469 Posts By Hans Kristensen

  • Sin and the Beautiful Love of God

    When we think of sin we think that sin is when we do something wrong or when we don’t do the right thing and to certain extent that is right. But leaving our definition of sin there doesn’t get to the heart of what sin is. Leaving it there is like treating a sore on the surface of the skin and never realising that there is a massive tumour underneath the wound. Sin, as we see in the Bible, is setting up our lives and finding our identity without God. It is to assert that we are the rulers of our fate and the captains of our own ship. It is to assert that we rule, we reign and God sits on the sidelines of our lives and occasionally gets on the field but only when our lives go wrong. Sin means that we have set a up a rival Kingdom and we are the rulers. Before God you and I are not people who need some improvement we are rebels who need to lay down our weapons and declare God as the only  king and ruler. That in essence is repentance. At the heart of re[petance is to acknowledge that we don’t rule but God does and change our lives accordingly.

    But some of you are thinking “I don’t like to think of myself as a rebel or a rival king. The idea of a bit of self improvement strikes me as a lot more sane.” But do you know what you miss out on if you keep thinking that you just need a bit of improvement? You miss out on God’s love! You see, God’s love is amazing not because we are amazingly beautiful and God woke up one day, saw us and thought “Finally what I have been  looking for someone awesome to love!” A lot of the time, when we think about ourselves and God’s love for us we think God is on the cosmic version of Match.com and when he sees our profile he says “Finally the love of my life! How could I live without you?”. But God’s love is more like God watching a cosmic version of YouTube and he sees us burning an effigy of himself and screaming that we are going to overthrow him and that we want him dead and God looks at our rage filled faces and says “Those are the people I’m going to love. Those are the people I’m going to send my son to die for. Those are the people I am going to give up everything for.”  Only if you grasp the fact that you and I are rebels who need to lay down our arms will Gods love be beautiful and transforming. Because only if you realise that you are a rebel will know you need God’s transforming love.

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  • A Provocative New Reading of the David and Goliath Story

    Here is one of my favourite authors, Malcolm Gladwell,  giving a very provocative reading of the David and Goliath story.

    What do you think? If he is right or if elements of his reading are correct how does this new reading effect the way we preach the passage? How does it effect the way we point to Jesus as the hero of the David and Goliath story?

    Check out Gladwell’s book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

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  • Why Jesus Would Suck as a Dinner Guest

    Now most of us would think it is cool to have Jesus around at our place having dinner. We have all read in a magazine or online many people answer the question “If you could invite Five people living or dead to dinner who would you invite?” So many times when I read the answers to that question people say that they would invite Jesus. We think if Jesus was our guest he would be the best guest in the world, his conversational style would make everyone at ease and he would have great and profound things to say. But this couldn’t be further from the truth, because a lot of the time Jesus was a horrible dinner guest. Granted, if you considered yourself morally bankrupt he was a great dinner guest but for the rest of us he would have been terrible. He was always the guy who said the awkward thing or asked the question that put the whole vibe of the dinner party on ice. Let’s have a look what I mean. In Luke  14:1-6 Jesus heals a guy on the Sabbath (which you weren’t meant to do) and then he offends everyone in the room. Have a look at verse 7

    When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

    Jesus has a go at everyone for sitting in the wrong seats at the table! How awkward! The he has a go at the host of the night:

    12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

    Did you notice the word “then” which kicks off verse 12. It gives the vibe that after he has given a lecture about seating arrangements he goes straight on to talk to the host and give him a little lecture about who to invite. So  in about two minutes Jesus has insulted everyone in the room. Good on you Jesus! What a buzz kill. You’d think Mary and Joseph would have taught him some dinner party etiquette wouldn’t you?

    But why is what he said insulting? It is insulting because he uncovers their hearts. Why were they sitting in the wrong spaces? Because they wanted to be thought of as great by everyone else and they thought of themselves as great. Why did the host invite the wrong people? Because he wanted the best people there so he could climb the social ladder. Jesus makes them uncomfortable because he shows them their heart.

    The first feeling when you truly encounter Jesus will not be a feeling of peace and tranquility but inner turmoil, because when you truly encounter Jesus you will encounter someone who in every way is better than you and you will realise that how sinful you are. Now some of you are thinking “Hans, Hans, you don’t know about the God that I have encountered! I believe in a God who is love nothing but perfect love and so when I encounter him I feel nothing but love!” But can I say that if you truly encountered someone who is perfectly loving you would be undone too. If you truly encountered someone who is perfectly loving you would have inner turmoil. Why? Because we all think we are loving and yet if we met someone who loves perfectly we would see that how unloving we truly are. It is a bit like when I was teenager I thought I could play basketball until I played against Sam MacKinnon who, at that time, was the starting small forward for Australia. In front of about one thousand people he scored about 60 points on me.  I was undone, I thought I was a basketballer until I encountered a real basketballer. And we think we are loving until we encounter the God of perfect love. When we encounter him we will have our hearts exposed to us and we will realise that we aren’t as loving as we thought we were. If you truly encounter Jesus he will make you uncomfortable just like he did with the guys in Luke 14.

    But that lack of comfort then leads us onto his grace which covers over our shortcomings and forgives us for our sins. To not let yourself be uncomfortable when you encounter Jesus means that you are going to miss out on his love and forgiveness.

    Embrace Jesus. Embrace inner turmoil. Embrace Grace.

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  • What Makes Great Preaching Great? Part 4: Imagination

    I wonder what happened to us? When  we were kids our imagination ran wild. We imagined that we were heroes in war or we were winning the grand final or that we ran a classroom and our dolls were our students. But then we grew up, we went through theological training which rightly taught us what the Bible said and how to interpret it. But we lost something along the way. We lost our imagination.

    I was watching a video a while ago that featured Don Carson, Tim Keller and John Piper talking about their theological influences. Both Keller and Piper said that C.S Lewis and Jonathan Edwards both profoundly influenced them. Which got me thinking. What do Lewis and Edwards have in common? The obvious answer is they were Christians who sought to love and understand the Bible and love and understand the God it reveals. But another thing that they had in common was imagination.Both Edwards and Lewis looked at the world with a joyful, child like wonder and imagination. It is no wonder then that both Keller and Piper share this joy and imagination in their preaching even though they sound very different.

    One of the reasons we lack imagination is because we are scared that our imagination will take us outside the bounds of orthodoxy. This is a valid fear as we don’t want to let our minds, fueled by unbounded imagination, run away down dead end theological paths which stray from the gospel truth. But I think we need a biblically constrained imagination in our preaching for two reasons:

    1. We need to communicate the old Gospel in new ways

    One of our mistakes as preachers is to say the same thing week after week in exactly the same way. It is almost like we only have one or two or at best ten sermons. If we use our God given imagination it will help us think how we can connect the passage that we are preaching with the gospel in new ways and we will also be able to tell the gospel in fresh ways. I think Tim Keller is a genius at this. He always talks about grace in his sermons but he uses a number of different ways to explain and apply grace. When  you listen to him you never feel like he is just trotting out his “grace bit” in the sermon when he preaches grace it is always brilliantly communicated and applied. So if we engage our imagination we will find new ways of faithfully presenting the gospel.

    2. Our culture is changing

    The way our culture thinks about almost everything is changing rapidly. Our culture is changing so fast and we need to use our imagination to engage the culture in helpful ways. We need to work out how to answer the questions of the heart that our people have. We can’t use the answers of yesterday or answer the questions of today and we can;t use the answers of today to answer the questions of tomorrow.This requires a great deal of imagination.

    What is great preaching? It is preaching that is grace and hope filled, imaginative, faithful expositions of the Biblical text.

    What else would you add?

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    What Makes Great Preaching Great? Part 3: Grace

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  • What Makes Great Preaching Great? Part 3: Grace

    It hit me like a a tonne of bricks. Some people had brought to my attention some aspects of my preaching that they thought I could improve on. It was weird because all their critiques sounded different and yet strangely similar at the same time. So for about a year I processed their critiques, prayed about them, talked with people about them and thought about them. Then I figured it out.

    And it hurt.

    I had stopped preaching grace. Sure, I did mention Jesus’ death on the cross and how we couldn’t do anything to be saved. Sure, I mentioned the word grace but if my sermons were people and grace was water they were dying of thirst. My sermons needed to be flooded with grace so my people’s lives could be flooded with grace. But my preaching and the church God had given me was a parched land that needed grace desperately. I needed to still motivate, encourage, rebuke and correct but I needed to do it with grace.

    It is so easy to forget to preach grace. I have done it and I wonder if you have to? I wonder if you think your people need to be told what to do instead of hearing about grace because they have got grace down? Brother or Sister preacher, if that is you can I ask you to repent for three reasons:

    1. In the Bible we are not only saved by grace but we grow in every way by grace. When Paul writes to the sexually messed up Corinthians he doesn’t say “You know you shouldn’t be doing what you are doing. Stop it!” No he says this:

    Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

    Paul tells them to flee from sexual immorality. But why? Because it is bad for them? Because they should know better? No, it is because Jesus has bought them at a great price. He reminds them of the grace that has been shown them. Paul’s pastoral strategy is to remind his beloved Corinthians of the gospel so their hearts will be full of God’s grace and they will want to change their sexual habits. If want your people to change don’t preach moralism, that may change their behavior but it wont change their heart. If you preach grace they will change from the heart on out.

    2. If you don’t preach grace you aren’t preaching Christianity or the Bible

    At it’s heart the Bible is not a list of rules to follow or a bunch of heroes to be like. No ,at it’s heart the Bible is a a story about how a holy God saves sinners by sheer grace alone. To step away from this and preach either moralism or a preach “Be like this Biblical Character” is to step outside of the bounds of Christianity. As we saw above Paul motivates holiness in his people by grace and if you have a look at the heroes of the Bible you will see that they are usually morally shady. Why are they morally shady?

    “The Bible seems to take great care to demonstrate how deeply flawed the entire human race is so that all would acknowledge their dependence on the Jesus for salvation. – Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, 285.

    They are morally shady so we would know that we need grace and we would preach grace. To be a truly Christian preacher grace has to infect all of our sermons.

    3. Your people need it.

    As I said a few days ago all people are carrying around guilt for something they have done or not done. Whether it be they have made a mistake morally or they just don’t feel like they are good enough, all people are carrying around some form of guilt. People don’t need another standard to fall short of. They don’t need more doctrine that doesn’t have any relevance. They need grace. Grace to deal with their sin, grace to deal with their shame and grace to deal with their guilt.

    If you listen to any of the great preachers around today or through out history their sermons are flooded with grace. Flood your sermons with grace and your people will grow.

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  • What Makes Great Preaching Great? Part 2: Hope

    Bryan Chapell in his amazing book on preaching Christ-Centered Preaching says that what the great preachers through out history have in common is that their preaching was always full of hope. When I listen to the great preachers of today I find Chapell’s assessment absolutely correct. Hope is encouraging and inspirational and therefore it makes sense that we want to listen to preachers who are encouraging and inspirational. As Christians we have the message of the gospel which is a message of great hope. We need to bring this message of hope to our hopeless world. But I think there are 3 areas we need to convey hope to our people.

    1. Hope about the past.

    Most people, religious or not, are walking around with what I call background noise guilt. That is, we have all done things that we are ashamed of and we know if there is a God in heaven that he would not be pleased with the choices and decisions we have made and we seem to carry this guilt around with us all the time, so much that it becomes background noise. We need to confront this background noise guilt with the hope of the gospel which says that their sins past, present and future are all taken away in Jesus and what he did on the cross.

    2. Hope about the present

    People at church and people we are trying to reach have a common desire to change for the better. We all have areas that we need to change and those areas weigh us down. But there is hope that through Holy Spirit working through the word in conjunction with a church community we can grow and change throw off the sin that easily entangles and become the people that God wants us to be. We need to be repeating the message of great hope “Through the gospel you can change!”

    3. Hope about the future

    As a society we do not know where we are going or what is around the corner. But as Christians we have the hope of the resurrection and eternal life. We have the hope of standing before Jesus on that last day completely forgiven and right with him. We have the hope of standing before Jesus and hearing the words “Well done good and faithful servant!” When Christians look to the future it is not doom and gloom. Yes, it may be foggy but it is full of hope because the God of all hope is already there and he has made promises that he will keep and it is these promises that give us great hope.

    How are you going to bring hope to your people this Sunday when you preach?

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  • What Makes Great Preaching Great? Part 1: Faithfulness

    I want to be a great preacher. Usually, I want to be a great preacher for the benefit of my people and the glory of God but sometimes I want to be great because of my own selfish pride. If you are anything like me in this regard I don’t think we should not want to be great because of our sinful pride but we should repent of our pride while trying to be great for the glory of God.  In fact Jesus, in Mark 10, seems to encourage the desire to be great.

    42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

    Jesus encourages the desire to be great but he also redefines what greatness is. Greatness, according to Jesus, is serving like he did. So our desire to be great preachers is a good desire if we are trying to be great to serve our people.

    But what makes great preaching? Why are David Cook, Tim Keller, John Piper, Ian Powell, William Taylor, Matt Chandler, Rico Tice and Al Stewart all great preachers even though their preaching styles and there personalities are vastly different? Why was John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Stott and Spurgeon great even though their preaching styles and preaching methodology was different? What makes great preaching?

    I think there are four things that makes great preaching great and I will be blogging about those in the next few blogs. The first thing that I think makes great preaching is faithfulness. I think we need to be faithful in 3 areas:

    1. Faithful to the Scriptures

    No preacher who believes that Bible would say they want to be unfaithful to the scriptures but what does faithfulness to the scriptures really look like? I think it means two things. Firstly, it means that we are working hard to say what the text says not what we want the text to say. Our job is to preach the passage not make a passage or passages fit the ideas we want to convey. The second thing faithfulness to the scriptures means is that we work hard to put the passage with in the framework of the story of the Bible. So we make sure we show our people how the passages in the OT are pointing to or fulfilled by Jesus and we make sure that we don’t rip stories out of their historical context but seek to faithfully show that context.

    2. Faithful to the Gospel

    We are faithful to the gospel when every sermon that we preach mentions the gospel. Or another way I have heard it put is that we are faithful to the gospel when Jesus is the hero of every sermon.  If we don’t preach the gospel in every sermon we fall into one of two errors. The first is we preach legalism. “Do this because the Bible tells you to do it is the cry of the legalistic preacher.” The second  trap we may fall into is to preach moralistic therapeutic deism. That is to say we will preach morals which seek to help or heal a person and in so doing present a God that is far off who hasn’t really don’t anything for us. If we fall into either of these two traps we are no longer faithful preachers and we are preaching another gospel. Faithful preaching is where every sermon preaches the gospel.

    Faithful to our People and their Lives.

    We are faithful to our people when we preach to them and their lives and not to some imaginary group of people or preaching in response to the academics that we read in preparation for the sermon. To be faithful to my people I need to understand them and understand their culture and help them see how the gospel, as revealed in the passage I am preaching on, intersects with their lives and the surrounding culture. This doesn’t mean I have to know all the latest shows, movies, books and songs on the radio (I know I don’t). It does mean that I will be seeking to understand the heart issues of the people in my church and the people we are seeking to reach. When I craft a sermon which has no thoughtful application, no illustrations to clarify points and bring them home and is communicated in a way which my people can;t connect with I have not been faithful. I may have exgeted a text correctly but I probably have given an expository lecture not a faithful Biblical sermon. Faithful preaching is faithful to the lives of the people I am preaching to.

    The first step to being a great preacher is faithfulness. This will mean a lot of hard work in the study and a lot of hard work with our people understanding them and our culture. But that hard work will pay off as people see how great and beautiful God and his gospel is and they are inspired and encouraged to live lives that glorify him.

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  • Spiritually Caring for my Family Part 3: Discipling my Wife

    A lot of men find discipling their wives intimidating. If you look at my wife and I you will see a husband that is punching far above his weight in so many areas. My wife is more intelligent and more godly than I am and so it is easy to think that I can’t disciple her. But, if I think this way, it shows that I don’t understand what discipleship is. Discipleship isn’t me imparting my knowledge to someone else, it is helping them see who Jesus and what he has done for them again and again and talking about how that applies to our lives. How do I do this with my wife you may ask? Kate and I do three things together:

    1) Once a week Kate and I read the Bible and pray together. We work through a book of the Bible reading one chapter at a time and discuss it and then we share prayer points pray for each other. If you don’t do this why don;t you pick a time next week and start. Start with one of the gospels and go from there. It doesn’t have to be massively in depth it just has to happen.

    2) Once a week we have an in depth conversation covering things like how we are doing individually, how we are doing in our marriage, how we are doing with God and how we are doing with church. This helps me to get where Kate is at spiritually and emotionally so I can care and pray for her.

    3) Every night (usually before we go to bed) we share three things we are thankful for from our day and I pray for us. We do this because I want our family to be biased to see the positive things God is doing more than the negative things that are happening in our lives.

    Three things, it is really that simple. The question is not whether it is hard or not it is whether you are going to work time to disciple your wife into your schedule. If you are married, you are called to lovingly lead. If you aren’t leading your family today is the day to start. Go and make it happen!

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  • Spiritually Caring for Your Family Part 2: How do I Disciple my Kids?

    So you are working on your relationship with Jesus and fighting for joy in Jesus. That’s great! Now let’s get down to some practicalities of spiritually leading or caring for your family. Starting with how we disciple our children
    First, like anything, you are going to have more progress when you do a little bit of something every day than if you do a whole lot of something once a week. It is better to practice piano for 20 minutes a day that have one huge practice session of 3 hours once a week. Conversely it is better to lead your family spiritually day by day than to have one huge spiritual session. Here is what I try to do each day to spiritually lead my family:
    • Read my Bible and pray because I know that I can’t lead my family to love Jesus if I don’t love him myself.
    • My wife Kate or I split reading the Bible and praying with our three year old daughter Emma. If Kate reads the Bible and prays with Emma I usually put her to bed and in that time we usually sing a Colin Buchanan song and I ask her who loves her and she goes through almost our whole family before I ask “Who loves you most of all?” and she says Jesus! In the time before bed we are trying to reaffirm the Christian worldview that we are trying to give her and help her see for herself who God is, what he has done and how much he loves her. When we read the Bible to her we use The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally LLoyd-Jones it is quite simply outstanding both in the storytelling but also it’s theology.
    • When we pray with Emma we usually pray for just one thing to be thankful for, one thing to say sorry for and thank Jesus for what he has done for us. This usually takes a minute if that.
    • Once a week Emma and I hang out together for an extended period of time and we do something fun together. It is in this time I ask her questions like: “What have you been reading in the Bible?” or “What are a few things we can thank God for in the past week?” Or other similar questions. Do we have an in depth theological discussion? Of course not. But that’s not the point. The point is to help her come to know Jesus better and to also have her Christian worldview strengthened. Some of you may be asking when I started having these conversations? The answer is as soon as she was able to talk. Now obviously we didn’t have a conversation about thing because all she could say was Dada, Mummy and more so why did I have these conversations? It was for me. I need to train myself to have these conversations with my children so I started having them with my first child as soon as I could . Now when we have these conversations it doesn’t feel forced it feels natural. After I have a conversation like this we always pray. Once again it is a quick prayer but I want to model praying to my children and  I want to teach them to pray.
    • The last way we spiritually care for our kids is we talk about God all the time. Now I must admit that Kate is far better at this than I am but I still try to do it. If we are walking on a footpath and Emma stops to annoy a bunch of ants on the ground I may say something like “Isn’t it cool that God made ants and so we can enjoy them running around being crazy like that?” Do we then have an in depth discussion of what the Bible says about ants or creation? No we usually then talk about something else. So what is the point of these little asides during the day? The point is for Emma to see the all encompassing nature of the Christian worldview and for her to see how great and awesome God is that he created everything (even ants) for us to enjoy.

    A final word, some of you are thinking that this sounds like hard work or that that if you did these things (especially the ants thing) you will sound like a crazy religious person. I must admit that this kind of stuff is hard work and that sometimes I do think I sound a little crazy when we talk about how God made ants or how God doesn’t like it when you disobey your parents and you try to bear hug your 3 month old brother for the third time that hour. But I know that the Christian worldview is under assault in our society, it always has been and it always will be. Therefore my job, as a Christian parent, is to do my best to bring my children up with the Christian worldview so that they may follow joyfully Jesus off their own bat. If I don’t intentionally and joyfully educate my children in a Christian worldview they will have a higher probability of adopting a secular worldview and walking away from Jesus. How you and I disciple or don’t disciple our children has eternal consequences.

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