Question: Doesn’t Grace Make You Lazy?

Anonymous asked:

Does Christianity encourage laziness? The whole concept of Grace you often speak about lets people off the hook too easily. The Bible says faith without works is dead and Jesus said all trees that bear no fruit will be chopped down and thrown into fire. The reason people are so lazy and under-motivated is because they are always told they’re some special person while no one really is all that special. So how does telling them God loves them help deflate their ego?


So occasionally I get questions like this that make me wonder: Do you really care what the answer is?  Are you trolling right now?  Are you baiting me into a trap?  Have you ever struggled alongside real hurting people? Are you teachable enough to see where you went wrong here?

Christianity encourages laziness just as much as atheism provokes genocidal baby-eating evil — which is to say, you can take any issue and spin it the way you want, and you end up with a simplified straw man that makes ya looks so smarts.

This is a “deconstructive reductionism,” like when movie nerds reduce a movie plot into a laughable writer’s room. It doesn’t add to the discussion, at all.

I love you bro and I say this knowing we might just misunderstand each other: but you’re probably taking the Grace of God and reducing it to a parody of itself, which I would reject too: because it’s not really grace. 

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Listening Exchange: To Really Just Listen

People only listen to you when you listen first.

I know we hate that idea.  We don’t think of “exchanging” communication like exchanging favors.  It doesn’t seem fair, because we expect to have a voice just by raising it with aggressive passion.  I do that all the time.

But people will naturally listen to you if you make an effort to hear them out.  No one wants to hear someone who is half-interested or in a hurry or talking their own faces off. 

Simply: if you’re not hearing others, don’t expect to be listened to.

This requires you to place yourself in their debt.  In their shoes.  Eye-to-eye, chair-to-chair, without wavering.

It means we have to earn respect.  To really care about their lives.  To invest an ear in their story.  To throw your heart into their struggle.  To roll up your sleeves in their mess.

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Skipping The Hard Stuff Jesus Said

I pretty up Jesus to make him more convincing because I don’t think he’s enough on his own. 

I do this because I’m scared, I’m nervous what you’ll think about him — and I have this other idea of God that will go down smoother to answer all your doubts and concerns.

Doesn’t this make me a liar?  Or disingenuous?  Or a magician?  Or a bad movie trailer?

I end up saying, “Jesus is actually saying –” and then going into a detailed explanation of the Greek to gloss over the really hard things he said.

We don’t like to wince.  We cringe at the tough stuff that doesn’t mesh with our modern Western sensibilities. We are sure that Jesus meant something else.  So we dress him up, decorate his words, and exegete the edge off him.

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Quote: Look No Further

If you’re not sure God loves you, look no further than the cross. All that senseless debating gets good people like you to doubt if God really loves you: but God’s love is not dependent on our theology of Him. It’s based on an historical act of grace that really happened. He loves you, period. And you can respond. Let’s keep it simple enough for a child to believe, and true enough for the man on his deathbed.

— J.S.

Quote: Super-Dad

God’s commands are an eternal vision of our new identity in Christ. God made you know so He knows how you work. He knows what’s best. He’s the perfectly awesome dad we all wish we had — the dad who has fun with his kids and protects them from danger. Super-Dad.

When guilt threatens to overwhelm you, remember who you are: you’re a child of God, forgiven and free, restored by the work of Jesus on the cross, resurrected to new life by his victory over death, and you have the Holy Spirit living inside you that is not a spirit of fear or timidity, but of love, power, and self-control.

We don’t live in a locked-down house of laws — we live within the free grace of an awesome loving dad who wants us, who loves us, and who likes us. I’ll follow that sort of God all the way to the end.

— J.S.

I’m Struggling, But Church Keeps Saying Just “Read Your Bible”

Anonymous asked:

For Christians struggling with their faith, other Christians often try to offer the best advice they can, but how do you feel about Christians who keep telling those who are struggling to just “read their Bible?” In my “struggling” years when I was becoming serious with my relationship with Christ, I have often come across that advice countless times, and every time, I have always felt that there was a problem with that advice. Not that it was “wrong” but it almost never felt “right.”

Dear friend: any time someone tells you, “Just read your Bible,” they’re saying it because —

1) They’re not really sure what else to say, or

2) They’re not willing to invest their time to hear you out.

To be fair, I can completely understand when someone falls back on easy advice: because giving advice is hard and it sounds right to throw the Bible at something.  It’s a one-size-fits-all trump-card that sounds very spiritual.

But for the most part, this is such a cold, distant, snobby, self-absorbed way to say, “I don’t really care about your problem, so you figure it out for yourself.” 

See: I believe the Bible tells us that we’re designed to work through our issues together, both personally and intellectually. (Isaiah 1:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 5:21, 1 Peter 3:15, Acts 17:11-12, 1 John 4:1).  So the Bible more than anything opens the way to thoughtful nuanced conversation that covers the entire human spectrum of intellect and emotion. 

Instead, many of us use the Bible as a protective shield to say, “The answer is probably in there somewhere” — because people are not willing to get messy and dig deep into the issues that plague us.

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Quote: Restore You

Where the grace of God is most important is the moment you mess it up: because you tell yourself you might as well fall back to your old self. But in that moment of defeat, you need Him more than ever to move you forward. He will NOT hold back His grace to restore you to who you really are: a person capable of reckless love, anchored joy, pure wisdom, and enduring strength.

— J.S.

Reactionary Culture: I’m Not Like Those Other Christians

As he cursed up a storm and lit his next cigar, he says to me, “I’m not like those other Christians.  I actually get it.”

Suddenly I’m nervous.  I didn’t get what he was getting.  He must be talking about me: I’m one of those stupid Christians who is missing it and doing it wrong.  How did I not get it all this time?  This cigar-smoking man had the truth.  Thank God!  Tell me more. 

The man went on about megachurches, how doctrine is not that important, how most sermons suck, how pastors don’t have a clue, how he wanted to teach churches how to be a good church.

I wanted to take notes, but then I thought he would say, “Only those stupid Christians do that.”  I started playing with a napkin.  He noticed, so I stopped.

He continued. I looked up for a second and this huge cloud had opened up.  Right then, I thought of Jesus listening in on us — and I became pretty sad about the whole thing.  Like you know, Jesus went through that cloud and became one of us and died for us, and all we could really say was, “I’m not like this other guy.”

I told the cigar-smoking man I had to go home.  I felt sick.  Some from the cigar, but mostly because of my heart. 

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Quote: Being A Christian

Being a Christian has nothing to do with your past, your job, your face, your body, your habits, your afflictions, your church membership, your sexual orientation, your political party, your fanclub, your popularity, your bank account, or your blog. It has everything to do with how Jesus rescued you out of brokenness and continues to explode you with grace each day. It’s where you’re going, not where you’re from.

— J.S.

Quote: Thought Possible

Your Christian life takes an entire lifetime, so if you measure yourself on good days and bad days, you’ll be unapproachably prideful or you’ll randomly fall into self-loathing. If you can rest in God’s everlasting infinitely steadfast love, you’ll not only relax, but you’ll be more motivated than you ever were to follow the mission of Jesus. Grace is the only discipline that can enforce itself. It is the progress of no progress, a walk towards ‘It is finished.’ Before you know it, you’ll be focused on what’s ahead instead of what’s behind: and you’ll have come so much further along than you thought possible without even really noticing.

— J.S.

Question: When Doctrine Is No Longer Relevant

Two anonymous questions:

– I am blessed by your blog and willingness to be real about your thoughts and feelings. Any insight on why the teen years of our Messiah aren’t discussed in the New Testament? Most common answer I hear is, “Apparently the Holy Spirit didn’t ordain it necessary to the big picture of his ministry and mission.” Thanks.

– Hello, one of these questions came up at a retreat in our small group, and none of us knew the answer. So wondering if you could help out a bit? Did Jesus have a sinful nature or was he tempted less severely then us? (Matthew 4:1-11). For instance, when Satan offered him the world, was it an easy or hard choice? Did he find it as appealing as we would or did he know that the Kingdom of God was much better so it really wasn’t that hard of a decision? Thanks!


I have to say first: I very much appreciate the tone of these questions and their genuine curiosity.  There are WAY too many people who play dumb about doctrine but are actually baiting me into a troll-debate with no interest in actual discussion. 

This, dear friends, is how you ask questions about theology.

I’m totally going to answer your questions, but I just want to counter-ask as graciously as possible:

Where are these questions leading us? 

If God Himself answered them, what would it do for you? 

Would a greater intellect make us greater Christians? 

Can we disagree on these matters and still serve together in peace?

Please hear me that I’m not accusing you of any wrong motives at all.  But I know how much head-knowledge can hurt us (knowledge puffs up, says Paul) — and it almost always leads to losing sight of the mission, namely loving people.  I was one of those intellectual seminary goons that ended up caring too much about textbooks instead of THE book (Jesus Juke!) and I became intolerable.

That’s how Christians end up emphasizing politics, doctrinal camps, church programs, denominations, and celebrity pastors more than Jesus.  It’s how Satan gets to dividing hearts and the body.

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Quote: Left A Throne

God meets you where you are to run this race with you. He was unwilling to leave you on your own and he left a throne to serve us. Satan is always dangling some fading promise a step ahead of you, but he is clearly at a disadvantage since he will never know what it’s like to be one of us. All he has is a throne that rules a sad kingdom of self. Jesus offers a kingdom where we run side-by-side, together, his promises unfolding each day.

— J.S.

Quote: Grace is Story

Grace. It’s what I crave most when my guilt is exposed. The very thing I’m hesitant to extend when I’m confronted with the guilt of others — especially when their guilt has robbed me of something I consider valuable. Therein is the struggle, the struggle for grace. It’s this struggle that reminds us that grace is more story than doctrine.

When we are on the receiving end, grace is refreshing. When it is required of us, it is often disturbing. But when correctly applied, it seems to solve just about everything.

— Andy Stanley