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June 15, 2008

(Contued from previous post)

…I became increasingly uncomfortable driving the hearts of fellow strugglers deeper into the morose of guilt. As I preached I began to choke on words like joy, peace, easy, light, hope and know. The possibility of helping others experience an inexpressible and glorious joy, or the peace which goes far beyond anything we can imagine, or the yoke of God we take upon ourselves as something that is easy and light, or hope in this life and the life to come, or the knowledge that we are saved, seemed a very, very distant possibility.

In evaluating what I was doing I recognized that I was calling on people to become; great students of God’s word, knowledgeable of the mysteries of Christ, sharers of the word of God, disciples growing in the knowledge God, competent to answer the questions people asked, people of faith who trust God to be able to move mountains, generous in giving to the poor, and people who would surrender themselves to suffering for the sake of Christ.  Not a bad list!  But, I had also accepted the lie that the “why” is insignificant as long as people fall in line and do what they’re told! The problem was that the motivation I was using had little to do with the love of Christ and everything to do with guilt, fear and condemnation. I realized that I was leading people to becoming resounding gongs and clanging cymbals which adds up to being nothing and gaining nothing even if they did everything I challenged them to do. The “why” was not insignificant! In other words, it was not ok to have the wrong motive for doing all the right things.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.  (1 Cor. 13:1-3 ESV)

The next observation which was more difficult to accept because it was more personal brought me to the conclusion that my approach to preaching had also become an expression of pride and control. “Pride,” in that if the people didn’t come to church the numbers would not grow and I would not be seen as successful. “Control,” in that guilt shame and condemnation was the “most effective way” to motivate quick lifestyle change. “Shame on you, you hell bound Christian embarrassment,” is a pretty strong motivation.  (Sorry, I exaggerate)

The final steps that came before the decision were taken as a result of one of the most simple and well known spiritual principles and passage; “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them….” (Matthew 7:12 ESV) The transition began in earnest when I started to think of those I was speaking to as I thought of myself. I knew what I was. I was not a hypocrite but I was a Christian experiencing the conflict between the flesh and the spirit who needed to be rescued.

I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
(Rom. 7:21-8:1)

          The Decision:

The decision is a “two sides of the coin” kind of decision:
 – To free the church from my desire to promote myself
    and control their lives with guilt.
 – To turn the church over to Jesus Christ, to be loved
    and motivated by Him and His deep desire to support
                                and save them.

The consequences of this decision have been….

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 12, 2008 9:14 am

    Hey Mark, I’ve been reading your blog and these three articles really spoke to me. I’ve been through the same decision. It began several years ago after i read a “condemned” book called The Grace Awakening, by Charles Swindoll. Then I read a couple of other books on grace and took a long hard look at the scriptures. I guess, somewhere along the line, I had missed the God of Grace and the grace of God. What a difference it makes when we try and show grace instead of condemnation. As you say so well, sin is still sin but the good news is that we can be freed from sin and live by the law of love.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

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