infinite-fela asked a question:
Hello pastor … Gonna ask you something. How am I supposed to react on this: I’ve been reading the book Crazy Love of Francis Chan, it’s about loving God for real-walking the talk, and I am really moved on it. I want to do the same. I think about things I need to do for Jesus then I feel good about it then when I re-think about it again, I feel like not doing it because it’s hard and I feel so bad about it.
Hey my dear friend, I must first confess that I’m a Francis Chan fanboy for life. He was one of the first pastors I ever really got into, and I absolutely love his preaching and his heart for Jesus. He’s the real deal. He also has a heartbreaking testimony, and I admire his continual ministry for the poor and to alleviate poverty and hunger. If you didn’t know, he helped to start up Children’s Hunger Fund and also gave away his entire two million dollars of royalties from book sales to charity. And perhaps his most famous sermon continues to impact how I live today. [Warning: That sermon could ruin your life.]
His book Crazy Love was pretty good, but I personally think his book Forgotten God is still his best work, and possibly could’ve sold more if it had a more appealing title. It was one of those books in my faith-journey that actually helped me to break my fifteen year porn addiction.
The one thing with Francis Chan, and other similar pastors, is that they’re speaking to a lukewarm audience of halfway Christians. He is speaking to those that call themselves Christians but really only have the name-tag. So the intent of his preaching and writing is for a convicting gut-check to the lukewarm.
In that sense, if you come from a very legalistic church that crippled you with moralistic anxiety, then a “gut-check” is not for you. A Christian who tend towards legalism needs the uncomfortable, unsettling, reckless grace of God. If you’re a person who’s constantly worried that you’re not doing enough or not “productive,” then I would be very careful to take too much of this kind of medicine.
We all have two extremes.
There’s the Lukewarm and the Legalist. It’s the Prodigal Son and the Religious Elder Brother. On one end, we need rebuke. The other end needs rest. One end needs to fight; the other needs to unclench. The lukewarm needs a wake-up call; the legalist needs a pillow and a prayer.
When you read a book like Crazy Love or Radical or Don’t Waste Your Life or Not A Fan, please keep in mind these are written for the lukewarm. They would not be appropriate for the hurting person who came from a restrictive, toxic, repressive church-culture. And if in any way they are causing you either guilt or pride, please have a heavy discernment in how you read these books and apply them wisely.
On days I need my butt kicked into high gear, I listen to Francis Chan or John Piper. On other days I need encouragement or rest, I listen to Timothy Keller or Andy Stanley. Of course, all these pastors have elements of both grace and truth, and I’m not saying one is better than the other. But each is inclined towards a different part of my condition.
Each day, we need both grace and truth applied in uniquely different ways to where we are flailing. That’s the beauty of the multi-layered Gospel. Some days when we’re discouraged, we need restoration. Some days when we’re drifting and complacent, we need reality. Look at how God told Isaiah to tremble and Jeremiah to stop trembling. Look at how Jesus was short with Martha but tender with Mary. Look at how the angels were sharp with Balaam and so caring with Elijah. And yet God did not love them any less than the other.
You see, God always knows exactly what you need. He knows if He must enter gently with both hands, or if He must run at you with the force of a freight train. Wherever you are, God will meet you there. But you must not force yourself with the wrong remedy for today, or you’ll do yourself deep harm. You must not muster up false feelings to “add” or “subtract” what God is doing, or else you’ll run in circles second-guessing your faith and wondering why you don’t look like those other Christians.
We each have our own tempo, and we often know exactly when we need discipline or when we need deliverance. We each have a rhythm, a temperament, a particular way we’re driven, and both grace and truth will get us there.