Jan. 1, 2021

Discipleship in phases, an interview with Edwin Crozier, Part 1

Discipleship in phases, an interview with Edwin Crozier, Part 1

Edwin Crozier is someone I have known for several years but never really talked to. This is the first part of a great conversation I had with Edwin. In this episode, Edwin talks about his own spiritual walk. If you're interested in listening to his podcast, Text Talk, it's available at Apple podcasts

A few of Edwin's books include (affiliate links):




Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/balancingthechristianlife)

Transcript
Kenny Embry:

In this episode of balancing the Christian life, we talked to author and podcaster Edwin Crozier about his four phases of becoming a Christian disciple and the power of prayer. Welcome to balancing the Christian life. I'm Dr. Kenny Embry. We'll talk about how to be better Christians and better people in the digital age. Let's go. Thank you so much for joining me. I just got back from Georgia visiting my in laws for the holiday break. My wife's uncle Robert gave us his RV to stay in. And it was an adventure all its own. RV travel is one of those bucket list dreams I have. And I've discovered both the thrill and the challenge of tiny living. Robert you're a brave man, thanks for your generosity. I've said many times this is a journey which has been so rewarding in ways I couldn't have anticipated. I knew I would be talking about practical Christianity, and digital discipleship. But I didn't realize the wealth of material I would find. I thought of those ideas as different. But as I've continued, I see that they're very much the same thing. When you have good tools, you need to figure out how to use them well. For 2021, I plan to double down on digital discipleship and practical Christianity. I already have two excellent interviews recorded. Stephen okie is a religion professor at the Catholic University where I teach. He's a good guy, and he understands how culture begins to define how we see God. Then I've got an interview with Phil Robertson, a preacher in Florida, who is focused on teens and the Internet, and how to raise boys in demand. I truly appreciate Phil's perspective on digital tools. I think it's fair to say Phil is more skeptical of the digital tools. But I think his skepticism is warranted. Anyway, I can't wait for you to hear both of those guys. I'm also planning to talk to a few spiritual leaders and what they've learned through the pandemic, about digital discipleship. I really foresee this as a panel discussion. What did you try? What worked? What didn't work? And what do you plan to keep on doing after the pandemic is over? I'm really excited about that. That's coming up. For those of you following in real time. I'm releasing today's episode on January 1 2021. I'm a little over six months into podcasting. And I again want to thank those of you who continue to listen. I also want to thank those who have financially supported the podcast, like Kevin Hanson, and thank you for telling me what some of these conversations have meant to you. They've meant a lot to me. Today's interview is with a preacher podcaster and author Edwin Crozier, Edwin introduces himself pretty well. So I won't rehash that here. But I will say, Edwin is someone who I have known socially, but never really met. I think wherever you live, you get used to the things around you. In such a way you probably feel like you know them without ever really experiencing them. Because that one was so close geographically, I felt like I knew who he was. But I couldn't have been more wrong. Edwin co hosts the podcast Tech Talk, where he and Andrew Roberts study the Bible. His episodes are about 15 minutes each. And as of this recording there in the early songs. Edwin is also an accomplished author, and I've listed several of his books in the show notes if you would like to check those out. my conversation with Edwin was a little over 90 minutes long. But you'll notice this conversation is not nearly that long. Yes, I did a fair amount of editing but decided again to divide this interview into two parts. In this first part, Edwin talks about his spiritual journey, and how prayer has become an important part of his Christian walk. Most of this was a response to my first question. Tell me a little bit about yourself. Listen to his answer. He talks about his four phases of becoming a Christian disciple. Well, it's my very great pleasure to be talking to a guy who lives just down the road for me, Edwin Crozier, Edwin, the co host his own podcast, text talk. They do a Bible study. And it's amazing how well they do so anyway, Edwin, welcome to the program, man.

Edwin Crozier:

Thanks, Kenny. Sure,glad to be here. I appreciate the invitation means a lot to me.

Kenny Embry:

What's your spiritual background? How did Christianity become your own?

Edwin Crozier:

Good question. Let me see if I can answer that in stages. So stage one was I was brought up by spiritual people, I was brought up by people who claimed Christianity. So my religion, always very important. One of the things I was taught from just as early as I can remember is that what matters most is what the Bible says. I remember reading in my mom's Bible, she had written on the front page two words that you can't say together. No, Lord, and beneath that she had written if you call him Lord, you won't say no. And if you're going to say no, then he's Not your Lord. That's the phase one as I was being brought up, so religion and the Bible, and Jesus were just a part of the upbringing. When I was 12 years old, my mother died. That was just terrible event for me and for my family. When my dad remarried, he met a woman who was into non denominational Christianity, that wanting to get away from the divisions. In fact, that's where he had been raised. And he had left that when he had become an adult, we got married. But now he was in this relationship with the woman who's become my stepmother. And he was returning to that non denominational Christianity. I was really upset about it. However, they got married. And for some reason, Kenny, they did not want me along on their honeymoon. I don't know why. But they sent me off to some old family friends and and my little brother actually went somewhere else. He was only a year old at the time, I had been having people talk to me about the idea of leaving divisions of this Protestant Reformation Christianity and, and trying to get away from that. And just getting back to the Bible. And I like I said, I was really upset about that. I tried to tell people, no, all I am is a Christian. And I was a teenager, but this is what I had heard. And this is what I believed. I get it. There's all these divisions, but this is just what man has done. These aren't really what we are. I'm really just a Christian. But I was I was away from my dad and my stepmom on while they were off on their honeymoon, and then consolidating their homes together. And I was with this family friend whose nephew I think it was also visited at the same time, and we had gone to church, and I was just near them when they were talking about something that was going on in the convention for the Southern Baptist Church back then. And like 1985 I have no idea what was the problem at that convention that year? What I heard this fella say to his nephew, who was a pastor in that denomination, he said these words, this is what's always stuck with me. He said, if they're going to keep doing that, I'm going to quit being a Baptist and just be a Christian. And Kenny, it was like, I mean, fireworks going off in my head. I had been told all my life, I was just a Christian. And now I've heard when from somebody who wasn't defending something, and, and they didn't have an axe to grind at what I felt like I heard was, Oh, this is this is the truth. I'm not just a Christian, I'm a kind of Christian, I'm a division of Christian. And I didn't want to be that. I didn't want to be that. And immediately, I when I got back home, within just a matter of weeks, I was convinced that what the Bible said is to be just a Christian. And then I started the growth process of discipleship phase one was just being brought up to say you just do whatever the Bible says, because that's the word of God. Phase two was, Okay, wait a minute, I think I found out that some of the things I was raised with aren't actually what the Bible says, I want to be just a Christian. So that was phase two. Phase Three actually gets into I was already preaching I had started preaching when I was in college and got married, raising a family, Kenny, the reality is, is that despite being a Christian, despite wanting to serve the Lord, and despite being a preacher, I had allowed sin to get into my life and into my heart. And it had just basically taken over. So I was trying very hard to get rid of it. In my own strength, I was very trying very hard to overcome by myself. And I finally got to a point where I just couldn't. And I finally had to admit to my elders, and to my church, that there was the sin in my life. And I won't keep it vague, because I don't want everybody wondering, I mean, the reality was, like so many men, I had gotten involved in pornography, and lust and all that goes on with that. And I finally got to a point where it became more important to me to actually defeat that God's way than to continue having the public image of what I was supposed to be as a preacher and I confess to my family, I confess to my elders, I confess to my church, and that really got me on a journey of really relying on God more than just on religion. And so that's phase three. Phase Three was that discipleship was about my relationship with God, not just this outward manifestation of having an appearance of doing what was right, I've got to get rid of all of this if I don't get to preach any more than so be it if I don't get to write books anymore than so be it if this upsets my family and they abandon me, so be it. What I've got to do is be right with the Lord and I want his power working in me to overcome the sins in my life. That was phase three, that started about 12 years ago, 13 years ago, somewhere like 2006 to 2008 was when that was going on. And then Honestly, I think I'm going to say that phase four actually happened to this year which may get into some of the things you want to talk about today. Even with what I was saying about About everything being about my relationship with the Lord, this year when COVID hit, and churches and the congregation I'm a part of was making choices about what are we going to do on Sunday? There's this seeming danger. We don't know exactly what it is. And I know that even since then people have continued to argue about what it is. But I do know this they back in March, we didn't know. And it seems like it could be really bad. And so the question is, what are we going to do this Sunday, and our congregation decided, we were in extenuating circumstances, the ox was in the ditch, we were not going to have our assemblies at our facility. And so the other preacher that I work with, who's also my co host, on text talk, Andrew Roberts, we started putting together just for the folks who felt like they needed something because you know, I fully believe that our brothers and sisters can worship God. And they don't actually need us to do a sermon for them or lead songs for them. I don't believe they have to have that. But we knew that there would be brothers and sisters, even among our congregation that would appreciate that and would benefit from that. And so we started putting together little video packages that folks could watch in their homes and to help guide them in family worship. But on Sunday, that meant I was at home, and I was with my family, and I wasn't with the brethren. And that happened for Oh, I guess we did that for two and a half months. But what hit me so hard, Kenny, and I'm embarrassed and ashamed to admit this, what hit me is that I realized that I had gotten into a law, I had gotten into a place where discipleship was my job. And it was not my life. I gotten into a place where my discipleship was just wrapped up in, quote, church, and that my personal discipleship was actually lacking. And I didn't realize that until my corporate discipleship got taken away from me. This year has been phase four, where I've really dug in to discipleship to spirituality. I've got one job, john 15 says My job is to be a branch. And what I realized is that for too often, I've been trying to be the vine, the vine, dresser, the fruit, the seed, soil, the water, I've been trying to be everything except what Jesus says I'm supposed to be in. That's the branch. And the branch is the conduit. That's my job. My job is to make sure that all I'm doing is abiding in Jesus and Jesus will take care of the rest of that. This year has been really a phenomenal year for me. I know that 2020 has just stunk in so many ways, but I am really thankful for it. Because for me, it put me in a refining fire that caused me to realize that my discipleship, not a complete Sham and a deception. I'm not saying that I wasn't lost up until COVID came. I did have a relationship with Jesus, but it removed some of the Sharad that I didn't realize I was playing. And it brought a lot of the slag and the dross up to the top that I believe God is scraping off right now. I'm trying to work on being a branch. That's my background from day one to this morning.

Kenny Embry:

I really appreciate that answer. It's a very thoughtful answer. It reminds me of something that I talk about to a lot of students. You get married for different reasons, and you stay married. And I think one of the things that you described really well there is, how our relationship matures, but how our relationship with God matures. I think one of the things that happens to a lot of us is we come to Gods to escape hellfire. But that's not the reason you should stay with God. Oh, I

Edwin Crozier:

agree. I never want to accuse anyone of lack of spirituality, because their motivation is the fear of judgment. The scripture uses the fear of judgment. But if I stay at that place, if that's all that's covering my spirituality, it's not going to become the deep relationship that I can have with God. And where I have grown talking about it maturing, I am so glad, personally that the Lord has been patient enough with me to help me move to a place where I'm not where I want to be. But right now, my motivation is way more about the fact that I want God, then I want to escape pain and hell. In fact, I have been moving and I'm very thankful again, for the grace of God that's dragging me along often. She knows I'm, I'm just struggling with it one step at a time. It's very meaningful, it's fulfilling, it is helpful to recognize that not having God is what would be hell, if I were in a place that had mansions and silver and gold and servants and pleasure, but God wasn't there. That would be hell. I'm not fully there yet, because all of those things still tempt me. But God is growing me in that.

Kenny Embry:

I really appreciate that perspective. If it doesn't take you long to live with somebody that you just don't like, where you realize the surroundings are not worth it, no matter how nice they are, God has the perfect job for us. He has the perfect purpose for us. And he has the perfect love for us. And I think what you're doing there's you're painting a really good picture about why it's such a great idea to serve God because He really loves you.

Edwin Crozier:

How could he not? How could I not think that he loves me, He sent His Son to die for me,

Kenny Embry:

You're looking at the pandemic as basically a blessing. I think one of the things that I heard a preacher give was don't ever let a good crisis go to waste. One of the things the pandemic has brought out for us are not the blessings that we've had, but the blessings that we have.

Edwin Crozier:

What you just said there made me think of what happened at my house last night, and not just my house, actually, in my city and county in a boil water order went out for some of Hillsborough County, and especially where my neighborhood was, all of a sudden, I gotta run to the store and get some bottled water, we've got to put the pots on the oven and boil some water. I don't ever think about running water really being a blessing. And it hit me. I mean, there are people all over the world that they have to boil their water every day that drink water that gives them disgusting diseases and parasites and problems. I don't ever think about it. But here was this thing taken away from me for just a day. But Wow. And that's what 2020 has been. They're things that got taken away that caused me to remember what the real blessing is.

Kenny Embry:

What got messed up was the corporate worship. But what didn't get messed up was our relationship with God, it kind of starts revealing what your relationship with God is it did for me.

Edwin Crozier:

I know, there's some big fears right now, because of all the things that churches have done as so many of them. I think I heard the other day that there was a statistic like either in in December of 2018, or December of 2019, only 10% of churches were live streaming. But now in December of 2020, only 10% are not. There's all these fears about what people come back. Even though what I learned was my discipleship has been not as personal as it should have been, it had become my job. And it had been kind of covered up by my responsibilities instead of real personal growth. When I got done with that it didn't come out with, okay, so I don't need church, I don't need my congregation, I'm gonna go do this on my own. what it's done is when the congregation has come back together, it's been even more meaningful and powerful. Because the tails not wagging the dog anymore. I'm not going to church, because my job is to support the church. I'm back with my brothers and sisters, and I'm in the assemblies because I realized this is one of the places where I grow my relationship with Jesus. And it's become even more powerful and even more pointed, because now it's really in its right place.

Kenny Embry:

Whenever God says you need to treat me well. Basically, he almost always points us back to the weakest that these are brothers. If you want to pay me a high compliment, do something nice for my kids. If you treat my kids Well, I'll regard you a lot better. One of the things that I see that God does is he says, If you really want to be disciple, I don't really need your worship. I really don't need your praise you do. But treat your other brothers and sisters well. And I think that's the beauty of a worship service, you have the opportunity to treat your brothers and sisters. Well.

Edwin Crozier:

It's really coincidental today when we're recording this conversation, my own podcast text talk, put out an episode on Psalm 15. And the particular episode that aired today was basically hitting along the lines of what you're just saying here. We're in Psalm 15 this week. And here's what Psalm 15 says, Oh Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart, who does not slander with his tongue does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend in whose eyes a vile person is despised? But who honors those who fear the Lord who swears to his own hurt and does not change? Who does not put out his money and interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent? He who does these things shall never be moved? And what Andrew and I talked about on the episode that's airing today, this answer that God gives for who shall dwell on his holy hill is completely shocking to me. Because why would anyone want to dwell on his hill? It's because I will I want to worship God, I want to be with God. I want to be in that relationship with God. So I expect the answer to be well, if you want to dwell in my Hill, here's how you worship worship like this now, worship is absolutely important. I think we are supposed to worship God's way. There are other passages that talk about that. But this passage, when it talks about dwelling on his holy hill, almost the entire answer is about how I dwell with other people who dwells on my holy hill. It's the people who dwell with others the way they're supposed to having a relationship With God is not an escape from a relationship with people. It's getting deeper into a relationship with his people.

Kenny Embry:

Why does God need so much attention?

Edwin Crozier:

God doesn't need so much attention, Psalm 50 and verse 12. If I were hungry, I wouldn't tell you for the world and its fullness, our mind, do I eat the flesh of bowls or drink the blood of goats, offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and perform your vows to the Most High call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you and you shall glorify me. What God points out is there's not ever been anything he's commanded for worship that he actually needs from us. Everything he's commanded for worship I need to do in our modern day, and especially the critics who are pushing back against God, I think we don't get this, especially in a naturalistic world that basically places me at the top of the food chain that says that I am the highest that evolution has produced. I mean, it may produce more down the road, but I'm the highest that there is now what I really need to know is I am not the highest, the worship of God and the glorification of God is not for his benefit. It's for my benefit to understand who I am to understand what I can do to understand my needs. And everything that God has commanded is for my good. In fact, I go back to that I mentioned the sermon I preached this past Sunday for the Christians on Livingston Avenue. I called it I'm just a branch. And one of the things that I learned from john 15, about abiding in Jesus is that it says that I need to abide in his love. But then it has a very, non 21st century American view of what abiding in love is, for Jesus abiding in love was not reveling in how amazing it is to be in his presence and thinking about how great he is abiding and His love is doing what he says, what I realized from that is, I'm abiding in the love of God by doing what he says, because when I do what he says, I am saying to God, to me, to my family, to my brothers and sisters, and to the entire world around me that everything God says to me, is actually for my benefit. And I believe that it's for my benefit. That's why I'm doing it. It's a real statement of faith, because some of the things he says I don't actually like, some of the things he says, are not natural for us in our cultures. It's not, oh, here's some arbitrary rules that God put in place to see if I could jump through the hoops. What it is, is me saying, despite how counterintuitive it is, despite how it's not the norm for my culture, and society, I really believe God when he says, This is what's best for me. God doesn't need me to pray. So I've written a couple of books on prayer. I've got a Bible class book on it. I've got a paperback book on it. I've got a class book on praying like the psalmist. And frankly, I'm only mentioning these things. Because when the mics were off, you said, hey, go ahead and mention these things. But prayer has been really important to me. And when I preach on prayer, when I teach on prayer, one of the fundamental things I try to point out to folks is we do not pray because God needs it. We pray, because we need what God offers us in prayer.

Kenny Embry:

It seems to me that families were constructed to basically reflect a spiritual reality. Yes, the relationship you have with God is the relationship that you have with your children. And one of the things that I know as a father, I know what my children need. But unless and until they ask for it, I probably won't give it to them. I will let them make their mistakes, knowing full well where it's going to end up. And eventually, when they come back to me and say, you know, that just didn't work out very well. Ask Next time, I'll help you. But unless and until you start asking for things I'm not going to, because experience is a great teacher. And I think one of the things that God does for us is he says, Look, I really do know a better way. If you want to go ahead and make all your mistakes, go ahead and do that. But I'm right here. Whenever you need help. I'm right here. And I do want to help you, but I'm not

Edwin Crozier:

going to force you here, Kenny, if you being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who asked him? We get it? We get it when it comes to our family relationship. I want my kids to do what I tell them. Not because, boy, it just makes me look good. And they'll know because I want what's best for them. And I know when they do it, it'll be better. And it breaks my heart when they do things I've tried to direct them away from and it breaks my heart when they won't do the things that I've tried to direct them towards. Because I know I know. And of course, my knowledge is limited. When God knows everything. How much more Is it true that what he says is going to be good for me. And so when I do what he says I'm really abiding in his love because everything he says to me is Love.

Kenny Embry:

You see what I mean? It's impossible not to admire what he's doing. I think it's easy to admire the guy. But we relate to the struggles. Again, I was so pleasantly surprised by Edwin. Next week, Edwin talks more directly about digital discipleship and the discipline of writing. Yes, there are a few of you I'm thinking about. So Jennifer, make sure you listen to next week's episode. God bless all of you in the new year. Help us to recognize God's blessings, and intentionally become better. And let's all be good and do good