One of the greatest pleasures in my life is working with many wonderful and diverse people. It is so incredible to see how the Father works in each life. Far too often I am afraid, when I get to meet some of these folks, it is because they are experiencing some sort of crisis in their life. A sudden change in relationship by way of death or divorce, loss of employment, the diagnosis of a major health issue, and far too often, trauma as a result of their involvement in toxic forms of Church.
There are a number of root causes involved in Toxic Church, and these were what prompted me to write Becoming Love. Avoiding Common Forms of Christian Insanity, so to share them all in one short blog is not really all that practical. I do want to share one such smudge and the founder of the Vineyard movement, John Wimber, describes it here:
"If we miss the fundamental point that God is the source of holiness then we will attempt to make holiness the way to God..."
Believing that we produce our own holiness to be acceptable to God is a very common smudge of the lens of faith. While it may look perfectly pious, it proves to be a significant killer of deep abiding relationship with God. It significantly impairs our ability to experience the peace that we are working so hard to get. The idea that we need to create our own holiness with moral perfection, right theology, pray the right prayers, church membership, tithing, obeying Pastor, etc., all in an effort to get God to like us is at its root self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is our attempt through our own hard work, sacrifice, piety to earn our salvation. I want to be very direct; we are saved by faith in Christ by grace. We love because He loved us first! God initiates with us in that yet while we were still sinners; Christ died for us!
Unfortunately, many of us get this backwards. Often it is the most sincere who fall prey to this idea, the idea that we need to earn something we already have. This produces toil, not rest. The fruit of trying to make our own holiness is always self-righteousness. Is it any wonder, so many experience burnout? Is it any wonder that so many lament that peace and rest in Christ is so very elusive?
God waded into the muck and mire of our brokenness with love in the person of Jesus to rescue us from the cancer of sin and death. Our rightness with God is the work of God Himself in Christ NOT in our ability to perform and conform. The key here is that we will naturally change because we have met (come to know/experienced) His transforming love in the person of Jesus. It is in the continued experience of His love and acceptance that allows us the grace to let go of sinful behaviors and thought patterns. It is this love, the power of the Holy Spirit that shapes us into the image of Jesus as we are uniquely created to be. Holiness is a fruit of Christ, a gift we receive and not something we have to earn or fake 'til we make!
As counterintuitive as it may seem, as folks begin to let go and let Jesus, they get out of the way of the transforming, healing work of God in their life. As we allow ourselves to be loved by God, to experience this love in a personal way we find that we begin to experience freedom in the deepest places in our lives. Those things we struggle with, the things we may call sin begin to fade away as the Father becomes the source to satisfy all our needs, our deepest heart longings. Less and less do we feel the need to try to get life from something or someone else, even our best religious thinking or performance.
Take a moment and allow Jesus' invitation to breathe fresh, new life into your soul.
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." - Mt 11:28-30 MSG