In this episode, Ray Ortlund and Sam Allberry address gospel culture through the lens of confession and showing honor to one another with special guest Russell Moore.
- Introduction—favorite concerts (0:00)
- “Therefore, confess your sins.” (2:12)
- Confession, prayer, and healing (6:48)
- Outdoing one another in showing honor (11:01)
- Celebrating evidence of grace (15:00)
- Practicing what we preach—showing honor to our friend (20:03)
- Recommended resource: Finding the Right Hills to Die On by Gavin Ortlund (26:24)
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Ray Ortlund: Welcome to You’re Not Crazy: Gospel Sanity for Young Pastors, a podcast from The Gospel Coalition. I’m Ray Ortlund, and I’m here with my co-host and friend, Sam Allberry. Sam, I’ve got a question for you. What is the best concert you have ever been to?
Sam Allberry: You mentioned the Beatles a while ago. I’m not going to compete with that, but 1999, Sting was touring his album Brand New Day. I saw him at the Royal Albert Hall. He had some really phenomenal jazz musicians with him and he just let them go. It was just wonderful. I can still remember that evening very vividly. Best music I’ve ever heard live.
Ray Ortlund: Wow. Okay, mine would be Bob Dylan, November 1979. He had just come out with Slow Train Coming, and he was about to debut the album Saved. He did both albums in a small theater. There may be 500 seats. It wasn’t this big stadium. He had this amazing band and killer backup singers, and I could not sit still. It was too exciting.
Sam Allberry: And you were a Presbyterian.
Ray Ortlund: That’s right. So it was amazing.
Sam Allberry: Hey, listen, last episode, I think you mentioned the lady in the church, listening to the band playing a song from Romans 8. We also mentioned that the band at Immanuel Church in Nashville has produced an album, which is setting all of Romans 8 to music, and it’s amazing, isn’t it?
Ray Ortlund: It is amazing, and it’s so you have plain scripture truth, the very words of the ESV of Romans 8. It’s also Shai Linne reads the text as well on the album.
Sam Allberry: I’d love him to do an audio Bible. That was amazing.
Ray Ortlund: Yeah, and then the songs actually put Romans 8 to music and it is very singable, very congregational, and very captivating.
Sam Allberry: The link to that is in the show notes. It turns out we have show notes. So if you want to find out more about that, follow the link.
Ray Ortlund: Okay. Now on this episode, Sam, of You’re Not Crazy, I’d like us to reach back to a topic we touched on briefly before. I’ve got something else I really want to say about it. Then you’ll take us to the next step as we consider gospel culture, okay? I want to go back to honesty, because there’s a verse in James 5 that means a lot to us. It means a lot to me at Immanuel Church. James 5:16, “Therefore.” Now that’s an interesting word in itself. It starts out, because what that means is “Therefore confess your sins.” So confession is something that the gospel itself leads us into. This is not coincidental. It is not incidental. Gospel doctrine creates a culture of confession, and honesty, and vulnerability, and transparency. “Therefore,” it says, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Confession, prayer, healing.
Ray Ortlund: In, what is it, Life Together by Bonhoeffer, an amazing book, it’s in three distinct thirds. The first third is amazing. The middle third, I have no idea what he’s talking about. The final third is amazing. He talks about when a man comes out of hiding and confesses his sins to a brother, that man will never be alone again, if he will live there with a brother. He will never face his sins alone, but now under Christ, that brother bears that burden with him. I just believe in and have found that I’ve got to have men I trust and respect who live in my city, who know my sins, men to whom I confess my sins.
Ray Ortlund: We men are brilliant at self concealment, withdrawal, aloofness, and smiling on the outside and dying on the inside simultaneously. It says it’s an imperative. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another.” So I want to ask every guy listening, every pastor, to whom do you confess your sins? Who knows what you’re really facing? Who knows what’s really going on? If you’re not okay with the Roman Catholic way of the confessional, okay, how do you confess your sins?
Sam Allberry: Now, someone might say, well, I confess my sins to God, so he knows. But that’s not enough, is it? Because James is not just saying confess your sins to God. He’s saying confess your sins to one another. What do we miss if we only confess our sins to God? What are we … why are we hesitant to confess our sins to one another?
Ray Ortlund: Well, for me answering that personally, what I miss is confessing my sins to God alone is just too easy. I don’t discover freeing power. I don’t discover healing. This verse is not about just me losing face. It’s about me getting healed.
Sam Allberry: Yeah.
Ray Ortlund: So what I miss is felt forgiveness and healing, but the price I pay for that is the embarrassment of losing face. I mean, looking Sam Allberry and TJ Tims right in the eyes, and the most embarrassing part of it is I almost always confess the same sins to you guys. It’s like round up the usual suspects in Casablanca. But if we’re in town on Monday afternoons, we gather in my study and our only agenda is James 5:16, to confess our sins to one another. If I’m not living in ongoing honesty, transparency, vulnerability, and confession with men I trust and respect ongoing, I don’t expect that to end well. That avoidance, that pride, that face saving will not end well.
Ray Ortlund: Sam, I’m now 71 years old. One of the most important things right now in my existence is preparing to die well. I want to die honorably. I don’t want you and my family and Immanuel Church and Renewal Ministries to have to clean up a mess after I die, that I had left concealed. I want to die honorably so y’all can weep at my funeral and rejoice and move on. There is … My memory actually provides a lingering blessing into the next generation. The only way I know to end well is to live well, which is not sinlessness, but the confession of sin. Pastors who have no one to whom they confess their sins are on their way right now to trouble. Therefore, it says, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another.
Ray Ortlund: It doesn’t say shame one another, embarrass one another, corner one another, pressure one another. Sam, I don’t even like the category accountability, because I’ve seen that used in a way that’s bossy and coercive and shaming. But just pray for one another. It doesn’t say fix one another. It doesn’t even say advise one another, though there’s a place for that. But pray for one another, that you may be healed. Where can healing for pastors be found? In confession and prayer. Confess your sins to one another, pray to God, healing comes down. When we pastors will humble ourselves before the Lord and with men we trust and respect, such that we start talking about our actual sins, though, Sam, every time it just kills me. I hate this.
Sam Allberry: Well, it’s interesting. Someone asked me once, how do you know of the infinite numbers of sins in your life which to confess to your friends? I said, “For me, it’s quite easy. As I’m driving over on a Monday afternoon to see you guys, what is the thing I don’t want to share with you?” That normally is the clue as to what I need to confess. Is that what don’t I want them to know about from this past week?
Ray Ortlund: Yeah. So I believe that in a gospel culture, sinful people, which is all of us, find the safety where we can open up with one another and really admit to what’s going on, and gently pray for one another, and really pray for one another. That can only end well because the Bible says God promises healing, healing in that very place. We, pastors need healing. If we, pastors will go there, what if we just say, okay, I’m just done with my isolation. I’m done with my aloofness. Dog gone it, for by God’s grace for his glory, I’m going to find that place. I’m going to find one or two other men in my city and meet with them regularly to tell them my mess and pray together.
Sam Allberry: It’s part of welcoming one another as Christ has welcomed us, isn’t it? I mean, one of the freeing things the gospel gives us is that God knows the very worst things about us, and it’s still safe to come to him. When we see that translating out into our relationships, it’s safe. It’s actually safe for me to let you know some of the worst things about me, and it just reinforces the truth of the gospel.
Ray Ortlund: I wonder if the entry point for so many pastors and churches into gospel culture that they haven’t enjoyed yet is this matter of honesty. When we’re honest with each other, I feel so trusted. I feel honored. I would not violate that trust for all the world. So Sam, let’s take the next step, honor.
Sam Allberry: Yeah, so the flip side of that. If honesty is, we’re not trying to hide the worst things about ourselves, the flip side is actually we’re trying to highlight the best things that we see in one another. A key verse in this is in Romans 12. Which verse is it”
Ray Ortlund: 10.
Sam Allberry: 10, thank you. That’s why I couldn’t find it in verse 8. So Romans 12:10 says, “Love one another with brotherly affection.” That’s worth spending some time on at some point as well. “Outdo one another in showing honor.” Outdo one another in showing honor, Romans 12:10. You’ve pointed out before that this is the only place in the Bible we think we’re explicitly told to compete against each other, to outdo one another. Now, men in particular, we can get competitive very easily. There’s lots of things we instinctively are trying to outdo one another on. It might be prowess. It might be banter. It might be any number of things. The thing we’re told to outdo one another on is showing honor, and the wonderful thing about this competition is the more competitive we get on this, the more everybody wins. So what is showing honor?
Ray Ortlund: Well, the book of Colossians speaks of Christ in you, the hope of glory. Whoever is in Christ is a new creation. I think of it this way, Sam. I meet a new Christian at Immanuel Church and begin to … in just private, enjoyable, friendly conversation, I began to ask questions. So where’d you go to high school? Where’d you go to college? Where’s … Tell me your story. Where did you grow up and so forth? Just obvious introductory questions. 15 to 20 seconds into that conversation, I’m listening and I’m thinking, oh my goodness, this is glorious. This is a story that God is telling. This person himself might not feel, boy, I sure impressive. Who of us ever does? But I’m seeing, in this person’s account, I’m seeing the guidance of God, the providence of God, the love of God, the plan of God, and I’m connecting the dots.
Ray Ortlund: Outdo one another in showing honor is simply saying, talk to each other about the glories that you’re seeing, the glories of Christ that are emerging. They’re going to be complete and obvious, publicly obvious in heaven above, but even now the glory of Christ is appearing in every true Christian. When we honor one another, we just notice that. We just notice the obvious and we rejoice over it. We talk about it to one another.
Sam Allberry: Paul has a worked example of this in Philippians 2. He’s just talked about that the example of Christ is his amazing service. He then talks about Epaphroditus, and he says, “I’m sending Epaphroditus to you. He’s been longing for you. He’s being distressed because you heard that he was ill.” So he’s distressed because they’ve heard he’s ill. I love that. Then Paul says, “Indeed, he was ill, near to death, but God had mercy on him.” Then he says, “I’m all the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.” So Epaphroditus, this man who was serving the Lord, serving the church in a way that actually brought risk to his own life, that’s how committed he was.
Sam Allberry: Paul says honor such men. So as we see evidences of God’s grace, as we see echoes of the example and service of Christ and other Christian men and women, we’re to call attention to it, to celebrate it. Now I come from Southern England, so we’re not massively demonstrative and heart on sleeve type people. We tend to let you know you meant something to us at your funeral. That’s when we’ll generally let you know that we actually did love you. So this feels very non native to me, but it’s meant to be native to us as Christian believers. It’s actually the flip side of that same honesty, isn’t it? It’s saying let’s celebrate. Let’s be on the lookout for evidences of grace in the lives of others, and let’s celebrate those things to other people, just as Paul does here.
Ray Ortlund: It alerts us to what, in our gospel churches, we will never do. We will never undermine one another. We will never mock one another. We will never indulge in snarky putdowns, jokey insults. It’s unimaginable. We don’t stop doing bad things until those bad things become unthinkable to us. They’re not negotiable anymore. There is only one human dynamic we allow into and cultivate and celebrate in a healthy church. That is looking for evidences of Christ in one other, noticing that, rejoicing over that, talking about that. For example, on those Tuesday nights, Immanuel theology for men, during all those years, we had a time of teaching, and then we had a time of walking in the light and honesty, usually one-on-one. The guys would break up and then we’d come back together again toward the end and we would have honor time.
Ray Ortlund: I would read that verse, Romans 12:10, “Outdo one another in showing honor,” and I would explain this is not flattery. Flattery is lying. Outdoing one another in showing honor is noticing the reality of this new redemptive life and humaneness and beauty showing up in another man. Then we’d talk about … We put that right out on the table. We’re not embarrassed. So I would invite the guys, okay, let’s do that right now, and hands would go up immediately. For example, a guy might say, “Okay, Jim.” This is right out in front of everybody, “Jim, I want to honor you, because last Thursday, when I felt like looking at a porn site, I texted you. You called me immediately, and you stayed on the phone with me for 20 minutes and talked me off the edge of that cliff. Dude, thank you. I needed that. You helped me. You dropped everything for me. That is … I honor you for that.”
Ray Ortlund: Then you typically … and this was not manipulative. It seemed to be incredibly genuine. Jim would say, “No way. I’m going to outdo you. I’m going to honor you because you had the integrity to call me when you had a need. A lot of guys wouldn’t do that, but you did that. That was Christ in you, the hope of glory,” and so forth. It would just … the Holy Spirit would just detonate this enjoyment of of honor toward one another. I typically had to shut it down at the end. That can happen in any church.
Sam Allberry: It becomes so attractive, doesn’t it? I can see that being. Once you see that happening, who wouldn’t want to dive in and be part of that? With that example, with what Paul gives us in Philippians with Epaphroditus, it’s not just a general, oh, you’re really awesome. It’s specific. I’m honoring you for this. It’s not just … As you said, it’s not flattery. It’s not just vague generalities. It is, hey, here are some particular evidences of grace.
Ray Ortlund: Yeah. I have never once in all my life met anyone who was too encouraged in Christ. We are not in any danger of being too encouraged in Christ. Churches typically live on a starvation diet of encouragement and honor, and being lifted up by one another. Can we please stop the starvation diet? There is a feast awaiting us.
Sam Allberry: Every culture has its own way of undermining that process, whether it’s the sort of English reserve. I’ll let you know what I … I’ll literally die before I tell you that I love you kind of thing, or it can be the Southern US flattery. But we need to step into this on our culture. We’re not going to drift into it, are we?
Ray Ortlund: I totally agree with what you said a moment ago, Sam. Who wouldn’t love to be part of, and I’m just thinking of this as a man, a manly, bold, culture of honor where serious men get together with both their flaws and their glories, and we share it all together. I’m telling you guys, if you can cultivate that … Just preaching pure doctrine, I’m not saying that’s easy, but cultivating gospel culture is more nuanced. It requires more intentionality and more gentle light touches and midcourse corrections along the way, but you can do this. Pastor, you can do this. If you long for this, you’re not crazy. You’re being drawn along by the holy spirit of God, and Sam and I are just glad to encourage you and help you along the way.
Sam Allberry: Right, why don’t we just do this now? Why don’t we find out one of our mutual friends that we both really adore and revere and only honor him? I’ll see if he’s around.
Ray Ortlund: Okay.
Russel Moore: Hello?
Sam Allberry: Hi Russell. This is Sam here. I’m here with Ray Ortlund. Ray and I are recording this new podcast for TGC called You’re Not Crazy: Gospel Sanity for Young Pastors, and we’ve just been talking about Paul’s instructions to honor one another. You come to mind because you’re a friend of both Ray and I. So we just wanted to quickly get a hold of you and tell you how much you mean to us.
Ray Ortlund: Russell, this is always awkward between us men, but I would just have to say you’re going to have to deal with it. Now, listen. Here’s why I honor Russell Moore. Two things come to mind immediately, a consistent witness marked by integrity and courage, both of which are all too rare especially among Christian leaders. I’ve been watching you, Russell, for years walk with integrity and courage. The only … These are evidences of supernatural grace within you and upon you. You have inspired me countless times without ever realizing it because I … when I’m facing difficulty, trouble, and distress, the thought comes to me, wait a minute, you don’t have to give up. You don’t have to give in. Russell Moore is out there. He’s marked by integrity and courage. You can do this by God’s grace for his glory. You just keep going. Now, Russell Moore, you’ve had that impact on me many times. Oh my goodness, I respect you so much and I’m grateful for you, so I honor you.
Sam Allberry: Thanks, Ray. Russell, I just wanted to say as well I look at what you’ve had to endure in your ministry, and you’ve not run away from the Lord’s work. You’ve not become a bitter cynical guy. So I was looking at Paul honoring Epaphroditus in Philippians 2 and what Epaphroditus suffered for his service of Christ. it made me realize how much you’ve endured and how much actually we owe you for that. So thank you for serving us, even when it’s been very, very costly.
Russel Moore: That means more than I can really communicate, because both of you have … I would not have been able to be in ministry the last several years if not for the two of you in lots of ways that you don’t even know. It just seems that from each of you, the Lord arranged just the right conversation, just the right call, just the right encouragement at just the right time that I needed it. So that makes me all the more grateful.
Ray Ortlund: Oh gosh. Well, we love you. Thank you for letting us interrupt your day.
Russel Moore: Absolutely any time.
Ray Ortlund: Okay, God bless.
Sam Allberry: That was fun.
Ray Ortlund: Yes.
Sam Allberry: We should just cold call people every episode.
Ray Ortlund: What we’re experiencing here is, it’s very powerful to me. It’s very moving to me. I feel so much more filled. I feel less alone right now than I did two minutes ago because of what we just experienced with Sam Allberry, Russell Moore, Ray Ortlund. Something just happened here. What if that went viral? What if instead of scrutinizing one another, we were honoring one another? The power of the Holy Spirit is in that.
Sam Allberry: Yeah. I think what Paul is saying in Romans 12:10 there is pretty much a photo negative of Twitter, where we find people we barely know and find things to shoot them down. Paul is saying let’s grab a hold of some people we do know and find ways to build them up and encourage them.
Ray Ortlund: Yeah, fantastic. Well, we want to, as we close this out, want to thank and honor Crossway Books for their sponsorship of our podcast, and here’s a book Crossway has published that is … that will really help us build gospel culture. It is by my own son, Gavin Ortlund, Finding the Right Hills to Die On. That book helps us so much because we need to know what theological expectations we may properly have of one another and simultaneously, what theological allowances we should properly make for one another, so that our fellowship, our culture in our churches is both cohesive and strong in doctrine. It’s not compromising and cowardly, but it is also fair minded and gentle with one another. So it has both strength of conviction and strength of cohesion and unity simultaneously. How do we navigate that? Gavin’s book, Finding the Right Hills to Die On, guides us wisely and pastorally.
Sam Allberry: One of the things I loved about that book was his focus on humility and the need for that. Again, it’s one of the things we’re seeing in this whole area of gospel culture, is less of me, more of others and not thinking that we’re the big deal.
Ray Ortlund: We know you have a ton to do these days, and so it means a lot to us that you would listen to the podcast. Thank you for listening to this episode of You’re Not Crazy: Gospel Sanity for Young Pastors. Do visit tgc.org/podcasts for more episodes, and it would be great if you’d subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts. Thank you for doing that, Spotify, wherever you listen, wherever you hang out. Thanks.
Andrew LaParra: The You’re Not Crazy podcast was made possible by multiple team members at TGC. That team includes the hosts of the show, Ray Ortlund and Sam Allberry, as well as Steven Morales and Andrew Laparra as executive producer and producer, Heather Ferrell our podcast lead, Gabriel Reyes, our graphic designer, and Josh Diaz, our audio engineer. You’re Not Crazy is a part of The Gospel Coalition podcast network. You can find more podcasts at tgc.org/podcasts.