December 16, 2017

No Super-Christians

Would you describe yourself as totally in love with Jesus Christ? Or do the words halfhearted, lukewarm, and partially committed fit better?

– Francis Chan, Crazy Love

* * *

We’ve been having quite a discussion since I posted Francis Chan’s video about “Aging Biblically”  yesterday and said that I found it worthy of a rant. Though what he had to say about aging Christians was bad enough, I was more concerned about the entire approach to the Christian life that his words and attitude reflected.

I called it world-denying, dualistic, pietistic, and totally bereft of the Gospel.

When Chan says, “Respectfully, I don’t meet a lot of elderly who live like they are about to see Jesus, and saying goodbye to the things of this world,……and risking more than ever, and some of you are buying stuff like you are going to enjoy it…and saving stuff…my life has been about letting go, letting go, letting go…” his words may carry some truth regarding the dangers of materialism, but they go beyond that. He comes perilously close to denying the existential value of material “stuff” — period. As if God didn’t make that “stuff,” didn’t mean for us to have it, enjoy it, savor it. The only logical end point for this approach, as I said in the comments, is the monastery. That kind of “letting go, letting go, letting go” lifestyle, in my mind, is perfectly legitimate for some, who are called to a cloistered vocation, though I can’t picture any good monk or nun being as frantic about it as Chan sounds.

However, for Chan, the stakes are black and white for every Christ-follower. This is reflected in Crazy Love, where the contrast he draws is between “lukewarm” or “totally obsessed.”  Really. It’s one or the other. Unless a person is (and these are his words) — obsessed, consumed with Christ, fixated on Jesus, risk-taking, radical, wholly surrendered — that person may not even be (likely is not) a Christian. “As I see it, a lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron; there’s no such thing. To put it plainly, churchgoers who are ‘lukewarm’ are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven.”

This is the essence of the kind of “discipleship” people like Francis Chan tell us is necessary: “Do you understand that it’s impossible to please God in any way other than wholehearted surrender?”

Well, and I thought trusting Jesus and what he did was enough.

In Crazy Love, Francis Chan spends a chapter highlighting examples of people he thinks fit the bill of “obsessed” Christians who have shown us what “crazy love” looks like.

  • Nathan Barlow, a medical doctor who served in Ethiopia for sixty years. Once when he got a toothache, he had to leave the field to get dental work done. He had the dentist pull all his teeth and give him dentures so he wouldn’t have to leave for a toothache again.
  • Simpson Rebbavarapu, an Indian man who lives solely by faith and runs and orphanage and evangelism ministry.
  • Jamie Lang, a woman who adopted a little girl from Tanzania and has returned there to work with Wycliffe to translate the Bible.
  • Marva Dawn, a scholar and teacher with severe medical problems who has committed to living a simple life and still drives her 1980 VW Bug.
  • Rings, a homeless man who uses his monthly check to buy food for his fellow homeless, which he serves them out of the back of his truck while telling them about Jesus.
  • Rachel Saint, whose brother Nate had been one of the five missionaries killed in 1956 in Ecuador. She went back to those same people, lived among them for twenty years, translated the NT into their language, and is now buried there.
  • George Mueller, well-known English pastor who started orphanages for two reasons: (1) to care for the needy, (2) to show that God provides by prayer alone.
  • Brother Yun, who came to know Christ at age 16, preached the Gospel in China and was imprisoned dozens of times, and on the last occasion had his legs severely beaten and broken. He escaped China and now works for a mission establishing fellowships of believers in all the countries between Jerusalem and China.
  • Shane Claiborne, a leader in the “new monastic” movement, who lives and serves in Philadelphia in The Simple Way community.
  • The Robynson family, a family of five who celebrates Christmas by making breakfast for the homeless in their community.
  • Susan Diego, who feared speaking in front of people, and yet who went to Uganda and led a conference for women.
  • Lucy, an older woman who was a prostitute in her early years. She now opens her home to other young women who are in trouble on the streets.

I have to say, stories like these move and inspire me. They always have. I could tell you a hundred more from my own experiences and reading. And I too have been to places where poor Christians, in living conditions that would be intolerable for comfortable Americans, are trusting Christ and serving their neighbors faithfully. I know people who have made great sacrifices and left much behind to serve Christ. I too have used them as examples to encourage and challenge others in their faith and service. Many of them are personal heroes to me.

But I also remember a conversation I had with one of my best friends from college many years ago that chastened me and gave me caution in telling “heroic” stories. He was young and struggling in ministry and feeling very discouraged. He had sought help from others, and they had suggested he read some biographies of great people of faith from the past, Christian leaders they thought might inspire him. He said to me sadly, “Mike, I’ve read several of these biographies, but they don’t encourage me, they make me feel completely inadequate. I’m not like those people.”

What my friend needed was a different story, a story that wasn’t on a heroic level. He needed an example that made it seem like doing the work of an ordinary pastor in a small rural parish was worth it. He didn’t have to go overseas or start some big mission project or adopt a child from an impoverished country. He wasn’t necessarily called to trust God to provide all his needs solely in answer to prayer, or build a great church, or do anything other than be himself, walk with Jesus, and love his neighbors.

I’m afraid, by Chan’s definition, the majority of Christians are “lukewarm,” and therefore unworthy. But I wonder:

  • Is it “crazy love” to devote my life to loving my spouse and staying together through thick and thin? If I never did any more than that, would it be enough to prove I’m not a “lukewarm” Christian?
  • What if I never did any more than show up at my job day after day and do my work well, as a faithful employee? Would that please God enough?
  • What if I’m a private person, a shy person, a deeply wounded person, a physically disabled person, a person with mental or emotional problems? What if I’m a person who needs to be cared for rather than one capable of actively caring for others? What if someone in my family is ill and I must devote most of my time, energy, and resources to serving them in obscurity? Do people like Chan ever talk about passages like 1Cor 12:22-25? “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”
  • What if I’m part of a small congregation of few means, and I work together with my brothers and sisters to keep it going year after year, and we never do anything particularly creative or risky or “crazy”? What if we just meet every Sunday, teach our children, do a few things now and then to make our community a better place, and support a few missionaries? Is that “obsessed with Jesus” enough?
  • What if I take to heart a NT text like 1Thessalonians 4:11-12 and use it to define my understanding of the Christian life — “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.” (NLT)?
  • And, most importantly, what if I’m a miserable failure and all I can do is come to church and cry out, “God be merciful to me, the sinner!”? Will God be pleased with me? With my doubts? With my lack of trust? With my depression? With my poor social skills or embarrassing appearance? With my constant stumbling and fumbling through the most basic matters of life? Am I worthy enough to be called a disciple?

It seems to me that some preachers simply have no tolerance for ordinary, daily life with all its messiness and imperfection as a realm in which God is at work, and in which we participate through simply being who we are, trusting God, and loving our neighbors. No, the message is loud and clear: do more, give more, sacrifice more, serve more, be more obsessed, take more risks, go farther, reach higher, run faster, be more like this extraordinary person and not like your ordinary self.

Chan’s vision of the Christian life is more, more, more. In Crazy Love, he writes, “If life is a river, then pursuing Christ requires swimming upstream. When we stop swimming, or actively following Him, we automatically begin to be swept downstream. Or, to use another metaphor more familiar to city people, we are on a never-ending downward escalator. In order to grow, we have to turn around and sprint up the escalator, putting up with perturbed looks from everyone else who is gradually moving downward.”

I’m worn out just reading those words.

When did “discipleship” come to mean a manic sprint up a down escalator? I thought it was “walking with Christ.”

I don’t think people who promote this kind of discipleship read the New Testament correctly.

  • They realize, don’t they, that Jesus himself only lived a “radical” life of active ministry for two or three years?
  • They realize, don’t they, that the exciting, non-stop action of the book of Acts describes primarily the acts of the apostles, who had a different calling than most Christians?
  • They realize, don’t they, that none of this frantic, manic, obsessive activism that is being promoted as an antidote to nominal Christianity is represented in any of the epistles?

There are no super-Christians in the New Testament.

Just people, saved by grace, called into a variety of vocations in which we live our ordinary, daily lives in Jesus.

Some may have extraordinary callings, some may have great gifts. Most are normal people, walking with Jesus day by day in the context of family, work, church, and community.

Nor do Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, or John preach at us incessantly to live a “letting go, letting go, letting go” lifestyle that is focused on “heaven” and dismissive of the ordinary stuff of this world. Indeed, they tell us we are free from the voices of religious demand that cry out continually, “More! More! More!” They remind us of a good Creator and a faithful Redeemer who has given us freely all things to enjoy and the greatest gift of all, contentment in his love.

What some people call “crazy love” I call “crazy-making.”

And Jesus calls us away from that:

“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.”

– Matt. 11:28-30, MSG

Comments

  1. I would bet the farm that he is a “free-will”, ‘decision theology’ Christian.

    When you start with what your will does, then it must continue that way and you must will yourself to do and be asll sorts of things that you cannot (will not) do.

    It all becomes a grand, becoming a “better Christian” project.

    It really is dreadful stuff. And quite dangerous, too.

    I’m going to pray for him (that someday he actually hears the gospel). And I’m going to pray for the poor souls in his congregation, that they would despair of this law banging, and run for the door as fast as they can.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Steve, I would caution you about the depth of your disdain of Francis Chan. What I just read in your words is “my Christianity trumps Chan’s Christianity.”. Dangerous waters, those are.

      • Aaron Frazer says:

        Wow this text written by Chaplain Mike looks to me like ” the Gospel ” … ” come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden , and I will give you rest ” … Take MY yoke upon you and learn of ME for MY yoke is EASY and my Burden is lite” …
        Jesus was constantly berating the pharisees for burdening the people with lists of rules and regulations which were counter to what God intended for us. When Jesus was asked which commandment is the greatest, His reply DEFINED what it is to follow “the way” … LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART MIND SOUL AND STRENGTH AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF…
        The way this plays out for each of us will look entirely different which is why we are admonished to ” work out our own salvation with fear/reverence and trembling ”
        I wonder if the journey which Francis Chan is has taken him to a place where this is the ONLY truth for him. It is undeniable that we are called to deny ourselves and take up our cross. However truth which is out of balance will always lead too error…
        I think there is a place for TESTING teaching which is non judgmental, this is a balance not easily found though …

      • It’s not “my” Christianity that trumps Chan’s…it’s the gospel that trumps Chan’s law banging.

        He preaches law. What we must do.

        We’ll never live up to that.

        With his type of “preaching” there are only two outcomes. Despair, or pride.

        We, as believers, have every right to criticize what comes out of his mouth, especially when it is NOT the gospel.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          There’s absolutely nothing wrong with God’s law, as long as our hearts are also right. And that’s scriptural, too.

          And…I’m not sure if a person gets to continually say “grace, grace, grace” without some works…and I believe that is scriptural, too.

          • Rightly dividing the word of God means preaching the law to it’s harshest, and the gospel to it’s sweetest. Steve isn’t saying to preach exclusively grace. Chan is preaching exclusively law, and that is un-Christian. Apart from the person and work of Christ, there is nothing to distinguish our faith from Judaism.

        • GARY DESTERKE says:

          Timothy Keller said “There is a direct relationship between a person’s grasp and experience of God’s grace, and his or her heart for justice and the poor.” The question then is not about eternal security et al, but about joyfully loving, self-denying, cross-bearing RESPONSE to Jesus once for all atonement. The experience of God’s grace can deepen, broaden, go higher and wider as we walk with him. This WILL affect our walk in a way that the status quo Christianity will think is radical.

      • GARY DESTERKE says:

        Rick Ro is right on. I think Jesus would challenge you to stop being a monk and become a more involved friar. Course, I don’t know what He really would say. I would say you are missing the point: There is only one Gate and one Way. The only certainty that you have that you are on the Way and have TRULY gone through the Gate is that you are following Jesus here and now today. That is Francis Chan’s main point. Not all Israel was Israel. And Jesus’ call to follow Him is far more self-denying that most of us ever imagined. It is the very offense of the Cross.

        • “The only certainty that you have that you are on the Way and have TRULY gone through the Gate is that you are following Jesus here and now today.”

          And how good a follower do I have to be? And how do I know I’m really following and not just deceiving myself and others?

          If my assurance is based on looking in the mirror I’m sunk. And you are too.

          • GARY DESTERKE says:

            This is fascinating. It is at the very heart of GENUINE Christ following. Jesus made it abundantly clear that many followers in the last day will be surprised to hear that He tells them that he NEVER knew them. His emphasis on the heart and self-knowledge COINCIDES with his emphasis that He alone can save. These are not mutually exclusive as you propose.

            This false dichotomy is what underlies the American Cultural Christianity dilemma. Many are deluded into thinking that because they have mad a decision/ intellectually believe/ received Jesus into their hearts, often at a young age and in pliable circumstances, that now, no matter how they live, they are safe. They have their “fire-insurance” policy.

            I’ve been there Mike. In a hyper-Calvinist upbringing I rejected religion but my love for nature and the shakiness of evolutionary theory would not allow me to become an a-theist. When I was brought to faith in Christ alone, I was perplexed at my walk – especially my thought life – being so in-congruent with righteousness and purity. Where was the perfection wrought by the Holy Spirit that was promised to me – was I REALLY a believer?

            This led me to the puritans and their doctrine of assurance and ultimately to Jonathan Edwards and his Religious Affections. But, as you say, I found that I was never good enough and even my best actions were not from absolutely pure motives. The only refuge and hope I had and have is the unchanging promises of a God who cannot lie based on a Son with whom He is completely pleased. That is my assurance.

            At the same time, if I am ruthlessly honest with myself guided by the Holy Spirit, I will know when I am being disobedient and not fully surrendering, etc. That drives me to my knees to beg for more of Him in my life and a fresh sight of Jesus so that I am encouraged to continue to take up my cross and follow him.

            If anything, this is a divine antimony, let us not allow it to be a human false dichotomy. In the spirit of iron-sharpening-iron…

          • GARY DESTERKE says:

            “antimony” is a spell checker error (not mine of course). I typed and meant “antinomy,” meaning the apparent mutual incompatibility of two laws/truths.

          • cermak_rd says:

            Antimony is a toxic chemical with symbol Sb and atomic weight 51. To handle it safely in some formulations requires special precautions. Which is why I was surprised to see it in this context.

            I mean I’ve heard of spiritual poison, and even spiritual cyanide, but spiritual antimony? What next? Spiritual Polonium? (symb PO, atomic weight 84)

          • GARY DESTERKE says:

            Yeah, it is pretty funny. I just hope you didn’t miss the point!

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “The only certainty that you have that you are on the Way and have TRULY gone through the Gate is that you are following Jesus here and now today.” — GARY DESTERKE

            And how good a follower do I have to be? And how do I know I’m really following and not just deceiving myself and others? — Chaplain Mike

            And I can throw any reason you give me for KNOWing You’re REALLY Following back in your face with “But How Do You KNOW (reason you just gave me) in an Infinite Regression.

            We called it “The Ressegue Regression” after the local “Soul-Winner” that used it, and it’s how I got to be a notch on half a dozen Bibles back in the Seventies.

            “Are You SURE? Are You CERTAIN You’re SURE?? Are You SURE You’re CERTAIN You’re SURE???” — Internet Monk

          • cermak_rd says:

            GARY DESTERKE,

            Didn’t mean to raz on ya. it’s just that chemical references aren’t that common on internetmonk and I was charmed by this one.

            As to the rest of it,well, I’m not a Christian, so I tend to consider it something of inside baseball that I’m not allowed to have an opinion on.

          • GARY DESTERKE says:

            Dear Headless,

            I understand your moniker 😀

            Also, if you believe in unicorns, that’s okay with me. It’s your choice and doesn’t bother me – good for you. Enjoy.

            Your reference to the many notches on different Bibles only underlines the importance of this issue. The American church is in crisis because of this. I will not repeat all that I just said (you can heave a thankful sigh) but trusting in Christ alone for acceptance with God has to be the answer to the infinite regression. Most people are woefully ignorant of and don’t meditate on the Bible and hence their inability to see that the Bible is full of references to Israelites/Christians that were/are not genuine.

            I reiterate this because of the eternal personal consequences it has for us all. This is not a matter for clinical intellectual debate. There will be NO/ZERO excuses/big-mouth-come-backs come judgement day. This is the God of the universe we are talking about and the eternal destiny of your and my soul. Don’t settle the matter to easily.

            And cermak_rd, if you are not a Christ follower, why the interest in an obscure world wide internet blog?

          • cermak_rd says:

            GARY DESTERKE,

            Why am I hear on internetmonk if I’m not a Christian?

            Well, originally I hard the original iMonk saying some interesting things, and I had relatives who were still Christians (I’m a former) and I was made welcome, so I stayed.

            I no longer have famly that is Christian (my mother passed on and my sisters left their faiths), but I still feel welcome and I’ve grown fond of the Cub fan in chief, so here I am.

          • GARY DESTERKE says:

            cermak_rd: Thanks for bring so candid. I admire your openness. I know what it is to be a “former” and would love to hear you share your story (this is not for notches on my Bible – I’m not into that). If you want more privacy you can reach me at gary.desterke@gmail.com. “Seek and you WILL find.”

    • Steve,

      No, Francis Chan is a Calvinist – not at all “free will” or “decision theology”, as you say.

      • That also figures. There NO assurance in Calvinism.

        One needs to look inward for any assurance. There’s the problem.

      • There’s no reason you can’t be both. Just because he went to Master’s doesn’t mean he’s Truly Reformed. His preaching emphasis is much closer to Wesleyan or the Holiness movement, despite his alleged mongergistic soteriology. This is the problem with being reformed and Baptist: They want traditional theology without tradition. They all end up putting their own spin on it, to the point that it is not the genuine original any more. He may think he believes the Tulip, but that’s not remotely the litmus test of a real Calvinist.

      • These have a funny way of circling back around on each other and doing the same thing with different language. “Never really saved” or “lost his salvation?”

        The way out of the cycle of self-absorption, which Tulip and the sovereignty dilemma often lead people into, is Christ crucified, risen, reigning. Calvinism, and nearly every other shade with Protestantism, forces us to pay too much attention to ourselves by half, but usually cloaked in this or that soteriology framework to make it sound spiritual.

        When we leave behind the obsession with “my personal whatever” with God, salvation included, we end up seeing Jesus Christ get really, really big and important. That’s cause he’s a cosmic Lord and Savior, not a personal butler to each individual Christian.

  2. I think you need to re-read and pray over Chan’s work Mike because this….

    “It seems to me that some preachers simply have no tolerance for ordinary, daily life with all its messiness and imperfection as a realm in which God is at work, and in which we participate as Christians through simply being who we are, trusting God, and loving our neighbors.”

    …just isn’t what Chan’s book is about. I think his preaching has gotten under your skin, for whatever reason, and you’ve taken great liberties to judge him in away that just doesn’t accord with what he’s written or preached.

    • I just read Crazy Love tonight, Brad, because I felt like I needed to know Chan better. This post is my reflection primarily on what I read in that book.

      Furthermore, this isn’t just about Chan. This approach to discipleship is rampant in evangelicalism. It’s a primary reason I became a Lutheran.

      • Did you read:

        “Should you put your house on the market today and downsize? Maybe. Should you quit your job? Maybe. Or perhaps God wants you to work harder at your job and be His witness there. Does He want you to move to another city or another country? Maybe. Perhaps He wants you to stay put and open your eyes to the needs of your neighbors. Honestly, it’s hard enough for me to discern how to live my own life!”

        “Just as there are different utensils in the kitchen that serve diverse functions, God has created unique people to accomplish a variety of purposes throughout the world. That is why I cannot say in this book, “Everyone is supposed to be a missionary” or “You need to sell your car and start taking public transportation.” What I can say is that you must learn to listen to and obey God, especially in a society where it’s easy and expected to do what is most comfortable.”

        I reread Chan’s chapter, Profile on the Lukewarm too and saw very clear descriptions in how he defines it, and for the life of me Mike, I can’t see anything in what he wrote that doesn’t align with Scripture. In fact, he used Scripture honestly and in context when making his points. Overall, I did find Chan too simplistic in his book, and it didn’t impact me greatly because I felt it lacked depth. But I certainly didn’t find it as loathsome as the IM community.

        Just out of curiosity, is it every appropriate to you to feel wretched over sin and/or a sense of urgency in dealing with it through faith in Christ?

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Again, I’m with Brad on this. When I first read “Crazy Love” I think I highlighted about half the book. I found it to be filled with many profound thoughts, ALL backed with scripture.

          As I just wrote at the other Chan thread, this is clearly a topic that highlights the two Christian camps of “grace is sufficient” and “you will know them by their works.”

          Oh, Lord, have mercy upon us, and help us strike that glorious balance of grace and works. Amen.

          • Well said, Rick.

          • With all due respect, I don’t see anyone in either thread making a case for faith without works. We can all agree that true faith produces real fruit in the lives of believers. What I do read in both threads are concerns regarding the promotion of radical Christianity over and above the kind of ordinary Christianity that most of us live out in the trenches of everyday life.

            Radical Christianity, along with Christian hedonism and masculine Christianity and relevant Christianity and cross-centered Christianity and the like, is being marketed by celebrity pastors making book deals and the conference circuit. People want a spiritual high to invigorate the humdrummery of their lives, and these guys deliver it, but it’s unrealistic to expect to stay on that spiritual high 24/7.

            Jesus didn’t say all men would know we were His disciples by how radical we were. He said they’d know us by our love for one another. Yes, divine love can show up in radical ways. Gladys Aylward is one of my radical Christian heroes. But it’s unloving to say, or even imply, that quiet, faithful, ordinary, loving service to family, friends, church and community done in His Name is lukewarm and worthless.

          • Michael says:

            I was going to write a comment, but I think I’ll just go with what Jenny said.

          • Jenny, beautifully said.

          • Semi-Pelagianism is alive and well.

            ‘A lot of God, and as little bit of me’.

            It sounds good, but makes the cross totally unnecessary.

          • Why do fundagelicals have to be “radical” As an agnostic…I’d rathor they knew how to love than be rabid, and fomaming at the mouth for Jesus’s sake. They over complicate the gospel and the message. I mean doesn’t the NT teach that if they don’t have love then they really have nothing?

          • GARY DESTERKE says:

            Have to agree with Brad and Rick. We just don’t realize the cost of discipleship anymore. Yes Jesus alone has freed us, but he has freed us to serve which is our greatest joy.

            • The cost of discipleship is not, IMO, what Chan is promoting, but an evangelical version of it, which may or may not have anything to do with what Jesus said.

        • Brad, it’s OK if we disagree, and we do on this one. The passage you quoted is a good one, but my overall impression is that it represents a small island of sanity in a sea of crazy-making. If you search for reviews of Chan’s book, you will note that others have pointed out similar weaknesses — lack of Gospel, lack of emphasis on ordinary Christian living, etc. I have probably stated it more strongly than most because there have been many times when, as a pastor and preacher, I have been like Francis Chan (though obviously not as successful) — driving the sheep instead of gently leading them.

          • Mike, thank you and please understand that I know where you are coming from and that we usually agree. I’m a Reformed guy who is deeply concerned about Reformed praxis and for that reason typically find myself on an island among my theological kinsmen. We may not agree on this one, but know that this doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the deep and lingering issues facing YRRs like myself. Keep at it, and thank you again for the civil exchange.

  3. David Cornwell says:

    One simply doesn’t need to follow Chan’s rules to live with Christ. Life in Him is not a frantic affair. I have not read his books, but it seems from your description that he is afraid of falling deeply into the pit of hell if he does not do enough. Where is grace in his teaching? Grace must be much more than just something that happens at the point of conversion or baptism. Most of us do not need to drive our bodies and minds to the point of breaking. Another thing– he needs to refrain from judging others. It takes a long time for some of us to learn that.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I have not read his books, but it seems from your description that he is afraid of falling deeply into the pit of hell if he does not do enough.

      NO matter how much you do, it will NEVER be Enough. (“Why couldn’t you do X as well??????”)

      NO matter if you do 99.9% of it Perfectly Right, it will still (0.1%) NEVER be Good Enough. (“Why couldn’t you also do Y right????”)

  4. Your post and discussion of Chan reminds me a lot of Keith Green. While I cherish his music, there are parts of him and his songs which strike the same chord.

    During his ministry, he basically told everyone that they should go to missions. He laid on major guilt trips. Then he was corrected by another brother, who told him that he was wrong. Before his death, Keith Green began to change his approach to ministry and sharing the good news. He moved toward grace. Unfortunately, Christians today only remember the early Keith Green who sang:
    “Cause if you can’t come to me everyday, then don’t bother coming at all” (To Obey is Better than Sacrifice)

    I know that Francis Chan more or less left his church, to dedicate his life to fight human trafficking and write. All of this leads me to wonder. At my old church, our pastors wife would often go on rants about how uncommitted people were to the gospel. Ministry should always come before family. Everyone should go out on missions. I wonder, if some of what Chan is expressing, comes out the same kind of pastoral frustration. “People in my church are so uncommitted! I keep preaching but nobody changes!” I also wonder whether this same kind of pastoral frustration is what led him to leave his church in the first place. Again, I don’t know Chan, so this is me thinking out loud.

    • That’s a good comparison. I remember Keith’s overzealousness as well.

    • Why do Christians feel like they have to do something extraordianry. They’ll go to Africa yet ignore the black homosexual dieing of AIDS in Washington, D.C. They’ll want engage in church planting (which I view as a kind of spiritual pornograghy…) but ignore the single mother, or woman who has had an abortion living with the shame. Many Christians lay the law down on others. And take this approach that demands…

      more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more…. That’s hot I got fried in Washington, D.C.. That how another person I knew got fried in south central Africa.

      • I dunno Eagle. In my city of 100,000 the Christians are doing lots of work with the less fortunate.

        One friend of mine is involved in locally providing affordable housing for the poor, my wife works with severely mentally and physically handicapped people who cannot live alone, another friend works at a home for women who are either addicts or abused (a well to do benefactor privately finances 9 homes for women), there is a mission downtown to the down and out, a street church. One fellow won the citizen of the year award here because he organized people to drive drunks home at night because we don’t want unsafe roads. We have Teen Challenge on a farm that helps addicts and there are other similar efforts.

        All of the above efforts are by evangelicals in our city. And they are not out there tooting their horn about it. They just do it.

        • Maybe there is a difference between evangelicals in Canada and the US. Many evangelicals here in DC will work with the poor. But I also discovered that many are selective as to who they will work with. If the person has a condition brought upon by sinful stigma (ie homoseuxal, child out of wedlock, etc…) I have found that many Christians (except the Catholics) will not embrace but ignore those people. The Catholics do a lot of work with unwed mothers, and I’ve heard that Catholics will work with those suffering of AIDS. Will evangeliclas do that? That’s another story…

  5. I’m worn out just reading those words, too.

    I’m a missionary, been-there-done-that, have had the zeal of youth and tried to juggle it all through adulthood, knew I was blessed to be a blessing and should/could always be DOING MORE. May I just say here that it’s exhausting?

    I’m learning those unforced rhythms of grace in deeper ways now than I ever have before. Richard Rohr’s writing has helped to bring healing to my soul and an embracing of this second half of life – which seems to involve a lot of letting go. Not just of stuff, either. The black and white, the in or out, the right or wrong, the us and them, the good or bad, the good parts of me and the bad parts of me … all those things that seem to involve a frantic unrelenting pursuit to make sure that I was “ENOUGH”, or DOING enough and doing it RIGHT. That sort of pace is not sustainable, and it is not a healthy, whole way to live.

    But you already said it all so well. Thank you for saying what really needed to be said. I hope that Francis Chan discovers this kind of LIFE eventually, and that he doesn’t guilt too many people in the meantime. People who will keep trying and trying … or who will sit quietly with their shame. Jesus did not come to lay those kinds of burdens on anybody.

  6. I have two more questions for the IM Community and then I’m content to let this issue rest: Do you think Chan is preaching the Gospel? If not, then what are the Scriptural implications that you are directly or indirectly assigning to him for preaching this false gospel?

    • His about the entire book of Galatians as an indictment against Chan. Or how about Martha v. Mary?

    • Dana Ames says:

      What is “the Gospel”?

      Dana

      • The gospel is: Christ died for your sins. You are forgiven for Jesus’ sake.

        The gospel is ALL about what Jesus has done for you. Not about what you must do.

        • Steve, how do you read a passage like 1 John 3:4-10?

          • Just because it’s in the New Testament doesn’t mean it’s the gospel. What pietists do with this verse is argue backwards: You’re sinning, therefore you aren’t a real Christian. Or, like Chan, you could say that because your good works aren’t an impressive mountain, you aren’t a real Christian (i.e., are you sure you’re saved?). If you were a real Christian, you would be doing this_______. So basically, it’s taking this passage and using it to promote finding assurance of salvation in works of the law. I humbly suggest this spin is completely missing the point.

            I’m not Steve, but I couldn’t resist.

          • I read those verses as Jesus telling Nicodemus that he is unable to be born again of his own volition. It must come from above…from God.

          • Ooops….1st John!

            That’s law. Painting you into the corner. When you hear that you ought know that you are not up to it. That you really need a Savior.

            That is if you are honest with yourself.

          • Miguel, so how do you read it? And what should we do with it? Do we toss it from the NT because it’s not the Gopsel, as you say?

          • Brad, I simply said it wasn’t the gospel, not it wasn’t true. You asked in response to Steve’s answer on what the gospel is. There are two doctrines in all of scripture: The law, which shows us what God demands from us, and the gospel, which tells us what Christ has done for us. This passage is law, the former.

            How do I read it? Most certainly NOT in the NIV. That translation makes it look like anybody who sins is not a believer (in which case, nobody is, because all of us sin except for John Wesley). The ESV, imo, gets a bit closer with the phrase “makes a practice of sinning.” Justifying sin in our lives is the fruit of unbelief. However, all Christians have doubt mixed in with their faith, that is why we continue to sin. And yet, as Christians, we are incapable of sinning. How can these both be true? Because our identity, as believers is IN CHRIST. What this means is that God sees us as having the righteousness of Christ, being perfectly without sin, because he actually has made us righteous (and not because God has vision problems). This seems to conflict with the observation of our continually sinful behavior. However, as Paul says in Romans, it is not us who sins, but sin living in us. We disassociate from that behavior because we agree that the law is good, but our identity (and our hope) isn’t in our ability to obey, rather we trust in Christ’s perfect obedience on our behalf. This is the concept known as “indwelling sin,” and the reason that earlier in 1 John 1:9 we read “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” It does NOT say, “If we say we have not sinned…” Because sin, as believers, is something we have, not something we do. Thus a believer does not seek to justify wrong behavior before God by making a practice of sinning (the voice of unbelief), but rather seeks to conform his behavior to God’s good commands because he knows that the righteousness of Christ is already his, and the voice of faith says that this is an excellent thing worthy of pursuit.

        • Dana Ames says:

          Steve, what did Jesus say the good news was about? In nearly every passage in the Gospels, when the word evangelion comes out of Jesus’ mouth, it’s followed by the phrase “the Kingdom of God”. We have to investigate what that phrase “Kingdom of God” meant to Jesus’ hearers – 1st century Jews, not 15th century Europeans – before we can say what “the Gospel” is.

          In addition, Scot McKnight says says the announcement (for that is what evangelion means) is found in 1Cor 15, the sermons in Acts, and the four Gospels themselves.

          The whole law vs grace thing evolved into bad news for me, not good news. I didn’t have any good news to tell anyone until, with the help of D. Willard and N.T. Wright, I began to interpret scripture differently – neither with a Lutheran nor with a Calvinist view – but still quite within orthodox Christianity. I wrote a comment about this very thing earlier. You replied kindly but still without understanding. There are other valid ways to interpret scripture. Not everything is the “nail” of “the gospel of glory” to which the “hammer” of “the gospel of grace” needs to be applied.

          Steve, I see you and Miguel and nearly everyone else who shows up here as people who love Jesus and are trying to live as faithful Christians. You’re right when you say it can’t be Law. And it’s not Gospel unless it **really is** Good News.

          Chan’s video has very little good news in it, and certainly nothing about the Kingdom of God and what the Resurrection means.

          Peace-
          Dana

          • The kingdom of God is life under the Gospel, living with the joy of Gods forgiveness and love for neighbor.

            Lutherans don’t teach law versus grace. They are not opposed. The law is good the gospel is good. The law condemns evil, which is bad news to those dead in sin. The gospel is good news because it gives new life to those dead in sin and gives them the freedom to love and live in the law, without fear of its penalties. Properly understood, nobody has anything to fear from a Lutheran understanding of law and gospel, except those who intentionally reject or elevate something above Jesus.

          • Dana Ames says:

            Boaz, thanks for helping me understand the Lutheran view.

            It seems to me that there is something elevated above Jesus, even above the Godhead, and that is whatever it is that “makes” God have to punish. If there is anything that requires God to do something, even if ostensibly “part” of who/what the Godhead is (holiness, justice, etc.), that thing is elevated above the Godhead.

            “The Orthodox know that a real God does not make impossible demands and is not looking for a reason to condemn us: hence, babies, children, imbeciles, the insane, even the suicides are in no danger of divine wrath. Some of the others may come to this conclusion because they think God is really just a big softy, and His scary pronouncements are only there to trick us into being good. No, God means what He says, the terrible as well as the awesome things He tells us, but in no case is He a heavenly policeman, judge, torturer and executioner all rolled into one. His revelation is given only to tell us, ‘this is how it is’ and ‘you can’t come Home until you come Home.’” http://cost-of-discipleship.blogspot.com

            No “works righteousness” is implied, only a call to virtue born of love. For me, that is good news.

            Dana

          • You’re absolutely right, the game indeed changes when you look at the Gospel as the Kingdom of God.

            The various tribes within protestantism generally have their sights set on how we ought to formulate soteriology. From there, enough different squabbles can erupt that we never actually get to the reason for the Gospel. Kingdom theology gives a much bigger picture, lets us stop worrying about ourselves and how we were personally saved, gives the wide view of God’s will and the cosmic nature of the cross.

            Of course, there’s countless distortions of Kingdom theology too. But you can’t do better than Willard and Wright though, imho. Plus early Vineyard stuff like Don WIlliams.

    • Many fundagelicals Brad take a Martha approach then a Mary approach. You can’t come to church broken and wounded. No…you have to be recruited and do,do,do,do…. I would be the last person CM talked about. I was crushed with John Piper’s theology and thought my life would be a total waste unless I did something grand. So Francis Chan imposes more legalism. I wonder if he would have the patience for a doubter or skeptic like me.

      • “You can’t come to church broken and wounded.”

        This is true, but it’s not just a Reformed problem. I’m going to be writing extensively about this subject in the coming days, and I hope that one day I’ll be as blessed as iMonk was and CM is today to have passionate brothers and sisters who will provide sincere feedback to steer and prod me in the right direction.

        As for the legalism, I can’t quite get there with Chan’s and Piper’s theology, but again, you will find elements of legalism and license in every church. Our issues as a Church (thinking globally here) isn’t so much theological as it is praxis, and particularly, praxis at the leadership level.

        • I would suggest that you’ll find much more legalism in the YRR crowd than elsehwere. In addition they have also re-defined legalism in many ways. So Mark Driscoll will say that a person can have a beer and wear jeans. Then he will be much more legalistic with church discipline and confession. Or here’s another example…in the old days fundamentalists were KJV only. Today the neo-fundamentalists will beat the crap out of you by stressing ESV only.

    • the Gospel of sin management, maybe.

  7. CM, I’m glad you quote Peterson at the end because I found his book The Contemplative Pastor to be an antidote to this kind of preaching. Particularly Dr. Peterson’s view of sin and how it relates to ministry.

    “The benefit of seeing people as sinners is you’re never disappointed when they act like it.”

    Which is a point he uses to discuss the preachers role in primarily preaching the forgiveness of sins through Christ. I definitely recommend every pastor read Eugene Peterson if they don’t want to loose their mind in ministry.

    …which I believe is something I learned right hear at iMonk. Perhaps you should revisit Eugene Peterson’s work in response to this.

    • David Cornwell says:

      ” The Contemplative Pastor to be an antidote to this kind of preaching. ”

      Amen. Peterson’s entire ministry is almost the exact opposite of what Chan describes. If I were pastor shopping (dubious search for pastor using capitalist terminology) it would be an easy choice.

    • “The benefit of seeing people as sinners is you’re never disappointed when they act like it.”

      Perfect.

      GR

  8. I’ve always had a problem with books about ‘great men of God’.

    Because I’m not a great man.

  9. Richard McNeeley says:

    It seems to me that the idea of doing more and more (read performance based Christianity) comes from the idea that God needs us to do things for Him. Is the God that created the universe really that incapable that He needs me to do something for Him and if I don’t then will He be disappointed in me or will the task not be done? “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people, life and breath and all things (Acts 17:24-25).” The thing God seeks from us is a relationship, He is looking for a bride not a housekeeper.

    • Damaris says:

      “The thing God seeks from us is a relationship, He is looking for a bride not a housekeeper.” Okay, I’m having the posters printed right now! This is a great line, Richard. Thank you.

      • Hey, I’ll buy one of those posters, Damaris. I’ll hang it in my office over my desk.

        Solid truth, beautifully expressed.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Wouldn’t it be awesome if, instead of trying to do great things for God, we just allowed God to do great things through us?

      • Believe me, this can quickly devolve into a meaningless distinction. I sat for 3 years under a preacher who constantly said “It’s not about doing things for God, but letting God do thing through you!” But the list of things to be done was the same. “Serving” simply got replaced with “yielding,” but on the ground level they were identical. The worst part was all the bragging about how legalistic he was not. Get the religious boogeyman!

        The real distinction is between us doing things for God, and God doing things FOR us. The whole point of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ was crucified FOR us. That is the gospel: The work of God in Christ on our behalf, with absolutely nothing that we have to offer as a part of it. Good works are exactly that: Good. But they are not saving, and they are not good news. In fact, when we forma litany of good works (things we SHOULD be doing, or we should be letting God do through us), what we have is the Law. All this can hope to do is condemn us in order that we might repent and trust the death of Christ on our behalf.

        • “Believe me, this can quickly devolve into a meaningless distinction.”

          Agreed – I had the same thought.

        • We can agree here as long as we also agree that this truth needs to be reciprocated, not perfectly, but in some fashion. So it’s not about what we offer to God that brings grace, but how we respond to his grace says a great deal about whether or not we have truly embraced his offer – first and always by faith.

          • While I am largely in your camp Brad, I would remind you that the fruit of the spirit “doing great things for God.”

          • Oops, forgot that can’t use angle brackets. The above should read…
            I would remind you that the fruit of the spirit IS NOT EQUAL TO “doing great things for God.”

          • Brad, when you say “…how we respond to grace says a great deal about whether or not we have truly embraced his offer…” I can agree that faith always lead to obedience. However, if you argue backwards from your works to say, “See, I therefore must believe because I do these things,” what you are doing is finding assurance in your works. This is misguided, because many unbelievers are fully capable of doing the same works, in most cases. It is never helpful to look at ourselves in order to determine if we are really saved. How could I ever be certain that I have “truly embraced his offer”? How much good works would be necessary for me to be certain? In the end, this line of reason leads directly to either the misplaced confidence of self-righteousness or endless despair from frustration with indwelling sin.

            Obeying God can be a good indicator that you believe in him. Loving God can also be a good indicator. But neither offers a whole lot of comforting certainty.

  10. br. thomas says:

    During the early 80s I enlisted in the Army and served in the Infantry. During advanced training, recruiters came around to get us to sign-up for jump school – I declined, even though there was pressure to join up. During my time in service, I met special forces troops and even a Green Beret or two – the more elite and committed soldiers in the Army. I respected their commitment and admired their toughness & skill. There was (and still is) a need for such extremely dedicated soldiers in the military; they are called upon and often carry out missions that ordinary soldiers like myself would not be capable of. I recognized my limitations and tried to do my job to the best of my ability.

    I wonder, if there is not a similar role for such committed and capable people within the body of Christ. They may have a role to carry out that “ordinary” men & women could not. I don’t think that every believer is capable of being a Paul, for example. These type of men & women posses a temperament, gifting and hopefully a call of God to carry out their particular vocation – a vocation that is important within the Body of Christ. Obviously, not all of us can do the same. And such called people, along with their unique gifting and temperament, also have weaknesses and blind spots (just consider Paul’s opinion and treatment of John Mark – see Acts 15:36-39). Yet, it took a Paul, with his gifts, commitment, zeal and imperfections to be God’s instrument. Yes, maybe Francis Chan gets some things wrong; but, I would be cautious in dismissing his contribution to the Body.

    I, too, cringe when I hear similar things as have been pointed out (I used to hear this one quite a bit: “everyone is called to be a missionary overseas, unless you are called to stay home”). But, Francis Chan has been used by God, and seems sincere about his work. Let’s not judge him too harshly, he is one of us (Phil 1:14-18 & Mark 9:38-40).

    Shalom.

    • philosophymom says:

      I was heaviliy involved in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship when I was in college (circa 1980), and we were fairly beaten over the head with “everyone is called to be a missionary overseas, unless you are called to stay home.” As my college years ended, I didn’t feel drawn to be a missionary, but thanks to IVCF, I was pretty sure I didn’t have the right to pursue anything else whole-heartedly either, unless and until I heard the voice of God distinctly calling me to it.. Sometimes I still wonder what might have been, had I not spent those first years after graduation paralyzed like a deer in the headlights.

      I remember IV with some fondness, but I think that style of teaching puts a heavy burden on an impressionable young person.

    • Good thoughts br. thomas.

      I loved the illustration you used about the recruiters, I think its perfect. Some people are indeed called to do great things by God, things that “ordinary” people are not called to do. And these things are essential to the body of Christ just like the special forces are essential to the Army.

      We need to recognize and appreciate both parts of the body: the St. Pauls, the Martin Luthers, etc. And also the ordinary man, who lives an ordinary life in rural America who loves his wife and raises his children to follow the Lord. Both parts are essential to the body and each side needs to recognize and appreciate that God has called the “greats” and the “ordinarys” to serve in different capacities in the body; neither side should be judging the other and making them feel guilty for serving God in the capacity that He has called them.

      • br. thomas says:

        Thanks for the reply, Tom. On a related note, over the past few months I have been reflecting on a quote by Mother Teresa:

        “We cannot all do great things on this earth,
        but we can do small things with great love.”

        For me, this quote speaks to the potential and the responsibility every member of His body has – to be His presence within the world, regardless of our role – great or small.

        Blessings to you.

  11. I read the earlier post that you had on Chan and his “Aging Biblically” sermon, and I disagreed and almost wrote a comment, but refrained. But now I read this, and couldn’t help myself.

    Has anyone read the letters from Mother Teresa or any of her books? I wonder if the IM community would disagree with her. She was a woman that desired deeply to please God. She understood the gospel and that God loved her and was happy with her, yet she strove after bringing more souls to Christ and thirsted for a more intimate relationship with Christ.

    Although I do not know Chan personally, I’ve always seen him in a similar boat as Teresa. A human that seeks to please God and to bring God glory and honor. Others might view it as extreme piousness (is this even a word?), but I view it as devote love. We might be critical of the person as being completely concerned about “works”, but his message is about loving God so much that we would be willing to do anything to bring him glory and honor.

    Jesus said that to follow him meant to deny ourselves, to die to self, to pick our cross and follow him. How is this not crazy?

    • Mother Teresa is not one iota more holy or righteous in Jesus’ eyes than you are. Maybe less, if she (or anyone else) believes that one gains any status in God’s eyes by ‘what they do’.

      The trouble comes when people believe that they ascend the ladder to greater spirituality. Then their motives are shot and they actually become worse…because their faith takes a backseat to what ‘they do’.

    • Francis Chan does have his fanboys or groupies. This type of post will bring them out….

    • “Mother Theresa . . . understood the gospel . . . ”

      Actually, she was a committed Roman Catholic. Which is fine, but Protestants have always maintained that ours is the gospel of the apostles, and theirs has been modified by a tradition that adds works to the equation. It’s called the doctrine of Justification.

      What we see in Chan is a repudiation of that doctrine, and a return to the theology of the Medieval catholic church. This is why we so badly need reformation today; we have come full circle and evangelical leaders have rejected the very source of their Protestant identity, exchanging it for popularity and influence.

      IMO, Mother Theresa gets the gospel better than Francis Chan. She worked with her hands and led by example. Chan chastises others for not working hard enough. In many ways, the evangelical church is worse off than we were prior to the reformation. The fact that you compare Chan to Mother Theresa in defense of his teaching is proof that he has strayed from Protestant Orthodoxy.

    • The problem is not the works. The problem can come in the reason you’re doing the works. Mother Teresa found Christ in the midst of her works, in the faces of the poor and outcasts and diseased for whom she cared. But she didn’t do the works in order to find Christ, as though He could be found in no other way. If you’re doing stuff because you’ve received the love of God and are moved by love of Him to do stuff, fine. Out of a sense of duty, obligation, to measure up or to convince oneself or others (or God) of the sincerity of one’s faith, not so much. And you’ll never find Christ in anything you do if you only do it with that attitude. Because, with that attitude, you’re not really looking for Christ- you’re looking for something else.

      By the by, I think the difference between Mother Teresa and Francis Chan is that Mother Teresa would never have suggested or implied that EVERY CHRISTIAN ought to be a nun/monk out helping the poor or risk becoming a ‘lukewarm’ Christian.

  12. IT IS WHILE YOU ARE PATIENTLY TOILING AT THE LITTLE TASKS OF LIFE THAT THE MEANING AND SHAPE OF THE GREAT WHOLE OF LIFE DAWNS ON YOU.
    ~Phillips Brooks

  13. JoanieD says:

    Count me in as one of the “lukewarm” Christians. I go to work; I attempt to help my husband from going crazy; I try to be kind to people; I pray. That’s it. No missions, no talking to people who don’t ask about God, Jesus, etc. Maybe someday I will be more “on fire” but right now, this is all that I got.

    • Love this Joanie- this describes me too:)

      I agree with this post so much. I read Crazy Love and then promptly decided not to read it again. It doesn’t allow for people to be broken.

    • +1 To be Christlike in even the simple things in life has a power all of its own

    • Count me in on this one too Joanie! I am housebound quite a bit because of illness. Most weeks my “ministry” is feeding my neighbor’s dog & taking her outside. Other than that I try to be there for my husband & son. I come here often to IM to read Chaplain Mike…he is an inspiration.

    • LOL: I’m further down the ladder than you JoanieD…. I buy bicycles and (gasp)….ENJOY them. Nice ones too, some have disc brakes and after-market parts….. I haven’t yet fallen to IPad levels…. but next yr I will….

      • If you were a real Christian, you would sell that bike and give the money to the poor. How dare you find pleasure in this life! 😛

        • Fine, I’m willing to sell the Jamis Durango: but it’s mostly stock, nothing special added on. If you are anywhere near 5’9″, the frame will fit: make offer, I’m looking to buy my wife a new refrigerator, the one we are currently (gasp) enjoying is on the way out…..

      • JoanieD says:

        Thanks, greg r. I buy plants I don’t need, but like to look at them because they are pretty. I eat more food than I actually need. (Who needs ice cream? Oh, wait…I do!!!) I have a house full of books. Think of the hungry mouths that coud be fed on the cost of those books!

        Ah, heck…let’s face it. I am a lousy Christian if being a good Christian means being “on fire for the Lord,” “sacrificing myself for the greater good of others,” yada, yada, yada. Half the time I can barely stand myself. Oh well…

    • To be a “lukewarm” Christian is when one does not recognize one’s spiritual poverty and one does not cast ones self independence aside, in other words one does not seek God’s grace. Its is when one realizes ones spiritual poverty and gives up self independence and seeks God’s grace that will allow Christians to grow.

      “Lukewarm” is not about duty but about a connection with God.

  14. We must be careful not to categorize and judge Christians into what we think are the fruit of the Spirit within them. If you see yourself as a Super Christian, remember it is not of yourself that you are a Super Christian , but it is because God has willed it so.

  15. I don’t know Chaplain Mike. I’ve often struggled with the kind of stuff you are talking about in this post because a lot of what Jesus taught seems radical. The Sermon on the Mount seems pretty radical. Telling us that in order to be his disciples we must hate our families and daily pick up a cross to follow him seems pretty radical. And sometimes when I hear preaching on these passages it seems like most of the time is spent explaining why it doesn’t mean what it seems to mean. Yet I realize that I fail daily, multiple times through out the day, and I know I have to depend upon God’s grace and mercy given to us through Jesus Christ or I’m lost. How do we balance these two things? Clearly, at least clearly to me, we are called to live for Christ and his kingdom rather than for the things of the world. How do we preach that and explain what it looks like without making people feel like we have to be super Christians? And how do we teach about God’s grace without making people feel like their works don’t matter? Any good books you might want to recommend?

    • cermak_rd says:

      Hate our families? Does that make sense? Hate the one thing that we get for free in this world? Hate the ones that we are commanded to respect?

  16. “Do you understand that it’s impossible to please God in any way other than wholehearted surrender?”

    This completely horrifies me. It’s impossible for us to please God, PERIOD! That’s why we need Jesus!

    Thinly-veiled legalism of this sort is precisely the reason why I like Tullian Tchividjian so much. There are certainly points where I don’t agree with him but he is very, very good at cutting through the modern Christianese legalism like this that’s so rampant in the modern church.

    God’s love for us is not dependent on our love for God. I seem to recall a fellow named Peter, who completely DENIED Christ under the slightest pressure! If his salvation was riding on his love for God, Peter should have gone to hell. And he did it AGAIN later on, for which Paul rightly rebuked him! Our love for God can fail and falter. It is his love for us that brings salvation.

    Note that this is different from having faith in God – Jesus constantly commends people for having faith and scolds them when they don’t. Almost every important figure in the Bible struggles with having faith in God or disbelieving his promises. All we have to do is believe. And if we already believe, then we need to remember that our salvation isn’t dependent on how we feel or all of the righteous things we do, or how ‘passionate’ we are. Short of, I don’t know, deliberately apostasy, our salvation isn’t going anywhere. This isn’t an Arminian or Calvinist thing as one of the first commenters seemed to suggest – I’ve often heard thinly-veiled threats from Calvinists that if you don’t do X, Y, and Z, then you weren’t really saved in the first place.

    “They realize, don’t they, that Jesus himself only lived a “radical” life of active ministry for two or three years?”

    Excellent point! Jesus spent many more years supporting and caring for his family, working hard, and generally living a mundane existence. Was God only pleased with Jesus the last 2-3 years of his life?

    “They realize, don’t they, that the exciting, non-stop action of the book of Acts describes primarily the acts of the apostles, who had a different calling than most Christians?”

    Thank you so much for pointing this out. Same for a lot of Jesus’ teaching specifically addressed at the disciples. Only a small percentage of Christians are the part of the “body” of the church that consists of the apostles. That doesn’t mean we should ignore what Jesus tells his disciples or use this as an excuse to be withdrawn and ignore participation in the church. But people who say this stuff seem to totally miss what Paul said about all the parts of the “body” having an important role in the church.

    • “’Do you understand that it’s impossible to please God in any way other than wholehearted surrender?’

      This completely horrifies me. It’s impossible for us to please God, PERIOD! That’s why we need Jesus!”

      Amen! And that is the central problem with Chan’s message. He’s not a hypocrite as I believe he is totally sincere, but his message is pharisaical in that he is laying a burden on the backs of others that he himself is not even able to bear.

      • +1 for both. If “whole hearted surrender” is necessary to please God, then every single person who has ever lived is completely screwed. The Bible says “without FAITH it is impossible to please God.” Chan wants to confuse “whole hearted surrender (works)” with faith. He swears as if God’s favor is something we could earn!

        • Miguel…I would suggest that many in the Neo-reformed crowd are distorting faith. They are twisting and making it legalistic. They are adding burdens to their followers that in some cases they themself do not even follow. This is like the long slow, descent off a cliff. But what pops in my mind is the Book fo Galatians. I would think Paul would rebuke this crowd for deserting the original gospel and adding to it.

          • I think what we are seeing is actually textbook fundamentalism. It has crept into the evangelical mainstream through talented speakers who wear hawaiian shirts and let their churches have rock bands. They think, “I’m hip, I’m cool, look at all the kids that are coming out. Of course I’m not a fundamentalist.” But in reality, their theology is no different. Reformed theology in Baptist churches always leads to fundamentalism.

          • Miguel…then we should call this Fundamentalism 2.0

          • Consider the term “coined!”

          • This type of reformed fundamentalism will deny being fundamentalist. It’s kind of like the Mormons…they will deny being a cult, or that they believe in polygamy (they do in the celestrial kingdom of heaven) and other parts of theology. Since fundamentalist is such a tainted word this crowd will avoid it all costs. However it it walks like a duck, quacks, like a duck in the end it is still a duck. Same here….they can deny being fundamentalists, come across as being more intelligent, etc.. but at the end of the day its still fundamentalism.

            I guess it could confrim Ecclsiates when it says there is nothing new under the sun! 😉

    • I would have felt better if Chan had said “Do you understand that it’s impossible to please God by anything that you do, and that’s OK because he loves you anyway.”

  17. I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed today’s post, particularly since I am a simply, ordinary rural pastor, which is what God called me to be. You mention many great ideas for thought and prayer for the rest of my day, which is my main reason for reading your blog each day. My main thought was “my grace is sufficient.” My gratitude for this grace is what moves me forward into the future Christ has planned. We are called to faithfulness not manic obsession..

  18. “Watchman Chan”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Woo. A lot just fitted into place when you said that.

      When I was in the Evangelical Circus in the Seventies, Watchman Nee was the 68th book of the Bible (Late Great Planet Earth was the 67th). Watchman Nee was referenced almost as a Fifth Gospel. (There were even hymns about him and his Martyrdom on Christian radio of the time.) Though I never read Watchman Nee, the vibe I got from his numerous fanboys was a lot like “Watchman Chan”. On Fire 24/7/365, More More More More More More More More More More. And even More, lest “I Spew Thee Out of My Mouth”.

      • Nee was a martyr who suffered for his faith. He had a right to say what he did. Chan is a celebrity.
        But Nee was a Methodist. His theology was actually quite normal for the Arminian pietist camp. This just proves my point: Chan preaches like a Wesleyan. Plus, Nee was a scholar. Chan doesn’t speak like one who is remotely as well read. There are striking similarities, but Nee is on a totally different plane.

        • Alex Guggenheim says:

          Your distinctions are important. My use of Watchman was for a limited point and not a thorough parallel. Thanks for your addition here.

  19. “Great men of God” or “The great God of men”?

  20. Some thoughts….

    In 2007, I had the good fortune to read Bonhoeffer’s “Cost of Discipleship” and Shane Claiborne’s “Irresistible Revolution” back to back. I had heard the “be a Christian superhero” message for years in evangelical settings in which I had served, and decided to step out in faith, leave my career, and serve God “fully” for my part-time, youth/college pastor salary. I would supplement my income through substitute teaching, where I would have opportunity to connect with young people who “needed Christ”…or in the deepest vanity of my heart…”needed me”.

    Within 2 years, I had truly lost everything…my wife, my home, my retirement fund (bad financial advice from a fellow pastor contributed to this, at least in part…where do we pastors get off thinking we are financial experts?)…It was all gone.

    I left the evangelical circus deeply wounded by the church. I had given so much, and she had paid me back with pain.

    Yet, I couldn’t give up on Christ, nor the church, because he loved her and gave himself for her.

    I find today that my past losses have prepared me for a better, simpler life. I wish I made more money, but likely never will. I would like to purchase a nice home again, but this is unlikely. I am remarried (much to the chagrin of some evangelicals, who think I shouldn’t pastor anymore because of this), and have two beautiful daughters. There is a part of me that wishes I had made better choices five years ago, so that I could provide better for them. I find no shame, though, in making it a spiritual goal to be a good father and husband; to provide my girls with a spiritual upbringing that is stable and historically based, and not driven by the winds of cultural tastes; and to serve in more humble and less visible ways.

    I don’t believe that being less than a spiritual giant will keep me out of heaven. Isn’t Christianity about downward mobility? I think Jesus would agree with the words of those great theologians, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr….”You don’t have to be a star, baby, to be in my show….”

    • The Cost of Discipleship is one of those books that is really easy to look at legalistically. I have been told by Lutheran John H. that I’m missing something in understanding that particular book (something about a pastoral approach by Bonhoeffer and the book broken down into two halves, the first half being easy to misunderstand legalistically), but I think for the majority of people it would be really easy for people to beat themselves over the head with that book (I know I did–and that was during a Bonhoeffer independent study as an academic exercise in college). Bonhoeffer himself later talks of the “dangers of that book” though standing by what he wrote. He said he wrote it at the end of a path of trying to acquire faith by trying to live a holy life.

    • Torturous and beautiful Lee. You have given a perfect example of the type of dis-integration ( death) and reintegration (ressurection) that is the hallmark of our lives. It is often when the rug has been jerked out from beneath us and we are sitting on the floor with a sore ass that we lose our present point of view and search out the ever deeper meanings like the layers of onion. Superman is nowhere to be found at that point so it sure is good to have a few sensitive people around to help carry that load. Sounds like your new bride was one of those people.

    • Lee when you talk about past losses and your “re-integration” there are many people who will not have such a story. I have a loved one in my family who has had schizophrenia for 16 years…what about “re-integration” exists for that person? My small group leader dealt with homosexuality for most of his life. What type of “re-integration” does he face. Both people lost a lot….

  21. Another scripture Chan might want to remember: Micah 6:8 In the middle of ranting about Israel’s sins God says his requirements are for people to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God. Sounds pretty basic and non-radical.

    Actually, Chaplain Mike, the description of non-lukewarm, radical Christians reminds me exactly of the David Platt article at Christianity Today talking about the Sinner’s Prayer. In his case it was telling us what it looks like when people are genuinely born-again. It seems Chan is pushing something similar, which I certainly don’t live up to.

  22. I drive a 2000 Toyota Camry. Does that count?

    My wanna-do-more head urges me toward Chan, but my believing and post-evangelical heart hears Chaplain Mike loud and clear.

  23. I just finished listening to a lecture series given by an archaeologist/historian entitled ‘The Fall of Paganism and the Rise of Christianity’ which goes through the first few centuries of the Roman Empire after Christ (not just the Church, but the pagans and Jews as well in equal detail) up until Justinian. One of the things I found most surprising was that after Nero the kind of mission work Paul and the other apostles were doing just didn’t happen anymore, and didn’t start up again until about 500 years later. Under the political circumstances, it just wasn’t viable. At that time, of course, there were ‘radical disciples’ in the form of martyrs, but the Christian literature of the time stresses over and over again that you don’t go out seeking martyrdom- it comes to you, if God wills it. So during what most people imagine as a kind of Golden Age of Christianity, most Christians weren’t out preaching or being ‘radical’ and those few who were rotting in prison or thrown to the lions (if they had the right mindset) weren’t there because they had chosen to be. Most Christians were living ordinary lives, loving neighbours, doing their jobs or plowing the fields or whatever and being, well, ordinary. That came as a shock to me, but perhaps it shouldn’t have. When we try and act as though we are the 12 Apostles and that that is the template for the Christian life, we forget (if we ever knew) how very historically specific and temporary the Apostolic Age was.

    • Glenn, you got a link to that lecture series? Sounds like an interesting listen.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      One of the things I found most surprising was that after Nero the kind of mission work Paul and the other apostles were doing just didn’t happen anymore, and didn’t start up again until about 500 years later.

      In rocketry terms, you’re talking Booster and Sustainer.

      The Booster is very high-thrust, short-duration, to get the rocket to clear its launcher at flying speed.

      Then the Sustainer cuts in — lower thrust but long-duration, accelerating the rocket the rest of the way once the Booster has it off the rail and flying.

      If you try to use a Sustainer as a Booster, it’ll never clear the launcher.

      If you try to use a Booster as a Sustainer, it will Burn Out almost immediately and crash.

      Chan is preaching All Booster, No Sustainer.

      • Extremely random metaphor but, you know, it kinda works. 🙂

      • HUG, what dost thou knowest of rocketry?

        Sounds just like any version of the Aerobee or even an Iris or Wac Corporal. Art thou a rocketeer?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Just a kid genius and natural-talent speedreader who came of age in the Space Age, before we threw it all away to screw in the mud at Woodstock. When Rocketry & Astronaut was on every kid’s lips, and Star Trek was on TV showing us a bright future.

          • Neat. I was four-years-old for the first space shuttle launch in 1981 and wanted to be an astronaut for years (gave that idea up) but still love to fly model rockets.

      • If you try to use a Booster as a Sustainer, it will Burn Out almost immediately and crash. Chan is preaching All Booster, No Sustainer

        Def Leppard Christianity: “It’s better to burn out than fade away!”

  24. I just want to say thank you Chaplain Mike. I have felt like I have been in a “dry bones” state of late, and I keep wondering where that “fire” is that drove me to perform for so many years after first coming to saving grace. Your thoughts reinforce something I have been feeling in my own spirit and daily walk with Christ.

    I will not worry. I will worship Him while I wait. And if loving my wife and loving Jesus and loving my neighbors is all that’s required of me for the rest of my days, I will find peace in Hist “Rest”. And I will listen for His voice.

  25. Mike,

    Thank you once again for being a sane voice in the midst of the evangelical circus.

    I have not read Chan’s books, nor am I likely to. I have encountered my fair share of hero worship in everyday church life. Nothing wrong with admiring radical actions and believers, but to suggest that anyone not believing this way and performing those kind of acts is “lukewarm” (and probably not a real believer!) is ludicrous.

    Some one call my job as a hospice RN “heroic,”
    but it is just my job. Is it taboo to deal with death daily in our culture, yes. Is it a fulfilling job, yes. But it is not radical or heroic. It is what I am good at and comes very naturally to me. If others admire this role, then so be it, but I do not feel it is any more admirable than any other vocation. And I have never bought the line of it being a “calling.” Most nurses I know don’t buy that one.

    I see radical and heroic actions in believers everyday that have nothing to do with mission fields, pulpits, orphanages and so forth. Patients and families who face illness and death with strength, my father who cared for my mother and sister until they died at young ages, my wife who has helped raise compassionate, intelligent children and who quietly helps our neighbors, my best friend who is struggling through a divorce with an abusive mentally ill wife, a friend who strayed in his marriage but had the courage to face his errors and is a great husband and father…

    These are people who live their lives unnoticed and will never have books written about them yet they are far from “lukewarm.” They are just living and making the best of this life and doing their best to follow Christ. Radical enough for me!

  26. Well said Julie and Joanie.

  27. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

    3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

    5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

    6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

    7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

    8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

    9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.

    10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

    • “Blessed are the strong for they shall posses the earth- Cursed are the weak for the shall inherit the yoke!
      Blessed are the powerful, for they shall be reverenced among men- Cursed are the feeble, for they shall be blotted out!
      Blessed are the bold, for they shall be masters of the world- Cursed are the righteously humble, for the shall be trodden under cloven hoofs!
      Blessed are the victorious, for victory is the basis of right- Cursed are the vanquished, for they shall be vassals forever!
      Blessed are the iron-handed, for the unfit shall flee before them- Cursed are the poor in spirit, for they shall be spat upon!
      Blessed are the valiant, for they shall obtain great treasure- Cursed are the believers in good and evil, for they are frightened by shadows!
      Blessed are those who believe in what is best for them, for never shall their minds be terrorized- Cursed are the “lambs of God”, for they shall be bled whiter than snow!
      Blessed are the mighty-minded, for they shall ride the whirlwinds- Cursed are they who teach lies for truth and truth for lies, for they are an abomination.
      Thrice cursed are the weak whos insecurity makes them vile, for they shall serve and suffer!”

      -The Satanic Bible

      Hmmmm….. which one sounds more like pietistic Evangelicalism?

    • The great thing about that is, I can pretty much live out every single one of those in my ordinary, not-really-radical, life. All but the persecution thing, and that really owes more, I think, to a quirk of the country I was born into rather than any failing on my part to be radical enough.

    • I know I’ve read this somewhere before…

      Leave it to Ted to start throwing around Bible verses and making sense of the entire discussion!

  28. Thank you for this post CM. Like many people, my introduction to Francis Chan was when a close Christian friend recommended that I read/listen to his messages. I’ve never read any of his books but I have listened to a handful of his sermons on youtube. My first response to Chan was favorable and the verse that came to mind was Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

    But the more messages I heard, the more something just didn’t seem right. Yesterday Miguel put his finger on it when he mentioned that Chan’s message lacked significant mention of the Gospel. Maybe my observation is due to the fact that I haven’t heard enough of Chan’s teaching. But what I have heard seems to be a lot of exciting and passionate legalism. I do think that Chan is sincere and has a calling and a message on his heart; I just hope that his message matures into the Gospel message.

    • In other words, where is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus in the message? How does the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus change how the message would have been preach had it never occurred? If the same message could have been preached had it never occurred, chances are there is something wrong with the message.

  29. Phil M. says:

    I actually know some Christians who have made some great sacrifices to follow Christ, and I guess the thing I notice about them is that none of them would try to guilt others into following the path they are on. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with encouraging obedience, but I think we have to be careful when we start assuming we know what obedience looks like for people other than ourselves.

    I don’t agree that Chan’s theology is a product of free-will theology. Actually, I think Chan would probably fall into the opposite end of that camp. I think the problem lies beyond those categories. I think the problem lies in our inability to accept the profound nature of grace and unconditional love. If Christ sets us free, it means we’re really free – not just mostly free. I think some of us would prefer that we could keep hold of the “or else” part of our theology. We want to be able to live in a transactional world where if we do one thing we earn so much favor, and if we do another it’s worth something else. The good news, the Gospel, is that we don’t need to live like that. We’re truly free.

  30. dumb ox says:

    It still sounds like Charles Finney.

    “Well, and I thought trusting Jesus and what he did was enough.”

    According to Finney, it isn’t.

    Honestly, I think this a problem which will solve itself in a “Darwin Award” sort of way. Anyone following Chan’s super christian model will burn out and fade away. But it will also leave behind destroyed families and churches and a distaste for anything to do with God – similar to how Finney’s revival meetings left behind “scorched earth”, where no interest in God remained. But the real injustice is Chan raking in the money writing books and speaking at events promoting this stuff, all along claiming to somehow represent this super-Christian persona. It’s like faith-prosperity televangelists claiming to have the secrets of health and wealth, when any wealth they have came from sacrificial donations of the poor. I grow weary of Christian faith based upon appearances and marketing hype. Give me someone who shows kindness to his neighbors, who faithfully and justly performs his day-to-day job. Give me someone who is there for his family and loves and cares for his wife. Give me someone who lives his life of good works in the peace and assurance of Christ’s finished work.

    If you want Chan, you can have him. If you think you and he are the new race of uber-Christians and the rest of us are unsave schleps, have a ball. But if your faith consists of burning yourself out on some religious crusade with no regard to those nearest to you or your neighbor, then despite all your efforts you will be written off as too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use.

    • dumb ox says:

      It seems like a spiritual pyramid scheme. Chan and his likes at the top of the pyramid think of themselves as “radical” because they are promoting this stuff, counting among their radical accomplishments the number of recruits they enlist to the cause. But those who buy into the scheme are the ones expected to the do the dirty work – to actually BE radical. What the recruits don’t realize is that it is much easier to peddle this stuff than actually live it.

      Again, for those throwing around words like “antinomianism”, this is how it works: you claim some great religious accomplishment (which you yourself validate) as pleasing to God, then excuse very ungodly conduct as comparatively insignificant in God’s eyes. As a result, I suspect you will find significant examples of antinomianism among these “super” Christians. Once you strip away those self-proclaimed great, esoteric works, these “super” Christians look quite, well, luke-warm. Remember to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

      • humanslug says:

        Good points, Ox.
        Scratch the surface glitter off most SuperChristians — or any obsessive over-achievers or workaholics for that matter — and you’ll very likely find some deep-rooted insecurities and a consuming fear of not measuring up.
        I suspect a lot of Christians would be very upset with God if He should choose not to hand out graded report cards at the end of the semester.
        The question we need to ask ourselves is this: Do we pursue good works because we love God and want to please Him or because our own self-image requires that we graduate at the top of our class?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        It seems like a spiritual pyramid scheme.

        Ever heard the Campus Crusade talk about “Multiplying Ministry”?

        • HUG…Crusade called it “Spiritual Multiplication” If I hear that again I’m going to spew my guts… Now I’m off to grab some Tums.

  31. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Unless a person is (and these are his words) — obsessed, consumed with Christ, fixated on Jesus, risk-taking, radical, wholly surrendered — that person may not even be (likely is not) a Christian. “As I see it, a lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron; there’s no such thing. To put it plainly, churchgoers who are ‘lukewarm’ are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven.”

    i.e. It’s a matter of your Eternal Salvation. Just like Young Earth Creationism & Secret Rapture Any Minute Now — if you don’t Be-Leeeve, you’re NOT Saved. Now don’t that ramp it up to Cosmic Importance?

    This is the essence of the kind of “discipleship” people like Francis Chan tell us is necessary: “Do you understand that it’s impossible to please God in any way other than wholehearted surrender?”

    Unspoken: “Like MEEEEEEEEE!”

    I have to say, stories like these move and inspire me.

    But what happens when “stories like those” become the MINIMUM expected of you?

    And if you can’t achieve that MINIMUM (let alone exceed it)?

  32. Rick Ro. says:

    “Oh, Lord, have mercy upon us, and help us strike that glorious balance of grace and works. Amen.”

    I hope this prayer was meant satirically.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Sorry to disappoint, but no, it was meant as a true lament.

      We are Jesus’ hands and feet. If we do nothing but come to church on Sunday and sit in our pews and be thankful for God’s grace and then leave and do nothing with that grace to love God and love others throughout the week…then what does our faith mean?

      As I’ve said elsewhere, we have the “grace is sufficient” camp (which is well-represented here) and the “you will know us by our works” camp. I think both camps are like Republicans and Democrats, driving a huge wedge between human beings (and in this case Christian human beings). I truly pray God helps us understand where that beautiful, delicate balance is between the two camps.

      • Rick, you and Brad (and a few others) have hung in there with respectful pushback in these two threads. I want to commend you both for your courtesy and gracious manner. The waters around here can get pretty rough sometimes and I’m afraid dissident voices can get swept under. I’m glad you’ve hung around and hung in there.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Thanks for the kind words. I certainly hope and pray I am being respectful.

          Several years ago I was part of an online gaming community in which message boards were used almost exclusively, and I was pretty much the lone Christian voice among my clan of ~50 members, so I (with the Lord’s help and wisdom and guidance) can handle it. I will admit it’s a bit odd reading similar venom from fellow Christians, though.

          I also am part of a science group, which is great fun…and we are actually able to talk with each other very respectfully about faith and science, even though we have a mix of agnostics and believers.

          I love this stuff. Being one of the lone voices of reason (said tongue firmly planted in cheek) is a great challenge.

          • The funny thing Rick…is try posting a disenting opinion on many members The Gospel Coalition blog. They won’t tolerate a second view. I’ve tried it. That’s why I like blogs like this, Wartburg, etc.. they will allow a second view. Too many Neo-Calvs are insecure and need to grow some balls.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Yes, Eagle…I was going to post that this is actually a fairly tame exchange, even as one of the lone voices for the “other side.” At my gaming site, it always amazed me how quickly people resorted to rhetoric and emotionally-charged words. I mean, if the topic at all involved God or Jesus, within 2 posts the “secular” voice became nothing but venom. And the amazing thing was how blind most of the folks were to how that totally destroys any sort of debate.

            This here…this here is good stuff. God stuff.

        • +1

  33. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    No, the message is loud and clear: do more, give more, sacrifice more, serve more, be more obsessed, take more risks, go farther, reach higher, run faster, be more like this extraordinary person and not like your ordinary self.

    I was diagnosed as a Kid Genius when I entered first grade, two-three years after Sputnik, when the Zeitgeist was We Were Losing The Cold War. Like Kid Geniuses of the time, I was fast-tracked through my entire school career — after all, Wesley Crushers and Doogie Housers like me were what was going to Win the Cold War.

    What resulted was 12 years of Demanded Utter Perfection. As a Kid Genius, I was expected to Know Everything About Everything automatically without ever having to learn it (“But You’re a GENIUS!”). I was expected to Master Everything Perfectly the First Time I Ever Attempted It (“But You’re a GENIUS!”). That was the MINIMUM Expected of me.

    The damage is still there. The emotional and social retardation. The accusing voices in my head endlessly repeating “HOW COULD YOU! YOU’RE A *GENIUS*!!!!”

    And Chan tells me that God demands the same — no more — Utter Perfection 24/7/365, on Pain of Eternal Hell.

    Why bother?

  34. More thoughts…Part of the problem with the idea of “super-Christians” qualifying as the only “real Christians” is that it assumes that Christianity is an evolutionary process…that we get bigger and better as move forward in our faith lives…That as we get older, we should be more willing to get rid of all material possessions, forsaking all worldly goods for Christ, because we’re closer to heaven.

    It’s just bull. God gave us creation to nurture and enjoy. If we take some portion of creation, and make an ipod or a comfortable couch or a car out of it, I really don’t think that Jesus gets angry over that. If the end game of faith is just getting into heaven when we die, and Christianity is purely works-based, then we better sell all we have immediately, or there’s no hope for us.

    Fact is, heaven isn’t the end game. Resurrection, with the joining of the New Heaven and New Earth is the direction we’re headed. Christianity isn’t an evolutionary process…It’s a creative, redemptive process, in which all of creation will be made new. Furthermore, God’s creation is good, and we should enjoy it. If it wasn’t, then evangelicals wouldn’t sell t-shirts that say “Jesus don’t make no junk”, right?

    It’s funny to me how an evangelical who espouses “faith alone” so easily judges the members of a congregation based on how spiritually mature they appear…their works.

    Didn’t Jesus encounter a couple of groups of “spiritual superheroes” (Scribes and Pharisees), and advise us not to be like them?

    • Well said, Lee.

    • Lee it also backfires. What happens when “super Christian” hits a brick wall? Often they guilt people with the concept of “God’s will…” That was how I moved from Wisconsin to Washignton, D.C. What happens when you try and immitate “super Christian” and it backfries in your life. Then some of these people will tell you that you weren’t dedciated enough. It reminds me so much of Mormonism. I remember telling the Mormon misisonaries that I didn’t have the “burning in the bosum” The response…try harder.

  35. Your friend CM reminds me of me. When my faith was falling apart, and life was hammering me. I didn’t know what to do. So what happens? My fundagelcial missionary team leader gave me a similar answer. Read Paul, followed by a guilt trip. He told me “Have you suffered like Paul has…?”

    My mission team leader was so full of crap. Christians have an incredible way to guilt other people. They can place incredible burdons on others that they themself do not even live up to. Many of these folks are living in a bubble. They don’t have a boss. They don’t have work expectations. They don’t have to deal with work probabtion issues and employee performance plans.

    • “Christians have an incredible way to guilt other people.” Absolutely, Eagle. Nutshell principle of all control freaks: “The way I like to do something becomes the way you MUST do the same thing. I saddle you with my preferences and make them your rules.”

  36. I’d give a lot for Francis Chan to be able to listen to this:

    http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/i-believe-that-i-cannot-believe.mp3

    It is such a different Christianity than his. But maybe if he heard this version, he would see the light.

    (give it 5 minutes – it gets better as it goes along and ends with a bang)

  37. Lisa Dye says:

    I think some of what we read from Christian writers today is revelation for the times, but it may only be God’s revelation to them and for them as individuals or for their own church. Because of their notoriety and because they are widely published, the revelation gets applied beyond its intended target.

    Reading is good and hearing the thoughts of others broadens us and helps us think in ways we may not have before, but many of us (I’m preaching to myself here) think because the writer is successful or because his thoughts are published, we should automatically apply them to the tee. It is a form of law keeping and really, it’s easier in a way than going to the well and drawing our own water. We still have the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth. There is truth that applies to everyone. “Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind … and love your neighbor as yourself.” How that gets applied in each of us will be unique. Some will be called to radical living or publically serving God. Some will serve invisibly and in drudgery. Some will struggle through addictions and failure just to cling (barely) to Christ. People don’t always get to choose what Christ’s faith in them will accomplish.

    This is something I am trying to learn. I keep focusing my faith on this or that, but God has said, “No, it will be here.” Every time I try to have my way, I am not resting. (I confess, that is most of the time.)

    I think it is interesting that Jesus didn’t call everyone to leave their families and follow him. He rebuked Martha for overworking as hostess, but he still accepted her hospitality … and he loved her. He protected Mary’s desire to just sit at his feet. The rich young ruler was told to sell everything, but Zaccheus only gave part of his possessions.

    Watchman Nee referred (I believe in his book Church Affairs) to one-talent, two-talent and five-talent Christians and how pastors need to proper discern those talents in their people, so that they will not be frustrated by too little challenge or too much. And the use of talents is not a salvation issue, but a matter of a well-functioning body. Okay, now I’m just rambling.

    Shalom

    • “Watchman Nee referred (I believe in his book Church Affairs) to one-talent, two-talent and five-talent Christians and how pastors need to proper discern those talents in their people, so that they will not be frustrated by too little challenge or too much.”

      Very interesting observation.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Then Watchman Nee showed a LOT more sense than his fanboys in the Seventies.

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        re: talents given to saints to be invested in the things of God…

        as the parable points out, those talents given to individuals without any outside influence on their ultimate usage…

        i think the abuse of those with obvious talents is more the norm in churches today. people with talents that are more visible either are coaxed into ‘service’ by elevating to a certain position/title, or manipulated for the glory of the pastor/church taking advantage of them…

        this is where the freedom, maturity & discernment of individual saints makes proper use of those talents a truly enjoyable process…

        i don’t think it is the pastor’s role/responsibility to discern what talents are given to individual saints. their role is to encourage; to create an inclusive atmosphere where talents can be invested, but never manipulated, taken for granted, expected, nor defined/categorized. it is not up to pastor to determine if talents are being used efficiently or wasted. it is not the pastor’s role to insist that those talents necessarily all be spent on their building programs, ministry pet projects, kingdom expansion goals, or any other ego-stroking measuring sticks of human effort…

        talents were never given to support any celebrity pastor/leader/writer/teacher. they were given for investment in things that bring joy to the heart of the Great King. just a cautionary consideration here…

        • Lisa Dye says:

          Joseph, I should clarify a bit. I agree that pastors shouldn’t micromanage the talents of their people. Nee was referring to new believers. After a period of one or two years in which they were discipled and grounded in their faith, he encouraged pastors to help them discover where and how in the body they were gifted serve. It was a tutelage of those young in the faith.

          Also, forgive the typo. I meant “properly discern.”

          • Joseph (the original) says:

            yes, i can agree with the very careful discipling of any believer, young or old; mature saint or baby believer.

            yet i prefer the hands-off approach more than directing people to the ‘spiritual gifting’ analysis websites/tests where a definite pigeon-hole is being qualified…

            so that is why i just wanted to mention in cautionary terms my concern. i have been on the manipulated & taken-for-granted end that leads to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, overly spiritualized corrective measures, etc.

            i suppose my negative church experiences flavor my outlook more than the good things. but i am a much older, wiser, skeptical & cautionary saint after 38+ years of running the theological gauntlet of many of the so-called popular Christian emphases/movements. i am simply a religion-weary pilgrim trying to recover from too much Christianese hype, unbalanced approaches & spiritual novelty/flavor-of-the-month…

            and Watchman Nee just another celebrity-type ‘leader’ of those that consider themselves his disciples & members of the Local Church organization. he has been unduly ‘sainted’ by his followers today as the one true voice/herald of the end-times Church Universal. the focus for them is Nee, not Jesus. and it isn’t just Nee & Local Church philosophy today. heck, there is the NAR & the X-treme Prophetic & signs+wonders camps all claiming to have the newest/best expression of what the church should be/look like today…

            just be careful about the kool aid/snake oil being peddled by those claiming they have the clearest/best understanding of God, His Church & how that should be practiced/expressed today…

            Lord, have mercy… 🙁

    • Nice contrast between the rich young ruler and Zacchaeus. I’d never thought about the difference between them like that.

      Why is it we find it almost impossible not to yield to the temptation to turn the descriptives of the Gospels (and Acts, for that matter) into prescriptives? Jesus was far more seeker sensitive- in the sense of responding to people individually and according to their particular circumstances- than any seeker sensitive church these days!

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        after responding to Lisa’s Nee comment, i wonder if the element of right orthodoxy+orthopraxy just part of our human effort at trying to quanitfy+qualify something that was divinely intended to always exceed such efforts…

        {coralling all those rabit trail thoughts}

        okay, so Chan has issued a guideline set of goalposts that help ‘measure’ true spirituality & a sold-out (however that is understood) attitude any true disciple/saint should have…

        so, he has his POV based on an Evangelical expression. but so do the Amish. they are totally radical. but i have no desire to become Amish. of course this consideration dovetails nicely into the entire Church Universal claims of the RCC, EOC, Anglican, Lutheran, Protestant Evangelical, Seventh Day Adventist, etc. worship expressions all with their unique history+tradition+doctrines. the ‘One True Church’ claim, even when claimed to be imperfect, flawed, made up of broken people, etc. still has its share of proponents/opponents. but this is true of every one of those camps: all their members believe theirs is the best of the bunch or else they would not be there…

        if none of the camps does ‘church’ rightly all the time, then there must be something all of them do right some of the time. can this be appreciated/celebrated without the need to qualify+quantify what camp needs to be thee Golden Standard of church rightness?

        no? and does it matter to God like it matters to us?

        just some thinking out loud here…

  38. Clay Crouch says:

    A beautiful quote from Robert Farrar Capon apropos to this conversation.

    “The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof Grace–bottle after bottle of pure distilate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the Gospel–after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps–suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started…Grace has to be drunk straight: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, not the flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case.”
    ? Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon & Three: Romance, Law & the Outrage of Grace

    I for one, am tired of Mr. Chan and his ilk serving up Welch’s Grape Juice and calling it the blood of Christ.

  39. Another irony is that “lukewarm,” in the NT context, arguably would refer to people who consider themselves “radical Christians.”

    “Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked…” (Rev. 3:17). Or perhaps, “Because you say, ‘I am a super-christian, so sold-out and committed that I can ignore the gospel,’ and you do not know that you are a humble ordinary sinful person like everyone else”?

    If it’s OK to link to my own article on the “lukewarm” subject, it’s here: http://www.ericpazdziora.com/writing/the-myth-of-the-lukewarm-christian/

  40. Carmelbec says:

    I think it is well said to call it hero-worship. It’s what the evangelical mind produces. We need to be upwardly mobile, just like in real-life. Pray more, do more, become more. It’s the message I’ve heard at the evangelical churches I’ve always attended. The “do it this way for a better, more worthy life” message is taught from the pulpit. I have been visiting the local Anglican church and find it refreshing that the “table” is our reminder each week that we are ALL loved, accepted, invited. No matter what we accomplished (or didn’t) the past week, we are a part of His body. We are all on the same level of need, there are no super-stars.

    • Hero-worship is prevelent in fundagelicalism today. Many people can’t think for themself and as such need others to think for them. I mean consider the likes of John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Mark Dever, etc… there are some people who won’t wrestle with many theological issues. They let John Piper, etc.. be the final authority. God gave people a brain, and I would think he wants them to use it, weigh an issue, etc… Insted most people check out and let another person do their thinking for them. In Acts 17:33 it discusses how the Bereans searched the scripture before concuring with Paul. With the likes of Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Acts 29 movement, SGM, Ed Young, etc… Christianity really has no Bereans today. Just lap dogs that go to conferences, consume books, and sustain the problem.

      Thanks I’ll pass…

      • The Bereans weren’t Evangelicals testing celebrity pastors by their own theological accumen. The point of that passage is not that all believers are on their own to understand the Bible and become doctrine cops policing the teaching of all. The Bereans were Greek Jews who believed the scriptures. When Paul came and proclaimed Christ to them, they searched the Old Testament to see if his claims were indeed present in their text. The story is about verifying that Christ is found in the scripture, and is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. They believed in Christ because they found that the scriptures did indeed proclaim him. It’s not about theological minutia or missional methodologies. This “doctrine of Bereanism” is often used to justify theological disunity more than anything else, since everyone disagrees about interpretation.

        Christianity is not suffering from a lack of Bereans. Many YRR’s can quote chapter and verse from the Bible as well as their celebrities. What we are suffering from is a lack of common sense. It takes neither a genius nor a Bible to see that some of these “leaders” are bullies.

  41. Faith in Christ has truly changed me. I would be a completely different person without trusting in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While growth has been slow, even stagnant at times, I can testify that faith in Christ is changing me even now. There are things that I will not do because Jesus is Lord. I regret that this may seem boastful, but it is the greatness of Jesus’ Lordship that keeps me from evil and not my own nature. In a similar way, the love, kindness, grace, and mercy that comes to me from Jesus has on more than one occasion been the impetus to extend the same to others. Given all that I know to be true about my selfish and sinful nature, I can say with a straight face that all of this is pretty radical. The enormity of Christ’s work certainly does, as the hymn writer said, “Demand my soul, my life, my all.” A realistic look at what Jesus has done should inspire such an attitude – and I do not think it is wrong to say so!

    One of my favorite metaphors in the N.T. is Paul’s description of Christians as clay pots into which the treasure of God’s Spirit has been placed (2 Cor 4). He puts the treasure of His Spirit in fragile clay pots! What a wonderful picture of God’s ways with men. The metaphor of a ragged tent follows in chapter 5 . . . God has chosen to work with weak men who are always in need of His grace, and that concept will always be more radical than my incomplete response to His goodness. I do not mind being exhorted to good works, at times I find it fitting and needful. But grace and works do not balance, because grace is always more fitting, needful, and important. Much, much, much more so. The story should never be about my radical live or anyone else. The story is about God’s truly surprising work through Jesus. I spent a long time in the evangelical circus before I understood this.

    I have not read Chan’s book, but from what you are saying, it sounds like he errs on this point.

  42. humanslug says:

    If the true essence of “good works” is showing love to one’s neighbor — and if Paul’s definition of love in I Corinthians is correct — then showing patience and long-suffering toward fellow believers who might not be running the race as fast as we think they should is an act of love and just as much a good work as being eaten by cannibals for the cause of Christ.
    That’s the problem with Chan’s theology. His way of trying to spur his fellow Christians to greater acts of love is unloving in its impatience and intolerant zealotry.
    Jesus called us to follow Him. For some, that means running; for some, jogging; for some, walking; and even limping along or crawling for others. Most of us do a variety of these at different points in our journey. And regardless of our rate or mode of travel, He is there with us, and ultimately, it’s up to Him to set our pace.
    But if we insist on running all out all the time, then sooner or later we’ll find ourselves exhausted and way off course and wondering where we left Jesus behind in our dust.

    • dumb ox says:

      “…then showing patience and long-suffering toward fellow believers who might not be running the race as fast as we think they should is an act of love and just as much a good work as being eaten by cannibals for the cause of Christ.”

      Definitely! Thanks for sharing your comment.

      All of our works on their own merit are weak, incomplete, and broken. Placing faith in them is both foolish and sinful. That is why we do our works in faith in Christ. Our works need as much forgiveness as our sins. If done in faith, God takes our feeble works and multiplies them. So, indeed, we need to not only be patient with the works of others, but deeply thankful to God for them. This will bring glory to God, who alone is worthy, and comfort and encouragement to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

      We also need to be patient with ourselves, but perhaps that’s another topic.

      • humanslug says:

        “Our works need as much forgiveness as our sins.”
        Now that would make a great bumper sticker.
        And, maybe, one reason God has such a hard time cleaning us up is because we keep trying to wash ourselves with filthy rags.

        • I’m reminded of another one that fits in to this conversation….

          “Your badness is not as great a barrier between you and God as your goodness.” – Ray Ortlund

  43. Thank-You Chaplain Mike,

    Your insight & grace brings comfort.
    Spent years siting under Chan’s kind of preaching,
    it tied me up in knots. Guilt & shame were my
    constant companions… Could never measure up.
    Still recovering… I am thankful that you can put words
    together that help me unpack what I can now see as law
    law, law, rule rules rules god speak…

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Good grief, am I a little slow or what? It was only as I read Gail’s post that I realized how many folks here at iMonk have probably been damaged by guilt and shame preaching. Me, not so much. So I guess I can see why Chan’s preaching would rub most of you the wrong way. Again…me, not so much.

      I’ve always been careful to avoid guilt and shame “works.” Praise to God, I think He’s brought me to a place where I’ve got no problem telling folks, “No.” Or, “Let me think and pray about it,” and coming back and saying, “No.” God loves me when I say Yes and when I say No and when I say Maybe. I’m involved in many things at my church now, and do them all out of joy for the Lord and with love in my heart. I am constantly checking myself for “burn-out,” making sure that my “Yes, I’ll do that”-s are truly OUT OF JOY FOR MY LORD AND SAVIOR, rather than out of guilt or shame if I DON’T.

      And no…I wasn’t always like this and no, I don’t always get this right, but I am absolutely convinced of God’s grace and love for me, regardless of if I get it right or screw it up. “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Psalm 147:11. Amen!

      • Rick…the issue is that many chruches don’t care. They care about your tithing and they care about controlling people. But I saw some disheartening things in my time in fundagelicalism. My poison was God’s will plus John Piper. That led to burn out in Washington, D.C. and it was a horrible way to stage a career choice. Yet it was part of the culture I came from. I knew another person that expereinced burnout in the middle of Africa. Sick, exhausted, and fried with her physical and mental heath being hammered. The church didn’t care for her. And when I expressed concern, the response was “How are dare you question God’s calling in her life…” Many Christians enjoy manipulating and controlling others. It could be from those at the top of the YRR pyramid, (ie Mark Dever, CJ Mahaney, John Piper, etc..) or it could be your local fundagelical mega church pastor, para chruch Campus Crusade ministry leader, etc…. For many Christians in leadership positions…it’s not about God. It’s about control.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Okay, I understand ya, Eagle. I guess I’ve seen some of that, but not a lot, in the churches I’ve attended. But I can see how unhealthy churches and church leadership might damage folks. Ugh. I guess I should count my blessings!

      • “Good grief, am I a little slow or what? It was only as I read Gail’s post that I realized how many folks here at iMonk have probably been damaged by guilt and shame preaching. Me, not so much. So I guess I can see why Chan’s preaching would rub most of you the wrong way. Again…me, not so much.”

        Reformers cry Sola Scriptura, but in fact so much of our theology is shaped by our experience. I am in the same boat as you Rick as far as this discussion goes, but I have had recent experiences that help me see the other point of view as well. Like, when you are totally burned out, and the Pastor chides the congregation for not doing enough.

        • Our theology isn’t just shaped by scripture and experience, but also by reason and tradition. While this four point formula is the “Wesleyan quadrilateral,” I believe anybody who is honest must admit to using it. We just prioritize the sources differently. A Roman Catholic places tradition above all, a Pentecostal gives experience the heavy weight, most protestants give their reason the final word, except us Lutherans, who give scripture top priority. Because we’re right and everybody else is wrong… 😛

          • When it comes to charismatic gifts, I would say that the non charismatic is much more guilty than the pentecostals when placing experience over scripture when it comes to theology.

  44. Why…WHY can’t we all just let everyone express God’s loving call for them IN THEIR OWN WAY? I use caps to overly emphasize that we are all different, God purposely made us different – if we all needed to be the same, believe exactly the same, express the same way, he would have made us all clones! Let Francis be the way he is and let others who espouse his belief listen to him and act upon it. Like others, I don’t see anything overtly anti-Christian or evil in what he is saying.

    But likewise, we should allow others to express God in their own way within their own capacity. Some, like a poster here who mentioned she is homebound and ministers through her neighbor’s pets, do not have the ability to travel to far flung places, but she is loving as God instructed us to in her own and very beautiful way. We each touch each others’ lives by simply BEING in God, loving in God and expressing him using our own gifts.

    All this… “to express God we shouldn’t listen to Francis” or “to express God we should do what Francis says” is so immaterial to me – because for some, he brings the word and for others not – and that’s OK. And Francis preaching as if his way is the only way – sounds like he, too, needs to realize that not everyone has the same gifts from God. Allow me to give an example. Where I used to live, the Mormons were in the overwhelming majority. A co-worker of mine was not Mormon and an incredibly dedicated and awesome Boy Scout troop leader. He mentioned to me one day about how he was really disgusted with a leader from a different pack. They were Mormon he said – I couldn’t figure out why that would make any difference. He explained to me that the Mormons have this thing where everyone has to do the same work. Everyone is sent on mission between high school and college and, unfortunately for my friend, all the men in that area were required to serve a stint as some kind of boy scout helper/leader. My friend pointed out that not everyone is cut out for scouting. The one he was complaining about was someone who had OCD, was frightened of everything that lived outdoors and who was terrified of sleeping outdoors. Why? Why do the Mormons think that everyone has the same gifts?

    Maybe I’m wrong to think that we should all just live and let live, to be free to be the people God made us to be and not fit into one single box. Maybe I’ll get flamed on here for my lack of theology or my lack of deep approach to the mysteries of God, or maybe nobody will reply, but I felt the need to say it. The only question I ever ask myself in the mirror at the end of each day is:

    “Did I love you, my Lord, with my whole heart, did I love my neighbor, and am I living out God’s call for me whatever that might be to the very best of my ability?”

    That is all I need to know. The rest of the more technical parts of this discussion, while interesting and informative, feels moot to me.

    • “Did I love you, my Lord, with my whole heart, did I love my neighbor, and am I living out God’s call for me whatever that might be to the very best of my ability?”

      The answers to those questions ought be ‘no’.

      I suspect that Mr. Chan might answer ‘yes’. He seems to think quite a lot of himself and his efforts.

      That might be why Jesus said that “you must be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”

      That ought put us in our place. If we are honest.

      • The qualifier “to the best of my ability” takes into consideration that I am only human and therefore imperfect. If I do my best, that’s all I can ask of myself. Sometimes that means that all I can do is take care of my family the best I can and be a friend to someone in need. Living a life in God does not mean the same thing to everyone – which is my point…but “my best” means the same thing to everyone.

  45. Star Humbles says:

    Pastor Mike. You know that I agree with you on just about everything! Thanks again for saying what I have a hard time saying but think. As I read through these posts, I saw a lot of OTHER authors quoted or spoken of outside of the Bible and Its author. This has become typical “Christian” behavior in the last 15 years. I call it the Christian Oprah Book of the Month Club. “Have you read______?” Why do we think that mere humans have answers over God? I love reading books and most of my books have highlights, writing and post it notes all over them. Scripture is primary and I refute some of the errors by scripture. Now here is another can of worms to open to you all. I am NOT a Beth Moore fan because her teachings are filled with error! I have been pretty much abandoned by friends who are Beth Moore fans. I have been chastised in what used to be my church for attempting to expose errant teachers, including CS Lewis, therefore, I now stay home and worship God on my own. Pastor, when are you going to have your own church? I will be there every Sunday!

  46. Professor Failure says:

    I’m crazy in love with my wife. I’ve met her, and spent years getting to know her. She and I have conversations. I have never been in love with Jesus. I’ve never met Jesus. I’ve read about him, but I am not one of those that believe that one really “knows” Jesus simply by reading the Bible. When I talk to Jesus, he doesn’t talk back. Not in any human way. And therefore, I can’t be “in love” with him. That’s not ever how I’ve approached Christianity. Frankly I think the notion of being in love with God is a bit nuts.

    • Once God grabs a hold of you and you realize what He has done for you (saved you from your sin, the world, and the devil ), then you are able to love Him. Imperfectly, and often not too much, but you can love Him.

      That’s how it is for me. And I’m sure millions of others whose lives (hearts) He has transformed.

    • sarahmorgan says:

      Evangelicals, if they must use some sort of human metaphor, need to stop speaking of “being in love with Jesus” the way one is infatuated with one’s girlfriend/boyfriend, and start speaking of loving Jesus in the same way one loves those people who have made great sacrifices so that someone else could, in some fashion, have a better, more hopeful life (one could think of certain firefighters, doctors, inventors, artists, soldiers, philanthropists, etc).

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Well, I wonder if this is why there are four different Greek words for “love” in the Bible, in an attempt get at the complications around truly loving people and God/Jesus.

      “And therefore, I can’t be ‘in love’ with him….Frankly I think the notion of being in love with God is a bit nuts.”

      Yeah, “loving God” was a notion that even Peter struggled with. Two times Jesus asked Peter if he loved him with agape (sacrificial) love, to which Peter replied that he loved him with phileo (brotherly) love. Then the third time Jesus asks him if he loved him with phileo (brotherly) love, to which Peter responds with (again) that he loves him with brotherly love. Love of God and Christ is definitely different than a love for fellow man/woman/wife/husband/child. And yet…not…?

    • Presence, my friend, presence. You haven’t seen him, but he’s there. The risen, ascended Jesus sits on the “throne” which means something like that he is tangentially “present” at every point in space. i don’t get it myself, but it would be as if, at any time and place, a door could appear and open up, and there would be Jesus (this happened to Paul). Watching, speaking, interacting with you, in the flesh. The expectation of the NT church was that he was just around the corner, and thus so close you might as well say he was “here.”

      It’s real weird. I can’t explain it very well. I’ve probably said a couple things that aren’t nearly nuanced enough. But it’s worth looking into, and I daresay you’ll find yourself loving him the more you look for it.

  47. JoanieD says:

    “Jesus is coming/Look busy.” 😉

    (Bumper sticker.)

    • LOL!!! Nice one Joanie! 😀

    • I love that! Exactly! Some people ARE busy with God’s work, just in a private and quiet way. I’m so tired of people judging other people by using themselves as a measuring tape. “if your God-work doesn’t look like MY God work, then you must be doing something wrong!”

  48. Victorious says:

    Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. Sometimes I tell the Lord I’m just useless. I’m near 70 yrs. old and tired. Just an ordinary believer who loves the Lord and most of His people. lol

  49. Beakerj says:

    Chan means well, obviously, but he makes me feel crushed & useless. Maybe there are seasons of this kind of devotion to come in my life…but for now I’m in the season of recovering from being crushed by bereavement, by a breakdown, by God seeming absent at my most desperate moment. I can only very feebly hang on to the fact that Jesus paid the price & is my righteousness…as I go about loving & serving the needy adolescents that come my way.
    If I have to DO anything more I’m done for.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      I said this elsewhere, but I’ll repeat it here…

      My opinion is that the best preachers/pastors/sermonists are the ones who preach God’s word with both conviction AND encouragement. Conviction without encouragement becomes brow-beating. Encouragement without conviction becomes feel-good pop-psychology. Even as a Chan apologist, I can see that perhaps he offers up too much conviction without enough encouragement. Thus the feeling that you and many others have regarding him making you feel crushed and useless.

  50. I have really appreciated the discussion here on this topic. I am not very familiar with Mr. Chan’s teaching, but my own struggles with assurance over the years have not generally been the result of not doing enough works or not being “sold-out” enough but have largely been over verses such as Matthew 7:21-23 and 2 Corinthians 13:5 – especially when struggling with persistent sins (pride, apathy, not loving God and others as I ought).

    When these doubts come to shake the assurance of my salvation, I look to the cross and am reminded that Jesus met all the requirements of the law on my behalf and that my hope is in Him and Him alone. In the words of Edward Mote:

    My hope is built on nothing less
    Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
    I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
    But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

    Refrain

    On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
    All other ground is sinking sand;
    All other ground is sinking sand.

    When darkness seems to hide His face,
    I rest on His unchanging grace.
    In every high and stormy gale,
    My anchor holds within the veil.

    Refrain

    His oath, His covenant, His blood,
    Support me in the whelming flood.
    When all around my soul gives way,
    He then is all my Hope and Stay.

    Refrain

    When He shall come with trumpet sound,
    Oh may I then in Him be found.
    Dressed in His righteousness alone,
    Faultless to stand before the throne.