October 16, 2017

Free to Be Ourselves

Rediscovering the gospel (of grace alone) enabled me to see that:

  • Because Jesus is strong for me, I am free to be weak.
  • Because Jesus won for me, I am free to lose.
  • Because Jesus is someone, I am free to be no one.
  • Because Jesus is extraordinary, I am free to be ordinary.
  • Because Jesus succeeded for me, I am free to fail.

Adapted from Jesus + Nothing = Everything
by Tullian Tchividjian

Comments

  1. Nope…I don’t think the answer is Jesus. I just registered for a lecture at the Center of Public Inquiry here in Washington, D.C. on March 5. They are having a lecture on the concept of an evil God. Maybe if Jesus really cared for people wouldn’t he prevent that 6 year old from being molested? If Jesus really cared wouldn’t he have spared the close to 3,000 lives in the World Trade Center? If Jesus really cared wouldn’t he prevent the molestation scandal that spread across the Roman Catholic Church? If Jesus cared wouldn’t he have saved that teenager in Missouri who was killed out of pleasure?

    There are many answers that Jesus won’t give Chaplin Mike…and that is why he is not worthy of worship or adortion. Why or how could you worship a God that allows such evil is beyond me.

    Christianity just makes me feel sick…..

    • You are looking for God’s hidden sovereignty, which he has not revealed or explained, and ignoring God as he revealed himself, as a perfect man dying and suffering for all the pain and sin in the world. God himself inflicted suffering on himself in Christ, far greater than we can imagine, on behalf of the 6 year old girl, the 3000 in the WTC, the dead teen, and every other person hurt by sin.

      What other hope would you offer the 6 year old girl being molested, the 3000 faced with imminent death, the teen being senselessly attacked? Good luck finding something more beautiful, pure, and holy than a God that has taken on all the suffering of the world in humiliation, for us.

      • If a holy God, who is pure could just forgive (thiink about it….if he made the world why can’t he just forgive the world without murdering his son?) the world why wouldn’t he? Especially if he could have spared his own son? Since God didn’t spare his son, when he could have….does that make God narcisstic psychopath? Did he delight in killing his son. He must have!! Becuase he could have just forgiven the world, forigven all sin, and in the process of redeeming all mankind, he would have also saved his only son.

        Jesus didn’t have to die… Not one bit. And there are too many questions that should raise people’s eyebrows.

        In terms of the examples given I ask…what hope did God offer those victims knowing they were going to suffer in unspeakable ways? Boaz…if you are a father wouldn’t you do everything in your power to protect your daughter from a Sunday School Teacher who is also a sexual predator who wants to molest your child? What parent wouldn’t?!? Why do Christians let God off the hook and excuse him? That’s what I don’t get. I really don’t.

        Personally I see no hope. Just a God who compounds suffering by sitting on the sidelines playing with his thumbs. Maybe this is all that exists is this life and nothing more. Maybe we are meant to make the most of it. Hope and Christianity and Jesus do not exist in the same sentance.

    • Boaz asks an excellent question. Where will you go? For now, evil is a constant in the world. No one is immune, not event Christians. We believe that before God judges the world in Christ by the removal of all that is evil and harmful and setting all things right, He graciously gives men time to repent toward God and have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

      If you are correct, and God is evil, then men and women will always continue to abuse and harm each other from generation to generation. You will spend the rest of your life being angry at Him. When you die, you will be left in the hands of an evil God.

      If there is no God, then you will continue to be angry, because men and women are consistently flawed. The murder, abuse, and victimization will continue. History has proven that mankind cannot bring to himself the peace and justice he so desperately desires. The best of civilizations have their faults, and the best of civilizations never last. No one will provide a solution, because the solution is not to be found in this world. And when you die, you will be utterly forgotten.

      Mankind needs a solution that is outside of himself, and outside of his world. We believe that Jesus is that outside solution. What is your alternative?

      • …And evil is a constant in the world because we live in a fallen world. According to Eagle’s logic, God is sovereign…He is responsible for all the evil in the world. But if you follow that logic, isn’t he also responsible for all the good? Without Christ in the equation, what would man choose? Without, we would have no examples of perfect compassion and love.

        If Jesus was really evil, would Christians be responsible for most of the world’s charitable giving? If Jesus was really evil, wouldn’t that mean all of His followers (Mother Theresa, Dorothy Day, Father Damien, and the list goes on and on…) would also be inclined toward evil?

        We live in a fallen world, and bad things happen. I work in child protective services, and right now I’m dealing with a 3 year old with a horrible STD. Chances are he either contracted it from his father, who abused him and his mother, or a neighbor, who is a sex offender. I will do all I can to find out who harmed this child; to help him obtain the medical treatment he needs; and to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen to him again. I do this because it is my career, Eagle, but I do it primarily because I am compelled by the example of Christ.

        Lectures and conferences like the ones you are going to are conducted by individuals who purport to be “experts”, but do little more than throw around the same sensationalist rhetoric in every city they make a stop in. When they’ve made the rounds a few times, they will modify the speech, or just change causes altogether. What is the speaker’s educational background? I would wager that he likely has little or no training in any field of spirituality. I don’t believe that scientists are any more qualified to lecture on God than pastors are to lecture on science.

        I apologize in advance for saying this, but these kind of lectures are about getting attention and selling books. Eagle, did you pay to attend this lecture? If you’re really outraged by child exploitation, instead of giving your cash to these people for their useless words and books, then give to the International Justice Mission, or another worthy cause that fights this type of thing.

        Eagle, you’re a smart guy, but you’re choosing to wallow in your pain. I know what it’s like to be rejected and slammed and to have my world wrecked by Christians…but Christians aren’t Christ. If we as human beings were so inclined toward good, there would have been no need for Christ on the Christ.

        • I apologize in advance for getting off topic, CM. Tchividjian is one of my favorite authors. It’s good to know that we have a God, in the words of Brennan Manning, who loves as we are, and not as we should be.

        • Make that “Christ on the cross” instead of “Christ on the Christ”. I feel like I just ordered extra mayo on a mayonnaise sandwich…

        • Amen Lee.. keep up the fight, or should I say spreading the love.

        • Lee this is what I singed up for…

          http://www.centerforinquiry.net/dc/events/voices_of_reason_-_stephen_law_the_evil_god_challenge/

          It’s hard to find people who want to talk about the problem of evil. There are a number of issues that are obstacles to my belief in God. Evil is one of them. How can one not ask questions? I cringe each day!! I read CNN online, Foxnews online, Los Angeles Times online, Washington Post online and I’ll notiice it when listening to WTOP. You can’t escape it…juts an avalanche or murder, molestation, rape, what that teacher did to those students in that LA elementary school, war, financial fraud, car jackings, terrorism, etc… It’s all over the place, one can’t escape it. Why do Christians not be troubled by this?

          Last Tuesday I hanged around a freind of mine and his wife in their DC apartment. She’s getting her Masters in Social Work from Catholic University of America. I was pulling my hair out in talking about this issue with her, becuase all evil was attributed to Satan and God was out of the conversation. No questions, no bewilderment, etc.. I don’t get Christianity. Christians just excuse God and give him a pass. Sometimes I seem to think that those who have faith must be simplisitc in their thought processes and you either have it or you don’t. I don’t have it…and I don’t think I will ever have it. I don’t know why more people arn’t distrubed by this issue. It’s all over the place and one can’t escape it.

          • So you can’t believe that there are opposing forces? Good and evil? That flow from different springs?

          • “Faith is what someone knows to be true, whether they believe it or not.” (Flannery O’Connor)

          • I checked your link, as well…So you want to explore the idea of an evil God, so you go to a secular humanist for answers? Eagle, you’re smarter than that. I fear that you only want to fuel the fire that’s already in your mind.

          • hi eagle, I struggle with depression and your thoughts about the problem of evil dominate my mind. I have been through so much pain, fear and sorrow I was waiting for God to intevene and am realizing that He will not (especialy when we want Him to, I used to think I could predict God’s actions how foolish that was!). Life is full of pain and it is not just. Very few people are willing to admit that. It is the classic problem of evil – why would a good God allow so much suffering without intervening, if He was good and all powerful then the burden is on Him to act. I don’t have answers just a few ideas (I am still a Christian and I think these reflections have deepened my faith somehow): the book of Job addresses this exact issue an it is intesting that it does not realy give clear philosophical answers – it is still a mystery but God is Supreme and He also stands up to support Job who bitterly accuses Him and even declares Job righteous in this. Another idea that resonates with me which I have learned from CS Lewis and Malcolm Muggeridge is that we can only make sense of this world if we see it as a training ground, if we put all our hopes and desires in this life we will be sorely dissapointed. It only makes sense if we see it as preparation for something bigger.

            I think it is good that you see these things, but you should come at it with full honesty, meaning don’t let if fuel your desire to rid yourself of faith – take it to the full conclusion – question everything faith and non faith alike. Try to see what satisfies your soul on the issue. When you think of Christianity, don’t think of a strawman – tv preachers and the like – think of real people who struggle just like you, who do not have everything spelled out and categorized but believe that ultimately Good exists and that He has shown us Himself fully in Christ.

      • Here’s a choice. One can also choose not to believe, which is a choice. In some ways, especially when I see the Christian scene. I feel that is almost healthier. I could choose not to believe. If hell exists then I would rathor be bold and honest with God when being condemned than be like a million of Christians who play the game, play the facade and go about life being fruadlent. If I can’t believe in some of this, I am not going to make it up.

        One must remember that Christianity poses a threat to one’s charachter and integrity. That was one of the lessons I leanred. Well it’s bigger than that becuase it’s more than having an accountability partner who asks you “Hey did you look at a Maxim magazine?” No…it’s bigger in the sense that one should not go through life wondering and being torn apart by doubt and even expresing or questioning the foundation at times, for example the concept that God is good. If God is good I ask…what did he create in the world?

    • Evil exists, therefore a supremely good being does not? Ok…. Let’s play this Zacharias style.

      If there exists such a thing as evil, then good must also exist. Assuming it’s possible to tell the difference, there must be some sort of standard by which to judge “this is good,” and “this is evil.” I propose a supremely good being is the source of such standard, and therefore a predetermined necessity if evil is to exist at all. If there is no actualization of the exact opposite of everything evil is, than by what basis to we call evil bad? Should a supremely good being be obligated to spare mankind any and all suffering, including the self-inflicted? Or does he just owe us a perfect world where accidents and disasters never happen? What did we ever do to put God in our debt to owe us these things?

      If you are hungry, that is a good indication that food exists. If we suffer pain and torment, it is a good indication that relief and peace exists. What say we give the source a three letter name starting with G?

      Ok, I took the bait. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on these questions. Oh, and your critique seems to be directed mostly at God generally, not on any specific monotheistic’s representation of him.

      • Did I answer the question above? If not let me know and I will…

        • Well, I get your frustration with the issue and the way many Christians are cavalier about it and sidestep the issue. But what I’d like your reaction to is: Does not the existence of evil require the existence of good? Apart from good, how can we arrive at any concrete understanding of evil? And shouldn’t there be an OBJECTIVE criteria by which evil is distinguished? Because a subjective one means what’s evil for you is good for me. Once you have an objective standard, you can argue that God IS said standard, or at least the source of it. This is only an argument for theism generally, not trinitarian orthodoxy.

    • Final Anonymous says:

      Eagle, I can’t offer any words of wisdom, just my support and thoughts as you continue your journey. I know sometimes the most innocent or uplifting sounding thing can bring up such raw emotions. Better to plow through than bury them.

    • I actually understand your grief in those questions. I have my own set that bothers me at times.

      Some nights I wake up at 3am and the questions plague me. Why did a good friend’s wife die so young? And with 1 kid left in the house, why is he striken with cancer?

      God could stop those things.

      Of course if I then say I don’t get the answers I want then there is at least one other option.

      I am simply a product of time plus chance plus matter. As one thinker said, man’s number just came up in the slot machine. If I push that through to a conclusion all the things you mention really don’t matter because as my paleontology professor told us 30 years ago:

      The universal fate of all species is extinction.

      I want to be fair here Eagle. I have also witnessed a huge amount of good that believers have done. World Vision, habitat for humanity, in my city a successful software entrepreneur has opened up numerous womens shelters on his own nickel. The largest low cost housing projects in my area were started by Christians believing they should better the world.
      Most major world universities were started by Christians, and so were hospitals.

    • Because Jesus lives, I am free to die.

    • Eagle, if you do not already have a link to Rachel Evan’s blog, find the link to it here on the left side of this blog. Once there, search on the word “omnipotent” in the search box she has. An blog post Rachel called “Tripp Fuller and Bo Sanders: Is God Really Omnipotent?” will be found. If you have not already read it, I recommend doing so. I know lots of folks would disagree with me, but it makes everything fall into place when you realize that God is NOT omnipotent. The last part of the article says, “So God is not omnipotent. Secondly, God is omniscient in that God knows all there is to know – but the future is undetermined. Thirdly, God is omnipresent in an even more radical way than traditionally thought. Lastly, God is neither immutable nor impassable – those are concerns of early Greek thought and not from the Christian scripture. So quit saying God is omnipotent. Jesus was just too loving for that to stick.”

      I hope the article by Tripp and Bo helps anyone needing that help.

    • Eagle , if you want to hear someone take theodicy seriously , check out “experimental theology”. that blog may be helpful to you.

  2. Eagle I appreciate your honest wrestling with such matters, but they are not really the theme of this post.

    • So eagle where will you go? Christianity makes me well, even though I am sick. I don’t know why you are so angry, but you are only hurting yourself. Get over it, you will be happier.

    • Final Anonymous says:

      Sorry Mike — I replied to Eagle right before I read your comment. Didn’t mean to continue the tangent.

    • I don’t understand. Each day when I hear or read the news I see the evil and then I read posts about God and grace and ask why? Why? Why? Why? What good is grace in a world satuated with evil? And what good is a God who allows evil to occur? I don’t get it. I think about this regularly on top fo reading all the books, material, etc.. But I’m not going to let God (if he exists) off the hook for evil. To do so would just seem sick. What type of manager is God when you consider the evil that happens in this world? Or to tie it back to the topic…so people are free to be themselves. That includes the freedom to kill 3,000 in the World Trade Center or do what that teacher did in the Los Angeles Elementary school? Grace can be used in that context? For me I think of God and I just feel sick.

      I sometimes just feel that one either has faith or they don’t. And those that do don’t have problems with issues like this. They must compartmentalize issues like this…..

      • It is called free will, one can choose to sin, otherwise you would just be an automaton.

      • Eagle ~ I noticed that what is supposed to be a week of Celebrating Grace, which is Chaplain Mike’s desire that, once again we are all centered on Eagle. You are spoiling this week for all of us, I imagine mostly Chaplain Mike. Why must you always be the center of attention? You are like a spoiled child who just will continue throwing tantrums as long as it is all about you. It is supposed to be all about God’s grace this week. Here is a link for people who have left Christianity. http://sites.google.com/site/leavingxtianity/
        The rest of us would like to focus on God’s grace. I for one am tired of trying to convince you – you don’t want to be convinced. I accept and respect that. Stop raining on our parade.

  3. Who wants to be a weak, losing, obscure, ordinary failure? Certainly not me. If grace enables me to embrace this, it is somewhat less than attractive. I don’t think those are the goals of grace. It’s not that Jesus frees us to suck: We were sucking just fine on our own long before he came along. Instead, he accepts us in spite of it. And by his grace, we can even transcend it. And ultimately, we will escape it. (That would be the traditional Protestant categories; justification, sanctification, glorification.)

    Of course, there is more to God’s plan for us than our being strong, winning, important, outstanding successes. Those are things that every sinner wants. But grace gives us the strength to carry a cross. Grace gives us the prize of eternal rewards, and the ability to achieve significance through being the servant of all. Grace reveals in us the uniqueness that God already created us to exhibit. And grace ultimately makes us successful imitators of Christ, despite how many failures accumulate along the journey.

    The problem I have with many of these Presbyterians (Brown, Tchividjian, etc…) discovering the Law/Gospel distinction that Lutherans have always enjoyed is that they don’t always seem to make a clear distinction between being free from the law’s condemnation and free from the law’s requirements. In their zeal to make Jesus seem like a loving, affirming, accepting nice guy, they often stumble into a bit of antinomianism. There’s worse things that they could do, but to say the end game of grace is to celebrate weakness and failure ultimately argues against sanctification. I’m waiting for the PCA guys to start commenting on C. W. Walther. That could start an engaging exchange between traditions. Then maybe DeYoung would be able to find us Lutherans behind these rocks we hide under.

    • Kerri in AK says:

      Who wants to be a weak, losing, obscure, ordinary failure?

      Well, me, for one. I was at one point one of those “strong, winning, important, outstanding successes” and completely full of myself. And then it began to collapse until I finally suffered a profound identity crisis that lasted for months and months. God very gently and very patiently waited until I realized that my whole life had been smoke and mirrors. When I turned around and began to listen for his voice I can’t say my life got a whole lot better but his love for me more than made up for it. Love and lots of lessons in obedience have peeled off many layers of ego to the point where being a weak, losing, obscure, ordinary failure is a blessing. There is no pressure to perform, to be a certain way, to look good, none of that. As the quote puts it, I am “free” because of Jesus. Truly God’s grace in action!

      • When Jesus intervenes in our lives, he drastically re-orients our priorities. Unless the crisis experience you describe included your original conversion, then I believe it wasn’t your “letting go” that gave you freedom. Christ’s death bought your freedom, and you have had it since you first believed. When our understanding of “strong, winning, important, etc…” leads us to be full of ourselves, we are seeking our freedom through a substitute for Christ. Jesus is more than happy to let us crash and burn in order for us to reorient our trust back in him. Weak as the world sees, yes. But when Christ is strong for us, we are strong indeed! The paradox of faith is learning to embrace our own weakness so that Christ can be our strength. There’s a cross before every resurrection, and the way down is the way up.

        • Kerri in AK says:

          Conversion isn’t a one off; it’s a continual process along one’s spiritual journey. I experienced one in a host of many after the crisis (and many before that!). I completely agree that I was “free” beforehand – I’d been “free” my whole life! – I just had not recognized that grace. And I’ll quibble a bit about your statement “Jesus is more than happy to let us crash and burn…” I think Jesus was suffering right along with me because when I finally could do no more on my own and turned to him it wasn’t just unconditional love I received but that love tinged with experiential understanding. God makes the offer and then waits but I don’t believe he’s anything but sad when we won’t pay attention.

          As for being weak in the eyes of the world, when I do something strong I take no credit; it is God working through me. When I do something weak, same deal. How am I to know the mind of God? I haven’t a clue what he wants me to do or where he wants me to go. All I know is that I want to do his will. I’m finding that the more I aim for being a weak, losing, obscure and ordinary failure the more I must rely on God’s grace and mercy. This is indeed the paradox of faith. Something about being a stumbling block and foolishness and frustrating the worldly wise and intelligent. But no matter, all I need do is get up in the morning with my weak willingness and see what happens.

    • Final Anonymous says:

      “And grace ultimately makes us successful imitators of Christ, despite how many failures accumulate along the journey.”

      Ironically, it seems likely Jesus would have been considered quite the failure in His time. He certainly didn’t achieve what many assumed He set out to do… and met an “untimely” end besides.

      • It all hinges on your understanding of the term “success.” For a disciple of Jesus, “success” is being like Christ. Surely Jesus was Christ-like. Therefore, he is the very definition of the “success” that a disciple aspires to. It’s all about the perspective: The viewpoint of unbelief defines good in very material, or “worldly” terms, but the the viewpoint of faith sees the cross and pleads, “O Lord, let me carry mine more faithfully!” Dear Buddha, I’m sounding like a Puritan!

    • “…he accepts us in spite of it.” I think that is the main point. He did not say, “Jesus is ______ SO THAT I could be a failure.” But if I am, I can be assured that Jesus still accepts me. That’s where I find my assurance, not in anything I do, am, or become.

      And as for your distinction, if I’m not free of the Law’s requirements too, then up the creek without a paddle.

      Jesus did everything. I don’t HAVE to do anything.

      • It’s ok to aspire to lawful living provided we are free from the condemnation of lawlessness. The law still requires me to behave a certain way, but the threat has been removed. Before it was “do this, and you shall live.” Now, after the burning coal has touched our lips, we respond joyfully when God asks, “whom shall I send?” We aren’t obligated to fulfill the law under pain of wrath, but being unconditionally freed from all possible wrath, obedience is the right and joyful response of faith. I no longer HAVE to not steal, lie, or commit adultery. I’m free to do those things and God knows I most likely will. But now my paradigm is re-oriented to see freedom from sin as greater than freedom from law: I’d rather live in conformity to God’s commands. I mostly won’t, but by his grace I can a little more every day. If the law cannot condemn us, we are free to pursue its fulfillment without fear of falling short, or the consequences thereof.

  4. Joseph (the original) says:

    i think the biggest battle for me has been in the area of self-image. self-image mostly in how i compare myself to others…

    my measuring stick, when used against other people, will continually ‘mis-gauge’ the result. i will continually fall into the ‘better than/worse than’ category which will make me feel better about myself for a moment, or simply send me into the pity-party pit-of-dispair… 🙁

    what i have discovered is this: when i measure myself up against Jesus, instead of being crushed by the obvious comparison of Perfection vs. sinful creature, i am actually freed up to be me. it is something counter intuitive. upside down kingdom princilple. topsy-turvy divine condundrum. however it is best understood, the reality is real freedom & the blessing of being released to live life-to-the-full…

    no more artificial comparisons that keep me on an emotional pendulum; i am truly free to be the work-in-process saint that can simply ‘rest’ (relax) with the timing, manner, issues, etc. Jesus decides to address…

    it is an odd sensation to have this ‘ah-ha’ experience, but truly liberating as i find myself whistling more as i continue on the journey of faith with greater joy, light, love, laughter…

  5. I have to agree with Miguel: In their zeal to make Jesus seem like a loving, affirming, accepting nice guy, they often stumble into a bit of antinomianism.

    It has long troubled me in the tone of some of the articles. Maybe there is something I am missing. We all believe in grace. Yes Christ accepts me. But no, it is not a license to sin. Years ago Karl Menninger wrote a book Whatever became of Sin In it he chronicles that we have abandoned the concept of sin in our society. We no longer want to have shame. I should be able to be a rotter and stand unashamed before God and the community.

    I may be missing the boat entirely on this, but what I hear reformed types saying is Since you are depraved, go your way and sin more, you cannot help it No need to even try being better, its useless.
    The fruit that I see in that doctrine is that you can’t tell the believers from the unbelievers. They both behave alike. And it makes a parody of much of scripture that seems to promise new life and deliverance from sin. Not perfection, but ongoing growth (progressive sanctification).

    Can anyone show me what I have misunderstood here?

    • As I said to Miguel, if Jesus did everything, I don’t HAVE to do anything.

      That is not to say I won’t. I believe the faith God gives us is a living faith, a lively faith, a working faith. But too many people are focusing on themselves and trying to make themselves (and others) better, when they should be living in the freedom that Jesus has done it all. Here’s that passage again I quoted the other day from Colossians 2, which I think says it best:

      “Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him—in simple faith. Grow out of him as a plant grows out of the soil it is planted in, becoming more and more sure of the faith as you were taught it, and your lives will overflow with joy and thankfulness.” (Phillips)

    • As he explains in the book, the solution is not more law and more rules, but more grace. People who think they get grace but want to deliberately go on sinning haven’t understood it at all. When you “get” grace, the desire to perpetuate sin melts away to the heart’s new desire to obey God out of love, not fear.

      • There! That’s what I was trying to say. God’s grace replaces our desire to sin with a love for him that causes right living.

    • Final Anonymous says:

      Ken–

      We CAN’T tell believers from unbelievers, especially based on behavior… yesterday, today, or ever. I know atheists and pagans who live a more Christ-like life than some Christian speakers and pastors… And that’s just based on their PUBLIC behavior.

  6. David Cornwell says:

    “Rediscovering the gospel (of grace alone) enabled me to see that:”

    That I do not have to understand all the problems of theology and solve the question of theodicy. The answer is found on the Cross and all will be resolved when Heaven and Earth are become one. The older I become, the more certain I am. I hope this does not sound like a flippant or self assured statement, because in fact I understand very little.

  7. Jesus knew full well the evil that inhabits this world.

    He took on it’s full force…he, a totally innocent man…and totally faithful to the Father. Indeed, He was God incarnate.

    And yet suffered, was mocked, was hated, and was put to death…for our sakes.

    He went through all of that so that death would not have the final word for us.

    Yes, we will suffer and die, also, in this life. But because of Christ…that won’t be the end of the story.

    For many, this is not enough. But for many others, it is more than could ever be hoped for.