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Do I Need to Be a Jesus Expert? Kevin DeYoung

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January 16, 2024 5:15 am

Do I Need to Be a Jesus Expert? Kevin DeYoung

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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January 16, 2024 5:15 am

Ever feel unable to meet Christian life demands? Author Kevin DeYoung explains that running the Christian race is filled with adventure—chasing holiness, battling for purity, and finding the good news in the ordinary.

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So here's my question to you today. Have you ever had a moment in your Christian life where you just thought, I'm done. I can't do it.

It's too hard. Yes. Besides last week? What would happen last week?

I don't know. When I didn't want you to redo the basement? Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson.

You can find us at This is Family Life Today. Today, I think there have been many times where I felt like I just can't do this, whether it be when we were dating, trying to say pure with one another when I hadn't been in the past, like this feels so hard. Parenting, when I felt like I'm totally ill-equipped and I'm not able to do this, but even spiritually of Lord, I don't think I have what it takes to walk this Christian life.

I feel like I'm constantly falling down. Have you? Oh, many times. I might have quit last week, but I'm kidding. But no, there have been, especially when I came to Christ in college, there was a part of me early in my journey, like you can't live this life and this campus.

This is something you live later when you're an older man. I think a lot of people think that. It's impossible. And I'm bringing it up because Kevin DeYoung is back in the studio. And Kevin, you wrote a book called Impossible Christianity, which sort of dives into sort of that question. Yeah, give the subtitle. I can't even remember it, but that's what the book is about. Well, the subtitle is so long, I'm like, we're going to build the whole show around these statements.

It's so good, Kevin. Why Following Jesus does not mean you have to change the world, which is what I thought I could do. You can't commentate. Okay.

Why Following Jesus does not mean you have to change the world, be an expert in everything, except spiritual failure, and feel miserable pretty much all the time. Yeah. So Kevin, tell us what in the world are you going after in this thing? Somebody said to me before, I wonder if you guys feel this way, that every author has one book. Yeah.

Yeah, I hope there's a little bit more, but there's a lot of truth to that. You know, we got sort of a thing that we want to say, and it's occurred to me that a lot of my books are really getting at this idea, can ordinary Christians and ordinary churches actually do ministry and do life in a way that God is happy with? So I think, you know, just do something was, is following God's will an impenetrable mystery, or can you actually do something? Yeah.

You know, the hole in our holiness, is it actually possible to be sanctified and grow in holiness? You know, what is the mission of the church, you know, churches? Kevin's just basically stating the books that you've written. I'm just stating some of the books that I've written. So this one I think is bringing together at the very tip of the spear, what this kind of burden, and I'm sure, you know, we write out of our own issues.

So this must be something of my own issue. I talk about my not so illustrative running career. I've always loved running, and I've always been very mediocre.

I say either the best of the not very good or the worst of the halfway decent. And I got lots of stories, I won't bore you with them, but lots of, I mean, my dream was to be the, you know, get the baton, the four by 400 relay at the Olympics and just win that for Team USA. And I never was anything close to that.

Did you do it in high school? I ran in high school, I ran in college, did, you know, the 110 high hurdles for a year where you can, I could make up my natural lack of speed with some long legs. I mean, high hurdles is not easy.

That is a tough, tough race. I mean, I was nothing special at all, but I still love to run and I still love to do races, but it has often felt like, you know, I'm never going to be really, I mean, you're a really good athlete, Dave. I'm never going to be a great athlete. You don't know that. You just assume it.

No, he is. You know, I'm not going to be an Olympian. I'm going to try my best and I can, you know, beat most people my age at a turkey trot. That's what I can do, but I'm not ever going to be really good at this thing. And a lot of the days I feel like I've worked so hard, I've read all the books, I've watched all the videos, I've done all the training and I'll never be anything other than just kind of average. And that's what I think a ton of Christians out there feel like about the whole Christian life. You are exactly right. That describes at least 80%. Oh yeah, especially in a day when we're seeing all these influencers and they're having their platforms that they feel like, hey, we're changing the world and you're just doing life day by day and it feels like, what's my contribution? So is that your, I mean, you preach every week, not every week, but most of the weeks you're preaching at your church in North Carolina, you're a writer, you've got a PhD in theology and systematic theology at Reform RTS.

I teach there, yeah. I mean, so you are, you talk about somebody on paper is like, okay, it doesn't sound average to me. It sounds like you're way up here.

And let's just say too, and he has nine children. My wife is very above average. This isn't the average guy. And yet that's what you often feel.

Yeah. I mean, I, I get done every Sunday and I'm sure this is probably spiritual warfare, probably some pride, but I get done every Sunday and I feel like, wow, what was that? What did I, what did I just do? I'm so encouraged right now, Kevin. Dave's like, I rocked it. I'm like, I don't even know if I did it.

Don't say I rocked it. Our son says that many times. When you preach, you feel good about it. I'm like, I don't know.

Did it do anything? But what I find it, you know, and I'm in a Presbyterian church and lots of reform circles and very theological, which I am absolutely to the core. And in just kind of talking on some of the themes of this book, it's been really remarkable how many people, often people have been Christians their whole life or years and years will say, how did I miss this? How did I grow up or how did I get this message that being a Christian meant if I'm doing a really good job, I should feel pretty miserable about it.

I should live with a low level sense of guilt and failure and just accept it. And I try to be really clear in the book what I'm not saying, because some people might take that to mean this is a cheap grace, easy believism, God just tussles your hair or what used to have hair and just says, oh, you're a sinner and no big deal. I don't care about it.

I just love you. That's not at all what I'm saying. What I'm saying is God actually gives us the grace to live a life of obedience, not perfectly, but truly in a way that pleases him.

And I think most Christians feel like, yep, justified, going to heaven, forgiven. Yep. Great.

Got it. And that'll be wonderful. But the rest of this is, you know, God as judge might let me into heaven, but God is my father to be pleased with something I do. I don't really, people don't really experience that.

And they think they're more spiritual for living, as the subtitle says, feeling miserable pretty much all the time. Wow. Well, I mean, I hope this encourages you. Yesterday, as we were studying, reading your books for today's interview, Ann turns to me in the middle of this one, I think, and says, you know, all of Kevin's books have a similar theme. And I go, really? What do you think?

She goes, the gospel. Well, that's good. Yeah. I mean, when she said that, I'm like, I wish somebody say that about one of my servants.

But I mean, that's what you hope, which means you're talking about sin, but you're talking about redemption. And it's there. You know, early in your book, you say, here's seven things I'm not saying. Right.

And I'd love you to hit some of those. You just mentioned one of them. The first one was we can be good enough to get into heaven. Yeah.

So I want to be very clear. Impossible Christianity. You might say, well, isn't Christianity impossible?

Well, yeah, depends on what you mean. Do we mean, can we earn our way to God? Of course not. Is it impossible to live a life that obeys the commandments such that we deserve to be justified?

Of course, that's impossible. So what I'm saying is, okay, what about you're born again, you're forgiven, you're justified. Can you live a life of Christian discipleship such that God is pleased and that you actually obey?

Because here's the thing. I think many of us think obedience is kind of a, God doesn't really mean it. Like when Jesus gives the great commission and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. Like there's an asterisk that says ha ha ha, but you can't actually obey anything.

So one of the keys in this book is this old theological distinction, but it's very simple. And that is to distinguish between perfect obedience and true obedience. So we're not saying perfect obedience.

That's what people hear. No, nothing wrong with my motives. Absolutely flawlessly done. No, we don't have any perfect obedience this side of heaven. But true, can it be true obedience? And so I just want people to not misunderstand what the book is about and think that it's an easy believism, that God doesn't care about sin, that it doesn't matter how you live, that everything is okay. Follow your own heart. That's not what the message is saying.

It's saying God, as your heavenly father, has given you the spirit to obey Christ's commands in such a way that you actually can have true obedience and live a grace-filled life that God smiles upon. That's good. Let me ask you, when you live that out, as you said in your subtitle of just being miserable, are you miserable when you live that out? I hope not.

I don't think so. I'm just checking with you. I feel like when I'm living in obedience, there's a freedom and a joy that comes with that, and it's not miserable. I feel like when I've been trapped in sin before I knew Christ, that was miserable.

Even though it was temporarily pleasurable, it also felt like I had no control. Right. And it puts us in a real danger because there are passages in the Bible that are strong warnings. They're meant to scare us.

They're meant to send alarm bells go off. But if we just live with a low-level to medium-level sense of guilt, I'm kind of guilty for everything all the time, then when you get Paul saying, if you do the deeds of the flesh, you'll not inherit the kingdom of heaven, that's supposed to be a big warning. And Dave, I'm sure you didn't do this as a preacher, but I've realized that as preachers, we know how to make people feel guilty for everything in every text.

And because it gets a response, and some people kind of like it, but it's not helpful. So I've had to learn to say to my church, like prayer. Oh, man. The prayer sermon, the stewardship sermon, the evangelism sermon, the worst. Everybody's under the table. Everybody, because nobody prays enough, nobody gives enough, nobody shares their faith enough. So I will say sometimes, like on prayer, the sermon on prayer, before I continue, I just want you to know, some of you are really faithful in prayer. In fact, I think many of you are prayer warriors.

You have permission to find yourself obedient to this command. Now, that doesn't mean you have no room to grow or you couldn't do better. Of course, that's always true. But when we so preach and disciple our people to feel bad for everything, well, then they're not feeling bad when they really should.

And that's why sometimes we have a hard time talking about difficult things like, you know, homosexuality or something. Well, don't we kind of just, we all sin, right? And nobody sins any worse than anybody else. We've just learned to accept this kind of spiritual failureism when that's not how the Bible describes the Christian life. Job, it says, was blameless before the Lord. Elizabeth and Zachariah lived and walked blameless before the Lord. It doesn't mean sinless perfection. It means living a life of consistent habitual faithfulness. And when they sin, they come quickly to God and ask for forgiveness and know a clean conscience. That's supposed to be the normal Christian life and it's possible. Here's another thing you say.

I'm not saying in this book that being a Christian is trouble-free. David Platt's a friend of mine. David Platt wrote the book Radical. And some people say, is this the anti-radical? No, I don't mean it as that.

And I don't think David, I haven't asked him, would say, well, I'm trying to make Christianity impossible. But it is possible that we're speaking to some different dangers in different ways. And so what you just read there is trying to make sure people don't think I'm saying, hey, Christian life is easy.

It's totally possible. It's a simple thing. It's just floating to heaven on flowery beds of ease. No, you do have to take up your cross. Another one of those is we're not saying you don't take risks. So possible Christianity doesn't mean comfortable Christianity. It doesn't mean easy Christianity. It just means a life of ordinary faithfulness is possible and pleasing to God. The title, you know, you can think if we're saying Christianity is impossible, it means we just quit.

Yeah, that's right. So why work so hard? That's why your fifth one was you're not saying we should stop being so hard on ourselves. Yeah, I think paradoxically you're right that when we think something's impossible, you don't give it your all. You know, you could go tell me, Kevin, run a sub four minute mile and you give me the diet, you give me the training. I am not going to try hard at it because I can not do it.

I never could and I'm not going to at 46. But if you said, you know, as my coach, I want you to go out and I want you to run the best you can and try to stay injury free and do something I can do. And I think, yeah, I want to work hard at that. And so many of us get the idea Christianity is this just blessed failureism. And the more you feel like a failure, well, then that's really a measure of your faithfulness.

When deep down, I don't think we really believe that. I mean, you all could talk about heroes of your Christian life. And we all know people, family members, you know, famous Christians or ordinary people no one's ever heard of that we would say, well done, good and faithful servant. And that parable in particular is really instructive. It's not just a parable. Jesus didn't say now I'm going to tell a parable for famous missionaries and pastors.

No, it's for people who take what they've been given, one talent, two talent, five talents, and use it faithfully. God, you know, in the story didn't criticize the one with two talents for getting only two. What he criticized was the one with one who tried to play it safe.

And this gets to your point. In that parable, he says, well, he knew the master was a harsh man and he was a mean master. And so what did it do? It didn't motivate him to work harder.

It motivated him to play it safe, to bury his talent. And it's to that one that the master says, away with you. I'm giving your talent to somebody else because they were faithful with what they had been given. And now I say to them, well done.

Yeah. And in your subtitle, I mean, that's part of what I'm guessing you meant by it doesn't mean we have to accept spiritual failure. Because it seems like that's what a lot of us just do. It's who I am.

I'm never going to be victorious all the time. I just accept it. And that's part of what I'm supposed to do as a flawed, sinful follower of Christ. And it leads us into some strange places where we don't read the Bible at face value. So for example, I talk in there about preaching through 1 John. I think 1 John is about assurance. John's gospel, he ends by saying, I've written these things so that you may know that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. He starts 1 John by saying, I want you who believe to know. So one's about, you know, how do you get in?

And one's about how do you know you're in? How do you know you're a Christian? And he really does three things throughout 1 John. Do you love God? Do you love God's people? Do you love God's commands?

A theological test, a social test, an ethical test. Well, when you get to that, because I wrote on this years ago, just giving this basic little speech about 1 John, and the responses I got was just vitriol. People saying, now wait a minute, you said that you know you're a Christian because you obey God's commands?

You think you obey God's commands? Somebody even said, I thought this was the gospel coalition. This isn't the gospel. You're saying that you earn your way.

I didn't say anything like this. It's signs. John is not saying, here's how you get into heaven.

He's saying, here's the signs to tell you that if you're driving from, you know, Orlando, and you want to go to Canada, and you start seeing signs for Miami, that you're not going in the right direction. And that's what these are. But the problem is, we've so trained ourselves not to see or allow any evidence of that in our lives. So if you say to someone, you should have confidence you're a Christian if you obey God's commands. Right now, most people listening to this think, well, I don't obey any God's commands.

If you love your neighbor, well, I never do that. And we end up then not really taking the Bible at face value. And then as I said, we don't hear the warnings when we need to hear them, and we don't hear the encouragement when God means to give us encouragement. Because that book is written to tell you, you should know that you're a Christian, and you should live in the joy and assurance of that. So how do you teach Romans 7? You know, there's two different views.

Is Paul talking about himself pre-conversion, or the majority view, which I would hold, is he's talking about himself as a Christian feeling divided. Dave, why don't you read it, because some of our listeners are like, wait, what's Romans 7 say again? Yeah, the things I want to do, I don't do. The things I don't want to do, I keep on doing. You know, wretched man that I am, who will set me free from this body of death?

I don't need to read it. Yeah, but good for, yeah. That is the experience of a Christian in a fallen world who's not fully sanctified, not fully glorified.

So there will be those moments. That's why we're told to put to death the deeds of the flesh. To put something to death is a violent activity. Fighting the Christian, the fight of faith is to put to death those things, to mortify the flesh. So there will still, we still have to fight against sin, flesh, and the devil. The good news is, like 1 John 5 again, faith is the victory, or as the hymn says, and as John says, or revelation over and over, to him who overcomes, to him who overcomes. The message of the New Testament is, by the Spirit, working through the Word, with faith, you can be an overcomer.

You can have victory. You don't have to accept spiritual failure. Again, not perfectly, as if you're never tempted, as if you never wrestle, because Paul does. But as a matter of ever-increasing slaves to righteousness, we can grow in godliness and actually have victory in this life, which is really encouraging if we allow the Bible to speak for itself. I think it's easy to read Romans 7. I can remember one of the first times I've read it, I was like so comforted, like, oh, my goodness, a pillar of the faith struggles like I do, and that's one side of it. But the other side that could be bad is, well, he failed.

Yeah, that's right. So why am I trying so hard? I'm going to fail, I'm just going to give in to this sin, and I'll get to Romans 8 when I get to Romans 8, but I'm going to live in Romans 7, and that isn't how we want to read it. We want to go, thank you for being so honest, you are really describing something I experience every day, but you just said it, fight the battle, fight the battle. There's no condemnation in Christ, that's who I am, but don't give up in the battle, which is in your subtitle, don't accept spiritual failure, you don't have to. Yeah, and as a born-again Christian with a new heart, there's still indwelling sin, but there's a hatred for that sin, and there's a love for Christ and his word and for righteousness.

That's why it's called a fight of faith, that's why spiritual warfare is chiefly about believing the things that are true of us in Christ and fighting the devil with the word of God. It's to believe like Matthew 5, 8, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. That's always my go-to verse for lust and temptations of the flesh, because that promise is the pure in heart shall see God. Okay, it's not enough to just say don't do it, don't do it, don't do it, you have to fight pleasure with pleasure. And so you believe to see God in this life and in the next.

That's a better sight than whatever this internet has for me or whatever this movie promises. This is going to be better, so you're trusting God, and he means to give us victory. And there's just a lot of Christians who have resigned themselves not only to feeling miserable, but that there can be no victory. Now, often it doesn't happen just like this, though I've heard stories where it does.

There are people who just say it got turned off. Well, it usually doesn't, and so it's two steps forward, one step back. But in community, with the word, there can be real growth and victory.

Guys, let me ask you, just in a practical way of living, what does that look like for the two of you? Where have you found victory in your lives that you hadn't had maybe before? Well, that Matthew 5-8, I remember saying that to myself in particular situations and still having to bring that to mind.

Okay, what do I believe about the beauty of the Lord that I mean to see and want to see? And as a parent, I know the sin of anger, unfortunately. Nine kids run around the house.

Yeah, nine kids run around the house, and all of us do. And I see their anger, and then I see, well, they get it from their hearts, but they also get it from me. Did you ever read the book by David Paulus in Good and Angry? There was one chapter, Do I Have an Anger Problem? And you turned to it, and it said yes. And that was the whole chapter.

It was just, go to the next chapter. So, you know, I think there's been some in fits and starts victory over that as I just think about how foolish it is and how much in that moment, you know, anger is, it's really saying, I should be God. Even if my kids are sinning, it's like, you should do what I want whenever I want, and things should always go my way.

And so, you know, sin is at its root, pride, unbelief, and a desire for human autonomy. What do you think, Dave? I mean, I thought, what Kevin said, there's a personal, like, me and Jesus walk with purity, and there's a communal, where, I mean, I have men in my life, and it's really critical to have honest conversations with men who know me, who love me, who will walk beside me and hold me accountable. But I remember, I don't know if you ever used to look at Leadership Journal.

Do you remember that? When I was in seminary, there was an article that came out anonymously by a pastor, somewhat famous from what he said, that you would know me if I put my name on this article, and it was his battle with sexual lust. Back then it wasn't internet porn, but it was porn in some, and he just walks you through it.

It became very famous because everybody's like, somebody wrote this article, oh my goodness! And it was his, you know, he's preaching on the weekends, but he's looking at porn during the week, and one of the things he said in this article was the thing that helped him the most was Matthew 5-8, when he realized, when I want purity more than I want lust, there's freedom. It isn't mustard up, it's like, do I really want to see Jesus?

Do I really want to walk in purity? And I think that's what Kevin just said is true. It's a desire that says, I want this more than this.

This is available, and I have brothers walking with me toward that. And that last part is really key, brothers walking with me toward that. You and I are probably old enough that I remember when a buddy would come forward and sort of dare to say that he was addicted to porn.

Well, first of all, you had to find it in magazines, it wasn't on your phone. I mean, it was like, oh, it was a big, big deal. And now you talk to anyone doing campus ministry, how many of the guys, and girls sometimes, how many of the guys are, oh, everyone.

Now, on the one hand, it's good that there's some vulnerability. On the other hand, there's a danger that the stigma has been so eroded that it's become normalized. And it's like, yeah, this is what you, you know, guys just, yeah, exactly. And so if you get a group of guys and you just say, let's all talk about you sinned, you sinned, and you leave feeling like, oh, it's so good to know my brothers understand my sin. Have you actually moved towards holiness, or is it just a support group where you all give each other a hug and affirm that, you know, it'll be okay, and we are all in the same boat?

Quit doing that, and then they come back next week. But Dave, you're saying, I have found victory. Not perfectly, but you're, that's what I'm saying. It's the personal, spiritual war that you're in with you and Jesus, but it's brothers. And it is confession, honest confession. But it is, like Kevin just said, he highlighted, it isn't brothers that just go, yeah, me too. It's brothers that say, me too, what are we doing about this? Let's go. Let's walk toward Jesus together. If we're not winning this thing, you know, with progressing victory, we're just being honest with each other and doing nothing about it. You know, our wives want us to be meeting with men who are saying, we're going to win this thing together, not I'm just going to have some buddies I can share my sin with and then go back to my sin again. But it is encouraging, though, to know that, like, oh, we can walk in obedience.

It is possible, not impossible. Yeah, yeah, that's right. You know, I was reminded just now of the conversation Jesus was having with the rich young ruler in Luke chapter 18 that concludes with, it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And then it's really cool in verse 26 and 27, it says, Those who heard it said, Then who can be saved?

But he said, he being Jesus, What is impossible with man is possible with God. I love that reminder. I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Kevin DeYoung on Family Life Today. Kevin's written a book called Impossible Christianity, and it really helps believers answer the question, Can we please God and live a happy life in this anxious age? So you can get a copy of Kevin's book by going online to and clicking on the Today's Resources link, or you can get a link in the show notes as well.

Or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. You know, let's be honest. Marriage takes work, right?

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So we're excited to dive into the new year with events in over 40 locations all over the country this spring, but now through Monday, January 22nd, all of our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways are going to be half off. So you can find out more details at So sometimes it can be really hard to choose where you want to go right now, so a gift card can really allow you to buy now and then register for your location later on. And you may have another couple in mind who you want to gift a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway to, and that's a great opportunity to give a gift to them.

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Again, you can head over to to grab your gift card now. Now tomorrow, Kevin DeYoung is going to be back to challenge common Christian perceptions, and he's going to encourage realistic views of what it means to live a life of Christian faithfulness. That's tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of David Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-16 07:09:57 / 2024-01-16 07:23:27 / 14

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