“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I am going to get to my series about small church issues, but I was catching up on my reading, and I found a post at Gummby’s site which caused me pause. The reason that it caught my attention is that I recently did a sermon series on the beatitudes as part of our study through the book of Matthew.

After I had put my ideas together, prayed about the series, and began to frame out my thoughts and a structure, I went to read a few other sermons on these subliminal passages. While I found quite a few great sermons, I was shocked to find many sermons using the beatitudes as a checklist of qualifications for a Christian! (It could have been how the sermons came out on paper, I don’t know).

Now, while I agree that a person’s life should bear fruit; the approach whereby one gauges their Christian walk by how well they ‘keep’ the beatitudes is wrong-headed (IMHO). Before you dogpile me, hear what I am saying:

A Christian who has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit WILL display these attitudes in their life. It may not be all at once, and it will always be imperfect as long as we are on this side of the Jordan (to use a colloquialism), but it will occur.

However, to push people to KEEP the beatitudes, (as a type of New Testament Law), as opposed to explaining to them that through God’s grace these will be manifest in their life is, I believe, showing a low view of the grace of God. It becomes an effort worthy of Pelagius – you have many people gritting their teeth and trying to be poor in spirit, or merciful, and you end up with frustrated people!

Truth be told – when Christ has drawn you to the Father, and you have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the changes are worked through God’s power and not our own. This is not the ‘Let Go and Let God’ bumper sticker platitudes of modern evangelical thought; there is still a concentrated focus that we apply as well (not in salvation, but in our sanctification), however it is God is working through us (ref. Philippians 2:12, 13). It is by God’s POWER and GRACE that we accomplish, NOT by our working really, really hard and BECOMING a better person through our own efforts.

Now you may be saying; “Ray, what does this have to do with Gummby’s post?”. Well, it struck me as I read through his post that many of these motivational guys are preaching just what I spoke of above – that is, if you try really hard, and read my books, and are good, church-going, clean-cut people, THEN you are on your way to being a Christian. To use a phrase from Gummby’s post, it does not reach people ‘where they are’. This ‘gospel’ does not reach down into the squalor of a person’s sin and lift them on the wings of an eagle into the glorious relationship with God, rather it creates just another striving after the wind in a life often filled with striving. Now the guy who works 80 hours a week can be made to feel guilty because he is not working hard enough at church! And there are many churches that are happy to fill a person’s life with conferences, seminars, classes, book studies; almost anything to make them 'better'; everything except the disciplines of the Christian life – Bible reading, prayer, fellowship…

The beatitudes are not a checklist of requirements on how to become a Christian, rather they are a list of traits that a Christian will naturally display by the power of God at work in their lives.

1 comment:

Even So... said...

Exactly...you don't work for, it, you work from it...