start cultivating the practice of playing the highlight reel of one another’s lives while we’re still alive? Scripture says: “Encourage one another.” Encourage is a word that means to put courage into. “Encourage one another and build each other up.”
That cultivates that environment you were talking about, just a minute ago, where I feel so protected, and so cared-for, and so much of the love of Christ coming to me through you through those deposits that you put into my life. You know, we talk about doing that with our children; how about doing that with all of God’s children that we’re surrounded by, as well, of whom we’re a part? Then, when that moment comes where somebody is caught/somebody is stuck—somebody does injure somebody else—that conversation can be had without it feeling like, “Well wait; why do you only come to me when you have a problem with me?”
Ann: Right; and they can’t say, “You don’t know me,” because we do know them.
Dave: I have a group of guys back in Detroit—we’ve been together in a small group men’s deal; and now, our wives and kids—for almost 20 years. Several years ago, one of the best things we ever did—I don’t know if other people do it the way we did it, but here’s what we did—we said, “Let’s give each other a gift.” We defined a gift as “a blind spot Scott doesn’t know,” “…Dave doesn’t know,” but we all know.
Ann: This is coming after you guys have loved each other/encouraged each other.
Dave: Oh, decades—decades of relationship; trust built up.
We’re like: “We’re going to what?! You call that a gift?” But it’s the kind of thing: “When Dave walks out of the room, we all roll our eyes because we all know this about him and he doesn’t seem to know it.” Everybody—we all have them! Everybody has a blind spot; that’s why it’s called a blind spot.
Dave: I remember when my night came. It was like: “Hey, Dave, go out in the kitchen. We’ll call you in when we’re done talking about you.” I remember I was in the kitchen a lot longer than the other guys when they were asked to go out. I’m like, “Wow, they’re talking a long time about me.” I came back in; they would give me one or two things—and trust me, I didn’t want to hear it—but they were right on. It was soul surgery. Then, the rest of the evening was, “Here’s what we love about you.” So it was affirmation/affirmation, but there was that one or two things.
I remember coming home. Everything they told me my wife had told me 20 times before, and I never heard it. But when those guys said it, it sharpened me to become like Christ. It was like, “What a gift!”
Scott: Then you go home to your wife and you say, “I just got the greatest insight about myself!” [Laughter]
Scott: She’s like, “I’ve been telling you that for 20 years!”
Dave: Exactly. [Laughter] But I finally heard it!
Bob: Your wife did some soul surgery with you at a dinner—you talk about this. What—were you railing on somebody? [Laughter]
Scott: Okay; so the context is—one of my hot buttons, when I preach about community, is how toxic gossip is. The phrase I use for gossip is “pornography of the mouth.”
Scott: It’s a way to objectify somebody else/get a cheap thrill at no personal cost or commitment to yourself.
This was the Wednesday night before Easter. My wife and I are out on a date, and there’s somebody that I’m frustrated with. I just start—I’m just, you know—sleep-deprived?—I don’t know; just sinful heart—I just start going off on this person.
She’s looking at me for about 30 seconds, just lets me go, and then she grabs my hand. She says, “Scott, you know that you shouldn’t have said any of that to me.” You know, when the most important person in your life, who knows you better than anybody, simultaneously takes your hand and gently, not in a scolding way, but gently says: “You need to start taking your own medicine. You need to start listening to your own preaching. Easter’s in a few days; [Laughter] so maybe, a little bit of repenting to do.”
I hope I don’t need another moment like that, but I’ve had a lot of those moments in my marriage. Like you, I have friends around me, including people—I guess everybody’s below me on the org chart at church—but we have a no consequence/no negative consequence policy for challenging people up the org chart.
Bob: Speaking the truth in love.
Scott: Absolutely. And people do it, too; they do it.
Dave: That’s good.
Bob: There’s a phrase I’d heard from Paul David Tripp, years ago, that was one of those that just locked on. I repeat this over and over again at our church. He said: “The community of faith/the Christian community needs to be a place where there are Christ-centered, grace-based, intentionally intrusive, redemptive relationships.” I love that.
Christ-centered: “So what’s our focus here?”
Bob: It’s all about Jesus.
Grace-based: “So everything’s done in the case of understanding grace: ‘I’m a recipient of grace; I’m a dispenser of grace.’”
Intentionally intrusive—and that’s where the eyebrows go up.
Bob: “What do you mean, intentionally intrusive?”
Scott: Did you ever hear him [Paul David Tripp] tell the story about his wife confronting him in his season of being really angry?
Bob: Yes; tell it!
Scott: I love this story; and it terrifies me too, because he’s telling my story. He said there was a season in his life, as a pastor, where he was just angry at everything all the time and, yet, puts on the mask at church. He’s the hero to his congregants and angry at everybody else in private. One day, his wife and he are getting after it. He’s like, “You know that 95 percent of the women in our church would love to be married to a guy like me.” She says, “Well, I guess I’m in the five percent.” [Laughter] That is truth in love!—that’s Galatians 6 stuff—right there.
Bob: You go back through the Christ-centered, grace-based, intentionally intrusive—which means we give each other permission to do what you said, “What are my blind spots?”—and then redemptive: “What’s the goal here?” It’s so that we can be more like Jesus. When we’re more like Jesus, what we’re presenting, both as individuals and as a community of faith, is more irresistible.
Dave: I’d just add this: “For somebody to be able to do soul surgery on you/with you, you have to give them access.
Dave: “It’s on us to invite them.”
When I would travel with the Lions [football team], they’d give me an all-access pass on all these stadiums, which means you can go anywhere. I’ve handed that to these guys—literally, that pass—and said, “Here, guys—all access.” I’m not giving that to everybody in my church; no way!
Ann: And no other woman would get that, besides me.
Bob: Well, if listeners are interested in exploring what an irresistible faith looks like, we’re making available copies of Scott’s book, by that title, this week to listeners who can help support the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today. This ministry exists to try to provide practical biblical help and hope for your marriage/your family to figure out how we live, as Christians, in our marriages, in our families, in our culture today. I think Scott’s book gives us great guidance for that.
In fact, this is the kind of book that, as I’ve said before, parents and teens could read a couple paragraphs together and have a good conversation around the dinner table about how we live out our faith. The book is our gift to you when you support the ongoing work of this ministry. FamilyLife Today exists because listeners in your community made it possible for you to hear today’s program. They sent a donation so that we could be on this station, or on your phone, on the podcast. However you listen to FamilyLife Today, it’s your fellow listeners who have made today’s program possible.
We’re asking you to make this program possible for others in the days ahead; and you can do that by going to FamilyLifeToday.com to make a donation online, or you can call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, ask for your copy of the book, Irresistible Faith. It’s our thank-you gift to you when you support the work of FamilyLife Today, and we look forward to hearing from you.
You know, it’s clear from our conversation today that our faith grows best in community. This is not an individual sport, it’s a team sport we’re involved with. David Robbins, the President of FamilyLife®, is here with us. This is something you’ve learned; right?
David: Yes; I mean, it’s also the community of our family. I’ve heard it said once that a dysfunctional family is any family with one or more person in it. [Laughter] You know, no family is perfect, because no person is perfect; and no community’s perfect, because no person in that community is perfect.
I do remember a season—this conversation reminded me of about a decade ago, where I learned the difference the hard way—the difference between transparency and vulnerability. Transparency: you share what’s true; you share what’s honest; and you may be held accountable to those things. There’s a big difference in that, which is what I was doing—I was in small groups and community, where there was all sorts of transparent accountability going on. But was I really being vulnerable?—and where things were still in process, giving access to people?—access to speak into my life, taking the risk to really go there and allow someone to speak into deep places in my soul.
Today’s conversation makes me reflect on that and makes me reflect on, today, saying: “Alright; does my marriage, does my family, does the Christian community I’m currently in—do we fully know each other?” and “Do we receive both encouragement and reproof in these relationships, where we give people full access?”
I want to ask myself, and I want to invite you to join me in asking God, “Do I have these types of relationships currently in my life?”
Bob: Yes; “Am I teachable? Am I able to humble myself and to learn from others?” That’s a good reminder. Thank you, David.
Well, tomorrow, Scott Sauls is going to be back with us again; and we want to talk about the implications of a transformed life for how we interact with people, particularly the less fortunately in our world. I hope you can tune in for that conversation.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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