Take some time this weekend and listen to this lecture by my dear friend, Rod Rosenbladt: "The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church."
Often, when a sports team is losing and the game is almost over, fans will start to head for the exits. Sometimes they want to beat the traffic home, but often, they're just disgusted with the way the game is going and can't watch any more. It's interesting to note the human movement: when the team seems sure to lose, the people move away, literally leaving the arena. If a miracle happens, and the team looks like it might win, they come streaming back.
The very public "break-up" between The Gospel Coalition and me weighs heavy on my heart.
We read the story (or hear the sermons) and sing the song and make this whole account about Joshua and how he bravely fought the battle of Jericho and how as a result of his great faith, the walls came tumbling down and he led his people into the Promised Land. And then we turn it into nothing more than a moral lesson. When we read the story of Joshua this way, we demonstrate that we've completely missed the hinge on which this story turns.
Want to know how to read the Old Testament? Here's a quick primer: Martin Luther said that everything bad in the Old Testament (and there's a lot) is there to point out our sin, while everything good in the Old Testament is there to point us to our Savior.
I think that most people, when they read the Bible (and especially when they read the Old Testament), read it as a catalog of heroes (on the one hand) and cautionary tales (on the other). Running counter to this idea of Bible-as-hero-catalog, I find that the best news in the Bible is that God incessantly comes to the down-trodden, broken, and non-heroic characters.
A couple months back I wrote about Reader's Digest Christianity, and how it reduced the Christian faith to pithy, easily-achievable goals that ensure our personal improvement. Here, I have a different (though depressingly similar) target: "LiveStrong" Christianity. We've come to believe that the Christian life is a progression from weakness to strength.
My new book, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World, comes out Oct. 1. It is, without question, the most important book I've written to date. My hope and prayer is that God would use it to awaken burdened people (and that's all of us!) to the breathtaking freedom that Jesus secured for sinners like me. Below is a short excerpt that will give you a small taste of the whole.
The area of personal identity is a place where the rubber of grace meets the road of everyday life in an especially palpable way. If an identity based on "works of the law" looks like John Fitzgerald Page, what might one based on the one way love of God?
There are other important things in life that can tell us what kind of person you are: chunky peanut butter, or smooth? Regular cola, or diet? It seems to me that the same is true when it comes to reading the Bible. Do you read the Bible as a helpful tool in your climb up toward moral betterment or as the story of God coming down to broken, sinful people?
The Gospel is not a story of God meeting sinners half-way, of God desperately hoping to find that one righteous man on whom he can bestow his favor. The news is so much better than that.
Contrary to popular assumptions, the Bible is not a record of the blessed good, but rather the blessed bad. That's not a typo. The Bible is a record of the blessed bad. The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; it's a witness to God making it down to the worst people.
Performancism is the mindset that equates our identity and value directly with our performance and accomplishments. The Christian church has sadly not proven to be immune to performancism. Far from it, in fact. In recent years a handful of books have been published urging a more robust, radical, and sacrificial expression of the Christian faith.
I had a few people raise this question: "Once God saves us and the Spirit begins his renewing work in our lives, shouldn't that work of inward renewal become a source of our assurance? Isn't that at least one way we can know we're right before God?"
As I mentioned in my last post, I had the privilege of speaking at the 6th annual Mockingbird Conference in NYC a few weeks ago. Below is my opening talk on the subject of our exhaustion and how God's inexhaustible grace is the only hope for our inescapable weariness.
Long before the recent resurgence of interest in "gospel-centrality", Brennan was a voice calling out in the wilderness–a voice reminding us that we are great sinners but God is a greater Savior.
Urban Meyer's story may be a bit extreme, but perhaps you can relate. Perhaps you had a demanding father or mother, for whom nothing was ever good enough. Perhaps they are long gone but you still hear their voice in your head. Perhaps you have a spouse that never seems to let up with the demand, for whom successes are not really successes; they're simply non-failures.
Of the book, Michael Horton writes, "Aside from a few slogans and provocative quotes, Luther's theology is largely unknown in the land that Bonhoeffer called 'Protestantism without the Reformation.' Christianity in America desperately needs the wisdom and penetrating insight into gospel logic that is winsomely introduced in this rewarding volume." I couldn't agree more.
When talking about "the law," we need to make an important distinction. We can call it big "L" Law and little "l" law. Big "L" law comes from God and is outlined in the Ten Commandments, reiterated in the Sermon on the Mount, and summarized by Jesus as the command to "Love the Lord with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength…and love our neighbor" (of course, one could say more but that's the gist of it). But there's another law (little "l") that plays out in all kinds of ways in daily life.
Thankfully, when it comes to God's grace, there is not even a hint of exchange. No suggestion of payback, or pay it forward. There are no strings attached. Only grace can change a heart and produce law-fulfilling works of mercy, but grace is not dependent on a changed heart or law-fulfilling works of mercy.
The ironic thing about legalism is that it not only doesn't make people work harder, it makes them give up. Moralism doesn't produce morality; rather, it produces immorality.
The gospel announces that it's not on me to ensure that the ultimate verdict on my life is pass and not fail. But doesn't this unconditional declaration generate apathy – an "I don't care" posture toward life?
For every head-scratching page that Robert Capon writes, he pens a a mind-blowingly insightful one. Some of the best paragraphs I've ever read on grace come from Capon. As far as I can tell, he holds some wild ideas about the atonement. So, as with anyone, you have to discern the meat from the bones.
A shift has taken place in the Evangelical church with regard to the way we think about the gospel and it's far from simply an ivory tower conversation. This shift effects us on the ground of everyday life.
This is the year. It all starts now. We resolve to turn over a new leaf–and this time we're serious. What I'm most deeply grateful for is that God's love for me, approval of me, and commitment to me does not ride on my resolve but on Jesus' resolve for me.