Thursday, January 12, 2012

Victorious Christianity Loses

"In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us..."  1 John 4:18

I woke up this morning with a tight ball of anxiety in my chest.  I wanted to pull up the sheets, curl up and escape all the worries of the day.  I'm feeling depressed, out of my element and not up to the challenges of the day.

It's on mornings like this that I need to hear the core goodness of the gospel, that I am a sinner who is loved, forgiven and reconciled to God.  I don't need to hear what I heard on the radio later in the morning, "Dear friends, if your life doesn't look any different now as a Christian, you need to examine you heart and see if you are truly God's child."  Thanks!

If I'm honest with myself I often feel as if my life is no different.  And I know I'm not the only one.  Measuring my levels of sinfulness on a human scale gets me absolutely nowhere.

"Victorious Christianity" beats a very dead rhythm on the over-stretched drum of my heart (sorry about the mixed metaphor).  Thud, thud, thud it goes.  And I can't help but think, is the gospel really about personal victory over sin, self-examination and moralistic and trite sound-bites for the broken?

I know it's not and I had a meeting this morning that reminded me it's not.  The gospel is that God is alive and working, working in the lives of the desperate and needy, continually calling us onward, moving us forward into real life, precisely because we are needy, frightened, worried, discouraged and helpless.  We need God.  Any victory we have is from God.

The gospel is hope for the sinner.  Real sinners who really sin. Repeatedly. Over and over.  People like me who consciously say, "No God, I'm not going to obey, I want this more."

Does the gospel encourage sin?  No.  Does it have tons of passages about obeying God's commands, yes.  Even the verse above is preceded by "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love."  But even there it's about knowing God and not "sin management" as I've recently heard it referred to.

I think I'm right in concluding that the good news of the gospel story is not that we become better people, it's that we become part of God's family.  The gospel is what I quoted above.  It's about God's unfailing steadfast love that's poured out on a rebellious and stubborn people.

It's also true that you can stiff-arm God.  You can say that you want nothing to do with him and his forgiveness and love.  But God rescues those who cry to him for help (no matter how many times) and he welcomes them into the family.  And last time I checked, once we're part of the family, it's not our job to figure out if we're a child or not.

"May those who seek you rejoice and be glad in you!  May those who love your salvation say evermore, 'God is great!'  But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God!  You are my help and my deliverer;  O LORD, do not delay!"  - Psalm 70:5

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