Where the rubber meets the road

27 Feb

One of the main points of the book I’m writing is that reminding oneself of the gospel as motivation for living the Christian life isn’t enough. It’s definitely a start. And I totally believe that the gospel is the foundation of the Christian faith. But we can’t stop there. We need to press on into a living, intimate relationship with God that pervades every facet of our lives. I am mystified by the number of God-fearing Christians who say that they exist to glorify God and yet still struggle with having a daily quiet time and praying. If our “beliefs” aren’t translating into tangible actions, then we’re not really believing them. And if we’re not really believing our beliefs, the place to start is an intimate relationship with God, not just jumping to activities because we’re guilted into them.

Another one of my main discoveries has been that Christians’ hearts are redeemed, and therefore, good. We have good desires. Our innermost beings desire and delight in God. We are holy and righteous in our hearts because the Holy Spirit dwells there. Christ reigns in our hearts. But there is this thing still living in the rest of our bodies called sin. We therefore still commit sins. In that sense, you can say that we are still sinful. But in our innermost beings, we are no longer sinful because of Christ’s presence. Think about it: Christ literally dwells inside of us (a point which the Bible makes very clear) but since He is holy, He could not do that if our hearts were wicked and evil. But since Christ does dwell inside of us, the only possibility is that our hearts are good.

I am by no means a theologian and there is much a biblical scholar understands that I do not. But these realizations have been proven in my own experience (and others’) and have brought me immense freedom and joy in my relationship with God. Without these truths, Christianity is just based on a bunch of events (the cross) and we have no hope for ever growing in our resemblance to Christ. I truly believe that an intimate relationship with God and our redeemed nature are fundamental truths, without which our experience of God will be drastically limited.

There is a mentality among God-fearing Christians that the more we are aware of our sins, the more we glorify God. I whole-heartedly reject that thinking. I agree that the more we know God, the more we will be aware of our sin – the contrast between our depravity and God’s holiness will be increasingly obvious the more we see of God. I also agree that God is glorified when we know and are satisfied in Him. But to seek to know our sin more in order that we may more glorify God is masochism. Believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve been so confronted with my sin that I thought to myself, “If this is what the rest of my life is going to be like as a Christian, I don’t want it.” And I know that I barely even skimmed the surface of how sinful I really am.

Perhaps for those who struggle with self-righteousness and thinking that they’re actually doing pretty good at the Christian life, reminding themselves of their sin is helpful. It keeps them humble and in recognition of their need for a Savior. But there is another kind of person. A person who tends to be self-condemning, to lament who they are, and to feel like they can never do anything right. Reminding this person of how sinful they are is only putting salt in the wound. It is not helpful. Additionally, reminding that person that their self-loathing is just another form of pride is not helpful either. It is kicking them while they’re down.

The antidote to self-loathing, rather, is being reminded of God’s love, His infinite, abounding, overflowing love for people who are broken and needy. This, too, is part of the gospel. Only when the self-loathing person sees how very loved they are by God, can they see that their efforts to “be good enough” were a form of pride . But you can’t start there. This person needs to know that God is on their side because of Christ’s death, that they do have the power to change because of Christ’s resurrection, and that they are assisted daily, moment by moment by the Holy Spirit living inside of them. There is hope. There is victory. They don’t have to dwell in despair over who they are naturally.

But the self-loathing person doesn’t seem to be addressed much when talking about the gospel. Usually, the gospel truth goes something like this, “You are more sinful than you ever imagined, but you are more loved than you ever dreamed.” I agree with that statement. But while there are many, many sermons at my church on how sinful we are, all the different ways we are led astray, and what we need to do to fight for holiness, and there are some sermons on God’s love as demonstrated on the cross in forgiving our sins, I haven’t heard many sermons on how God’s love enables us to live differently. And not just the idea of God’s love (as in, I’m reminding myself that God loves me and as such, I change my behavior), but God’s love living and active inside of me, accomplishing in me what I cannot do for myself.

I’m basing these statements on my current church, not Christian churches in general. So it probably comes as no surprise that I am becoming more and more discontent with our church and its teaching. At first, I felt like the preaching just wasn’t that challenging. But I chalked it up to having become a Christian listening to John Piper preach, so most preaching would be a step down from that (because Piper is a very gifted preacher). But now, I am flat-out disagreeing with what our church is teaching. I don’t think that they’re blaspheming or teaching another gospel. I just think that their focus on our depravity isn’t helpful to everyone – but they hold that it is.

I also feel like in the challenges they issue us from the pulpit, they’re in a way assuming that we’re living half-heartedly for God. That we’re dabbling in known sin on the side, or letting sin run rampant, or keeping areas of our lives separate from our relationship with God. And I hate to say it, but I think there are a number of Christians in our church who are doing those very things. Like I said earlier, this mystifies me. Why the apathy and indifference? Why are we fooling about with the things of this world, making mud pies in the slums, when we have been offered a holiday at the sea? I dare say I’ve discovered my passion: to see apathetic Christians desiring God with every fiber of their being.

I don’t want to be an argumentative, divisive Christian and I do believe that our church still has some good things going for it. So I don’t necessarily feel called to move on. But I am interested in investigating other God-fearing, biblically sound churches in our area, just to see what other pastors are preaching. How do other people approach living the Christian life? What do other people think about reminding ourselves of sin as motivation for loving God and a basis for glorifying God?

What do you think about all this?



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