Daily living of love

 

Francisco Ayala GressJesus does not propositionalize love, give norms and precepts for what love is, give applications for its use, or spell out in detail what love looks like in every situation—because love requires imagination and creativity and customization. What is Jesus looking for in response to His teaching? Not penitential acts or a Jesus worldview but a Jesus life and a daily living of love.

–Frank Viola

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Published in: on 02/18/2015 at 7:13  Leave a Comment  
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Sons or servants?

Prod son 3We forget the gospel when we neglect our adoption and think that we’re still just a hired servant. The Father doesn’t let us come to him on those terms.

We will either
come as sons
or we will stay
with the pigs.

He won’t let us earn anything from him because there will be no boasting in his sight. It will either be that Jesus and his glorious gospel has the preeminence or we will go it on our own.

–Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

Image: Bartolomé E. Murillo

Getting it all right

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“You haven’t got it right!” says the exasperated piano teacher. Junior is holding his hands the way he’s been told. His fingering is unexceptionable. He has memorized the piece perfectly. He has hit all the proper notes with deadly accuracy. But his heart’s not in it, only his fingers. What he’s playing is a sort of music, but nothing that will start voices singing or feet tapping. He has succeeded in boring everybody to death, including himself.

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Jesus said to his disciples, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). The scribes and Pharisees were playing it by the book. They didn’t slip up on a single do or don’t. But they were getting it all wrong.

Righteousness is getting it all right.
If you play it the way
it’s supposed to be played,
there shouldn’t be a still foot
in the house.

–Frederick Buechner
Beyond Words

When grace slips away

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Whenever faith
seems an entitlement,
or a measuring rod,
we cast our lots with
the Pharisees and grace
softly slips away.

–Philip Yancey
Soul Survivor

Image: Karl Schmidt-Rottluff

Published in: on 06/22/2014 at 21:12  Leave a Comment  
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Running from God

Tor Håkon Haugen

You can run from God
either by breaking His rules
or by keeping them.
The former says:
God doesn’t own me.
The latter says:
God owes me.

–Tim Keller

Image: Tor Håkon

When grace goes sour

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Periodically in history, spiritual revivals burst upon the world . . . The Spirit breathes, charity spreads. The greatness of God and His love are rediscovered and human pettiness is pushed aside. At the same time, the unlimited nature of God’s requirements is re-discovered, and the boundlessness of His grace. It is proclaimed. Men feel called, welcomed and not judged. They are overwhelmed, their conduct and way of life are changed, they become fervent, practising Christians.

And then gradually, inevitably, in that more virtuous, more austere environment, a new conformity emerges. Grace becomes conditional. Judgement appears.

Anyone who does not subscribe
to certain standards is suspected
of infidelity and hypocrisy.

And that is what awakens hypocrisy, for everyone, in an attempt to live up to his faith, seeks to appear better than he is and begins to hide his faults instead of confessing them…

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Moralism has returned, and with it the breath of the Holy Spirit is stifled. In order to ensure the lost treasure people cling all the more to certain ‘principles’ inherited from the heroic period, to a new limited morality. What was a spontaneous impulse, free and joyful obedience to God, responding to His wonderful grace, becomes constraint, legalistic obligation and fear of criticism… Above all, people begin to pretend to be more virtuous than they are. That was the fault of Ananias and Sapphira, which the Apostle Peter reproved so sternly (Acts 5:1-11).

–Paul Tournier
Guilt and Grace

His love is not earned

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Legalism says God will love us if we change.
The gospel says God will change us
because He loves us.

― Tullian Tchividjian

Trinitarian-Shaped Spirituality

Our walk with God is shaped by our view of God. A non-trinitarian understanding of God leads to a spirituality fundamentally different from that which results from believing in a self-giving, self-sacrificing God who exists in a community of oneness. Theology radically impacts behaviour.

If absoluteness, power and transcendence are the essential characteristics of God, then performance, not relationships, becomes the main issue. The Solitary Sovereign looks for obedience, not intimacy; he seeks compliance, not community. Faithfulness entails keeping the rules and maintaining proper behaviour. It is not surprising that a non-trinitarian view of God typically leads to a legalistic obsession with externals, proper formulas, and “getting it right.” We end up with a kingdom of “correctness.”

“Unity without multiplicity 
is the route to tyranny.” 
–Blaise Pascal

A very different spirituality develops from a belief in relational God who exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the divine community of love. He is the Three-in-One God who said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gn. 2:18). He is the Father who races to embrace and kiss his returning prodigal son, and throws a party to celebrate his homecoming (Lk. 15) He is the God who sent His Son and poured out His Spirit to redeem and include sinners in the eternal joy of the triune fellowship of love. Community, mutuality and love are at the core of who He is. And we should not expect His blueprint for us to be otherwise.

Trinitarian spirituality responds to the unconditional love of God—the staggering fact that we are loved with the same love the Father has for his Son. It dares to believe that at the centre of all things is a Fountain of Triune Love. It involves possessing “eternal life”—which is knowing the Father and the Son (Jn. 17:3), and actually becoming “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). Faithfulness to the Triune God entails much more than behaviour modification; it means living within His loving embrace. It means knowing that growth and change happen inside the embrace—not as a condition for receiving it. And in this trinitarian atmosphere of grace and goodness we are increasingly prompted to move in the direction of wholeness, holiness, obedience and service.

“Your image of God 
is the single-most important
element of your spiritual journey.”
–Graham Cooke

If the God we worship is the Solitary One who reigns in sovereign aloneness, we will arrive at a spirituality built on fear not love, on performance, not fellowship. It will be all about correct belief and behaviour—and make sure you get it right! If, on the other hand, we worship a Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who live in the togetherness of their mutual delight, passion and goodness, a very different spirituality emerges. We can learn to be vulnerable and authentic, to value relationships and beauty, to love, serve and give, to live with gratefulness and joy. We can stumble and fail and know we are still accepted. We have become amazed participants in God’s abounding triune love that will not let us go.

The contrast between the two spiritualities is stark.

John Wesley declared that the Trinity is a truth of crucial importance that “lies at the heart of all vital religion.” Robert W. Jenson stated, “The Western Church must either renew its trinitarian consciousness or experience increasing impotence and confusion.” German theologian, Jürgen Moltmann, insists that the renewal of Christianity must find its source in the doctrine of the Trinity.

A trinitarian-shaped spirituality is not only Biblical—it’s transformational.

The believer in Christ has been brought into the Triune circle of life and glory. Could anything be more wonderful than that?

–Jurgen Schulz

Celebration or surpression?

The world has a caricature of the Christian. For many a secular observer, the believer is a human disaster. To become a Christian is to abnegate life. No more laughter, no more days of raucous shouting around a football game at a tavern with a good beer. The gusto is gone. The Christian convert has died. Too often, we must admit, this caricature is true. Many Christians have died, not just to sin — which is right — but somehow they have also died to their own humanity, which is wrong. Some have been bound by guilt and legalism, owing to religious inhibitions of every kind. As believers we can become forced, defensive, angry, afraid, isolated, morose, mechanical or spiritually artificial.

Yet if our God is truly three persons in infinitely meaningful relationship, then those who are redeemed and brought into relationship with this God have every reason be the most fulfilled and authentic of all the human race. When inhabited by the Holy Spirit, as we walk with the Son, as we take our place as sons and daughters of the Father, our humanness should come alive. Indeed, the Christian’s humanity should luster and glow. Our personhood should radiate because we are in loving relationship with the fount of all personal life. Christians should be the most powerful, sensitive, transparent and truly human of all the people on earth.

–J. Scott Horrell

It’s crazy, wild and outrageous

There is no such thing as the Christian religion because, Christianity, at is heart, is not a religion. Rather, it’s the announcement by God in Christ that whatever it was that the religions of the world were trying to do and couldn’t (make God think kindly of you, win wars, end poverty, get the crops to grow, stop your brother-in-law from drinking so much at your parties), the whole rigmarole has been canceled.

In Jesus, God has put up
a “Gone Fishing” sign
on the religion shop.

He has done the whole job in Jesus once and for all and simply invited us to believe it—to trust the bizarre, unprovable proposition that in him, every last person on earth is already home free without a single religious exertion: no fasting till your knees fold, no prayers you have to get right or else, no standing on your head with your right thumb in your left ear and reciting the correct creed—no nothing. All you need is faith that the entire show has been set to rights in the Mystery of Christ—even though nobody can see a single improvement. Yes, it’s crazy. And yes, it’s wild, and outrageous, and vulgar. And any God who would do such a thing is a God who has no taste. And worst of all, it doesn’t sell worth beans. But it is Good News—the only permanently good news there is—and therefore I find it absolutely captivating.

–Robert F. Capon

God opposes religion

There is a huge demographic of people who are frustrated with the Christian religion, yet who also remain open to Christ himself. Some of them are Christ-followers while others are holding back from following Jesus because of their anger, frustration, and/or just boredom with the Christian religion . . . I think one reason why the new atheist authors are so popular is because atheism has become the trendy way of giving religion (and the God of religion) the finger. Their motivating logic runs roughly along these lines: “Religion tends to increase rather than decrease bigotry, violence, and judgementalism. Therefore, belief in God is dangerous.” I want to agree with the premise, but challenge the conclusion. I would say yes, religion tends to fan the flames of bigotry, violence, and judgementalism. Therefore, if there is a good God, we should expect him to stand against religion. And that is exactly what we see in the biblical Jesus.

–Bruxy Cavey

Published in: on 11/06/2011 at 16:25  Leave a Comment  
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Legalist lurking within

Paul reminds the church of the message the church began with: “Jesus Christ … crucified.” The cross is where we should be planted. The cross reminds us that our best efforts could never achieve forgiveness from God. And the cross reminds us that Christ’s work on our behalf is forever finished, so our best efforts can never add to His work.

How quickly we drift from this essential message! We begin basing our relationship with God on our performance. We want to substitute our works — our Bible reading, our church attendance, our church participation — for Christ’s finished work. We easily fall into the subtle but serious trap of legalism, because every one of us has a legalist lurking within.

–C.J. Mahaney

Published in: on 11/06/2011 at 6:21  Leave a Comment  
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Called to follow a Person

When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to His person. The grace of His call bursts all the bonds of legalism. It is a gracious call, a gracious commandment. It transcends the difference between the law and the Gospel. Christ calls, the disciple follows; that is grace and commandment in one. “I will walk at liberty, for I seek your commandments.” (Psalm 119:45)

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Follow Me

Every time the disciples started establishing rules–no children near Jesus; don’t let the crowd touch Jesus; don’t talk to Samaritan women; don’t let people waste expensive perfumes—Jesus told them to knock it off, and his rebuke was usually followed by a lecture that said, “You still don’t get it! We’re not substituting religious rules with our rules. We are substituting religious rules with Me!” Jesus kept saying “Follow Me,” not “follow My rules.” So most of us have spent our Christian lives learning what we can’t do instead of celebrating what we can do in Jesus.

–Mike Yaconelli 

What is clearly written

What I nightly wish is that you all keep close to the Bible. Be not wise above that which is written. Enjoin nothing that the Bible does not clearly enjoin. Forbid nothing that it does not clearly forbid.

–John Wesley

The outrageous invitation

Religion is the human race’s vain attempt to perfect a series of transactions that will con God into doing something about its plight. But the prescriptions of religion never delivered on their promises: all the chicken sacrifices of history, all the fasts, all the nights of prayer, all the approved sexual behavior—none of it ever tidied up even the smallest corner of the mess of history. And therefore when God really does do something about the mess, he doesn’t risk doing anything religious. Instead, he simply gets himself executed as a common criminal and then outrageously invites us to trust that everything religion ever tried to do has been accomplished . . .

–Robert Farrar Capon

Published in: on 04/27/2011 at 22:19  Leave a Comment  
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Living from God

For in its actual specific message the Bible does not deal with the God who demands and the man who acts, like every other sacred book; but it speaks of the God who acts and the man who receives the Divine gift. This is the great inversion of existence. Previously, life, even at its best, is always a life directed towards God; now, henceforth life is lived from God as its center. In this new possiblity of life the old life is seen to be perverted, and it becomes manifest that the attempt to attain God by our own efforts rather than to base all of our life on God, legalism, is the root of sin.

–Emil Brunner

Published in: on 02/10/2011 at 13:13  Leave a Comment  
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Burden or Wings?

The evangel of an ethical example is a devastating thing. It makes religion the most grievous of burdens. Perhaps this is the real reason why, even among professing Christians, there are so many strained faces and weary hearts and captive, unreleased spirits. They have listened to Jesus’ teaching, they have meditated on Jesus’ character; and then they have  risen up, and tried to drive their own lives along Jesus’ royal way. Disappointment heaped on bitter disappointment has been the result. The great example has been a dead-weight  beating them down, bearing them to the ground, bowing their hopeless souls in the dust.

One of the vital distinctions between
true religion and false is that,
whereas the latter is a dead burden
for the soul to carry, the former
is a living power to carry the soul.

Paul’s mysticism grows lyrical with precisely this great discovery. “Christ in me” means something quite different from the weight of an impossible ideal, something far more glorious than the oppression of a pattern for ever beyond all imitation. “Christ in me” means Christ bearing me along from within, Christ the motive-power that carries me on, Christ giving my whole life a wonderful poise and lift, and turning every burden into wings. All this is in it when the apostle speaks of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

Compared with this, the religion which bases everything on example is pitifully rudimentary. This, and this alone, is the true Christian religion. To be “in Christ,” to have Christ within, to realize your creed not as something you have to bear but as something by which you are born, this is Christianity. It is more: it is release and liberty, life with an endless song at its heart. It means feeling within you, as long as life here lasts, the carrying power of Love Almighty; and underneath you, when you come to die, the touch of everlasting arms.

–James Stewart

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