“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” ― Abraham Lincoln link
As many of you know, the Nate Morales trial begins today. We will try to keep you updated on testimony, etc. when we hear reports. In the meantime, Todd Wilhelm at Thou Art the Man wrote a great post, C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries On Edge as Morales Trial Set to Begin which will get you up to date in the significance of this trial. Look for subpoenaed appearances from Grant Layman, CJ Mahaney's brother in law and Robin Boisvert, a CLC pastor.
Dee found this comment in a letter from CLC to its members disturbing.
We wanted the church family to be aware that Robin Boisvert and Grant Layman have received subpoenas to appear as witnesses in the Morales trial. This represents an opportunity to pray for wisdom if they testify
They should pray that these two men will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Good night! This is evangelical codswallop.
In the meantime, I though it would be interesting to point to a debate over the The Gospel Coalition. It involves the intersection of grace and obedience. In my opinion, the Calvinista crowd often harps on the issues of "obeying the law" while at the same time denying that they do so. The issues surrounding church discipline and the utter inability of this crowd to define what they do, and do not, "discipline" demonstrates a schizophrenic love affair with the Law.
I had planned to present my response to Jen Wilkin's post until Tullian Tchvidjian jumped into the fray last week. I found much to agree with in Tullian's response. I plan to present my own view on the matter and I look forward to the debate on this issue. I expect it will be vigorous on all side.
Jen Wilkin's "Free to Obey" is just another way of saying "obey the Law."
As I have already said, I find many in the Neo-Calvinist crowd rather enamored of forcing obedience to the Law as part of their package. As I have read post after post by proponents such as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Kevin DeYoung, Tim Challies, etc. I get absolutely exhausted as I consider keeping up with all of their rules, many of which seem to be made on the fly. Yet, they all know that Jesus came to set us free from the rules of the Pharisees and they must twist themselves into pretzels in order to morph grace into obedience to authoritarian rules that they themselves call the Gospel.™
Let's take a look at Wilkin's stab at the issue in her post, Failure Is Not a Virtue. She is a member of the Village Church which is pastored by Matt Chandler who is also the head of the Acts 29 Network. You can be sure that she toes the NeoCalvinist line of her pastor.
Jen expresses profound disagreement with the following phrases which she uses to advance her theological approach.
- Christian, you cannot obey the Law. Your certain failure is a means to show forth the grace of God when you repent."
- "We don't need more lists of how to be a better spouse/parent/Christian. We need more grace."
- "My life strategy for today: fail, repent, repeat."
I smiled when I read this because I remember Pete Briscoe, my former pastor, discussing the life of a Christian. He is a great proponent of grace. He said that the Christian life is the desire to press forward and that we all fall. Then, if we are followers, we look up, ask for forgiveness, brush ourselves off and continue onward, repeating this cycle, until we come home. This is not celebrating sin as Wilkin suggests. It is celebrating grace. It is understanding our lot, blinders off.
I immediately knew that I would not be agreeing with Wilkin since it was obvious that she would have to adhere to a treatise that would obligate us to unfailing obedience. She does and she calls it "the freedom to obey."
Rather than tossing out the Law or devaluing obedience to it, he called his followers to a deeper obedience (Matthew 5:17-48) than the behavior modification the Pharisees prized. He called for obedience in motive as well as in deed, the kind of godly obedience that is impossible for someone whose heart has not been transformed by the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. Rather than abolish the Law, Jesus deepened his followers' understanding of what it required, and then went to the cross to ensure they could actually begin to obey it.
My response to this is "I'm hosed." She expects me not only to obey the laws but to obey them right down to my very motivation. She says that Jesus went to the Cross to make us obedient to the Law. Here is where I totally, absolutely, in toto disagree with her.
Jesus, during his ministry, revealed to us the extent of the Law and included our motivations in the mix which really ticked off the Pharisees because they wrote the rule book on how to obey. They weren' t real big on heart issues. Jesus let them know that not only were they to obey outwardly, but they had to obey inwardly which threw a monkey wrench into the Pharisaical approach. Even they knew that they could not "control" the heart.
Jesus died on that Cross precisely because we cannot fully conform, no matter how hard we try, to the exacting Law. He died for that inability.
She goes on to both reject and embrace the Law.
Through the gospel our God, whose Law and whose character do not change, changes us into those who obey in both motive and deed. Believers no longer live under the Law, but the Law lies under us as a sure path for pursuing what is good, right, and pleasing to the Lord
And then throws in the hooker.
Obedience is only moralism if we believe it curries favor with God. The believer knows that it is impossible to curry favor with God, because God needs nothing from us. He cannot be put in our debt. Knowing this frees us to obey out of joyful gratitude rather than servile grasping.
So, now we must be able to obey because we do it from the right motives. We are back to square one. If we don't obey, then we must have the wrong motives. If we have the wrong motives, maybe we aren't even Christians. Let me assure you that Jen Wilkin is no different in obedience than any other committed Christian. She fails daily. If she denies that she does so, she is either eligible for sainthood or she is in deep denial (cooking the books).
I think she is wrong because I know me. I want to be obedient, right down into the dark recesses of my heart. However, if I am being honest with you, I am not and I fail regularly, even when I want to do it right. For me, that is the key to this issue.
Tullian Tchividjian turns the tables on Wilkin
In a post Acknowledging Failure IS A Virtue: A Response To Jen Wilkin, I found myself nodding along with Tchividjian because I, too, have been around the Christian life for quite awhile.
” I have to be honest and say I’ve never encountered a Christian who “celebrates failure.” And I’ve been around for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I see moral laxity in everyone, everywhere. But I don’t see real Christians reveling in it or bragging about it.
Now, I have seen Christians who are in denial of their sin. They go through great lengths to justify why their behavior in question is in accordance with Scripture. One only need look at the current plethora of CJ Mahaney fans who have justified their support or silence in the light of alleged child sex abuse cover up allegations in his ministry. The funniest excuse belongs to Tim Challies who claimed he didn't educate himself about the problem because it was not "good time management" which is apparently a new Scriptural mandate in certain circles.
Why would they go to all lengths to justify their actions in light of Scripture if they didn't give a hoot about the Bible? The fact that their reasoning is weak does not negate this point. I have a pastor who calls this approach "cooking the books."
Tchvidjian discusses the inspiration which comes from understanding grace.
What causes actual love for God is God’s love for us. His love for us is what motivates love from us. The Bible is very, very, very clear that grace and grace alone carries the power to inspire what the law demands. Love, not law, compels heartfelt loyalty.
He says that preaching obedience does not necessarily make us more obedient.
Too many people assume that championing ethics will itself make us more ethical; that preaching obedience will itself make us more obedient; that focusing on the law will itself make us more lawful. But is that the way it works?
Tullian quotes Matt Richard who does not believe that preaching grace leads to lawlessness.
I have found that as Christians we many times attribute “lawlessness” to the preaching of the Gospel. Somewhere in our thinking we rationalize that if the Gospel is presented as “too free, too unconditional or that Jesus fulfills the law for us” that the result will be lax morality, loose living and lawlessness. It’s as if we believe that the freeing message of the Gospel actually produces, encourages and grants people a license to sin. Because of this rationalization we find ourselves strapping, holding and attaching restrictions to the Gospel so that we might prevent or limit lawlessness. In other words, the Gospel is placed into bondage due to our rationalization and reaction to lawlessness.
He then quotes from a letter that he received from a pastor who believes that preaching on the law can actually lead to lawless living.
Pastors are so concerned about somehow preaching “too much grace” (as if that is possible), because they wrongly believe that type of preaching leads to antinomianism or licentiousness. But, I can testify that the opposite is actually true. I believe preaching only the law and giving little to no gospel actually leads to lawless living. When mainly law is preached, it leads to the realization that I can’t follow it, so I might as well quit trying. At least, that’s what has happened to me.
He then discusses the "Good News."
As my friend and New Testament scholar Jono Linebaugh says, “God doesn’t serve mixed drinks. The divine cocktail is not law mixed with gospel. God serves two separate shots: law then gospel.” Jen confuses these two “shots” and therefore fails to deliver the REAL bad news which prevents the reader from hearing (and being relieved by) the REAL good news.
Your failure does not condemn you. For those of you who get down on yourself a lot (like me), read this 10x.
So when I say “Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail”, I’m NOT saying “go out and sin more so that grace may abound.” I’ve never heard anyone say that. What I AM saying is that you ARE failing and that if you are in Christ, your failure does not condemn you (Rom. 8:1). Furthermore, your failure cannot separate you from God’s love (Rom. 8:31ff). So, because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail without fear of being cast out, abandoned. Even our most cataclysmic failures won’t tempt God to “leave us or forsake us.” Perfect love casts out all fear.
A high view of the law leads us to a high view of grace and that is what sets us free.
J. Gresham Machen counterintutively noted, “A low view of law always produces legalism; a high view of law makes a person a seeker after grace.” The reason this seems so counterintuitive is because most people think those who talk a lot about grace have a low view of God’s law (hence, the regular charge of antinomianism). Others think those with a high view of the law are the legalists. But Machen makes the compelling point that it’s a low view of the law that produces legalism, since a low view of the law causes us to conclude we can do it—the bar is low enough for us to jump over. A low view of the law makes us think the standards are attainable, the goals reachable, the demands doable. This means, contrary to what some Christians would have you believe, the biggest problem facing the church today is not “cheap grace” but “cheap law”—the idea that God accepts anything less than the perfect righteousness of Jesus.
Grace gives each of us the "want to" obey. It is the hope that I have, each morning as I wake, that I will demonstrate the love of God in my actions. I do not want to sin. When I do (every day), I feel bad and wish that I could be kinder, more patient, less self centered, etc. But then I look to Jesus and understand, each and every day, why He came and what he accomplished for me on that Cross. I am free and I am free to repent and to love Him and to keep on loving and caring for others.
When should church discipline be applied?
Perhaps it is necessary when people do not care that they are sinning in a big way. In fact, the problem within the church in Corinth actually backs up Tchividjian's point of view. 1 Corinthians 5:1-2-NIV Bible Gateway)
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?
There are many who have fallen in the area of sexual immorality. What makes this one so different? The church was proud of this sinful behavior. Remember what Tchividjian said above?
I have to be honest and say I’ve never encountered a Christian who “celebrates failure.” And I’ve been around for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I see moral laxity in everyone, everywhere. But I don’t see real Christians reveling in it or bragging about it.
The church was celebrating failure. Those who truly get grace would *not* celebrate sin when it is pointed out to them. The response would be one of repentance. And that is the difference.
In fact, it is this understanding which should have been applied in the story of Andrew at Mars Hill. In that story, a young man confessed his sexual immorality and repented. But that was not enough for the leaders at Mars Hill. They piled on the punishment. An understanding of grace would not have led to this response.
Believing in God's freeing and glorious grace does not lead us into sin. It will lead us, day in and day out, to pick ourselves up, repent, not dwell in our failures and to travel on through this life, free to love and care for one another.
That sort of grace is truly worth celebrating.
Lydia's Corner: Ezekiel 29:1-30:26 Hebrews 11:32-12:13 Psalm 112:1-10 Proverbs 27:1