"My mom spent many a late night helping us to work through our sin, only to wake up early the next morning to start that process all over again."
Carolyn Mahaney's Daughter
As previously described in Christian Celebrity: An Oxymoron, Covenant Life Church (CLC) hosted a two-hour extravaganza honoring the life and ministry of C.J. Mahaney. It took place in September 2004, prior to Mahaney handing over the reigns of CLC to Joshua Harris. Both C.J. and his wife Carolyn were honored that evening. Their three grown daughters shared these words to honor Carolyn Mahaney.
As the mother of two grown daughters, I cringed when I heard these words coming from the mouth of Carolyn's daughter:
"Her mothering was always fueled by a strong Biblical conviction and love for us that compelled her to use all of her energy and creativity. She would spend hours planning activities and special things for us. There was family olympics, mystery night, birthday meals, afternoon out, shopping trips, the list really is endless. However, the hours that my mom invested into creativity were no match for the hours invested in discipling and caring for our souls. My mom spent many a late night helping us to work through our sin, only to wake up early the next morning to start that process all over again. And this was all done with great joy and never a single moment of complaint. She was our greatest ally in our battle against sin and our biggest cheerleader for our growth and godliness. She was the first to bring correction and the first to bring encouragement and to point out change. She loved us unconditionally despite our many sins and weaknesses, and this faithful mothering won the hearts of her daughters…"
I can't imagine spending late nights helping my daughters work through their sins, only to get them up the next morning to start the process all over again! Upon hearing the Mahaney 'girls' honor their mother in this way, I was struck by the loaded language they used. Did you catch the key phrases?
Caring for our souls
Work through our sin
battle against sin
first to bring correction
loved us unconditionally despite our many sins and weaknesses
In a span of just one and a half minutes, these phrases were uttered by one of Carolyn's daughters. It makes me wonder what their lives were like day in and day out as members of the Mahaney household.
I cannot imagine my daughters describing me in such a way. If they did, it would be terribly upsetting because I spent very little time during their growing up years helping them work through their sin. That was NOT the focus in their lives. Instead, my husband and I emphasized God's love and our love for them. Of course there were times of correction, but they were few and far between. Instead of focusing on indwelling sin, we reminded our daughters that they are God's children, who were created in His image. Both have grown into remarkable young women who pursue their faith diligently. I cringe to think what they would be like had we raised them in the manner the Mahaney girls describe.
Furthermore, they state that their mother loved them unconditionally as they were growing up. I'm not so sure. It seems to me that C.J. and Carolyn had certain expectations for their daughters, just as they have had for members of SGM churches. All this focus on sin is a direct contradiction to unconditional love. Imagine if our Heavenly Father constantly berated us for our sin. If you have seen Luther (which I highly recommend), you will remember the scene early in the movie where he is tormented by the thought of God's judgment. Instead, he discovers a "God of love". Please don't misunderstand. I believe that when we become Christians the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. There has to be repentance and the forgiveness of sins by Almighty God, but this preoccupation with sin is detrimental to the soul. There is no way Christians can have healthy attitudes about their faith if they are constantly having to assess their sin nature.
Wade Burleson, a pastor whom I have grown to respect, has written a post related to this topic entitled: Why Do We Keep Remembering What God Forgets?
That is a very good question! Wade begins with the following quote from C.J. Mahaney's book Humility:
“As we mature personally, as our families mature, and as our churches mature, we need the doctrine of sin more, not less; and we need to keep growing in rightly understanding and applying this doctrine. Be assured that this is no less true if you’re a pastor or teacher or ministry worker. There’s no pastoral privilege in relation to sin. There’s no ministry exemption from the opposition of the flesh. There’s only a heightened responsibility to oppose sin and to weaken the flesh, as an example to the flock.” – C.J. Mahaney, Humility (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2005), page 133.
He then shares the following "observation" (another SGM buzz word) about Sovereign Grace Ministries:
"The movement C.J. Mahaney founded, Sovereign Grace Ministries, is one that is supposedly built on an understanding and application of God's grace. I recently listened to several messages by Mahaney and read a couple of his books, including the one quoted from above. I find myself rather surprised. SGM seems to focus God's people on the subject of 'sin' much more than they do Christ. Rather than an emphasis on growing in grace within the body of Christ, there is a stated goal by SGM's founder of 'growing in the doctrine of sin.' That, to me, is quite shocking."
I especially appreciated Wade's assessment of an unhealthy focus on sin. He writes:
"Focusing on sin may 'sound' spiritual, but it is in essence anti-Christ. Binding God's people to various religious rituals (church attendance, quiet time, devotionals, 30-minute morning prayers, promises, commitments, accountability, etc…) in order to overcome indwelling sin is completely missing Christ."
How reassuring to know from God's Holy Word that He will remember our sins no more. Wade Burleson sums up the problem of focusing on indwelling sin with these words:
"In Hebrews 10:17-18 the Lord says, “This is the covenant I will make with them (us)… I will remember their sins no more.” For the life of me I can't understand why pastors would put emphasis on remembering what God forgets. There’s no denial Christians struggle with ‘indwelling sin.’ There's also no denial that sin is destructive. The question, though, is "How does a believer defeat indwelling sin?" I am absolutely, positively, one-hundred-percent convinced that every Christian leader who places more emphasis in his ministry to Christians on indwelling sin than he does Jesus Christ, will ultimately lead his people down the path of religious bondage, emotional pain and spiritual abuse."
Why aren't more Christian leaders speaking out against religious bondage? Their silence is deafening!
Lydia's Corner: Isaiah 66:1-24 Philippians 3:4-21 Psalm 74:1-23 Proverbs 24:15-16