Right in the midst of reading Christ in the Chaos, focusing on grace and Christ's work on my behalf and the truths of "it is finished", I was also reading what may turn out to be one of the most important books I've read this year.
But there's a bit of backstory, and we only have a blog post. Suffice it to say, we were once wrapped up in what we thought was the only way to "do" church. I'll leave it at that.
Somewhere, Christ was lost. Somehow, we began to place our hope in what we were doing and how we were doing it, and anytime we shift our hope to what God has given us as tools and gifts, and away from Him, we wrap ourselves in idolatrous bondage.
Tim Kimmel recognizes that fact, and he understands that grace is not a license to pursue self. Grace is the draw. It's what compels us to love like Jesus, give like Jesus, live like Jesus.
When we shift our hope to anything else - a vibrant Sunday School program, a family-integrated church, a fabulous youth group, a missions program, theology - we erect idols that wrap us in bondage that was never meant to overtake our lives.
And we forget Christ.
Often, we're left wondering what has happened to the hearts of our children when the things we've put our hope in end up failing us, or them.
"We may never say it out loud, but there develops in many followers of Jesus this subtle sense that our primary purpose is to impress God and appease Him by obeying Him; that somehow, God's kindness, blessings, and watch-care are contingent on our day-to-day behavior. Obedience is a wonderful and logical response to the love of God on our behalf, but it can become a toxic feature of our relationship with Him if we're obeying God for all the wrong reasons - biblically flawed reasons.
So the "goodness" that should be more the natural outgrowth of a heart in love with God instead becomes more of our focus and preoccupation- a quid pro quo arrangement with God. It becomes our spiritual duty and obligation. This type of arrangement promotes fear and worry in the believer. Guilt and shame can dominate the back rooms of our thinking as we consider the many ways we fall short of God's expectations. This inclines us to operate more masked and guarded around other Christians, uncomfortable with letting them get too close to us lest they see us for what we really are - spiritual failures walking around on feet of clay. Our need to measure up breeds judgmental spirits toward both believers and unbelievers that fall short in their own lives. We're predisposed to create a church environment that panders to people who are more in line with our behavioral checklist. Next thing you know we're creating all kinds of noble, but man-made, systems to prop up our nice Christian behavior - an outside-in management plan for our spiritual deportment that takes the place of the work of God the Holy Spirit. Here comes the pride, followed by our self-righteousness.
This is what happens when we leave the grace that saved us at the foot of the cross. If anything, this is a recipe for angry evangelicalism, spiritual elitism, and arrogant dogmatism. And the leaders of any church or family can find themselves falling into these traps even though they are committed to some of the finest features of evangelical beliefs; a clear teaching of the truth of God, a priority on the authority of Scripture, orthodox doctrine, strong apologetics, biblical worldview, God-focused worship, worldwide evangelism, and relief for the downtrodden. These are al wonderful features of our faith, but for them to stay pure they must always be framed, defined, and tempered with the power and presence of God's transforming grace."
He hits the nail squarely on the head. And you know what? Grace wins.
I was given a copy of Connecting Church and Home so that I might review it here for you. And I'm so thankful I was given the opportunity!
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