Gospel Change: “I Never Affirm People”

The first year of Porterbrook Omaha just wrapped up as 25 students turned in their final assignments. The theological and cultural reflection these students are doing is so good that I asked some of them if I could share their work with a larger audience. Justin Dean, a PBOmaha student and the planter of Sacred City Church in Davenport, Iowa, applied the dynamics of gospel change to his relationships with people. Justin’s assignment shows how deeper reflection on the gospel actually changes us in profound ways.

The question was: identify an area where you want to see change and answer four questions…

An area where I would like to grow in godliness is seeing and affirming the evidences of grace in the people around me.

  • What you have learned about God? I have learned that God affirmed me before I ever did anything to deserve it. According to the Apostle Paul in Ephesians He chose me “In Christ” before the foundation of the world and blessed me with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places even seating me with Christ. This should profoundly affect the way in which I should affirm those around me.
  • What you have learned about yourself? I have learned that I live very legalistically with the people around me. I affirm only when I see something blatantly positive. I never give  undue praise and typically affirm only a behavior instead of Gods work in a person. I force people to perform for my affirmation. This is a wicked sin and contrary to the heart of the gospel.
  • What you have learned about change? I have learned that change starts and ends with God and the gospel. He gives me the eyes to see my sin, the grace to turn from it, and a more excellent way to behold. God has really given me a new way of thinking about and seeing this sin in my life and I am incredibly thankful to Him for that. The way to change is seeing and savoring Jesus Christ in the gospel. I believe that God has allowed me to see the gospel in a more beautiful way which has changed my heart towards Him and those around me.
  • What you have already started doing or thinking? I have been affirming the work of God in people more often. I have been saying, “I thank God for you..” “I can see that God is at work in you..” “I can tell that God has given you the ability to obey him in this situation and I am thankful for His grace in your life…” Paul’s letter to the Corinthians has been really beneficial to me. He thanked God for them constantly even though they were seriously jacked up and in sin. I have also been praying and thanking God for the people in my life more often than before. I have been worshipping Him for his affirmation of me before I deserved it and have been asking Him to continue to give me grace to be made into His image and likeness.

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  1. This is incredibly helpful for me. I’m naturally more passive, and I think this is another way to practice assertiveness in affirming people. I wonder if Justin could flush out what he means when he says, “The way to change is seeing and savoring Jesus Christ in the gospel” I know that is the right answer conceptually, but I’d like to know how that practically works itself out in his life, specifically in the area of affirmation.

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