John Stumbo’s Message at Resonate

September 10, 2018

34:26

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An annual gathering of the newest Alliance workers in the Christian and Missionary Alliance family. Colorado Springs, Colorado August 2018

Transcript

2 Corinthians 4 launches my thoughts tonight. Now the preachers in the room can make an entire series out of this. And I’m going to try to discipline myself to not chase every one of Paul’s amazing thoughts as he walks through what he’s saying to the church at Corinth. But I’m going to read. And I would love it if you just let the Word soak into your soul. Hear the Word of the Lord.

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, “Isn’t it a gift of mercy that we get to do what we do?” . . . we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves.

“Alliance family, we do not preach ourselves. Hear me. It doesn’t matter if people know the name of The Christian Missionary Alliance. We do not preach ourselves,” but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

Verse 13: “It is written: . . .” One of the Psalms. “‘I believed therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same Spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak.”

Father, we prayed a couple of times already; I don’t want to do so in a perfunctory kind of way, just because that’s what we do at this moment in the message. But I want to acknowledge my longing tonight to not preach myself but Christ, to not use deception or distort the Word of God in any way. But to speak out of a place of deep conviction. To say with the Psalmist, to say with Paul, to say with my sisters and brothers here, “I believed therefore I have spoken.” Help us to receive what it is that you’d have us to hear. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Friends, some of you are communicators in large settings, or some of you hardly ever get to hold a microphone. But you are sitting across the table with someone that you’re investing your life in and I pray, Alliance family, that as we speak, it is from a place of deep conviction. I believed; therefore I had to say something, I had to speak. I wasn’t just speaking out of something that I heard from some seminary somewhere or that I’ve grabbed out of a book, as good as it might have been. But it worked its way into my soul, and I’m speaking out a deep place of conviction that this is truth, this is foundational, this is life giving, this is what we must say, this is who we must be. “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”

We have way too much “I read; therefore I have spoken.” “I heard somebody else say it; therefore I’ve spoken.” “I need to fill 30 minutes of time; therefore I have spoken.” No, “I believed; therefore I spoke.”

May God give us that kind of Holy Spirit “must” within our souls. Some of you have heard me tell the story before that I was here at the National Office when I was a pastor, but I was serving in one of the boards, or teams. So I would come about four times a year or so for these meetings. One meeting I was rushing out to catch a plane to go back to the church in Oregon where I was pastoring, and I said to a person sitting there, “I’ve got to go preach.” And she said to me as I ran past, “You get to go preach.” Thank you for that reminder.

It is a privilege; it is an honor to hold the Word of God. Yes, it was my duty; it was my responsibility—I was on and there were going to be people there and they had the right to hear a message, or we wanted to give them a message. But I got to. I had to. It was a requirement. But she was reminding me it was a privilege. I get to. This is a joy, the one who is given the honor at that moment, whether it’s across the table or across the room to be the spokesperson for the Word of God

But then as I was on the plane, and that word began to drive deeper into my soul, I went back to the “got to.” From the “got to” of obligation to the “get to” of privilege, to the “got to” of necessity. I must speak, for God has a word for this moment and I’m the one to give it. I call it the “got to, get to, got to” progression of a message. Almost every time I speak it starts with obligation, then it goes to privilege, then if it’s working its way into my soul, it goes to “must”—I must speak this.

In this particular passage Paul is taking us to the Christ. We do not preach ourselves; we preach the Christ. And in this wonderful Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family that you’re part of—I hope that phrase is familiar to you—Jesus, who by the power of the Spirit, sends us on mission to the world, and we do that together. A Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family. That’s what you’re part of . . . So it’s with the Christ that I must start everything . . . That’s since become the outline for my presidency, by the way. That’s become the outline of my presidency.

In every issue of the Alliance Life magazine, and every conference or Council that we present, and this event right here, we always want to start with Jesus, who by the power of the Spirit sent us on mission to the world. And yes, we do that together. And so you heard it in the opening comments from our hosts that we want this to be a spiritually renewing time. We want you to connect with the Christ, we want you to hear the vision of what God’s doing in the world—that’s the Spirit-empowered mission of Acts 1:8.

And then we want you to get to know each other, because we want to do this together. That Christ- centered, Acts 1:8 family was woven right into their opening host words if you picked up on that. This is the outline for how we function.

Because I get really irritated when we get it reversed. What happens when the mission comes first? When it’s all about “get ‘er done for God” and “go out there and win the world,” when that’s before Jesus. And that does happen, right? We get so focused on the mission we lose sight of who we’re doing it for.

What happens when the mission comes first? Burnout. Drudgery. Task orientation that just runs people over. What happens when the people come first, when the Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family gets interpreted into Spanish where I’m told that the family, linguistically, has to come first, so it’s the family that’s Christ centered. Messed me totally up. But what happens when the family comes first in the order? Well then we start fighting with each other and we start bickering. And the whole thing becomes about us, rather than Him.

But when we get the order right—Jesus, who by the power of the Spirit, sends us on mission to the world—we get to do this together. That’s when it works.

And in The Alliance we speak of Christ as our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, Coming King. Now we don’t own that phrase; that’s not ours in a selfish, arrogant kind of way. But it does keep us coming back to some core things. And as your president for this short moment in time, I want to keep reminding us that there is no other way of salvation other than through the Christ.

I was convicted that I wasn’t sharing faith a lot personally. And sometimes when I did, it wasn’t very effective. I’m jealous of guys that have the gift of evangelism. I’m serious. What a sweet gift. I preached an evangelistic message in my church [and] nobody would respond. I’d invite this other guy to come in. He’d sneeze three times and 40 people would get saved. It’s like, “What? What is this?” But it doesn’t absolve me because I don’t have the gift if evangelism, doesn’t absolve me from sharing my faith.

And so last year, some of you are aware, I put out this little book called God and You: a Conversation. And it’s really, I’m not trying to sell right now. Because all the money goes to the Great Commission Fund anyway. But I’m using this as my way of speaking of Christ our Savior for a moment.

I start the book with Romans 1. I don’t tell people that. But it says “I believe that God exists, and I believe that you do too. Somewhere deep in your soul you know there’s a God.” That’s Romans 1. I think too much of evangelism is trying to convince people of something they already know. He’s put eternity in the hearts of men, and Romans 1, everybody knows that there is divine Creator out there, or divine being. I move in the book from there to introducing Jesus.

And I say this, “Jesus Himself told us why he came into this world—’to seek and save the lost’ were His words. He didn’t come to start a product line or a political party. Believe it or not, he didn’t even come to start a religion. But he did come to show us what God is like, and how we might spend eternity with Him in heaven. He did come to warn us that religion could damn you just as thoroughly as about anything else. And he came to die. Odd isn’t it? In fact, the whole story of Jesus is strange, wild, and literally out of this world. Jesus made the claim that He actually left heaven to come to this earth for the express purpose of dying for our sins.”

I share a little bit more about that salvation message. And then I introduce that word sin. “We’re pretty good at missing God’s ideals, doing our own thing, wanting our own way, trying to run our own lives. We’d rather not have anyone tell us what we can or cannot do, even God. But some of us admitted that this isn’t working too well for us. We admit that we need a Savior, we want a Savior, we’re lost without a Savior. Some people view this ‘lost without a Savior’ talk as weak. That’s understandable. In fact, it’s true. We’re admitting that we are weak, too weak to live the life we really want to live, too weak to love like we really want to love, too weak to change what we want to change. And all of this makes us horribly unqualified for a perfect place like heaven.”

I just read you about 10 percent of the entire book. It reads in 15 minutes. And by the way, guys, I know some of you aren’t going to give away a flower to another bro, and so next week I hope the shipment arrives of the campfire version of this book. I sent the artist to Bass Pro Shop and I said, “They’ve invested millions in deciding what color scheme guys like, so just do those colors.” And we’ve got this campfire thing, and it’s not just pictures. There’s a story being told in the flowers; there’s a story being told in the pictures in the campfire.

But my point is simply this: However you are sharing the message, whatever method God gives to you—I’m not a method addict—but I am saying to us, Alliance family, in a world which is trying to downplay the significance of the name Jesus, or undermine the name of Jesus, in a world that is trying to convince everybody that there are lots of ways to heaven and as long as you’re just a good person you’re fine. In such a world do not, my friends, please, do not back down from speaking the name of Jesus as the way of salvation. Because the ramifications are too great for that person and for the entire evangelical church. If we lose this message, if we do not say with Paul, “I believe; therefore I have spoken,” if it doesn’t come from a deep place in our heart, then we have lost a great deal.

And I’ve had leaders from national churches, for example in Syria, say to me, “John, do not underestimate the significance of the American church. Please stay faithful to the Word of God and the message of Christ. Because our viability largely depends on the strength of the American church.” He was not saying to me, “Please be strong because it makes it easier for us.” He was saying, “Please be strong because we may not even be able to exist if the American church folds. If the American church folds, there will be a ripple effect across this world. We are looking to you to stay faithful.”

So whether you’re Hispanic or Korean or Chinese or Vietnamese, or English was your first language, please, please, please, my appeal—Christ our Savior is core to our message. Amen?

Amen.

I love it that our message doesn’t stop there. But that we realize that in this salvation process of God that He wants to make us a completely different person from the inside out. And we have chosen that word sanctification, Christ the Sanctifier. Some of you have heard me speaking at SEEK events. Thank you for those who have come to those. But let me just recap a bit of the kind of message I’ve been giving.

I see too much carnal Christianity in the American church. Evidently, we haven’t experienced anything more than maybe some level of understanding of salvation. But we certainly haven’t entered into a walk of sanctification, where the life of Jesus is lived out through us. And so why was your board meeting such a bad board meeting two months ago? Because you had hard topics to deal with? No, every board has hard topics to deal with. It was a bad meeting because carnality showed up in the room. And when carnality shows up in our church gatherings, it’s going to be ugly.

I see too much weary Christianity, people tired from trying so hard to be good. Do you recognize that? And I see too much veneer Christianity, a thin layer of religious activity over an unchanged soul. God spare us. God has far more for us than that. God has something for us that He has said that He wants to set us apart as His holy people. That’s my understanding of sanctification—being set apart by God for His purpose.

It’s what my wife does; some of you have heard me tell of when she makes a pie on occasion. I wish you could enjoy my wife’s coconut cream pie. Wow, it’s really good. Woe be to the person who tries to cut out a little sliver and hide it with more whipped cream. Your sin will find you out. Because she has announced to the family “This is for company.” Company is coming over; this isn’t for just everybody—grab a fork and dive in and all eat at the same time. No, it’s not one of those kinds of desserts. This is one of those “company’s coming, this is special.” My wife has sanctified that pie. Literally she has set it apart for a special purpose.

That is what God has done for you. You are not just for ordinary routine—every-day, however-you-want- to-live-your-life use. No, no, no. God has said you are mine, I’m setting you apart for my purposes. I’m calling you as my child, I want you to live in my Kingdom. He has set you apart for Himself.

You have been sanctified. Learning to live in that and walk in that is a beautiful thing. To begin to experience the life and presence of Jesus in us through His Spirit. So it’s not just about us cranking out more good attitude. Please, Alliance pastors, don’t do the nine-part series on the Holy Spirit’s fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, and then turn it into a nine-week, self-help lesson. You know what I’m talking about?

I can show you major Christian publications that take things like self-control, give a passing reference to the Holy Spirit, and then spend thousands of words talking from a psychological standpoint about how you can develop self-control in your life. If that works, congratulations—you have produced the fruit of your own spirit. But don’t blame it on the Holy Spirit.

Now yes, we cooperate with God. But it’s the fruit of his Spirit, it’s the life and character of Jesus lived out in us. That’s the richness of the message. It’s not just about “try harder to be good.” It’s about “come to experience how weak we really are.” I need help. I need His presence. I need His life. And it’s available to us. Just as surely as Christ came to save us, He came to sanctify us, to live His character through us.

And at this moment I need to make what some may view as a slight detour. But to say a few words in light of the recent headlines that we have been experiencing in the evangelical church.

I shared this with the National Office staff this last week, and I want to share with you for a few moments what I want to say in this #MeToo, #ChurchToo, moment in time.

First, I need to say I grieve for the women and girls who have been treated by men as objects of sexual gratification. By God’s grace, I have not been one of those men, but as a representative of a Christian leader, and a male, I need to say to the women of the Church, and perhaps some of you as individuals . . . I don’t know any stories in this room . . . but I am sorry that you were disrespected. I’m sorry that you were looked upon with eyes less than your Father looks upon you with. And then, to add insult to it all, sometimes, you, the victim, were actually treated as the one who was at fault, and the Church scorned you in the process. I am sorry.

I repent that in decades past, the Church did not come quickly to your defense. It was wrong of us. It was wrong of me. At times, I was part of that group that did not understand, or if I did, I did not act quickly enough. And I also must comment that on occasion that wasn’t a girl or a woman, that was a young boy or a young man that was treated in that manner, and I grieve. I’m saddened that not only did you have that experience and not only sometimes were you scorned in that, but there was this huge loss of trust. You trusted that leader. You looked up to them, and it was a power issue that they were using their power as a means of accessing their own gratification. This is one reason this message of sanctification has to go past your theological exam and has to get into our soul. We need the sanctifying work of the Spirit.

Now, I’m grateful that a greater day of accountability has come. Be sure your sin will find you out. That verse? That’s a prophetic word, especially at this moment in time.

Let me just say it. If you’ve got something buried—even 25 years ago—go talk to somebody. We have chaplains here. There’s somebody in your life. Let’s start dealing with this because if you don’t deal with it somehow, what’s been hidden in darkness will be brought to the light and what’s been whispered will be shouted from the rooftops or, in recent cases, the New York Times.

I’m grateful that a greater day of accountability has come. It needed to come. But I’m saddened that that accountability largely came through the world to the Church. Are you with me?

Some of you will fully disagree with what I’m about to say, but I have a firm conviction—and I think I have the backing of the apostle Paul—that it has never been the role of the Church to hold the world accountable for their actions. I don’t find that in the Bible. I don’t think that’s our responsibility—for the Church—to hold the world accountable for their actions. It is the Church’s job to hold the Church accountable for our actions.

But we’re in an odd moment of history, where the world is holding the Church accountable for our actions. If we weren’t going to do so ourselves, by God’s grace, somebody was going to rise up and do it—even if they had no idea they were serving God in the process. This era of hiding, of covering, of shuffling people along is coming to an end and must come to an end.

This may feel like an aside to some, but please understand that for a lot of us this is not just an issue of sexual misconduct—as awful as that is. A lot of it’s an issue of power and how we handle and perceive power and what power can do to us. And I’m speaking firsthand; I’ve felt this as president—that encroachment of the opportunities that power can give upon my soul and how that must be recognized and resisted.

To add to this, we live now in a celebrity-status culture of the Church. I’m not saying it’s bad that some communicators or some musicians and some labels and artists . . . I’m not saying it’s bad that they are highlighted. But I am saying that they must not become addicted to the light. They must dim the light. They must share the light that they are under. And I must take that seriously as well in my position. That if we’re not careful, the temptation comes, leader. The temptation comes to, I think, one of two things or both—that I’m above doing that, or I deserve some of that. Are you following me here? It can settle into your soul over the course of time, leader, to have the subtle thought that, “I’m beyond that. I’d never be tempted in that kind of way.”

Friends, my understanding of Ephesians 4 is simply this. Your old nature, my old nature, is in a continuous state of corruption. Read Ephesians 4 carefully. Our old nature is continuously being corrupted—continuous present tense in the Greek, if I remember right.

Jesus is not trying to just polish up your old nature. Your responsibility is not to prop up your old nature. No, it’s never going to get any better, and it’s never going to get any weaker. It’s actually getting worse. The point is, Jesus wants it dead. It never has to win. It never has to dominate. It never has to control.

We can choose the new nature every time, every moment—we can. It’s available to us in Christ.

But don’t be deceived. I, we, have potential of the worst of things residing within our own souls, and so let’s just own it and be honest about it. I’m not above doing anything really stupid, nor do I deserve what I think that would provide for me. That’s just awful, hideous thinking.

And I need to admit that this era that we lived in—where there was a lot of covering and hiding and shuffling of leaders who had sinned—that era had some contributing factors, and I want to name a few of those, just to get them out there.

One factor that contributed to that era of the Church, that I trust is coming to an end, was naivete. This was me. When I was at this kind of event 30 years ago, I was so naïve about these kind of things. I had no clue that this kind of stuff happened in the Church. Call me whatever you want to call me, but this is the truth.

When I was the youth pastor and the teenage girl, eighth grade, called me at the church office and said, “One of the men of the church picked me up last night, took me on a drive, did some things sexually with me that I won’t explain in public, and what do I do? And then he talked about running away with me.”

I didn’t have any category in my 22-year-old head to know where to put that. I’m sorry. I failed. I blew it. I folded. I had nothing to offer. I could not picture . . . I knew the man—first name basis with him—I couldn’t imagine. Was she just making this up? I couldn’t imagine that was real.

Happily, gratefully, she told her parents, who pressured the church, who dealt with the issue. But it took the pressure of the parents for the church to actually wake up. I was part of that. It was a naïve moment in my life and perhaps in a lot of church life that needs to just be over. Yes, any leader is capable of doing all manner of stupidity, and let’s not be naïve.

Image protection was a second contributing aspect of that era—that often the Church was more concerned about protecting their own image or that of the abuser than they were of hearing the truth and dealing with the truth and handling the truth.

A third contributing factor for this moment in time that led us to that kind of covering was lack of soul care. We lived through a generation of hard-working, highly dedicated, often effective ministry people, who had little understanding or maybe even less permission to care for their own souls.

And if there’s one legacy that I want to leave in The Alliance—besides the Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family that gets to take the gospel to the world—that’s permission granted to the Alliance leadership to care for your own soul, please. See it as one of your most significant aspects of the way that you can serve your church is to stay alive and fresh in your relationship with Jesus.

When I was a young pastor, I had a bad formula. “I’ll take care of God’s Church; God’s Church will take care of me.” Mistake. I’m saying to us, friends, let’s enter into soul-care opportunities and walk in them.

What I’ve hoped you’ve heard me say in this #MeToo, #ChurchToo, moment in time is the Church bears great responsibility for what we’ve done.

We’re at a good moment in time where we now can learn to handle well any failures that have taken place and, by God’s grace, because of overcoming some naivete, and image protection, and soul-care issues, that less, fewer of those stories will be told in the future. By God’s grace, in every one of the churches that you and I represent, may that story not be told in our lifetime.

Christ is our Savior. We are completely dependent on Him for salvation. Christ is our Sanctifier. He is the One who makes us whole and new from the inside out. And let’s see the significant need for that ongoing, sanctifying work of Christ as we face how broken our old nature really is.

You know where this story leads in the Alliance outline. Christ our Healer. My own testimony has been oft told, and I’m not going to repeat it at this moment. But can I just celebrate that 10 years ago right now I was one of the healthiest men that you knew. But within 10 days’ time I was one of the sickest men you’d ever seen. And God had a purpose for that. He had a reason for that. And now I get to do what I get to do by the grace and kindness of God. I testify that I’ve seen Him work.

And the word that I want to say to you as I come to a close on Christ our returning King is this: Yes we believe in the literal, physical return of Jesus Christ to planet earth—at the time of the Father’s choosing. But that moment and all that follows will shout countless things to us.

But one of the things that that will shout to us is that it matters what you’re doing right now. Speaking from a deep place of conviction, walking a life of sanctified integrity, living the kind of life that reflects Jesus well, and taking the gospel to your neighborhoods, and to the nations, and to the nations that are coming to our neighborhoods. It matters that we get this right. It matters that we stay faithful. It matters. It matters now. It’ll matter for all of eternity. It matters to you. It matters to your kids. It matters to your family—it matters to the person who has not yet known the name of Jesus as anything more than a swear word. It matters that we get this right.

Please do not blow off these hours as a perfunctory “go through the motions, get to see the Springs, have a nice time, go home.” But see this as one of those moments where the significance of the calling that has come upon your life gets driven deeper into our souls. Because some day we will stand before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, before the Maker of heaven and earth. And He will say, “What did you do with what I gave you? I gave you opportunities. I gave you education. I gave you finances. I gave you gifts and abilities. I gave you my Spirit. I gave you salvation—I gave you countless copies of the Bible. I gave, I gave . . . what did you do with what I gave you?” It will matter that we stayed faithful. It will matter that we stayed true. And we’ll have all eternity to celebrate.

So I believed that Christ is our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, Coming King. Therefore, I have spoken it.

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