Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rethinking Christian Growth and Salvation by Grace

Perhaps this is coming from the culture where we have to work hard to get things we want.  Like study hard in school, to get good grades and get recognize.  Work hard at work to make the big bucks to have a better life.  At the thought of something to gain without 'working' with our own merit almost seem inconceivable.

Just thinking like this, my mind spontaneously jump into a defensive mode and start to protect the idea that the good things in my life, I have to earn hard to get them.  Perhaps this defensive barrier is to prevent me from being lazy.  Perhaps it is a mask of a deeper self, the frailty of a self esteem that my whole world will crumble apart if I do not consider what I am worth base on what I do (and what I work).

And this is so easily seen in my life.  Like at work.  What my boss and coworkers will think if I go before them, instead of proofing my worth to the company, of all the projects I done, all the great feedback from customers...and simply tell them, I am not worthy to work here. I am unqualified and unskilled for my job.

Where I will boast at my own self worth, I will boast in my own self less.

That will be madness.  Worst career advice ever.

Yet, reflecting of the past few years walking with Christ.  Being called by Him.  Following Him.  Learning to yearn for Him.  I start to see this is the path that I took...more like revealed, in order to draw close to Him. The path of ever decreasing self.

And this throws my self esteem out the door.  Things that I once consider valuable.  I no longer desire.  Things I do that to proof my worth or my existence, I no longer do.

To come to this state of brokenness, an empty pocket, is the state where I see the hope in following Christ.  It is at this point where I have nothing to give, the Cross, the gospel shines the brightest.

As I reflected on Tullian's post, Growth by Remembering, I am ever reminded what it means to be saved by Grace.

A lot of times, at church, I hear when people felt they are falling away from God and wish to get back to Him, often, they will say to read more the Bible, to pray more, to care more for others or to serve more.  I wonder if we are talking more about salvation by work.

I got to read more of the Bible to earn God's love.
I got to pray more so He will come to me.
I got to take care of others, love my neighbors, so God will love me.
I got to serve more at church.

It seemed to point more to Me center with good moral works to earn God's love than a Gospel Center, Jesus radical sacrifice type of reconciliation.

As I read the Bible, God doesn't need this type of earning to get His Love.  He is recklessly giving them freely. Note: I use the word, reckless, and I know it might offend others.  But that's how merciful and how forgiving God is...He is reckless in showing His Loving Kindness.

And the self centered-ness is ever more 'focus' when I have a desire to come draw closer to God (sanctification).  I know I have a tendency and a temptation to strut my stuff.  How true, especially in the church.  To show others I am praying more, I am reading more Bible, I am Godly.....all to boast one thing, that I am a strong Christian.

If we go to heaven and tell God that we should go in because of what we done at church, at our fellowship, at my own time, at reading the Bible...everything and anything except having faith that Jesus Christ saved me, we will not enter the Kingdom.  After all, Jesus says He is the Truth and the way.  No one else goes to the Father other than through Him. I won't understand salvation by grace. I didn't understand I am broken and condemn before His Holy One.  I would simply follow Jesus as a teacher. A moral example.  But not as a Savior.

The irony twist is, as I recall the experience where I am gung ho reading the Bible and having the ever desire to pray and to care for others, it is after experiencing and realizing Jesus did everything on the Cross for me.  Without Him, I could never have a relationship with God.  To even called Him Father.  No matter how hard I try, how much I work, I can never paid the difference of my sins.  I am utterly broken and worthless before Him.

At this point of desperation, what I call, cracked by God, it is here the Cross and the gospel shines so much brighter.  I see our Father so gently take me back.  I see His master plan of doing everything for me.  His gentleness in not disciplining me but lift me back up.  His Son so obedient to die on the Cross. Not for what He done.  But for what I committed.

When I rejoice in this, all the 'spiritual' stuff, Bible study, prayer, repent, reconciliation....oh that's just so easy. It is burden off my shoulder.  Why would I go anywhere else when we see what Jesus had done for me?

As I read this:

Christian growth doesn’t happen by working hard to get something you don’t have. Christian growth happens by working hard to live in the reality of what you do have. - Tullian Tchividjian

It just makes so much sense.  It doesn't matter what I do now or in the future.  Because none of it really matters when it comes to having a relationship with a Living God.  Everything is already done on the Cross.  I don't and can't add anything more.  Jesus sacrificial death really is one sacrifice for all.  The hard part is not trying to do more or be more.  But to keep realizing this reality and the circumstances I found myself in.  Even if the sky is falling down, my world is falling apart, it is ok because my security is not lie in my strength but by His Sacrifice.

Jesus already done everything for me, for us.  What more can I ask for?

I think the next time someone asked me how to draw closer to God...yes we should pray..we should read the Bible...MORE importantly, we should just stop and reflected on how much God has done for us.  Not what we can do for Him.



.. said...

Thank you for writing this post. Reading through it really makes me gape in wonder at how such a Holy God could love such sinful helpless people like us, and ya we can do nothing to 'get closer to God' except only by His grace He draws us nearer to Himself as He helps us grow in the knowledge of His grace and love for us! i remember a pastor telling me that 'effort-wise' its like trying to jump from one end of the grand canyon to the other. ya, some will jump further than others, but its all insignificant .. cuz we'd all still jump to our death if Jesus doesn't pick us up and bring us to the other side.

but yes! i echo your AMEN!!! =D

stephy said...

I don't think he requires anything of us but to know how much we need him. Then from that we want to be close to him. Yay!

Tara said...

Can't help but think of David Crowder Band song... Oh How He loves us... I think that just sums it up.

sammie_l said...

i agree; inevitably, in our attempt to run away from works-based salvation, we've run straight into it. we take Jesus' words "if you love me then you will obey my commands" to its logical conclusion and build for ourselves a regiment of do's and don'ts and a pile of habits.

of course, these things are necessary for the Christian life, but like you said it is out of love for God, and it is out of living not for self, but for God. how subtle the difference between the two seem to be, and how difficult it is for us to grasp what it means to live for God, especially in a culture devoid of "being still", and even more desolate of "knowing God."