Forgiven sinners

I just wanted to share a quick thought for the day as I try to jump back into blogging a little bit.
The only people who will live in the new creation eternally with God are forgiven sinners.
The only people who will suffer forever in hell are forgiven sinners.
Prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father, Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, died for the ungodly, declaring all of humanity righteous by the shedding of his blood. Grant us the free gift of faith to receive this reality for our salvation, that by Your grace we may serve You in love and righteousness all the days of our lives; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
* Prayer is taken from The Treasury of Daily Prayer


Reckless Love

sermon-on-the-mountA sermon based on Matthew 5:38-48

In the last few weeks we have made it all the way through Matthew chapter 5, the beginning chapter of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Allow me to back up a little bit to set the stage for Jesus’ teaching for today in verses 38-48.

Jesus begins his sermon with the Beatitudes, with a blessing for his disciples. Blessed are you because you belong to me. The Beatitudes are the doorway through which we must enter the rest of the Sermon on the Mount in order to understand it completely. We must receive the unconditional blessing of Jesus first.

After blessing his disciples, Jesus continues his sermon by identifying his disciples as salt and light to the rest of the world. Jesus’ disciples are to be his representatives on earth, people set apart for a special purpose, to be a light in the darkness, to do good works which will then bring glory to God the Father. After Jesus identifies his disciples, he then describes what the life of a disciple looks like. A disciple is called to a life of purity in thought, word and action. This was laid out in our reading for last week as Jesus explained God’s full intention for his Ten Commandments.

The life of a disciple is not an easy one. This is a fact that will become even clearer as we examine Jesus’ words to his disciples in verses 38-48. Jesus’ calling is to a radical way of life, completely different than the way of the world. This led Martin Luther to conclude at the end of chapter 5: “At this point you will discover how hard it is to do the good works God commands… You will find that you will be occupied with the practice of this work for the rest of your life.” The reason for this is that Jesus’ teaching goes directly against your sinful, selfish nature. It is a call to reckless love and generosity for others. My hope for you today is that you will be challenged by these words of Jesus and take them seriously for your life. But this is not going to be an automatic turnaround for you or me. Again, as Luther said, you will be occupied trying to figure out how this works the rest of your life! The Christian life is a struggle!

So let’s get started! Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

When you have an opportunity to use a Chuck Norris photo in your blog post, you have to do it. That's Blogging 101.

When you have an opportunity to use a Chuck Norris photo in your blog post, you have to do it. That’s Blogging 101.

Jesus continues to explain here the true intention behind God’s Law. He uses the same pattern as verses beforehand. “You have heard it said…But I say to you.” He is challenging the commonly held view of the day. Jesus takes on the law of retaliation. This was an actual Old Testament law which described what sort of retaliation a person was allowed to act out against someone who harmed him or his family or livelihood. The law of retaliation prevented people from going too far in carrying out revenge. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, even a life for a life in some cases.

We have the same kind of unofficial laws of retaliation today. Retaliation is my right when I’ve been wronged! Tit-for-tat. Even Steven. He needs to get what’s coming to him. We keep score with those who have wronged us and believe it to be our right to hold grudges and get even.

But Jesus basically says, “Retaliation is not a right. It’s a choice. And as my disciples, let me present to you a different choice. Do not resist the one who is evil towards you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him to the other also.” A slap on the cheek is an insult, not an act of violence. Jesus tells us not to retaliate when we are insulted. Again, this goes against our human nature. When insulted, we don’t want to just stand there and take it. But Jesus then goes even further! If anyone sues you and takes your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If anyone forces you to go a mile, go with him two miles.”

In that day and age, the Romans were in charge. And it was a common occurrence for Roman soldiers to force citizens to carry their baggage for them. These Jewish citizens would have hated to serve the Romans in this way. It was demeaning. No doubt they were waiting for the moment that their Messiah would show up, and they would be able to retaliate against their Roman oppressors. But the Messiah was right in front of them, even if they didn’t realize it yet. And instead of retaliation, Jesus instructs them to willingly serve their foreign leaders and even go the extra mile for them! This was a radical teaching, both then and now.

Is Jesus telling his disciples that we have to be doormats? That we have to allow the world to walk all over us? In a sense, yes. Instead of a spirit of revenge, Jesus calls his disciples to lives of reckless generosity and even to be naïve when it comes to our dealings with other people. His words are meant to reform our first instincts and our quick reactions and our unwillingness to sacrifice. Jesus wants his disciples to err on the side of grace with other people by not retaliating, by yielding to others, by giving generously, and even by being taken advantage of.

Hey, at least he's honest!

Hey, at least he’s honest!

Think of Jesus’ next words: Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. Jesus doesn’t give any qualifiers to giving to the needy and the beggar. He doesn’t say, “Only give if they really seem worthy of it. Only give if they are seriously going around looking for a job. Be sure to give a thorough background check. Make sure that they aren’t just taking advantage of you with their sob story.”

Jesus’ words really cause us to do some self-examination, don’t they? “Have I always been generous in sharing with the needy, whether they are good or evil?” That question makes me uncomfortable because I can answer with a resounding, “No!” There’s always something holding me back from the kind of reckless generosity that Jesus is describing. Probably because of that word “reckless.” It seems reckless. It seems unwise and foolish. And I know it is fear that holds me back. Fear of being taken advantage of. Fear of having my love and generosity abused. Fear of looking like a fool. Fear of not having enough for myself and my family despite God’s promise that he will take care of my every need. I want to hold onto my sense of self-preservation, my sense of control over my own life, and that keeps me from freely giving and loving in the way that Jesus is describing here. Instead, we tend to give to whoever we deem worthy of receiving our generosity, if they pass whatever checklist we have made up in our own minds. I keep going back to Luther’s words: “At this point you will discover how hard it is to do the good works God commands…”

No kidding! Truer words have never been spoken. My sinful, selfish nature keeps dragging me down and holding me back from the reckless love and generosity that Jesus calls me to follow as one of his blessed disciples. And it does not get any easier, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

We tend to love those whom we think are worthy of our love, and usually it is those who love us in return. But Jesus points out that everybody does this, even the tax collectors and Gentiles, those evil people. Again a Luther quote: “Do you see now how pious you are if you are friendly and kind only to your friends? You are just as pious as the thieves and scoundrels and criminals or as the devil himself!” True love is not loving those who love you or who deserve your love. Jesus calls us to a reckless kind of love- love without regard to the worthiness of the people being loved and to pray for others in the same way.

Again, this kind of love makes us extremely vulnerable. It makes us look weak. It makes us look naïve and foolish. It makes us look reckless. And that is exactly the point. That is the way God works. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” God loves to use the weak, the foolish, the despised things of this world, and nowhere is that more evident than the message of the cross.

You see, Jesus does not ask anything of his disciples that he is not willing to do himself. The reckless love and generosity that he prescribes for you is the same kind of reckless love and generosity that God has already shown to you through Jesus.

wisdom of godWhen God set in motion his plan to save the world, including you and me, what if he had stopped and questioned whether or not we were worthy of his love and generosity. If he had done that, none of us would be saved. None of us are worthy of the kind of love and generosity that God has shown.  In fact, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That’s how we know what true love is. It is reckless love- freely given, yet completely undeserved. It seems foolish to the world that God would give up his own life for us. It seems weak. It seems naïve. God made himself completely vulnerable, knowing that his love would be taken advantage of and abused- that we would continue to sin and ignore his laws. Yet God continues to love and show mercy. That’s why Paul says: The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Jesus shows us what love is by his life and sacrificial death. He did not seek revenge against those who insulted him and persecuted him even though he had every right to do so. He was accused falsely, he was mocked, he was beaten, and sentenced to death, and yet like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, so Jesus did not open his mouth- except to forgive his enemies.  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Those are the words that Jesus spoke from the cross to his enemies.

Father, forgive them!

Father, forgive them!

Those are the words that Jesus says to you. Your sin put Jesus on the cross. For you too were once an enemy of God. But God loves his enemies. Back to Romans 5: For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. God had every right to retaliate against you for the sins that you committed against him. You have wronged God, and the wages of your sin is death. That is what you deserved, no arguments about it. But God’s love and generosity is so reckless, so great that we cannot even begin to comprehend it. God even knew that his love for us would be abused and taken advantage of, and he still gives it to us freely through Jesus Christ.  1 John 4:9-10 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Let me tell you a story about a man named Rod to illustrate the reckless love and generosity that God has poured into your life. Rod once wrecked his car when he was sixteen years old. Rod had been drinking, and in fact, he and his friends were all drunk. After the accident, Rod called his dad and the first thing his dad asked him was, “Are you all right?” Rod assured him that he was fine. Then he confessed to his father that he was drunk. Rod was naturally terrified about how his father  might respond. Later that night, after Rod had made it home, he wept and wept in his father’s study. He was embarrassed, ashamed, and guilty. At the end of the ordeal, his father asked him this question: “How about tomorrow we go and get you a new car?”

A great book!

A great book!

How do you feel about his dad’s response? Rod is now a Lutheran teacher and speaker. He says every time he tells that story in public; there are always people in the audience who get angry. They say, “Your dad let you get away with that? He didn’t punish you at all? What a great opportunity for your dad to teach you responsibility!” Rod chuckles when he hears that response and says, “Do you think I didn’t know what I had done? Do you think it wasn’t the most painful moment of my whole life up to that point? I was ashamed; I was scared. My father spoke grace to me in a moment when I knew I deserved wrath…and that day I came alive.” (Illustration taken from One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian)

That’s the nature of true love and grace that has been displayed in your life. Rod’s dad’s response looks reckless and foolish. But it is the same response that God, your heavenly Father, has toward you. God is willing to look foolish and weak and vulnerable for you. He has poured his unconditional love and generosity into your life and identifies you his blessed disciple even though you are completely unworthy of his love. Our offenses are infinitely greater than a 16-year-old getting drunk and wrecking his car, yet God boasts about pouring out His one-way love on His undeserving children.

No one had to tell Rod to be sorry for his foolishness. No one had to tell Rod to be thankful that his dad didn’t repay him “as his sins deserved.” That one act of reckless and mercy transformed him- and his whole life was changed by it. Because that’s what God’s love does. It changes and transforms us into people who can’t help but show love and generosity to others. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. You see, it is God’s love that inspires us to a life of love and service. We love because he first loved us. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. May God’s love be perfected in you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Happy Reformation Day!

For your reading pleasure on this Reformation Day I give you a wonderful quote from Martin Luther himself:

May you ever cherish and treasure this thought. Christ is made a servant of sin, yea, a bearer of sin, and the lowliest and most despised person. He destroys all sin by Himself and says: “I came not to be served but to serve” (Matt. 20:28). There is no greater bondage than that of sin; and there is no greater service than that displayed by the Son of God, who becomes the servant of all, no matter how poor, wretched, or despised they may be, and bears their sins.

It would be spectacular and amazing, prompting all the world to open ears and eyes, mouth and nose in uncomprehending wonderment, if some king’s son were to appear in a beggar’s home to nurse him in his illness, wash off his filth, and do everything else the beggar would have to do. Would this not be profound humility? Any spectator or any beneficiary of this honor would feel impelled to admit that he had seen or experienced something unusual and extraordinary, something magnificent.

But what is a king or an emperor compared with the Son of God? Furthermore, what is a beggar’s filth or stench compared with the filth of sin which is ours by nature, stinking a hundred thousand times worse and looking infinitely more repulsive to God than any foul matter found in a hospital? And yet the love of the Son of God for us is of such magnitude that the greater the filth and stench of our sins, the more He befriends us, the more He cleanses us, relieving us of all our misery and of the burden of all our sins and placing them upon His own back. All the holiness of the monks stinks in comparison with this service of Christ, the fact that the beloved Lamb, the great Man, yes, the Son of the Exalted Majesty, descends from heaven to serve me.


Don’t Look At Me!

Alright, this is my last post reflecting on Tullian Tchividjian’s book Jesus+Nothing=Everything. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as evidenced by the four posts dedicated to it. It was neat to read how a popular Evangelical pastor rediscovered the true Gospel message and how it has changed his life and his ministry. Many of the people who influenced him in his journey were Lutheran theologians, and as I read his book, I could see the Lutheran influence in his discoveries. (The only thing he is missing is Lutheran sacramental theology, but I can’t ask for everything.)

Tchividjian’s main purpose in this book is to recover the true message of God’s Word from a person-focused center to a Jesus-focused center. He recognized that much of popular evangelical theology focuses on what Christians must do and how they can improve instead of focusing on God and what He has already done through Jesus. Tchividjian refers to this teaching as “performancism” which is just another word for “legalism.” Legalism has been present in the church ever since Bible times. One of the temptations in legalism is to read yourself into all the Bible stories and make them about you.

For example, in the story of David and Goliath, a “me-focused” interpretation would be to place myself in David’s shoes and talk about how I can defeat my giant enemies with God’s help. To take it even further, the five stones all represent some sort of spiritual attribute that I can use to knock down giants. A proper, Jesus-focused interpretation of this story recognizes that David defeating Goliath points forward to Jesus’ battle with sin, death and Satan. Like David, Jesus stands in the place of His people and takes on the enemy that we could never defeat by ourselves. David caught off the head of Goliath. Jesus crushed the head of Satan. Just as David was chosen and anointed by God to be the leader and king of his people, Jesus was chosen and anointed by God to be our Savior and King.

A proper understanding of Scripture means that we will come to realize that the Bible is not primarily about me and what I must do, but rather it is about God and what He has done and continues to do for me. That doesn’t mean that we cannot learn anything about ourselves and the Christian life through stories like David and Goliath. But these stories are first and foremost about God, specifically God the Son, Jesus Christ. Tchividjian gets at this in his book:

The gospel doesn’t take you deeper into yourself; the gospel takes you away from yourself. That’s why Paul reminds the Colossians (and us), ‘You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (3:3). The gospel frees us to realize that, while we matter, we’re not the point…The gospel causes us to look up and out, away from ourselves. It turns our gaze upward to God and outward to others, both to those inside the church and to those outside it. The gospel causes us to love God and to love others, which of course is how Jesus summed up the entirety of the law.

And some more from Tchividjian:

Reminded of the gospel, we’re reminded that sin enslaves by making us big; the gospel frees by making us small. Our self-esteem culture would have us believe that the bigger we become, the freer we’ll be. But the gospel turns that on its head- the smaller we become, the freer we will be. We begin to decrease; Christ begins to increase. The world says the more independent you become, the freer and stronger you’ll be; the gospel says the more dependent on God you become, the freer and stronger you’ll be.

This is true freedom. A proper understanding of the Gospel means that we do not have to be plagued by guilt as we look inside ourselves and see, not moral improvement, but sin. The gospel points us away from ourselves and toward Jesus. Legalism and “performancism” leaves us open to accusations of hypocrisy because we point to ourselves and pat ourselves on the back at the improvement we have made. When we grasp the true Gospel message, we can take comfort in the fact that it isn’t up to my performance. We can tell Satan who wants to accuse us in our sin through other people “Don’t look at me! I am not the standard. Look at Jesus! I am perfect because of Him only.” And when God looks at you, He sees you through the lens of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t see your works or your lack thereof; He sees Christ’s works, his life, death, and resurrection, for you.

What a great promise! I encourage all of you to read Tchividjian’s book and rediscover the Gospel message for yourself. I will leave you with one last quote.

Now you can spend your life giving up your place for others instead of guarding it from others, because your identity is in Christ, not in your place. Now you can spend your energy going to the back instead of getting to the front, because your identity is in Christ, not in your position. You can also spend your life giving, not taking, because your identity is in Christ, not in your possessions. All this is our new identity- all because of Christ’s finished work to us in the gospel.

Grow Up!

I used to think that growing as a Christian meant I had to somehow go out and obtain the qualities and attitudes I was lacking. To really mature, I needed to find a way to get more joy, more patience, more faithfulness, and so on…What the Bible teaches is that we mature as we come to a greater realization of what we already have in Christ. The gospel, in fact, transforms us precisely because it’s not itself a message about our internal transformation but about Christ’s external substitution. From Jesus+Nothing=Everything by Tullian Tchividjian

What is the life of sanctification all about? How do Christians mature in their faith? How exactly do you measure spiritual growth? These are important questions because there are so many wrong answers out there. Actually, there is probably only one wrong answer, but it takes many different forms. The wrong answer is legalism or to borrow from Tchividjian again, “performancism.” The idea is that justification is all about what God does and sanctification or spiritual growth is all about what I must now do.

Sanctification according to legalism focuses on my actions, on my need or desire to get better. Legalism ignores the cross and what Christ has done. It pushes the cross into the past and focuses on the present and what you are doing to stay in God’s good favor.We get fooled into thinking that we have to earn our keep in God’s good graces. Remember how Tchividjian  puts it: I have to get more joy, more patience, more faithfulness, more sincerity, more love, more (insert Christan attribute here) in order to prove that I am a Christian and that I am growing.

Now don’t get me wrong. Having more joy, more patience, and more faithfulness are all good things. But these are natural fruits that are produced from a life connected to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are not some measuring stick in order to keep your room  in heaven. You aren’t gaining any favor with God by gaining new abilities. Actually when we think this way we are putting all the attention on ourselves. We are putting ourselves back under the law of Moses from which Jesus died to free us! As Tchividjian puts its,

Ironically, when we focus mostly on our need to get better, we actually get worse. We become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with our effort instead of with God’s effort for us makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.

So what is the life of sanctification really about? It’s about Jesus’ death and resurrection. How do Christians truly mature in their faith? By relying on Jesus.

Think of it this way: sanctification is the daily hard work of going back to the reality of our justification. It’s going back to the certainty of our objectively secured pardon in Christ and hitting the refresh button a thousand times a day. Or, as Martin Luther so aptly put it in his Lectures on Romans, ‘To progress is always to begin again.’ Real spiritual progress, in other words, requires a daily going backwards. Tchividjian

God's grace is a vast, endless ocean

Sanctification is still about Jesus’ work! Jesus has set you free from the Law! Yet we constantly try to get back under it because we are so trained in the mindset that we have to do something, we have to earn our keep, we have to make the grade. Real Christian maturity and spiritual growth comes with a deeper realization that we by cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him or get any better. Real Christian maturity and spiritual growth comes with a greater understanding that we must decrease, and Jesus must increase. The truly mature Christian plunges into the deep ocean of God’s grace. Spiritual growth occurs when we stop trying to please God by our efforts and realize that God has already given us his approval through Jesus. Once we’re already approved and accepted by God in Christ, we can freely follow God’s lead and grow in doing his will out of genuine gratitude for his amazing grace and without any fear of judgment or condemnation when we fail. And you will fail. Over and over again. Every day of your life. But your failures have been overcome by Christ’s death! “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” 1 Corinthians 15:57

It is finished! For real…I’m not making this up

“A Christian may not struggle with believing that our good behavior is required to initially earn God’s favor; but I haven’t met one Christian who doesn’t struggle daily with believing- somehow, someway- that our good behavior is required to keep God’s favor.”

From Jesus+Nothing=Everything by Tullian Tchividjian

This is most certainly true! I have fallen into this thinking. You have fallen into this thinking. Entire church bodies are trapped in this kind of thinking. This kind of thinking, once again, is called legalism. It is the belief that after a person has been justified by God’s work and grace alone, the process of sanctification is their work. It is something that they must do in order to insure that they stay in God’s good graces. However, legalism places a Christian under the burden of the Law once again, the very Law which Christ set us free from in his death and resurrection.

“In his law-fulfilling life, curse-bearing death, and death-defeating resurrection, Jesus has entirely accomplished for sinners what sinners could never in the least do for themselves. The banner under which the Christian lives reads, “It is finished.” (Tchividjian) It is finished. You do not have to seek God’s approval over and over again. Jesus won it for you once and for all time.”

This is a difficult concept for us to understand. As I mentioned in my last post “Making the Grade,” we are used to performing in order to gain a reward or earn someone’s favor. It is easy to transfer that “performancism” over to our faith. However, living the life under the banner which reads “It is finished” is so much more freeing! Tchividjian accurately and wonderfully points out, “Once we’re already approved and already accepted by God in Christ, we can freely follow God’s lead and grow in doing his will out of genuine gratitude for his amazing grace and without any fear of judgment or condemnation when we fail.”

In my next post, as I continue to reflect on Tchividjian’s book, we will take a closer look at what sanctification really looks like. Here’s a hint: It’s still about grace alone and not anything that you must do! Check back soon!

Making the Grade

We live in a performance based society. Work hard in school, and your efforts will pay off. Go the extra mile at your job, and people will notice. Do something extra nice for your spouse, and you will be shown appreciation and love in return. We are driven by the motivation to get better and to perform well in every situation.

This is not a bad thing. How else will a school know that you are learning the material unless you perform well on all the assignments and tests? How else should your boss reward (or discipline) you other than basing it off your performance? While love for a spouse may not be primarily based upon performance, how else will your spouse know you love and care for them unless you tell them or show them?

The trouble with our emphasis on performance is when we transfer it over to our relationship with God. Your good standing before God is not based on your performance. It never has been. It never will be.

You are probably nodding your head in agreement. Most of you (my readers) are good Lutherans. It is by grace you have been saved, and this is not of yourself. It is a gift of God so that no one can boast. Jesus earned your good standing with God the Father through His sacrificial death and resurrection. We know this quite well. We coined the terms “Grace alone. Faith alone. Scripture alone.”

However, that does not mean that we do not get sucked into the same trap that, I would say, sucks in a majority of Christians. We believe that Jesus died for our sins and gave us new life. For us Lutherans, this new life was given to us at our baptism. We have been saved. Now what? Now we must obey. Now it is up to me. Now the Christian life is about a bunch of “do’s” and “don’ts” in order to lead a God-pleasing life. Isn’t that what sanctification is all about? Isn’t it about my performance? Isn’t my obedience the proof that I am a child of God?

It comes so naturally to us. Deep down, we have trouble with the concept of grace. We struggle with this idea that everything has already been completed for us. We don’t have to do a thing in order to earn a good standing with God or in order to keep our good standing with God. We always try to add something to grace.

In his book Jesus+Nothing=Everything, author and pastor Tullian Tchividjian (Yeah, I have no idea how to pronounce it either) tells his story about struggling with grace and with the trap of legalism. Legalism is performance based Christianity. Legalism sneaks into the church on the coattails of good intentions. Shouldn’t a Christian do good works? Shouldn’t we be learning about all the things we need to be doing? Shouldn’t we following the commandments: love God and love your neighbor? Pretty soon though, the Christian life becomes less about Jesus and his performance and more about me and my performance. Suddenly, I’m judging my worth before God in terms of my obedience.

As I said, legalism is tricky. We often fall right into it without realizing it. As Tchividjian  says, “Typically, it’s not that Christians seek to blatantly replace the gospel. What we try to do is simply add to it.” He adds,

The Bible makes it clear that the gospel’s premier enemy is the one we often call ‘legalism.’ I like to call it performancism. Still another way of viewing it, especially in its most common manifestation in Christians, is moralism… Legalism happens when what we need to do, not what Jesus has already done, becomes the end game… We know it’s wrong to worship immorality, like everybody out in the world seems to be doing; we find it harder to see that it’s just as wrong to worship morality, like everybody in the church seems to be doing…In fact, the most dangerous thing that can happen to you is that you become proud of your obedience.

In my next few posts, I want to explore this book a little further. Tchividjian has rediscovered the gospel and has also discovered Lutheran theology. He is not a Lutheran pastor but cites several Lutheran theologians as influential people for him in the writing of this book. He also quotes Martin Luther several times which makes sense because there is no greater champion of the gospel than Luther. (OK, maybe Paul) As I said, he is writing this book as a response to his own personal struggle and has seen the need to attack legalism which is resting comfortably in our churches right now. It is dangerous and needs to be opposed. The only way to do that is through the gospel. I hope you will join in this exploration of the gospel in these next couple of weeks because this is an issue that every single one of us needs to hear because I believe we all struggle with “performancism.” To quote Tchividjian again:

A Christian may not struggle with believing that our good behavior is required to initially earn God’s favor; but I haven’t met on Christian who doesn’t struggle daily with believing- somehow, someway- that our good behavior is required to keep God’s favor.

Remember: Jesus has made the grade for you!