Tullian Tchividjian, an amazing pastor and gift to the church posted this. I had to re-post. Let me know what you think...

In his book How People Change (co-authored with Tim Lane), Paul Tripp identifies seven counterfeit gospels– ways we try and “justify” or “save” ourselves apart from the gospel of grace. I found these unbelievably helpful. Which one (or two, or three) of these do you tend to gravitate towards?

Formalism. “I participate in the regular meetings and ministries of the church, so I feel like my life is under control. I’m always in church, but it really has little impact on my heart or on how I live. I may become judgmental and impatient with those who do not have the same commitment as I do.”

Legalism. “I live by the rules—rules I create for myself and rules I create for others. I feel good if I can keep my own rules, and I become arrogant and full of contempt when others don’t meet the standards I set for them. There is no joy in my life because there is no grace to be celebrated.”

Mysticism. “I am engaged in the incessant pursuit of an emotional experience with God. I live for the moments when I feel close to him, and I often struggle with discouragement when I don’t feel that way. I may change churches often, too, looking for one that will give me what I’m looking for.”

Activism. “I recognize the missional nature of Christianity and am passionately involved in fixing this broken world. But at the end of the day, my life is more of a defense of what’s right than a joyful pursuit of Christ.”

Biblicism. “I know my Bible inside and out, but I do not let it master me. I have reduced the gospel to a mastery of biblical content and theology, so I am intolerant and critical of those with lesser knowledge.”

Therapism. “I talk a lot about the hurting people in our congregation, and how Christ is the only answer for their hurt. Yet even without realizing it, I have made Christ more Therapist than Savior. I view hurt as a greater problem than sin—and I subtly shift my greatest need from my moral failure to my unmet needs.”

Social-ism. “The deep fellowship and friendships I find at church have become their own idol. The body of Christ has replaced Christ himself, and the gospel is reduced to a network of fulfilling Christian relationships.”

As I said a few months ago in one of my sermons, there are outside-the-church idols and there are inside-the-church idols. It’s the idols inside the church that ought to concern Christians most. It’s easier for Christians to identify worldly idols such as money, power, selfish ambition, sex, and so on. It’s the idols inside the church that we have a harder time identifying.

For instance, we know it’s wrong to bow to the god of power—but it’s also wrong to bow to the god of preferences. We know it’s wrong to worship immorality—but it’s also wrong to worship morality. We know it’s wrong to seek freedom by breaking the rules—but it’s also wrong to seek freedom by keeping them. We know God hates unrighteousness—but he also hates self-righteousness. We know crime is a sin—but so is control. If people outside the church try to save themselves by being bad; people inside the church try to save themselves by being good.

The good news of the gospel is that both inside and outside the church, there is only One Savior and Lord, namely Jesus. And he came, not to angrily strip away our freedom, but to affectionately strip away our slavery to lesser things so that we might become truly free!

Great post from a dear sister in the faith, Debbie Pridemore! Had to share it here...

Just thingking about stuff... (Yes I know there's a "g"): Contradictions: "How can we be honest with both our faith and our doubts? Sometimes I'm afraid to doubt, and sometimes I'm afraid to believe. Both stem from ..."

"But God forbid that I should glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14)

True Christ-Followers do not only believe in the cross, they glory in it! What the apostle means in the verse above is that he not only admires it, he not only believes in it, but he is moved by it. He is captivated by it. He says here, "God forbid that I should glory, except..."

In other words, Christ-Followers don't just glory in the cross, they glory in the cross alone. They boast...they glory in nothing else. Hear how Isaac Watts puts it:

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ my God!

There is an exclusiveness about it. This means that to the Christ-Follower, this is the most monumental thing in history - the most important event that has ever taken place. It means that we rest everything upon this... that we are what we are because of this. We glory in it.

'We never move on from the cross, only into a more profound understanding of the cross' -C. J. Mahaney

I must quote Isaac Watts again, because I think he makes this so clear. He says, 'When I survey the wondrous cross,' and I don't think anyone glories in it until they have surveyed it. If you take a casual glance at it, you say, 'Yes, I believe in it.' But, my good friend, men like these have been moved by it! Listen to men like Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, listen to all of them. These men have really seen the meaning of the cross. They can't contain themselves! They can't express themselves! Why? The only secret is this: they have been surveying it and looking at it; they have been gazing at it! And, you see, this is a very good test for us. How much time do you spend thinking about the cross, looking at it, gazing upon it, surveying it from all its angles?

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

He looks at it, and he keeps doing so. What does he see? 'The Prince of glory died.' He is immortal, He is everlasting. But the immortal dies! Still, there are other strange things that meet together at the cross.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

What a mixture: love and sorrow. Do you see it? Did ever such love and sorrow meet together or flow mingling down together? No, it's unique. This is the spectacle of the ages. Listen to another:

Or thorns compose so rich a crown

You do not associate crowns and thorns, do you? The glory and the splendor and the sparkle of a crown of thorns, fit only to be laid on a fire and burned or cast far away, out of sight. But here they come together - 'thorns compose so rich a crown.' I see one who is utterly and entirely innocent, dying for those who are broken and sinful, dying for rebels, dying for His own enemies.

And it comes to this - He's dying there because of His love, His love for you, His love for me, His love for those who are His enemies. He died for people who hated Him. As He was dying there, Saul of Tarsus was hating Him, but He was dying for Saul of Tarsus. As Paul (to give his subsequent name) puts it later: 'The Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me' (Galatians 2:20). He did not wait until Paul was converted before He loved him. He loved him as he was, a blasphemer and persecutor and rebel. While Paul was doing that, He was dying for Paul. And He was doing the same for you and me.

'God forbid that I should glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...' Do you really believe that the Son of God came down from heaven and died on that cross for you? Do you really believe it? You cannot truly believe it without glorying in it. If you really believe it and see what it means, well, it is everything to you. It can not be some nice little thought you add to your life. It is either everything or else it is nothing. Are you glorying in the cross, my friend? If you are, you can take it from me that you will reap everlasting life, not only here, but in the life to come.

The Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ my God!

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,

Spreads o’er His body on the tree;

Then I am dead to all the globe,

And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

-Isaac Watts (1707)

*Adapted from "The Acid Test," a sermon from Martyn Lloyd Jones

Sin is bad. There is no denying that. As Christ said, it leads to death. There is a better way to live. A life that is abundant. Jesus came to free us from sin and it's consequences in the world. This is the heart of the gospel.

A big problem arises though, when we move away from the gospel and attempt to save ourselves from sin apart from Christ. We don't ever really recognize this in ourselves unless it is pointed out.

Because of this widespread attempt to self-atone, we see some weird things in the spectrum of Christianity.

Think of some of these things:
- Asceticism (Abstinence from various sorts of 'worldly' pleasures: )
- Penance (Self-torture, self-flagellation, fasting as a result of sin... a type of self-atonement)
- Monasticism (Moving away from all things worldly in order to maintain purity)
- Pietism (Deeming neutral things as inherently evil within themselves - like television, internet, magazines, alcohol, coffee, certain environments like baseball games, pubs, theme parks...etc.)

We have gone through the gauntlet of behavioral correction/modification and moralism, trying to rid ourselves of sin and its effects by both prohibiting anything that could even lead to sin and punishing ourselves after sin has occurred. Is this the abundant life Jesus persuaded us of? Constantly running around fretting and agonizingly trying to manage our morality? The problem with these external motivators is that sin is not just out there, it is in here! Within the heart! Instead of going after the spider, we content ourselves with cleaning up its perpetual mess by dusting the cobwebs out of the corners of our hearts. We denounce every sin with black and white lists, then proceed to add anything else to that list that can lead to sin. Soon God's work of sanctification in our life becomes a list of 'do's' and 'don'ts' - a code on which we base our actions and judge the actions of others - instead of the natural, spirit-lead growth that happens as we surrender our lives to God and allow Him to be the King of our kingdoms.

Those who don't take hold of the gospel, or rather let it take hold of them, suffer from many sorrows. In retrospect, I've seen many young fervent Christians, whose burning flame of passion for the Lord has all but died out, retiring themselves to a meager existence of sitting on Sunday pews among other mundane religious duties. They live from religious gathering to religious gathering, listening with a reticent hopefulness for some word from God to set them on fire again. I've seen them struggling back and forth as worldliness creeps in, trying to get into heaven with as much hell in their lives as they can take with them. I've seen them dying slow deaths wondering what happened, their hope for some renewal and revival slowly turning to despondency... and eventually apathy. It is a Christianity of slow death. It is not the abundant life. It is not the gospel.

This reminds me of a passage of Scripture, when Jesus brought good news to people in similar circumstances:

Matthew 11:28-30 "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Jesus' promise here is the final word of hope for the Sunday-sitters and the legal-adherents. It is a call to the spiritual Lazarus to come to life again. To resurrect from the despair of dead, dry religiosity and enter into a new, gospel-centered, grace-filled life... life more abundantly. His word here is a gospel promise of a gracious interpretation of the Word of life.

He reveals this through his ministry as He constantly challenges the meaning of the law and brings the self-righteous pietists of his day back to the heart of holiness. On the Sabbath he heals - his disciples even collect wheat as they walk through fields. He even commands a man to take up his bed and walk on the sabbath. He parties and celebrates when others are mourning. His critics call him a drunkard. He scandalously invites the broken, marginalized people to eat with him at his table. He upsets the economic balance at the temple driving out the priests money-makers with a whip and opening up access to God for those who had always been forced to "pay to play" (the fact that the veil was rent concurrently with his death signifies that his work of inviting everyone in was finally complete).

He made few friends and his teaching offended many, challenging the idols within their hearts, yet, lovingly drawing them nearer to a God of scandalous grace. His teaching moves beyond the external (Do not kill... Do not commit adultery) and journeys deep within the internal realms of the soul. "You have heard it said 'Do not kill,' but I tell you do not be angry at your neighbor without cause... You have heard it said 'Do not commit adultery' but I tell you if you lust within your heart or you have done this already" (Mt 5). He points to the attitude before the action. The cause before the effect. The belief before the behavior. His gospel gets to the heart of every issue.

The gospel is all about belief... belief expressed by action. The action is pointless without the belief, but the belief is incomplete without the action. If someone says they believe people should not be hungry, yet they do not feed someone who is, how is this an authentic belief? So, as James points out, our faith is in vain if it leads to nothing. The pietists and ascetics - those fighting worldliness with "lawfulness" - claim this is what they are doing. They have believed the gospel and have been born again, so now they obey the rules. What they do not ever seem to grasp is that -at best- they walk a fine line between legalism and the gospel, and -at worst- they set their performance up as an idol by which they merit many salvations both in this life's situations and in eternity.

Legalism is choking the abundant life out of the church.

We do not only see this today on the fringes of Christianity, within certain sects and outlying cults. This epidemic is widespread. The back country rivers have been feeding into the ocean for decades and now the whole of mainstream Christianity in danger of being polluted. The threat is only heightened by the apparent emergence of a new liberalism... a lawlessness touting the banner of grace (which is, in fact, a false grace) within Christianity that the Legalists feel they must contend with, in order to secure some false sense of safety - or even some false sense of balance between the two extremes. The problem is that the Gospel is not a balancing act between legalism and lawlessness. It is something different altogether. The gospel actually frees us from this struggle as we dare to trust... if we dare to believe.

But as I look at the number one sellers within the courtyard of mainstream Christianity, I wonder if Jesus would once again begin driving out the money changers. Turning over the tables of the false gospels of prosperity and cheap grace. Driving out the purveyors of 'special prayers' that win favor, and 'special structures' that breed growth. How can these things be bad? How can Bible-based books and teachings just be moralism repackaged? Sometimes it is bold and in your face. Other times it is hidden below the surface... deep within the heart of the teaching. It is woven into the nuances and the slightest movements away from the the good news of God.

For instance, the problem with being purpose-driven is that it can easily become performance-driven. The motivation is based on purposes to be fulfilled and tasks to be performed. Gospel-centered motivation is based upon belief in the atoning work of Christ. That belief will always lead to action.

If I say, "I'm a Christian, so I need to do these things... I need to worship and evangelize and fellowship and serve and learn...etc." then the motivation is off. What we are really saying (often without realizing it) is that I need to do these things to become a Christian. We have a performance based Christianity.

Consider a different approach. "Jesus' atoning sacrifice purchased my salvation along with a new identity for me that is secure in Christ... it is who I am now! Have been adopted into the family of God. My new identity is a disciple (learner) who is continually learning and sharing what I learn with others. I have been called to be a servant who turns the world's economics on their head through loving and sacrificing and blessing others. I am a worshipper who's every word and action are honoring God. I am called an ambassador of His love and gospel-message whose very life is an act of reconciliation, reconciling people to each other and God, and allowing God to redeem the situations around me through my life."

This is my identity. It is who I am. My 'doing' flows from my 'being.' If I look at my life and see areas out of alignment with this God-called identity, it is a matter of belief. My heart is not really believing the truth of my gospel identity in that moment so my actions are off. Instead of correcting the action (I need to serve more or worship more or disciple more), or beating myself over the head, adding all kinds of external motivations (which are seldom gospel-centered and lead to unhealthy fruit like: fear, self-punishment, condemnation, low-grade guilt, anger...etc.)... Instead of these things, now I understand it is a belief issue. I repent for my unbelief and the sin it leads to, ask God to help my unbelief - to help me believe His truth deep within my heart and then walk in alignment with that faith.

This is a walk of faith. It is trusting that what God says about Himself (that He is Good, Glorious, Great & Gracious) is true. That trust will lead to amazing belief in my life (He is Good - so I don't need to look elsewhere for satisfaction / He is Glorious - so I don't need to fear anything or anyone else / He is Great - so I don't need to be in control / He is Gracious - So I don't need to prove myself to myself, to others or even to Him).

Think of all the fruit that will flow out of my life as this amazing faith in God's truth roots itself deep within my heart. As I believe God's truth and apply it to more and more of life's circumstances I'm freed. I'm free from needing to lie to prove myself to others (since He is gracious) or to protect myself (since He is great and in control) or to get what I want (because He is good and will provide) or to avoid rejection (since He is glorious). I'm free from chasing happiness through a million different addictions and bad habits because He is good and His way provides more happiness and abundant living than I could ever imagine. The reason we do get caught up with addictions (substance abuse, pornography, and any number of addictions) is because we believe the lie that He is not good and that we need to look for fulfillment somewhere beyond His plan. I could go on and on here but you get the point.

Belief... Faith in God is what frees us. The action flow from the belief. Sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit who empowers our faith in God's truth. He has reveled His truth to us. He revealed Himself ultimately to us through Jesus Christ. As we live by this faith and it works itself out in our lives we begin living, more and more each day, this abundant life Christ spoke of. This is the good news. Good news enabled by the cross of Christ and the indwelling Spirit who draws us to the Father. Freedom from the bondage of sin. Reconciliation to a holy and gracious God. This is the gospel.
Here is an AMAZING Resource if you are into theology. This page contains the main lectures, panel discussions, and even the chapel messages from this event, focusing on discussing the theology of N T Wright.

Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N.T. Wright
The 19th Annual Wheaton Theology Conference | April 16-17, 2010


Also, Here is an awesome resource to delve into more of N T Wright's scholarly work

N T Wright Page
I’m afraid of tomorrow!
What’s around the next corner?
I look behind me and wonder:
Can the past be redeemed?

My ghosts will haunt me
They’ll destroy my future.
I cannot continue
To control things for long.
God is Great.
We don’t have to be in control.

Someone said something
That shattered my spirit.
That was ten years ago,
But it’s still steers my heart.

And when he smiles at me
All is right with the world
And when his smile fades
The sun hides its face

God is Glorious.
We don’t need to fear others.

I’m good. I’m creative
I do a nice job
But when it’s not perfect
I feel worthless and lost

So I drown out the voices
That point out imperfections
By being too busy for them.
But now I can’t rest!

God is Gracious.
We don’t have to prove ourselves.

I’m looking for something.
If I could just get it
Then all would be well.
Then I would be happy!

When things go downhill
This is where I retreat.
That old familiar place
That functions as my savior

God is Good.
We don’t need to look elsewhere for satisfaction.
This is an Important Excerpt from Tullian Tchividjian's Blog

In preparation for my sermon this past Sunday, I re-read the opening lines of Michael Horton’s book Christless Christianity. He writes:

What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city? Over half a century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio. Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia (the city where Barnhouse pastored), all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday…where Christ is not preached.

There is a great difference between moralism and the gospel. Moralism, in fact, inoculates us from the gospel by giving us something of “the real thing” ensuring that we miss out on the true gospel all together. We must remember that Christ came first not to make bad people good but to make dead people live. If we forget that, our Christianity will turn out to be Christless.

In a recent article, Dr. Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and host of the Albert Mohler program, rightly identifies the false gospel of moralism. He writes:

In our own context, one of the most seductive false gospels is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this –the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior.

The seduction of moralism is the essence of its power. We are so easily seduced into believing that we actually can gain all the approval we need by our behavior. Of course, in order to participate in this seduction, we must negotiate a moral code that defines acceptable behavior with innumerable loopholes. Most moralists would not claim to be without sin, but merely beyond scandal. That is considered sufficient.

Moralists can be categorized as both liberal and conservative. In each case, a specific set of moral concerns frames the moral expectation. As a generalization, it is often true that liberals focus on a set of moral expectations related to social ethics while conservatives tend to focus on personal ethics. The essence of moralism is apparent in both — the belief that we can achieve righteousness by means of proper behavior.

Here’s a taste from one of Scotty Smith's (from The Gospel Coalition) prayers:

When I mute my heart to the insult of grace, I deny your cross. When I think, even for one moment, that my obedience merits anything, I deny your cross. When I put others under the microscope and measure of performance-based living, I deny your cross. When I wallow in self-contempt and do more navel-gazing than repenting, I deny your cross. Though I hate the bumper-sticker, when I actually live like you’re my co-pilot, I deny the cross.

*This writing is not original with me, It comes from a dear brother in Christ, Tullian Tchividjian

Due to some requests I'm posting what we teach at our church, Anchor Gaslamp, regarding Integrative Theology. The following is from our recent "Anchor U" Leadership Training...

Here at Anchor, we seek to understand, teach, and live out an "Integrative" or "Practical" Theology.

We call this "Integrative" for 3 reasons:
1) We want our Theology to be both Systematic and Narrative, integrated together seamlessly
2) We want our Theology to be integrated with our lives... not just a system of beliefs we have agreed to in our minds, but beliefs that have been fully accepted at a heart level and begun to work themselves into our daily lives (Orthodoxy > Orthopathy> Orthopraxy)
3) We want our Theology to be integrated with the whole of Scripture (a balanced perspective, where the doctrines are all in alignment with one another... we must learn to view any doctrine in light of all scripture)

Before we go on, let us define 3 words:
Orthodoxy - "Right Beliefs, sound doctrine, comprehending the truth about God... occurs in your head/ mind"
Orthopraxy - "Right Practices, good behavior, living out the ways of God... Occurs in your hands/ mouth/ body"
Orthopathy - "Right Feelings, pure emotions, having a heart after God... Occurs in your heart/ soul/ emotions"

The Bible requires not only that we speak truly about God (orthodoxy) and obey Him (orthopraxy), but that we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Doctrine is never an end in itself. The purpose of doctrine is to teach us to love God rightly. Obedience is never an end in itself. Obedience is always the overflow of a heart that finds its satisfaction in God rather than idols. In this way of looking at things, orthopathy is just as fundamental as orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

There are Christians who are all "head-knowledge." Though they may understand deep truths, their lives produce little fruit. Their heart is not 100% after God and their relationship is anemic. They see Christianity as a series of logical propositions and agree to these by mental assent.

There are Christians who are all "heart." They mean well and pursue God with all they are. However, they are easily misguided by false teaching which can lead to a loss of the strong affection they have for God. They also live out of their beliefs, but those beliefs may be as easily pulled off track even though their intentions are pure.

There are Christians who are all "hands." They do many great things for the kingdom, but they often feel they are justified by works. Some of them have very little doctrine. Many of them do their works out of wrong motivations (someone's approval, working for salvation..etc).

We need to be integrated Christians who study the word of God diligently with our heads, believe it with pure motives and an overwhelming, passionate love for God in our hearts, and live out of those realities everyday with our lives.

Many Christians find themselves believing all the right things and trying to do all the right things and still feeling miserable. It is a heart condition. When your heart is overflowing with love towards God, obedience and discipleship flow easily from our heart to our hands because our motives are pure and our hearts are right. When you accept the truth about God (doctrine) in your heart (not only your head) and choose to believe it as more than a simple abstract logical truth, but as an applied emotional belief, it becomes transformational instead of just informational. In other words, it is important for your head, hands and heart to be right... and all 3 support one another.
Last week I walked into my boss’s office and was told I was working too much. They could not afford to pay me overtime, yet they could not afford to have me work less.

Ninety-six hours is what I worked for them in the last two weeks.

That’s one job.

The second is my dream. A company I started with a vision for changing the way the world does charity. It’s very involved grueling work. A lot of amazing people have jumped on board to help make this dream a reality.

I work a minimum of ten additional hours a week at this job.

Sometimes many more…

I’m also a pastor. This is my calling and my passion. Helping people. Speaking into their lives. Teaching and modeling the gospel. Preparation time alone takes several hours per week, not to mention prayer, counseling, and just living life with the community you’re called to. It is perhaps the most involved, yet rewarding part of my life. If everything else I’ve mentioned got in the way, and something had to give, I would still be pastoring. It is part of my identity.

The demands of pastoring take a lot of time and energy.

Still there is more....

I’m a husband and a father. I’ve been married almost eight years now to a wonderful woman. She’s given me two awe-inspiring children. I’m quite possibly the luckiest man alive. This family God has blessed me with is my number one priority in life. Every ounce of everyday is lived with them in mind and heart. Every extra second I have is devoted to them. When other things get in the way, they don’t stay there for long, because my family comes first. Yet, I do not spend enough time with them. I sometimes feel neglectful. I sometimes feel like a failure. But I digress…

I say all that to say this.

I am one of the busiest people I know.

I don’t say this to brag or to get some kind of pity party. It’s just a simple fact. Yet in this time of demanding, exhausting work, and times of not knowing where one day ends and another begins, God is teaching me something.

This is what I wanted to share.

God is teaching me to find rest in Him. I’m learning what it looks like to rest in the middle of overwhelming work and busyness. Christ is opening my eyes to what it means to work in grace.

Rest is a heart issue.

The body can put up with more exhaustion than we realize if our hearts are in the right spot. Let me explain...

I realized a few years ago that a lot of my hustling and bustling was tied into my identity. I was working overtime at my job trying to prove to people in my life that I was not lazy and that I could provide for my family. I was working jobs with little to no pay, trying to prove to myself that I was a good person and that I was worthy of self-respect. I was serving people, while leaving little to no time for my family or myself, trying to prove to God that I was worthy of His grace.

I was working to earn something, instead of working because I had already earned something. I was working to gain an identity instead of working out of an identity already gained for me.

I was doing the right things with the wrong motives.

That is exhausting.

Now, I’m learning to believe I am the man God says I am. I’m learning that my identity is in Christ, not in the eyes of man…or even how I see myself at times. My identity is firmly rooted in His sacrifice, freely given for me. I can’t earn it, no matter how hard I labor. The best I can do is dirty rags. Still, God sees me through the cross as His child. He loves me and rejoices over my life. He is my Abba and I am His child. This alone defines me.

Because of this I serve like a free man. I work like someone who, through grace, is called worthy despite how others see me. I work as unto the Lord, and I rest in His finished work on the cross. I can take a Sabbath without feeling guilty. I can rest even in the middle of busyness.

Let’s bring this a bit more from the abstract to where we are living.

Here’s another scenario.

Imagine if my boss was the demanding or angry type, and I was working out of fear of ridicule (or even that I was going to lose my job if I did something wrong). Think of the mental strain I’d be putting on myself. Menial tasks would become giant issues. I would work on edge, trying to prove myself and my work…trying to measure up. Anxiety would reign in my heart. I would get no joy from my work this way. I would exhaust myself.

Now imagine that same scenario through the lens of grace.

My boss is demanding and angry. Still, I work out of confidence that I am doing my best and that my identity is in no way tied to my performance. My identity is rooted securely in Christ and saturated in grace… a grace that’s says I’m not worthy based on anything I do, but I’m seen as worthy through the cross. As Louie Giglio says, “I am not but I know I am.” Since I am not affected by someone’s scorn, I feel no need to defend my pride when I am attacked. I feel peace in the middle of ridicule. If I’m being attacked justly I simply correct the behavior accordingly and continue working to the best of my ability, as unto the Lord. (Besides, if I lose my Job for some reason, grace allows me to understand God’s sovereignty and to trust that He will provide… there’s no need for fear)

Through grace I’m free from trying to measure up to someone’s expectations, whether they be voices at my job, or the ones in my head telling me I’m not the best looking, most intelligent, MVP in the workplace.

Through grace, all this exhausting mental struggle gives way to peace and joy.

I can rest.

This is not a pity party… this is a report of the joy that comes through beginning to understand grace and applying it to life.

I realize this understanding of grace is still far from complete. I know there is so much more to learn and apply. I still need to take a Sabbath and actually apply more of this truth to my life. Thanks for taking time to read the journey God has me on. I hope it gives you some strength for your own. I hope you walk in the grace and peace that is yours in Christ.
"The holiness of Jesus is a redemptive holiness that does not separate itself from the world, but liberates it." - Alan Hirsch

"One great power of sin is that it blinds men so that they do not recognize its true character." –Andrew Murray

"Where I found truth, there found I my God, who is the truth itself." –Augustine

"If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” -C.T. Studd

"If you look upon ham and eggs and lust, you have already committed breakfast in your heart." –C.S. Lewis

"Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor." –Charles Spurgeon

"Beware you are not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge."
–John Wesley

"Once in seven years I burn all my sermons; for it is a shame, if I cannot write better sermons now than I did seven years ago." –John Wesley

"Serve God by doing common actions in a heavenly spirit, and then, if your daily calling only leaves you cracks and crevices of time, fill them up with holy service." –Charles Spurgeon

"Our lives play a vital role in the unfolding purposes of God. More is at stake in discipleship than personal salvation"
- Alan Hirsch

"His death was sufficient for all; it was efficient in the case of many." –John Calvin

"Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, there a church of God exists, even if it swarms with many faults."
–John Calvin

"I have held many things in my hands, and have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess." –Martin Luther
I’m repenting. So centered on self. So focused on success. Maybe that’s the problem: defining success with self at the center. What does success look like for the church?

Jesus came, embodying the gospel, and taught us love and grace. He modeled it with his life and his death. Then he told us to go and do likewise, and in so doing, to make disciples.

This is the model of success for the church. Grace. Love. Disciples. Discipleship is a word we invented so we could streamline it, make it productive and reproducible. Disciple-making was meant to be relational.

I was raised to see this mission through modern eyes, where numbers of converts equaled success. The church was a factory, where the assembly lines and conveyor belts pushed out hundreds of newly-affirmed Christ followers by the hour.

These products had all the right components to make the big man happy. They had made the ultimate cost-benefit analysis and had chosen heaven as their afterlife experience. They confessed Christ, were baptized, and filled with His Spirit. They then stopped any questionable behavior in order to fit in with the rest of the products and tried to make themselves pray, read their Bibles, and do right.

The sad thing about the factory was, there wasn’t much else going on besides production. Somewhere in there you just realize there’s something more… there has to be. When did “life more abundantly” turn into this factory? When did this radiant dream of following Christ become all about numbers, attendance and conversions?

I started imagining what it would be like to not care about modern measures of success and just begin to trust God to bring life-change through gospel-driven relationships. What would it be like if we could stop all our scurrying about trying to please God with our mass-production and just began enjoying the fact that He is pleased with us? What would it look like to have 5 relationships that grew deep into the word...that began being truly transformed by truth, instead of 50 converts who’s goal was to find... more converts? Wouldn’t the deep life-change that is found in relational disciple-making promote such growth that people would naturally begin making new disciples? Would it look more like a process or a moment of conversion? Where would you even start?

I broke free. Well, at least I thought I did. I began investing myself into others and digging deep into the rich truths of the gospel… but old habits die hard.

I’m in a Bible study the other night with two close friends. Normally there are 5-10 people here but due to the holidays, attendance has been down in all our gatherings. It was a great night. We laughed, opened our souls, and prayed for one another. It was a marvelous, Spirit-led time.

At the end of the meeting, one of them mentioned coming to our Thursday Bible study as well. I was overjoyed. In my joy I said, “Yeah! Come! It will be good! There will actually be people there besides just us three.” I meant it would be successful because it’s supposed to have more people… It sounded like I thought the night was unsuccessful and that the wonderful things God had done that evening as we fellowshipped together counted for nothing.

That’s not how I felt, but the success-driven need for numbers is obviously floating around in my heart somewhere. I still feel a knot in my stomach when a small crowd shows on a Sunday. My ego is tied into our production. I’m not believing that God is gracious. I feel I need to prove myself and my ministry, not that God has already approved me. I’m not trusting His sovereignty and I’m depending on myself…building a ministry upon myself instead of His gospel.

How many hurt feelings and destroyed relationships will lie in the wake of my pride… tossed to the side by my unrealistic expectations of what the church is and what Christ has called me to do?

This small instance is a microcosm of Christian maturity…discipling. We do this in a thousand places everyday, every time we fall short. We know what is true, yet our heart does not believe it for a moment. In a moment we stop believing that God is good and that His plan is best for us. Instead we seek pleasure outside His plan. We decide that God is not great and in control, and we choose to take situations into our own hands, manipulating, controlling and wracking our brains with anxiety.

There are thousands of these examples of the actions that flow from a misaligned heart. Our head may know all the right things, but our unbelieving hearts choose not to accept these truths for a moment. Out of this unbelief flows lies, fornications, addictions, negative emotions and on and on the list goes. Out of this unbelief flows statements like, “Yeah! Come! It will be good! There will actually be people there besides just us three.”

I’m repenting. So centered on self. So focused on success. I need Christ to give me a new heart so I may, by His grace, ‘both will and do His good pleasure.’
Awake, here I lie
Replaying conversations of a day
I wish I could relive,
Unaware of God’s grace.

My faults fill my mind.
My memories make me cringe.
My true self, I hide.
Unaware of God’s grace.

I’m a good person!
I’ll make you believe!
I’ll fight to prove I’m right!
Unaware of God’s grace.

I blame and point fingers
I manage first impressions.
I’m the manipulator who’s
Unaware of God’s grace.

I find reasons and excuses,
I puff up with anger,
My pride is my armor,
Unaware of God’s grace.

We look at each other,
You’re judging, I know
For I am judging you,
Unaware of God’s grace.

My moods are as varied
As your opinions of me.
Your words steer my heart
Unaware of God’s grace.

I compare myself to others
I’m not as bad as they.
I’m the measure of what’s good
Unaware of God’s grace.

I can’t rest or relax.
I’m working so hard
To prove that I’m worthy
Unaware of God’s grace.

Trying to measure up
To another’s standard.
Breaking under this weight,
Unaware of God’s grace.

You’re failing, I’m laughing.
Rejoicing in your ruin,
Delighting in destruction.
Unaware of God’s grace.

I am broken, fallen,
Self-centered, and stained.
I have no hope in this life.
Unaware of God’s grace.

If Christ died for me,
Then nothing I do
Brings me any gain.
This is a picture of grace.

My old self has died
I’m reborn anew,
He gives me His name.
This is a picture of grace.

I’ll celebrate with you
I’ll weep with you
We’re family in Him
This is a picture of grace.

I accept my imperfections
Both broken and accepted
I fall down at His feet
This is a picture of grace.

I rest, even in work
He’s already accomplished
The greatest work of all
This is a picture of grace.

I look upon myself
Not as good or as evil,
But as a child of His
This is a picture of grace.

My identity is freed
From your opinions of me
I’m found in Him now
This is a picture of grace.

I look on you with love.
Only the one without sin
May cast any stones
This is a picture of grace.

I’ve traded my fig leaves
For the sacrificed lamb
His covering is enough
This is a picture of grace

Now I’m free to be real,
Authentic, transparent.
I’ve nothing to hide
This is a picture of grace

I’ll trust you with my life
Even though you’re imperfect
Though I’m not worthy, He trusts me
This is a picture of grace

No more selfish pride,
Excuses or anger.
We all fall short.
This is a picture of grace.

No blaming, pointing fingers,
Manipulating or puffing up,
My identity is secured.
This is a picture of grace.

I can accept my imperfections
And the imperfections of others’
For I’ve been accepted.
This is a picture of grace.

I’ve traded control for peace,
Defensiveness for humility.
No need to prove myself.
This is a picture of grace.

Awake here I lie,
Resting in, not working for
This new identity.
This is a picture of grace.
Respect can’t be bought with money.
It can’t be promoted because of status.
It’s not chosen because of a name,
Nor is it earned because of an age.
It can’t be demanded by power,
Nor produced from a degree.
All these things may bring rapport,
But never true respect.

Respect is a gift a person awards,
Because of deep trust, love, & admiration.
It’s the highest appraisal one person
Can ever afford to give.

It’s a choice we make everyday:
To place our lives into another's hand & take their words to heart;
To profoundly trust their motives & character;
To love them passionately in spite their humanity,
And choose to continually search for the good, and forgive the bad.
Respect comes from authenticity & vulnerability,
Not hiding truth at a distance, non-familiarity, or indifference.
Respect says, “There are things about you I want to replicate in my life...

...So I will learn from you, and trust you,
And daily choose to love you.
And in so doing I’m choosing
To give you my respect.”

Vince Larson
So I'm planning on doing some heavy reading this year. Here are a few of the books to get me started. If you've read one of these or have others to recommend, please feel free to comment.

Counterfeit Gods - Tim Keller

Total Church - Steve Timmis and Tim Chester

You Can Change - Tim Chester

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
- Donald Miller

The Forgotten God - Francis Chan

Jesus Without Religion - Rick James (yes...it's his real name)

Knowing God - J I Packer

Refuel - Doug Fields

Divine Conspiracy - Dallas Willard

The Ordinary Hero - Tim Chester

The Knowledge of the Holy - A W Tozer

Paul in a Fresh Perspective - N T Wright

Evil and the Justice of God - N T Wright

The Desert Fathers - Benedicta Ward

The Spirit of the Disciplines - Dallas Willard

Worldliness - C J Mahaney

Humility: True Greatness - C J Mahaney

The Gospel Driven Life - Michael Horton
Everyman, in his own mind is Bonhoeffer, Luther and Paul. I see myself in them…in their writings; in the leaving of the old and searching of the new, in the forsaking of tradition for tradition’s sake, and the pursuit of a higher calling; in the rejection by some in their religious groups yet the acceptance of God alone, by faith. These were men who were not appreciated in their time, yet from their time to now, have become a light to many.

I would that I could leave behind a legacy such as these. What accomplishment of mine will I be remembered for? Eloquent words? Passionate adherence or revolution? A well-examined faith that has discipled countless thousands? No. Not for me. I will accomplish no significant thing lest it be by God’s hand. When I hold the pen, my fingers tremble. When I’m given a choice, my ideals crumble. When I’m faced with life, my faith waivers. There is nothing to ground me and steady my aim save the gospel. There is no good in me save this cracked imago dei that helplessly wants to do good only to be overthrown time and again by evil. There is no hope for greatness. No, not in myself. If I look elsewhere, I see great men who have shaped history, but they were scoundrels in their own right and fell shorter than any of us like to imagine was possible for our heroes. So if hope is not to be found within or without me, what then is left? Where is greatness to be achieved? Where is love to be practiced? Where is perfection to be reached. Nowhere else save Christ.

This is the good news, that Christ uses the imperfect to bring about His perfection. He works His reconciliation through those of us who are not yet fully reconciled. Just as He loved us when we are unlovable and had mercy upon us when we deserved His righteous wrath, He now chooses us to be His representatives of reconciliation. Oh mystery of mysteries! To what do we owe this great privilege? Christ! And what do we owe Him? All. Then the weakest and most beggarly of us join humbly in the ranks of Bonhoeffer and Luther and Paul. For He sees us through the cross as loving, perfect, honorable and righteous, and it is in that power that we may stand happily in His presence, and by His power alone, work out His will in this sphere. If we receive any honor it rightly goes to Him, for all we have gained has been by His power alone.

So If I stand in His presence, may it be by His power alone. If I write, may it be His hand that steadies mine. As I face life, with its decisions and struggles, may it be by His grace alone that I am left standing in my faith. And in that glorious day, all our great works will turn into dust in the light of His grace, and I will be no different from Bonhoeffer and Luther and Paul, as we all - the strong the tempted and the weak - stand as one in Christ, vindicated by his sacrifice, forgiven my His blood, and alive by His resurrection!
Falling forward is an awkward place to find oneself.
You see what’s before you, and are helpless to control it.
This is the reality of life. This is a perfect picture of faith.

Control is an illusion, created by our imaginings that we are God.
Chaos is the reality of our control. It ends where trust begins.
Our only hope lies in surrender to the Sovereign.

The reality we choose to root our lives in springs upward and sprouts.
The fruit of my perceived control is anxiety, regret, and manipulation.
The fruit of my faith in God-reality is hope, peace, and selflessness.

What does it mean to be a person of faith? To walk by faith? To be faithful?
Does it mean allowing your beliefs to flow outward and affect your life?
Is that possible if your beliefs are misaligned with your lifestyle?

If I say that I trust His sovereignty, and yet anxiety reigns in my life,
Am I truly walking in the faith by which I define myself?
Am I living in the illusion of control, or living in surrender to the Sovereign?

Falling forward is an awkward place to find oneself.
You see what’s before you, and are helpless to control it.
This is the reality of life. This is a perfect picture of faith.