The Fight

Ok,

Maybe you are like me and you have gone through the exact same thing that I am about to explain.  I’m swimming in the ocean of God’s grace and the thought hits me; “well, what I am supposed to do about obedience now?”

Like a flood all of the memories of sermons, lectures, principle offices, family meetings, “come to Jesus” moments at Summer Camp and at Marine Boot Camp come rushing in like an under tow.  “You can do better!”  “What is your major malfunction?!”  “What would Jesus do?!” “Remember your promise, promise keeper!” “You bear the name of Christ, Christian!  It’s time to live like it!”  “How can you do this?”  “Not in my house!”  “I am very disappointed in you!”

What on earth do we who have been set free from the Law of sin and of death (Romans 8:2) do with obedience?  I HATE it when I do not obey the Law.  I HATE IT I HATE IT.  It’s like I am in a fight with myself or something.  Which is truer than you think.  The Old Adam verses the New Man in Christ.  It’s like when it hits you that you are not being obedient and you are all like

liar liar 1

You sin that same sin for the umptienth time in 1 week and your inside doing this

liar liar 7

Someone asks you how your spiritual growth is going and you are all like this

liar liar 6

You are failing at this obedience thing big time.  “You?  A Christian?”, you imagine coworkers, family members thinking.   The gospel set you free!  You have grace!  You are no longer bound to and under the Law!  You should be happy and doing better right?  You have joy in the Lord right?  What about your light?  Aren’t you gonna let it shine?  Can’t you finally take that bushel off now, you smoldering wick you?

liar liar 2

Yet there I am, the sad sack of out of shape spiritual fat body.  Feeding on Christ and his bread?  More like feeding on a disobedience filled

full_metal_jacket_jelly_donut

New Years resolutions shot, spiritual growth chart goals gone and I’m right back in the confessional booth like Pre-Tower Experience Martin Luther.

liar liar 5

To really make matters worse, what if you are a preacher who has taught the gospel of God’s grace and unmerited favor all courtesy of Christ’s cross and blood and are now tasked with speaking about the Christian life and Christian obedience on Sunday and right now all you have planned to share on that is

liar liar 3

Well, you are not the only one. Even if you are not preaching on Sunday, maybe you have run into a friend who has asked you the same questions.  Well now that you are a Christian, saved and set free by grace what do you do about obedience?  Feel free to be a fly on the wall reading on the following modified conversation between ummm lets say Cack Zole and Brad Chird

————————————————————————–

Brad,

I have had a few things gnaw on me, to try to tell me that things such as a theology of the cross, grace, Law and Gospel distinctives are ultimately too good to be true.  I have had the pull to question and ask “what about holiness?  what about godliness?”  Are these things not to be pursed for the sake of resting in Christ?”  I fully believe that by faith I have been given the righteousness of Christ.  I have faith that sanctification and any pursuit of anything holy or godly is all Christ doing his work in me.  So it feels very dangerous for me to move towards an emphasis of the intentional and conscious pursuit of holiness and godliness.  I do not trust myself in the pursuit of either and only trust in the hope that Christ is working both in me himself.  I often fall back on Galatians 2:20, that it is not me who is living and doing things that could be counted as “holy, godly, etc” but it is Christ who lives in me….

I find it so very hard and quite honest repulsive to go back to a mindset that produces in me a desire to show that I am approved, to display that I am regenerate, and to be as dismissive as I was when looking through the lens of glory rather than cross…

Is the command to a pursuit of godliness meant to crush to cause us to run to Christ or is it a command for us to try?…

I humbly ask counsel all of this, appreciating and valuing your thoughts and understandings on the matters such as these.  I often have come across moments where deep questions are presented to me in a spirit of “I-believe-that-I-am-right-but-I-am-going-to-ask-a-challenging-question-to-prove-that-you-are-wrong-so-that-I-can-feel-more-pride-in-my-original-stance-and-feel-victory-over-revealing-to-you-how-stupid-you-are.”  I cannot stress enough that this is not the case.  My questions have no motive of quarrel or argument but a genuine thirst for counsel and good news.

Because He Lives,
Cack Zole
————————————————————————–
Good morning Cack,
     You’re caught in tension we all feel in this life as those who are simultaneously saints and sinners, who feel the law at work in us and yet find comfort in the grace of God.
     The call to lead a holy life, to pursue godliness, is nothing more than the demands of the law. Yet these demands are good. The law is not bad. It is given by God to show us the life that he desires for us. Yet, as you well know, as you experience in your daily life, no matter how hard you try, you always fall short of the law’s demands. That’s why we say that the law always accuses. It always finds something in our thoughts, words, deeds, and desires that convicts us. The law will never give us rest. And the law will always kill.
     That’s why the Gospel defines our life. This Gospel not only forgives us, but also fills us with the Holy Spirit, who produces fruits in us of which we may not even be aware. The Gospel is that life of Gal 2:20. We have died (by the law) and it is not longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (by the Gospel). And since Christ lives in us, we are pleasing to God, even if we are not pleasing to ourselves. His righteousness, his life within us, and for us, is all that matters.
     The life of holiness is a gift. You are made holy, your life is made holy, exclusively in Christ. He is your sanctification, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians.
     The struggle between the Old Adam, who is always under the law, and the New Man, who is always free in the the Gospel, is a daily struggle. God is always putting us to death and raising us to life. Every day is Good Friday and Easter for us. It can feel almost schizophrenic at times, pulled this way and that. But above all this is Christ. His opinion of you is all that counts. And he says, “You are holy in me. You are righteous in me. Your are godly in me.”
     The theology of the glory will always take you back to yourself. The theology of the cross will always bring you to Christ. It is the way of life through death, resurrection through crucifixion.
I hope this helps. Blessings to you, brother!
Brad Chird
————————————————————————–

After hearing this Cack was like this

top gun

Man that is good news isn’t?  You are free!  And then leave it at that….Fight the good fight, telling fellow sinners the good news of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Let’s attack licentiousness and sin with more grace so that Fundy’s can always be like

what are you doing

Advertisements

Radical Grace

Radical Grace

A few years ago I read a book by David Platt titled, Radical.  For those who haven’t read it there is a call to take part in something Platt calls the Radical Experiment.  It consists of the following components:

  1. Pray for the entire world;
  2. Read through the entire Word;
  3. Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose;
  4. Spend your time in another context;
  5. Commit your life to a multiplying community (Platt 2010, 183).

I tried to apply most of the components of the experiment in my life and did so with excitement.  I soaked up the message and realized the importance of the call to live radically for God and for others.  I subscribed to the email posts by Operation World as Platt mentions in his final chapter in order to pray for the world (Platt 2010, 189).  It lead me to seek out organizations like Voice of the Martyrs where I have a calendar on my desk that has a prayer for a specific people group and or fellow Christians throughout the world each day.  I am thankful for how God has used Radical in my life to wake me from my realization that modern American Christianity and my perpetuation of its continuance was wrong.

However, I came to learn very quickly that it is easy for me to fail when it comes to following the challenge to live radically for Jesus.  I also learned that I will continue to fail often in trying to hold true to this challenge loyally every day.  I mean I can fake it outwardly and make people think that I am doing it well.  But if my motive in doing so is so that others will think highly of me rather than highly of God, does it not render my efforts as being misguided or even sinful?  If my motive to live radically is so that others or even just myself would see/reflect on the perception of me living radically for God, wouldn’t that be a pursuit to feed my own pride?  If I thought that it would result in making me feel better about myself so that my self-pride could be fed, just like my flesh desires for it to be, would that not be wrong?

Even if that was my motive, I did not get very far.  It was quick to wear me out, leaving me feeling exhausted, wore out, feeling like I had failed God, that He was disappointed in me and that I was willing and understanding to accept whatever punishment or pause on any blessings that He had for me if I had simply remained faithful to Him and to the Radical Experiment.  I tried to do it on my own and it left me feeling hopeless and burned out.

That is where I went about it all wrong.  I tried.  I tried when I was supposed to “die.”  Die daily (1 Corinthians 15:31).  Deny myself, take up my cross and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24).  I tried to do it without resting in the grace and finished work of Jesus (Hebrews 4:1-4).

Because I am in Christ, because I have been covered by God’s grace and the righteousness of Christ; all of my mistakes, failures, sin, misguided attempts at righteous acts with sinful motives have already been consumed and atoned for on the cross by Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Jesus meant it when He said “it is finished (John 19:30).”  I am free to live dangerously following Christ.  Because I am a child of God “there is therefore now no condemnation for” me (Romans 8:1).   When the devil reminds me of who I am without Christ while I am falling and failing miserably making my sad attempt to live the Radical life, I now remind Him of who I am in Christ while resting on Christ who actually did live the Radical life.  My joy no longer hinges on how well or how awful I am doing but hinges on how well Jesus lived His life for me so that it may be imputed and blanketed over me.

Joy that is grounded in what Jesus did cannot be shaken because Jesus lived out life perfectly.  It is the life of Jesus that pleases God.  It is Jesus only who was able to fulfill the law and fulfill all righteousness.  This was the plan all along.  Jesus did this so that the Father might be glorified when out of His love, mercy and grace He offers us this gift of Jesus’ fulfillment of God’s law and fulfillment of all righteousness to us for us to wear like a robe.  Not because we deserve it, but because we don’t deserve it, realize we don’t deserve it and are given the desire by God to ask for it which then leads to it being given to us freely, lovingly, mercifully and gracefully from God.

AND it pleases Him to lavishly coat us in it (check out Ephesians 1 and Luke 12:32).

Do I desire to live radically for Jesus?  Yes of course.  Do I always faithfully live radically for Jesus?  No, I fail often.  I do not look to fail or like it when I do, but I do.  “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:24-25)!”  My joy is in knowing that God knows and knew that I would fall and yet while I was still a sinner Jesus died for me (Romans 5:8).”  I now can live the Radical life without fear and without hesitancy because I take comfort in knowing that Jesus has already lived the Radical life for me.

There is no fear.

There is no anxiety.

There is no burden.

There is no guilt.

There is no shame.

There is no “me.”

There is no “self.”

There is no longer “I.”

There is now no condemnation for me when I desire to please God now because Jesus has done that for me already and has given it to me as a gift of God’s grace.  I have traded the heavy impossible yoke that I was carrying for the yoke of Jesus (Matthew 11:29-30).  The reality that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, has literally changed everything (Galatians 2:20).  Everything.

No

Longer

I

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. 

Galatians 3:10-14, ESV

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17, ESV

 

Reference List

Platt, David.  2010.  Radical.  Colorado Springs: Multnomah.

Radical Obedience

If our only hope is to deny self and rely on Christ for our works we should also deny self and rely on Christ for our faith as well. Physical…spiritual, we have no hope in self only in Christ alone. Radical obedience is great to desire but you will only desire radical obedience if you have been changed by God.

Radical obedience does not secure your salvation. If your motive for obedience is so that God won’t be mad at you then you have a misunderstanding of grace and obedience. You are secure in salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. The only way that anyone has the desire to obey God is if the desire to obey God has been given to them by God. Just as God’s grace was given by God to have faith in His son.

Radical obedience does not beget God’s love and grace. God’s grace and love begets radical obedience. And even in those moments when we fail…they are moments that Jesus already consumed on the cross.

If you are a child of God…God is not mad at you…it really is finished and in fact God loves you and likes you ALOT. So smile, laugh and wallow in God’s joy as you worship His glory.