First Responders: A Letter to West Franklin

West Franklin Family,

“If you want to know the mind of God, do what he says. Jesus, who knew the Father completely, also obeyed the Father completely.” Andrew Peterson from his Adorning the Dark

“Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings.” (Proverbs 1:23, emphasis mine)

There’s a practice I have noticed about us, West Franklin. A practice that, if I am being honest, isn’t helpful. It’s a practice I have noticed from evaluating my own life. And it’s a practice from you I have wrestled with since being your pastor. Since congregations tend to become like their pastors, there is probably a direct correlation. It’s a practice I don’t like in myself and a practice I fear robs you of spiritual growth.

Here it is: I fear we have lost (if we ever had it) the idea of responding to God in actual, practical obedience. I fear we wait until we feel like it. I fear we wait until it is going to be easy or convenient. I fear we wait until Jesus completely changes our hearts, and obedience (we think) will just all-of-a-sudden, happens. I fear we don’t respond because of our own pride and arrogance. I fear we think, since we prayed a prayer and got dunked years ago, there is no additional real need to respond to anything. I fear we we are afraid of what others may think of us.

For those of you who are currently protesting in your mind and getting ready to email me a laundry list of ways you respond to God, bear with me. Take a deep breath. Relax. This letter may not be for you, “Mr. and Mrs. Rapid Responders.” What I am talking about is a trend I see across the whole of our congregation.

I noticed it before Mr. Corona visited us. Since the quarantine, it’s become increasingly clear. Perhaps it’s because I can’t see you and look you in the eyes. Perhaps. But I really don’t think so. That is part of it, sure. But I don’t think that’s really the reason. I’m afraid we don’t think we have to respond to God in obedience. I am afraid we think we can put it off. I am afraid we think we have all the time in the world. I am afraid we think if we respond in some way then others will judge us. I am afraid we fear that if we obey and actually respond, people will know the “real” us.

I wonder if one of the reasons we aren’t growing as believers is because we aren’t actually, practically and physically, obeying God? I believe Andrew Peterson is spot on: “If you want to know the mind of God, do what he says.” I too often forget that. I tend to think that if I just read my Bible or go to another Bible Study or preach another sermon or read another spiritual book then I will know the mind of God. All of these things are good and necessary. However. . .

If I don’t obey and do what He says, there is a part of God I will never truly grasp and understand. In fact, if I don’t obey His commands, then I demonstrate that I probably really didn’t want Him in the first place. I just wanted to read my Bible to puff up my arrogant, churchy brain. Jesus’ half-brother had something to say about this, didn’t he (See James 1:22-25)? We aren’t blessed if we just know what God says. We are blessed when we do them. We are blessed, said Jesus’ best friend, when we actually apply His words to our lives. The author of Proverbs says when we repent (respond in obedience), THEN we know the thoughts and ways of God.

Followers of Jesus should be known as the ultimate First Responders. I don’t mean to take anything away from, or make light of, the first responders who are exhausting themselves on behalf of our nation right now (and, really, through every crisis that emerges). We should all pray for, and continuously be grateful for, each and every one of them.

But think about it. First Responders run to the crisis. First Responders run to fix the pain point. First Responders are the FIRST ones on the scene when there is a problem. Those who respond to issues first, are there because they want to make it right. To fix it. To bring healing and wholeness back to a life. This is what makes them our heroes, right? They are eager to fix and repair pain at the cost of their own lives and security and comfort.

Should we not be this way with our souls? Should we not rush to a problem by applying what we know to be true? Shouldn’t Jesus followers be the FIRST to RESPOND when we recognize there is a disconnect between what Jesus says and our lifestyle? The reason First Responders amaze us is because they aren’t just sitting at home, knowing how to fix a problem, but ignoring the issue. They gain our admiration because they are actually DOING what they know to do.

Where are the Christians who live this way with their knowledge of the Word? Believers who are First Responders, by eagerly – and aggressively – obeying what Jesus says do? Where are they?

West Franklin, will we become a church of First Responders? A people who are known to immediately respond to the Father’s prompting? A people who want to know God by obeying what He says? A people who recognize an area of pain in their hearts and lives and rush to apply what Jesus says do to alleviate the problem?

What is Jesus prompting you to do?

What has Jesus been gently leading you to do that you have been putting off?

What are you struggling with that you need to get help with? (Email us)

What questions are you wrestling with that you are too afraid to ask? (Email us)

What have you been waiting to do until you feel like doing it, knowing you might never feel like it?

When it comes to obeying Jesus, would you consider yourself a First Responder? Why? Why not?

West Franklin, if we are ever going to be the church Christ has called us and placed us in Franklin to be, responding to His leading will be critical. Congregational obedience. Group obedience. Individual obedience.

Who’ll be FIRST?

Eager to Know God with You,

Pastor Matt

Housekeeping Items:

  1. Reminder – You can watch our services Sunday morning at either 9:00 am or 10:30 am on Facebook OR YouTube here.
  2. Hopefully, you received an email from Brentwood Baptist, encouraging you to fill out a survey helping us understand how to best ease back into gathering together. If not, click here and RESPOND!
  3. Every Monday morning, Dave and Matt unpack more of the Sermon on the Mount on the West Franklin Talks Podcast. We also release a new podcast every Thursday morning covering a variety of topics!
  4. Monday – Saturday, the West Franklin staff team desire to help you with your daily Bible reading by posting a brief devotion here.
  5. Previous letters to West Franklin can be found here. Type “West Franklin” in the search engine, or go here.