Page 14 - October2012BrowardGoodNews

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Contrary to popular belief,
Christianity is not about good
people getting better. If anything,
it is about bad people coping with
their failure to be good. That is to
say, Christianity concerns the
gospel, which is nothing more or
less than the good news that
“Christ Jesus came into the world
to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
“[Christ] was delivered over to
death for our sins and was raised
to life for our justification”
(Romans 4:25). The gospel is a
proclamation
that
always
addresses sinners and sufferers
directly (i.e., you and me).
The prevailing view in much
of contemporary Christianity is
more subjective. It tends to be far
more focused on the happiness
and moral performance of the
Christian than the object of faith,
Christ Himself.
Think about it: How often
have you heard the gospel
equated with a positive change in
a believer’s life? “I used to
__________, but then I met Jesus
and now I’m ___________.” It
may be unintentional, but we
make a serious mistake when we
reduce the good news to its
results-such as patience, sobriety
and compassion - in the lives of
those who have heard it. These
are beautiful developments, and
they should be celebrated. But
they should not be confused with
the gospel itself. The gospel is not
a means to an end, it is an end in
itself.
What happens in this
scheme is the following: well-
meaning Christians adopt a
narrative of improvement that
becomes a law (or an identity,
which is often the same thing)
through which we filter our
experiences. The narrative can be
as simple as “I was worse, but now
I am better,” or as arbitrary as “I
used
to
have
a
difficult
relationship with my mother, but
now it’s much easier.” Soon we
wed our faith to these narratives,
and when an experience or
feeling doesn’t fit—for example,
when we have a sudden outburst
of anger at someone we thought
we had forgiven—we deny or
rationalize the behavior.
If the narrative we’ve
adopted says that in order for our
relationship with God to be
legitimate, our life has to get
better, we set up an inescapable
conflict, or what social scientists
call “cognitive dissonance.” When
our view of ourselves is at risk,
honesty is always the first
casualty. That is, when the gospel
is
twisted
into
a
moral
improvement scheme, (self-
)deception is the foregone
conclusion.
There’s a classic New Yorker
cartoon of a man sitting down
with a woman, having dinner,
saying to her, “Look, I can’t
promise I’ll change, but I can
promise I’ll pretend to change.” I
hope
that
line
doesn’t
characterize your church, but it
does characterize more churches
than you think. Instead of a
hospital for sufferers, church
becomes a glorified costume
party, where lonely men and
women tirelessly police each
other’s facade of holiness. The
higher up in the pecking order,
the less room for weakness.
Perhaps it should come as no
surprise when we read headlines
of pastors of legalistic churches
acting out in self-destructive ways
(Romans 5:20).
God is not interested in what
you think you should be or feel.
He is not interested in the
narrative you construct for
yourself, or that others construct
for you. He may even use
suffering to deconstruct that
narrative. Rather, He is interested
in you, the you who suffers, the
you who inflicts suffering on
others, the you who hides, the you
who has bad days (and good
ones). And He meets you where
you are. Jesus doesn’t stand at the
top of a ladder and shout down,
“Climb.” He hangs on a cross at
the bottom and whispers, “It is
finished.” He is the friend of
sinners, the savior of those in
need of one. Which is all of us, all
of the time.
(Excerpted from
Glorious
Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free
,
pg. 78-80)
Tullian Tchividjian is a South
Florida native, Senior Pastor of
Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church,
a visiting professor at Reformed
Theological Seminary, and
grandson of Billy and Ruth
Graham. He is the founder of
LIBERATE (liberatenet.org), a
bestselling author, a contributing
editor to Leadership Journal, and
a popular conference speaker.
Tullian and his family reside in
Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Follow
Tullian on twitter at:
@pastortullian.
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LIBERATE
14
November 2012
Good News - Broward Edition
- Tullian Tchividjian -
The Man at The Bottom