Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Religion and the Gospel

Table of Contents

This morning I was reading Chaos and Grace by Mark Galli and I stumbled upon a quote that at first delighted me with its truth, but then convicted me with its blatant honesty.  The quote, which I have included below, seems very “friendly” at first, calling out those who are caught up in religion and hiding from the piercing power of the gospel.  It is only once I realized how much like “them” I am that his real message was conveyed to me.

As we read the New Testament, we are reminded time and time again that the gospel isn’t about making life safe and orderly, but entails the risk of following Jesus.  It is not about improving people, but about killing them and then creating them anew.  It’s not about helping people make space for spirituality in their busy lives, but about a God who would obliterate our private space and fill it with himself.  The gospel is not about getting people to cooperate with God in making the world a better place -- to give it a fresh coat of paint, to remodel it.  Instead it announces God’s plan to raze the present world order build something new.
     How often do I search for a life that is safe and orderly while running from Christ?  How easy is it for me to compare my spiritual maturity to others, rather than allowing the Spirit to kill my pride and grow a new heart in me?  How regularly do I fret about not having the time to focus on improving my walk with God while never surrendering a single moment of the time that I choose to devote to more "important" things?  How often do I buy into the lies of the world and the foolishness of its philosophy, without ever considering (much less proclaiming) the transformative reality of the gospel?  How much of my life is devoted to making sure my "religion" is separated from how I really want to live my life?
     While considering these questions is a great exercise in humility, it can quickly lead to guilt and shame.  Exposing one's sin is certainly beneficial, but done separate from the gospel can be fatal.  Instead of relinquishing ourselves from the power of a "works based" mentality, we end up isolating ourselves from God's love, gaining only a stronger desire to gain His affection.  This downward spiral only leads us away from grace and rejects the gospel.  I do not intend to say that a life following religious discipline is bad, but rather reiterate the point Galli makes: The gospel isn't about making Christians (or the world they live in) "better", rather it is about exposing the gap between ourselves and God while exposing the truth about how big Christ's work on the cross was in bridging that gap.
     Today I also read part of an interview of Tullian Tchividjian.  In it he describes the ways Christians add things to gospel in order to gain control of our lives.  He finishes with the following questions: 

“What is the one thing, or things, that if God were to take away from me, I’d feel like I don’t want to live anymore? What am I functionally depending on to make me feel like I matter?
That’s the something that I’m enslaved to–the something that might be ok to enjoy, but not to worship.”
     We all find it difficult to accept God's unconditional love and to surrender control of our lives to Him.  Whether we use relationships, success, authority, or a host of other enjoyable gifts from God to maintain some semblance of order in our lives, the Holy Spirit will eventually break us of these "additions to the gospel."  In the Gospel alone can we find the grace to stand on.  

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