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Managing the Gap

This 3-sermon series is about the difference between our external expectations of ourselves and the internal reality of what is actually true about ourselves. The difference is the Gap. It exists in all of us, and it causes a lot of distress. 

The gap does not disappear when we become Christians, nor when God sanctifies us - even "entirely."

The core thinking behind this sermon series comes from a series of talks by Paul Vance in 2006 at the Northern California Nazarene Pastors and Spouses retreat at Mount Hermon, CA. Paul Vance is a Christian marriage and family counselor who lives in the Sacramento area. He specializes in counseling pastors and spouses. His insight was profound for me especially in how it put into words some concepts that have been so difficult for me to put into words for years. I have long taught that the trajectory of the Christian life in this world is to have a heart fully in love with God, to have a romance with God. This did not include the total elimination of the gap with respect to holy attitudes and behaviors in real time. It had to do with an overarching romance. So after Paul Vance unpacked this over a 3-day period in the fall of 2006, I went home and began turning it into a 3-sermon series. This is that series. I preached it first beginning on Easter Sunday, 2007.

While these sermons fit nicely into the Easter season, you can easily fit them into many other places in the calendar.

Gap 1: Crucifixion, Resurrection and the Gap

Preached on Easter Sunday, Year C

John 20.1-18. The resurrection story according to Saint John.

Thesis: The crucifixion addresses our need for dealing with the accumulated guilt and shame in the gap between external expectations and internal reality; the resurrection promises new life in the future.

This first sermon carefully describes the gap, and then surveys the various ways we humans futilely try to close the gap. Finally, it unpacks God's plan for dealing with the gap, which involves the crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection.

Gap 2: Sanctification and the Gap

Preached on the Sunday after Easter, Year C

Revelation 1.4-8

Thesis: Closing the gap between external expectations and internal reality involves both our vertical relations with God and horizontal relations with his Body of believers.

This center sermon focuses on God's sanctifying process of extending his grace to us in the form of pardon, acceptance, and fruitfulness... and the journey into a full-hearted romance with God. Key to all of this, all along the way, is us having an open orientation to our gap. The sermon also addresses both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of sanctification.

Gap 3: The Sanctification of Saint Paul

Preached on the second Sunday after Easter, Year C

Scripture: Acts 9.1-20. Saul's conversion.

Thesis: God offers us a holistic way to deal with the gap between perfection and our internal reality.

While I listed a text for this sermon, in fact it uses a lot of scripture as I use a case study of Paul to get at the sanctifying process. It begins with what Luke has to say about Paul in Acts and then moves to chronologically looking at some of Paul's epistles. The thread of these many scriptures then serves as a template for our own sanctification process.

This sermon contains a clear call to Christian faith, as well as a clear call to Christians to move deeper into God's sanctifying process.


Tim Isbell