Thursday, June 2, 2011

"The Gospel without Adjectives"--Michael Spencer

I will give you one more quote from Michael's book "Mere Churchianity", then you might decide to read the book for yourself.  I cannot fully endorse the book, because Michael never came around to an understanding of the sacraments and absolution, but there are many good parts and the overall message of the book should be contemplated.  We have been integrated into Christ's body for a purpose and this purpose is to love.  It is a call away from North American show business type church of the theology of glory. We are called to live for our neighbor and suffer, too.  Our new president of LCMS makes this point also in his book "Christ have mercy."  Faith will find things to do, no matter how humble, the works God has prepared for it;  as we are ONE in Christ we share each other's joy and pain.  If you click on the link, you will find about 100 reviews, as of this date.

The quote below relates how Michael came to stop looking for the victorious Christian life and started looking at his "bigger Savior".
After I rattled around on this path for a few years, I knew I needed to recalibrate my life with the real Jesus.  I had to ask myself a question:  Was the Christian life actually the "victorious" Christian life I was faking?  Was it supposed to be vibrant, electric, dynamic, supernatural, awesome, and___? (Insert your adjective of choice.)  Or was the Christian life different?  simpler?  more honest?  This journey led me toward the discoveries that I will be sharing in the next few chapters.  The Christian life is an expression of the gospel.  If your preferred gospel is Your Best Life Now, then your Christian life will be something like "discovering your awesome, unique destiny."
If your gospel is "God wants you to have a dynamic experience every day!"  then your Christian life will be a constant amusement park of dramatic divine interventions.
If your gospel is "Jesus Christ is our salvation.  He gives life to those who come to him by faith,"  then your Christian life will look like the joy of the rescued and the humility of the undeservedly graced.
If your gospel is "Jesus is for losers, and there's no need to lie about it,"  then your Christian life will be "Hello. My name is Michael, and I'm a big sinner with a bigger Savior."
Martin Luther let me know that I was not qualified to receive the victorious-Christian-life merit badge.  He also let me know that I wasn't a very good Christian.  I'd been reading the reformer's works in a course taught by Dr. Timothy George...  I could stop looking for the secret key, and I could ditch the quest to demonstrate that I was a Christian hero.  I was humbled as I looked at a universe of grace that filled my empty should with the love of god in Jesus.  He did it all.  he traversed the separation.  He brought together the unreconcilable.  He had paid the debt and had become the necessary sacrifice.  He had loved me to the uttermost.  He had given all this to me as a gift.  I had nothing to offer, nothing to contribute, nothing to do but simply stop ignoring his gift and receive it.  I was a drowning man whose rescue depended on stopping all efforts to swim and trusting someone who was not going to make me a better swimmer, but who would drown in my place.
... In seeking to be a good Christian, I was deserting the truth that there is no gospel for "good" Christians, because the Lamb of God was nailed to an altar for those who are not good and who are no good at pretending to be good.
pp. 133-135.

This is really what a conversion to Jesus Christ is.  Abandon all hope in yourself and receive overflowing hope in God.   You will never be the same and you will be able to judge all doctrine no matter how confused the church may sometimes look.  You will be able to love God, to love yourself and your neighbor.  Sometimes very poorly, but honestly and humbly.  We each have a "bigger Savior".

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