LenBanks

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Tag: Matt Chandler

Moving Towards Christ

I have observed an interesting and sad result when offering people in our church cash gifts in their difficult times.  We have a team that quietly distributes funds to various ministries and individuals as they feel led.  The individuals are told that there are no strings attached, it’s just a gift to help in a particular time of need.  The gift of course is almost always received with gratefulness.  Often with humility and brokenness.  But then over time I have seen a number of people become uncomfortable, feeling that somehow they should pay it back.  We stress it isn’t necessary, but you can see the struggle they’re going through.  And in most cases, they couldn’t pay it back anyways.  But they wrestle with accepting what they feel is “charity” and what we feel is an expression of love.  Sadly many over the years end up leaving the church shortly after the gift because they feel shame in having this obligation.  They find it easier to not be reminded each time they come to church.

I think this plays into exactly what author and pastor, Matt Chandler, brings out when he asks the question, “What moves you towards Christ?”  

That’s the question posed his new book, To Live Is Christ (chapter 5), regarding the passion that Paul expresses in Philippians and David shows throughout the Psalms.  The hunger, deep groanings, to consider all things rubbish in comparison.  He wonders why more of us don’t find ourselves in that place and then offers this as a possible reason…

“What often happens for us when we come to know the Lord—and usually it comes from a very sincere place—is that our love of God’s grace is replaced with a sense of obligation to please Him. It starts with gratitude but easily and naturally turns into trying to pay back a debt—to earn His grace, in other words. We move on to the self-salvation project so rapidly.

“Instead we need to ask a question complementary to good works. We need to ask ourselves: What moves me toward Jesus? What stirs my affections for Jesus Christ?” Matt Chandler & Jared C. Wilson. To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain.

There is something inside of us (pride) that wrestles with grace.  We feel an obligation to try to pay back, to be on the same footing as the giver.  And yet in the case of the cross, that just will never be the case.   We will never be on the same footing with Christ.  The pot will never be equal with the potter.

I think this is perhaps an aspect of “working out our salvation with fear and trembling”.  The struggle to not let pride strip away the necessary complete abandonment to grace is part of our journey.

So what moves us towards Christ?  What motivates us to settle for just being good or better instead of being intimate with Him?    I can’t answer that for anyone else as I struggle enough for myself.

What I do know is that I want to have words like yearn, passion, burn, groan, hunger and thirst to be part of what describes my desire to know God deeply and intimately.

Prayer: God, thank you so much for your free and immense gift of grace to me.  May I receive it continually and not move towards trying to earn it in any way.  Help me to see my place of desperation at all times instead of attempting to convince myself of my own worth.  Instead may my life, by the power and leading of your Holy Spirit, be marked with a devotion and passion to bring you glory!  “As the deer pants for water” may my soul long for you.  I want to press in to more of you.

Living Worthy

Just to be straight from the start I am making many references in this post to the writings of Matt Chandler; The Explicit Gospel and To Live Is Christ To Die Is Gain.  They have recently been informing my thoughts, particularly since my growth group is going through the second book as we focus on the Letter to the Philippians.  I wholly encourage you to read these books!

In Philippians 1:27 Paul writes, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  From my “moralistic, therapeutic deistic” view of life I was raised in, this was always a verse that shamed me, kept me in check, and was anything but liberating.  As so many of us have been raised in the church have come to believe, perhaps not in our teaching, but in our behavior, we are constantly attempting to “manage” our sin to be worthy or acceptable to God.  We know about God’s grace and and even teach it, but then somehow behave in a manner that is all about managing sin to appear moral.  So many of our sermons and Sunday School lessons could be boiled down to “stop sinning, pray, read the Bible”.  And certainly those are expected behaviors.

But that flies directly in the face of what God says to us.  Through Christ we are ALREADY acceptable.  His work on the cross was complete and we are free.  The disciplines are not the goal or even the path to growth!  They are the results of growth, of an intimate relationship with Jesus.  I know that sounds odd and likely it’s not quite as black and white as that.  But the focus of our lives should be Jesus!  And it is too easy for us “not see the forest through the trees” and live the kind of life that elevates the disciplines over the relationship, even to the point of pushing out intimacy altogether.

So what does it mean to live worthy of the gospel?  It means to ascribe worth to God.  Let our lives not be self-focused, but God-focused.  To Live is Christ!  Every moment of our existence should be to bring glory to God.  He is not shaming us or guilting us or asking us to manage our sin that we might be counted worthy.  I could never be worthy!  Salvation, the gospel, is not about me and my need, but God’s great majestic love and mercy.  Because He is loving He chose to rescue me from my sin.  He alone is worthy and there is no other God like Him.

So living worthy means to direct our eyes to Him and allow Him to be big in our lives.  To give over residence to Him so that our self-efforts have no space left.  Then as Paul continues to write you will, “stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.”

So then shedding the entanglements of sin and living out the Christian disciplines are responses and natural outcome of a life where we have fallen in love with Jesus.  They are no longer attempts in hope that we will be picked to be on the team, but the results of one already on it.  It’s a difficult dance to be sure.  For us to see where the motivation in our hearts begins.  Is our relationship with Christ the foundation or the goal of our behavior?  I think this is where Revelation’s letters to the churches come in – “you have forgotten your first love”.  We may start well but somewhere along the way it becomes about the routine, the discipline, and we begin to deceive ourselves into thinking we’ve got it handled.  But we don’t!  John’s plea to not “claim we are without sin” is not for the first moments of our conversion, but for our whole life.

But even here I am not trying to focus our eyes on our sin!  Stop striving to manage sin, to be worthy in your efforts and instead rest in God’s greatness, the power of the transforming gospel, and direct your life’s passion to ascribing worth to Him.  Let your “striving” be for living together as one for faith of the gospel.

Prayer:  God help me, help us as your body, to recognize the transforming power of the gospel and to be free from trying somehow to make ourselves worthy.  Help us not to get caught up in shame and effort, but instead to rest in the full measure of your grace and see just how big you are and can be in our lives.  May our life’s goal be to know you in the power of your death and resurrection.  A power that causes our sin to die once for all and to be made new again in life.  And may we be filled with such a response of praise that our whole life ascribes worth to you through a unity of faith in the gospel!

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