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Entries in assumptions (7)


Don't create a theology based upon your disappointments.


Too many times, we build a theology around our lack of something we hoped we should have by now; or our disappointments:

1.  Example One:  "That just doesn't happen in my life:  God just doesn't work that way."
You were hoping to be further along in your prayer life, but aren't where you expected to be after all these years.  You hoped you could experience more of the supernatural rescue of God, but wonder why it seems so fleeting and so seldom.  So you create a theology that says, "God just doesn't work that way anymore.  Or at least not in my life."


2.  Example Two:  "The Christian life is not about me becoming stronger."

You were hoping to see more growth in your life, a developing and maturing strength that others seem to have but seems meager and dwindling in your own journey.  So you create a theology that says, "God doesn't expect us to grow, or us to become more capable and stronger over time.  It's all Jesus' work anyway:  He'll act in and through us, but we aren't doing the growing.

But wait.  Why wouldn't you expect to see an increasing love for your enemy, or discernment, or  an unpressured "one another" kind of love developing over time?  The assumption that "Christian life is not about you doing all the right things"  is true; but if overstated, can turn you into a marionette puppet, where Jesus pulls all the strings and bypasses your will, your heart, and your mind; robotically moving you wherever he wants to.

This idea that "God doesn't expect you to grow" usually comes from the legitimate claim that we shouldn't be striving to live from the arrogant and self-aggrandizing energies of the "flesh."  Depending upon the flesh for the victorious Christian life is directly counter to walking in the Spirit.  However, the suggestion that "the Christian life is not about you becoming stronger" overstates it.  We should expect to grow, but how?   The answer is by cooperating with the Holy Spirit as he does the work of releasing our new appetites, desires and tendencies - those new cravings he placed within our new and noble hearts.

Otherwise, it would seem inconceivable that Jesus would live in you, yet leave you unchanged, without any sign of unpressured, yet increasing growth.   There may be pain, wounds and assumptions in the way of that growth; but you can expect to grow.  Your heart may be pinned down in places; but it's still noble and true. Yes, it's all radically dependent upon his work; but it still causes you to grow.  It's an unpressured growth...over time; but a maturing life where your new heart's appetites get released, your mind is increasingly renewed, and your body is more lead by your heart's new nature rather than by the movements of the "flesh."


Caution:  Don't turn a disappointment in your journey into a theology about how God works.  Be careful not to assume that a lack of something is a sign that what you hoped for doesn't exist.  It will lead you to resignation or short-change God's surprising work in you, rather than lead you to a more full-hearted life.




VideoBlog - How experiences can color our perceptions


Are our spiritual values cultural or scriptural?

Some of what we may think are biblically-informed perspectives of ours may in fact be more culturally-formed than biblical.  This happens to everyone: whether you're comfortable in the organized church or not; whether you're a staunch defender of doctrine, or part of the grace movement.  It happens to each of us.

  • For example, if you were born before WWII and think it's your duty to serve Christ -- because after all,  he's forgiven you and you owe him your sacrifice -- then your convictions may have more to do with you being part of the "Builder" generation where duty and sacrifice were values.  You may have a difficult time understanding the radical nature of grace.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, if you believe Jesus allows multiple ways to God and that his grace allows for a variety of paths, this may have more to do with postmodernity's infiltration into your consciousness  -- particularly the decades of the freethinking 60's and 70's. Within the church in recent decades, there has been a resurgence of unconstrained and unfettered thought, in part arising out of post-modern ideas of 'freedom':  "Don't you dare tell me how to think, or what conclusions I should draw.  Jesus permits 'all things' now."

This shaping happens to everyone.  Me?  I'm a 'Tweener' born in the gap between the Baby Boomers and the Busters.  I don't belong anywhere - yet inherit values from both.

Now, I'm way oversimplifying the complexities here.  There are more factors that influence our thoughts -- for example, our experiences and our wounds will color our thoughts about God.  On the other hand, some of our convictions are clearly revealed to us by God and are true to his self-revelation.  

But...it ought to at least move us to identity our assumptions and their sources.  After all, we are interested in what is real and true, aren't we?


Training scars

Law enforcement and the military have a term for an inappropriate or mistaken response that was mislearned during training, a behavioral script that gets laid down during the officer's training that would clearly not be helpful in a real situation, or perhaps even yield a deadly result. The term is "training scar."

David Grossman, in his book, On Combat, describes an officer-in-training who learned how to grab a gun out of a would-be criminal's hand. During practice, the officer would grab a gun from a colleague, then give it back to him in order to rehearse it again. During a real confrontation with an assailant, the officer surprisingly grabbed the gun from the man's hand, then gave it right back to him. Fortunately, the officer's partner dispatched his own weapon and shot the attacker. The officer who had learned an inappropriate response during training -- giving the gun back -- nearly cost someone's life. That's a training scar.

The Church today is functioning with numerous training scars, or behavioral scripts that are not serving us well. These scripted beliefs are wreaking havoc on The Body. These rehearsed patterns of thought are perhaps even neurologically wired into our brains in ways that lock the spirit and body (Spirit and Body) into dis-ease. The training scar I'm particularly concerned about is our continuing belief that the human heart remains dark, inwardly bent and sinful even after Christ has given the Christian a new heart, goodness and identity at their conversion.

We have remained in the Old Covenant approach to relating, refusing to pass over into the New. Listen to most sermons on any given weekend, and you'll discover the following ingrained script: "Your heart is still selfish and prone to wander. Kill you heart and call that 'holiness.' It's our job to help you behave more like a Christian so that you can do more, be more committed, and stop being so spiritually inept. You don't really want to follow God, so we'll pressure you into becoming like him."

The script of "New creation in Christ, but bad heart, still" is the pervasive training scar of the day. It is not the Gospel. And the result to the unwitting Christian is this wound: "You're not pleasing to me. Try harder." ---------------------------------

For more on behavior scripts, see Laurence Gonzales' books, Deep Survival and Everyday Survival. "Training scar" gun story, from Everyday Survival.


'MISLEADING OURSELVES' - listen now- with guest Andrew Farley

Andrew Farley, author of The Naked Gospel, joined me again to talk about the misleading catch-phrases Christians use that end up leading them away from their new and good hearts. 

We also address that sticky passage in the Lord's Prayer that says, "If you don't forgive others...neither will your Father forgive you."  But wait a minute, aren't we already and fully forgiven?  How do we reconcile other passages on our completed forgiveness with this passage that follows the Lord's Prayer?




UPCOMING PODCASTS -- airing this week

Monday, Nov. 23, Jim will by the podcast guest on Joel Brueseke's "Growing in Grace Together" series. 

Wednesday, Nov. 25, Andrew Farley, author of The Naked Gospel, will join Jim for a second podcast.  They'll be discussing the misleading language and catch-phrases Christians often use that end up preventing them from embracing their true goodness and restored identity. 

Here's the episode link on Blogtalk Radio. 


Death by assumptions

One of my greatest concerns is that we must challenge our assumptions about the Gospel -- or what we think we know about it.  It actually might be better than we think it is. 

I don't mean that we should challenge the core doctrines of Christianity, or question the supremacy of Christ.  In my mind, that's been settled.

I do mean that the version of the Gospel we've been given may not, in fact, be the Gospel; or at best, a gross distortion of it.  For example:

Much of the Church has the impression that the Gospel is either about getting your sins forgiven by accepting God's gracious pardon and receiving the promise of heaven;  or, that the Gospel is all about evangelism, outreach, and new programs for reaching the lost.  There's truth in each of these, but not enough truth.

The Gospel is the offer of a good and noble heart.  Jesus comes to restore the person -- not simply let them off the hook.  His work is deeper, more glorious, and far more supernatural than the anemic "gospel" we've settled for. 

When you said 'yes' to him, your nature, your identity, underwent a remarkable transformation.  You no longer possess a sin nature.  You're still free to sin, but it's no longer who you are or what you want.  (I know, it doesn't often seem that way, but if you judge your heart by the failures of your former self - even the ongoing ones - you will end up in despair.)

People who don't question their assumptions about the offer of Jesus scare me, frankly.  Damage has been done by those who refuse to let new information form their opinions, who muzzle any perspective that does not align with their preconceived assumptions -- even if that new perspective is firmly rooted in Scripture!

If we don't get the Gospel (the offer of Jesus) right, then Lazarus is still in his grave clothes.

Podcast:  "A better way to relate to God" challenges these false assumptions about the offer of Jesus.    Click here to listen.