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How can God expect me to have faith?

Posted on by Glen in evangelism, faith, gospel | Leave a comment

 

cs-lewis-quotes-inspirational-9This week I’m at the University of East Anglia to help the Christian Union with these events. Last night I spoke on the topic “What do Christians actually believe?” Afterwards there was a great question about faith which I answered so badly I thought I’d have another go on the blog. Here’s what I wish I’d said…

How can God expect us to have faith? It seems so uncertain.

We all live by faith. Whether we are Muslims, Christians, atheists, agnostics, we all live by faith. I mean this in at least two ways.

First of all, we all must trust the testimony of others. Only a small fraction of my knowledge has been attained through direct observation, scientific experimentation or mathematical proof. For the rest, I’ve been told it. Teachers have told me, books have told me, journalists have told me, my parents have told me. I can have all sorts of rigorous standards which I expect these sources to adhere to. But I simply cannot personally fact-check everything I’m told. I have to take it on faith.

I once made this point in a conversation and the other guy said “No, you can check your knowledge scientifically and if you don’t, it’s not certain knowledge.” I said “I can’t scientifically assess the truth claims of my wife.” He said “Yes you can.” I said “No I can’t. If I seek to falsify each of my wife’s statements (falsification being at the heart of the scientific method) I wouldn’t have a wife to assess!!” The scientific method is great for some truth claims but by no means all!

Nonetheless there are things that I know apart from such investigations (i.e. that my wife loves me, that she is trustworthy, that she has always been called “Emma”, that she is beautiful, that she is “right” for me, that she exists, that this world exists, etc, etc!)

So that’s the first point. So much of our knowledge comes to us in ways other than direct observation / scientific experimentation / mathematical proof. We live most of our lives by the testimony of others. In other words we live by faith.

There’s a second sense in which we live by faith. We all have a view of the world that depends on larger commitments to truth, beauty, goodness, etc. You might object and say “I don’t have any larger commitments. I am completely neutral as I build my view of the world from the ground up.” But then I’ll ask you, “Why do you do it that way?” At that point you’ll have to justify that particular method of interpretation and this will reveal a worldview that precedes and shapes your approach to the world. It’s inescapable. None of us can say “Just the facts ma’am, just the facts.” Even that turns out to be a kind of worldview. Everyone has commitments of the heart and mind that go deeper than the facts.

Here is the Christian worldview in a 5 minute animation:

Here we find a God who is before, behind and beyond this world. There is a Father loving His Son in the joy of the Spirit (find out more here). This personal, good, truthful, beautiful, loving God is the ground of all being. From this God comes everything else and we are intended to participate in the life of this personal, truthful, beautiful, loving God.

Jesus came as the expression of God lived out in our humanity. He took on Himself the consequences of our vicious, wicked, lying, ugly, hatefulness and then rose up from the dead to offer us His kind of life. Connection to Him puts us in touch with what is most deeply true about reality: that there is Goodness, Truth and Beauty bound together in love. In other words, Jesus reconciles us to God.

This is the framework from which Christians view the world. And I’d like to suggest that it makes sense of reality in a way that no other view does. Here we have a very high regard for truth. We will want to assess the world rationally and rigourously. But we also see that there is a personal, an ethical and an aesthetic dimension to truth that must be explored too. Beneath and beyond the axioms of mathematics and the findings of science, there is love. Here in the Christian view is a grounding for our dearest intuitions – that personal relationships are what’s most important.

We all live as though love is the greatest reality. Only the Christian can ground that intuition in something deeper than wishful thinking. The atheist does not have love as the ultimate reality. The theist-in-general does not have a God who is essentially love (since a single-person God cannot be love). It is Christianity that actually gives to the world a pair of spectacles that brings the world into proper focus.

Christian faith is about adopting these spectacles (rather than any other).

If the question is “Why does God expect us to have faith?”, the answer is: Everyone has faith. What God wants is for us to have the sort of faith that actually fits us, fits the world, fits ultimate reality. He says “See the world like this. Doesn’t that make sense of you, me and everything else?”

C.S. Lewis said this: “‘I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen. Not only because I can see it but because by it I can see everything else.”’

This is another way (a much clearer and more succinct way!) of saying the same thing. You can get to grips with the sun in two ways. You can look at it (carefully!) but you can also look at everything else in its light. Both kinds of looking establish the reality of the sun.

The same is true of Jesus (who, incidentally, claimed to be the Light of the world, John 8:12). We can look at Jesus to see this God of love walk the earth. Here is something we can investigate and I urge you to do just that. Pick up one of the four biographies we have of His life, read, pray, chat it through with others. This is what it means to “look at the sun.” At the same time we can look around at a world which Jesus illuminates. You can say to yourself “Could it be true that the Jesus-God is the deepest reality in this world? Could it be true that His kind of truth, beauty, goodness and love are what’s ultimate in the world?”

When you put the two together you have a “Sun” that accounts for the sparkle. You have an Explanation for the light that we prize in this world.

As I look back at my conversion I see these two things going on. On the one hand I was reading the Gospels and in them encountering the unmistakable Light of Jesus. It got to the point where I could no more deny that He was Lord than that I could deny that the sun was bright. There is something self-authenticating about the Light of the world – He recommends Himself just by the force of His own compelling personality. At the same time though, I was listening to the Blues Brothers on repeat: Everybody needs somebody to love. It was striking me forcefully that love was the deepest reality in the universe. And all of a sudden these two things came together: I saw a sparkle in the world and I had found a Sun to explain it. There’s a word to describe this kind of eureka moment: faith!

Why does God expect us to have faith? Everyone has faith. But which faith actually fits? I’d urge you to pick up the Gospels, shoot up a prayer and say “God, if you’re there, shine!” See if the Jesus you meet there doesn’t make sense of everything. It’s worth a shot, don’t you think?

 

Angry Evangelism

Posted on by Glen in evangelism, gospel, ministry, preaching | 3 Comments

Angry-PreacherI’ve come across far too many angry evangelists for this to be a coincidence. Out we go, door-knocking, flyering a uni campus or getting into conversations on the streets. (I’m a believer in first contact evangelism so I’m often doing this kind of thing (see here and here).)

Almost always these are two-by-two scenarios, so there I am with a fellow evangelist and we get chatting to someone about Jesus. Within 90 seconds my partner is agitated. This happens all the time. Maybe the non-Christian is showing scant regard for the importance of their own soul. Maybe they’re denying their inherent sinfulness. Maybe they have the temerity to question certain gospel events. But pretty soon the non-Christian turns out to have actual non-Christian views and my Christian partner gets antsy.

Suddenly the Christian turns the conversation towards the conviction of sin, the inevitability of death, the judgement to come etc, etc. All of these have their place – absolutely – but I often wonder whether these are raised out of frustration and the desire to sledge-hammer a way through a conversation that hasn’t gone as planned. I don’t think I’m imagining it. I think that there are a lot of angry evangelists out there. And not just “out there”.

I still remember (with more than a wince) a carols service I preached at 12 years ago. Workers piled into our central London church for a lunchtime sing-song and some mince pies. I vividly recall drawing attention to the carol before my talk: “Do you realise what you’ve just sung? O Come Let Us Adore Him. Adore Him? Such praise of Jesus! Doesn’t that turn your English stomachs?” Yes I used that phrase: “Your English stomachs.” *sigh* I can still picture the looks, the shifting in the pews, the ultra-awkward festive refreshments afterwards.

I was trying to draw attention to the person of Jesus – how incredible that billions would sing adoration to Him even after all these years. But what came out was anger, snarkyness, frustration, superiority. Ugly stuff.

I see this kind of thing quite a bit. Christmas and Easter services are prime examples. The preacher is often found saying: “And where have you been the other 50 Sundays of the year??” with their tone if not their words.

What’s going on?

Several reasons might be given for a Christian’s angry evangelism:

  • a failure to grasp the gospel (we don’t see it as good news, so we put all our focus on “hard truths”)
  • a failure to grasp the nature of evangelism (we think of it as delivering an ultimatum rather than the offer of Christ).
  • a failure to grasp the bondage of the will (that the unregenerate “cannot see” 2 Cor 4:4)
  • a failure to have any non-Christian friends (such that non-Christians genuinely surprise and threaten us).
  • plain old self-righteousness.

I think these are going on all the time in evangelists, in evangelical pulpits and, let’s face it, in me. And it’s ugly.

But let me here draw attention to something else going on. Essentially it’s a view of evangelism that sees humanity as standing on either side of a “decision for Jesus.”

Slide1

Now there certainly is a vital distinction between those in Christ and those who are not. But this kind of evangelism revolves around, not Christ, but the decision.

On this understanding an “evangelistic sermon” is not so much a sermon full of the good news. It’s a sermon imploring non-Christians to make a decision. Such preaching makes Christians feel bored (because they’ve already made the decision) and non-Christians feel got-at (because the preacher is clearly not addressing their own flock but taking aim at the visitors).

Let me suggest a far more important line that should define our preaching. This line is between the “life of heaven” and the “life of earth” – between God’s righteousness and our sin.

Slide2

Only one Person stands on the right side of this line. Only Jesus. The rest of us – Christians and non-Christians – are on the wrong side of His story. In evangelistic preaching then, we don’t speak over the heads of Christians to hit our real targets – the unwashed. We speak to the children of Adam and reveal the problems of Adam. These problems are common to all, but praise God, there’s a solution for all. Jesus is the “life of heaven”, He is God’s righteousness and He’s made available to all. Christians need Him and need to look to Him constantly (not just in a one off salvation-moment). Non-Christians too need Him and need to look to Him for the first time. But the problems addressed are the problems of all and the solution proclaimed is available to all.

But what does preaching look like on that first paradigm…

Slide3

Someone from the right side of the line condescends to preach to those below. And the essence of their message is an “arrow up” – it’s an exhortation to make a salvation decision (the way that the preacher has already).

So preaching comes from on high and it’s message is for those below to make their way up. Not so on the second model…

Slide4

Here the preacher is on the side of the hearers – part of the same problem but also offered the same solution. And so this is the essence of the message: arrow-down! In the law, heaven does indeed stand above us and condemn us. What is revealed from heaven is, first, the wrath of God (Romans 1:18ff). But this wrath is revealed to all humanity and convicts all alike of sin. “But now a righteousness from God has been revealed” (Romans 3:21). Here comes the gospel and, once again, it is arrow-down as Christ is offered to lost sinners.

Christians need this gospel. Non-Christians need this gospel. No-one should feel superior. Everyone is humbled. No-one should feel uniquely “got at”. Everyone is lavishly “given to.” What place does anger have on this understanding.

But what understanding do we have? And how does it shape our preaching?

 

How to win the world

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, culture, evangelism, gospel | 8 Comments

Jesus_washing_Peter's_feetYesterday I led a seminar on equipping Christians for evangelism. I opened up with a quiz to figure out where people were coming from. This is the quiz:

Here are four pairs of statements. Both sentences in each pair make good and honourable points, but if you had to choose, which would you lean towards…

A. Evangelism is about finding connections with what the world already believes.
B. Evangelism is about telling a very different story

A. Evangelism is more like leading people along stepping stones.
B. Evangelism is more like inviting people into an unfamiliar world

A. People’s stated objections to faith should be answered as asked with careful consideration.
B. We assume that, most often, questions are excuses because the questioner doesn’t want to believe?

A. Our goal is cultural transformation and being taken seriously by the powers that be.
B. We are content to be an unimpressive church of nobodies.

I lean towards B in each of these pairs. I hear the concerns of A but I think we give the world better than they ever dared believe when we first tell a different story. We lead people on in the faith by proclaiming the strange new world of the Bible. We address questioners best when we see beneath their questions. And we transform culture by being a cross-shaped community, unconcerned for worldly power.

Both A and B reflect good and honourable truths, so in one sense it’s a false dichotomy to get people to choose. On the other hand we do need to choose the way we pursue these things. And I say we take the hit by leading with B, all the while trusting that this is God’s path towards A. In other words I think the way to get the glory which everyone wants is through suffering. The way to resurrection is through the cross.

Here’s something that interested me. On three of these questions the room was split between A and B. I think A probably won each of the rounds but on one question A got 99% of the room and B got a couple of sheepish hold-outs. Which question? Number 4 – about cultural transformation. Everyone wants to shape culture and be taken seriously by the powers that be. No-one wants to be an unimpressive church of nobodies.

It seems to me, though, that God’s power and wisdom are vindicated precisely in a weak and foolish looking cross and a weak and foolish looking church (1 Corinthians 1:17-31). This cruciformity does indeed carry God’s power and wisdom and so will have a truly spiritual, transformational impact. But there’s a shape to that transformation – down and then up. Are we prepared to go that path? Are we prepared to be unimportant? Are we prepared to look foolish – nuts even – before the world. I was surprised yesterday to see how few people were prepared to identify as unimpressive and how many preferred to be ‘culture shapers.’

Maybe though, as the last vestiges of cultural power are being stripped from us, there is an opportunity for fruitful evangelism. Maybe if we embrace the “weak and foolish” label which the world is giving us rather than insisting on our own wisdom and credibility, we can truly walk the way of the cross. Maybe we’ll actually reach the world when we stop trying to do so with our own impressiveness. Maybe we should stop demanding ‘a seat at the table’ and instead pick up a towel to serve.

“But people will think we’re stupid, inconsequential servants!”

Exactly! Genius isn’t it?

Hypocrisy – a Sermon on Matthew 23

Posted on by Glen in gospel, sermons | Leave a comment

h-is-for-hypocrisyWe try to look good in the presence of judgement => hypocrisy.

The gospel means looking bad in the presence of love => healing.

AUDIO


SCRIPT

 

I Gave My Life To Jesus: spoken word video

Posted on by Glen in pastoral theology | 11 Comments

 

More Spoken Word

 

I gave my life to Jesus about a thousand times,
At teenage shrines of rare experience,
They’d blare Delirious then dare obedience,
I’d swear allegiance, soul-bared and serious,
Each prayer more daring than the previous.

On stage, the preacher saw we staunch hard core,
who flocked to the fore to knock, knock knock on heaven’s door.
He claimed salvations like he was keeping score.
Yet none were sure but he…
And none doubted more than me.

So I prayed again, to firm cement it,
Making sure I really meant it.
Vowed my life to be amended,
Willed my all to dust descended,
Gave my heart to be expended.
Then when all my prayers were ended…
Nothing, but my self lamented…
Oh I pretended all was mended and extended lifted hands
But within I could not understand:
What more could He demand?

I gave my life to Jesus a thousand different ways,
No single day would pass without this act.
I would contract to yield my every part,
To make one more fresh start,
To be more set apart,
And in return I’d yearn for Him to impart the merest trace
of grace into my heart.

I gave my life to Jesus, though faith continued flagging,
though doubts were ever nagging, zeal sagging
dragging down to duty’s basement.
But at least I had my bracelet!
O dear bracelet, give me strength anew.
The bracelet counseled: What Would Jesus Do?
And to answer all I could think was that He would sink
to His knees in passioned pleas,
like at Gethsemane.
And with almighty self-surrender,
there He rendered ALL to God who, silent, let Him fall.

So what should I do?
I too would heed that call,
and likewise sprawl before the Splendor.

This crawl became my pattern,
each new day I’d flatten self
before the Lord, pressed down to gain reward
that never came. But all the same I’d call.

And all the while the preachers told me
“Give control, not part, but wholly,
Give your heart, your life, your all.”
But rarely do I recall
Being told what He gave, my Lord to save.
Except… they slipped it in… to conscript us they gripped us
With “Jesus whipped, our Saviour stripped,
the blood it dripped from the cross,” but they ripped it from it’s gospel frame
To say “Now YOU. YOU DO THE SAME.”
And thus Christ’s offering was flipped, we were guilt tripped
by the very act that saved us.
So it was engraved, instilled:
The cross was a standard unfulfilled by us.
Oh but we’d try, my how we’d try, we’d bow the knee and bear the load,
It was the very least we owed.

I gave my life to Jesus… but somewhere down the road I slid,
my faith undid even amid my church, my prayers,
even as I bid for heaven’s care,
beneath the lid, the venom hid.
I was your youth group’s keenest kid,
But no-one hated God more than I did.

With Him it’s just take, take, take, there’s no break,
His thirst for blood who can slake?
At least vampires get you just once,
But this God held perpetual hunts.

I gave my life to Jesus but I guess it was no good.
I did what I could to appease Him,
but no pleasing seemed probable,
So this elder brother turned prodigal.

And I could chronicle the years headed east.
A far country unpoliced,
It was a famine disguised as a feast,
A pig-sty passed off as release.

But there… at the end of the track, with life out of whack when all was pitch black…
THERE – what brought me back?

THIS BOOK.
Cos THIS BOOK, as I read, didn’t say what they said,
To those with bowed heads, under piety’s dread, by their leaders misled,
THIS BOOK said: REPENT and BELIEVE the GOOD NEWS.
The KINGDOM of God is at hand.
There He stands in your stead,
your King lifts your head,
He has shouldered your dread,
arms outstretched till they bled.

As I read, I met HIM: the Father’s sheer Gift,
now offered to lift us from cowering,
The feeble empowering,
The filthy clean showering,
the lowly now towering in Him.

So that night on His knees? Gethsemane’s pleas?
Those prayers they were said for me.
Cos I am not Jesus there in the garden, begging for pardon,
I’m Peter.
Despite all my boasts, I’m asleep at my post,
And Jesus does it all for me.

Can you give your life to Jesus? Talk about cart before horse.
Can we resource the Source who flows like a river
He is the Giver and we just receive, that’s what it means to believe.

So I’ll leave an appeal. To the preachers who feel
that they must stir up zeal, then let it be His we reveal.

You say “Give your heart”
This says “Christ is the donor”

You say “Yield your life”
This says “He was always the owner”

You say “Get on fire.”
This says “You are the Light.”

You say “Keep running to God.”
This says “Walk in Christ.”

You say “Dare to be a missional, intentional, incarnational, contextualised, no-compromise, counter-cultural, radical, red-letter, fully-devoted, disciple.”
This says “Follow.”

You say “Get hungry for God.”
This says “Take, eat, swallow.”

You say “Press into God”
This says “You’re hidden in Christ”

You say “Be a world changer”
This says “Lead a quiet life.”

You say “Surrender all.”
This says “You’re not your own.”

You say “Step up to the plate”,
This says “You’re raised to the throne.”

You say “Burn out”
This says “Shine”

You say “Work on your relationship with Jesus.”
This says “I am my beloved’s and He is mine.”

Folks, look at the book and unhook from this wearisome, will-driven view
Stop giving your life to Jesus, He’s the Giver delivered for you.

More Spoken Word

Original Sin: What’s not to like?

Posted on by Glen in 321, evangelism, gospel, pastoral theology, sin | 4 Comments

Original sin is a bit of a passion of mine (committed sin too but in a different way). I bang the ‘original sin’ drum in posts like these:

The Good News of Being Condemned Already

Original Sin (for the Evangelists Podcast)

The Importance of Adam

I’d love to see a proper renaissance of this teaching in our evangelism. Unfortunately Christians shy away from it for several reasons – not least a loss of confidence in the historical Adam. But let me leave that to one side and here sketch out three good reasons our culture ought to resonate with original sin and then address three dumb reasons why it really doesn’t.

Three Reasons Our Culture Should Love Original Sin

It’s holistic

We all know that we’re perishing physically. We’re born into a terminal condition called life. The Christian faces the fact that we are whole persons. We refuse to believe in a divorce between our physical state and our moral/spiritual state. We’re born perishing – that’s just a fact. There’s no need to appeal to some other magical realm where we remain pristine and virtuous. Original sin treats us as whole people – dying on the outside, dying on the inside.

It’s communal

Yes we live in an insanely individualistic age but actually the language of community is hugely prized. We’re in this thing together. That’s what original sin says: We’re all in the same boat. No use pointing at the bad folks over there. I am them and they are me and we’re all in a mess. Original sin levels the playing field and brings us together in the same place – a place of authenticity…

It’s authentic

These days authenticity plays really well. If you can fake this you’ve got it made. Well here’s a doctrine that says we’ve all got deep, deep issues. And no-one can claim an exemption. Nobody’s perfect. Here is the death of all judgmentalism – no-one has achieved a different class of moral existence. All those religious types who think they’re better than others are, beyond question, hypocrites. Original sin says we’re all the black sheep of the family, so let’s stop pretending to be ‘on the side of the angels.’

Having said all this, here are Three Reasons Our Culture Hates Original Sin

We think we’re immortal (The myth of limitless potential)

Modern westerners are in complete denial about our creaturely limitations. We spend our lives seeking to avoid and reverse our mortality. Actually we don’t face our physical perishing so it’s no wonder we can’t face our spiritual perishing either.

We think we’re islands (The myth of individualism)

For all our talk of community, our doctrine of humanity is thoroughly individualistic. I might like to get together with others, but it’s my personal desire here that’s important. I’m a community kinda guy. That’s how roll. When the community starts making claims on me, I cool off big time. When you start telling me of my corporate identity and responsibility, I’m likely to get pretty offended.

We think our decisions make us free (The myth of choice)

It’s so incredibly stupid and enslaving and obviously untrue but we are captivated by the idea that we create our own identity through the exercise of our personal choices. I know, I know – the multiplication of choices mostly ends up paralysing us (see, for eg, this TED talk on the Paradox of Choice) but still the mythology persists. And the  slogan “it’s your decision” is so overwhelmingly persuasive it seems impossible to counteract.

But…

Let’s keep holding out the holistic, communal, authentic side of this message and let’s keep chipping away at the delusions we tell ourselves: that we’re immortal; that we stand alone; that we create ourselves. Let’s point out our mortality and our limits. Let’s highlight the failures of individualism. Let’s spotlight the slaveries we bring on ourselves precisely when we make our bold choices.

And all the while, our goal is not to burden people under the conviction of sin but to awaken them to the reality we all face. The whole point is to wake up the world to the obvious: we’re sick. To embrace this truth is not our damnation, it’s our salvation. For Jesus did not come for the healthy but the sick. He did not come to call the limitless, individualistic self-creators but only original sinners.

Everyone Knows: It’s the Cross or Hell

Posted on by Glen in Cross, evangelism, gospel | Leave a comment

Broken BreadThe adultery bomb goes off in a marriage. What next? It’s the cross or hell. Either there is the giving up of rights – in repentance and forgiveness – or there is the standing on rights, and it’s hell.

Nation wars against nation. What next? Either there’s surrender / reconciliation or a never-ending cycle of violence. It’s the cross or hell.

An argument starts: harsh words stir up anger. What next? Either a gentle word turns away wrath or the wrath spirals on. Proverbs 15:1.

It’s the cross or hell.

This is not a feature of certain conservative theologies – it’s a fact of everyday existence. In every walk of life the making of peace involves a swallowing of pride – a wrath-bearing sacrifice if you will. Without this “cross”, it’s “hell”. If we are at all aware of a sin problem, we become aware of the desperate need for costly atonement.

Some Christians shy away from the language of hell, wrath and sacrifice. Who believes in such things these days? Well, sinners do. People who understand the world and who understand their hearts – they get the need for blood and fire. If we ditch those concepts we become less able to reach the culture, not more.

Short Sermon on Matthew 3

Posted on by Glen in gospel, sermons, trinity | Leave a comment

The Sermon features 12 minute sermons from some wonderful preachers. Check it out.

They’ve also let me on. Here’s the first to be released: Jesus’ Baptism

 

 

Intimacy with God – on Union Theology

Posted on by Glen in gospel, mediation of Christ, recommendations, union with Christ | Leave a comment

WEST-Union-Slider

Do you know about Union Theology? It’s a very exciting development offering theological resources and, soon, theological education too. Here’s Mike Reeves explaining the rationale.

On their new website there are some wonderful resources, have a look around. I’ve also sneaked on with a paper about intimacy with God. Here are the headings and questions for consideration to give you a feel for the paper:

The God of Intimacy:

Do you see God as enjoyable; as worth knowing?

Does it help to know God as a Father pouring infinite Spiritual blessings onto his Son?

 

The Way of Intimacy

Is intimacy something you’re trying to achieve or receive?

How would your pursuit of intimacy change to know it’s a gift that is yours in Christ?

 

The Basis of Intimacy

Meditate on the various portraits of one-ness listed above – which speak to you most strongly?

Is it possible you’ve ever sought “intimacy” instead of Christ? What’s the difference?

 

The Purchase of Intimacy

Is Christ’s blood atonement at the heart of your idea of divine intimacy?

How is your approach to God changed, knowing that it comes through the death of Jesus?

 

The Shape of Intimacy

Have you known “fellowship in suffering”?

What might the God of intimacy be up to in the midst of your current sins, suffering and service?

 

The High Priest of our Intimacy

If you knew Christ was praying for you in the next room, how would it change your experience of intimacy?

What difference does it make to know that, in heaven, Jesus prays for you now?

 

The Experience of Intimacy

What place does church have in your relationship with God?

How can you enjoy God and serve others in your local church family?

 

The Promise of Intimacy

What place does Christ’s return have in your pursuit of intimacy?

How can you cultivate more of that future hope?

 

READ

We Do NOT Balance Licence and Legalism

Posted on by Glen in creative, gospel, My videos, poetry, sanctification, videos | 11 Comments

Here’s the poem I wrote last week performed:

Let me explain some of my thinking…

In the first kingdom everything is framed in transactional terms. There is a reward for the girl and, naturally, people want to talk about the terms and conditions. So there is a battle between legalism and licence: give the girl too much and she’ll spend it on prodigal living. Impose too many terms and she’s little more than a slave.

And so a debate ensues. One side may want the goodies given freely, no strings attached. The other side wants the girl to prove how serious she is about royal living.

These debates can get tiresome. But the worst development of all is the person who stands up claiming to have discovered the optimal payment structure – not too strict, not too liberal. These sanctification Goldilockses are just right – balancing license and legalism with their perfectly measured pastoral pronouncements.

But the answer is NOT to balance licence and legalism. The solution to this problem does not lie in between these errors. We need to come out of this transactional kingdom and enter the realm of gracious union. If we miss union with Christ, we miss everything, and we will be doomed to ping-pong back and forth between “grace” and “holiness” – as though those things were extremes to be avoided!

In Christ’s kingdom, He marries His wicked bride – freely giving her His righteousness, graciously taking on Himself her sins. She offers Him nothing. He gives her everything.

And in that utterly gracious union, she finds herself both captive and crowned. She has a new Lord forevermore. And she has new freedoms she could never have imagined. Both. At the same time.

The bride now has everything – but not apart from her Lord. In her Lord she is free and she’s possessed. In her Lord she is freely forgiven and given a new life. In her Lord, she is loved in spite of all sin and she’s claimed for royal living.

If you take your eyes off your gracious Lord, you might celebrate the security of your wedding ring – surrounding you no matter what your behaviour. On the other hand, you might emphasize the seriousness of your wedding vows – binding upon you at all times. But neither focus is the Scriptural one. Look at Jesus – freely given to you in all your sin, fully possessing you for all your life.

Don’t balance licence and legalism. They’re both errors and the answer is not in between. In Christ we are both captive and crowned.

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