Wednesday, August 5, 2009

a new way to live

On the first session of the first day, I heard from Dr. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. He talked for about 40 minutes and if I didn't hear another message the entire time, I would have had enough to chew on. Download the entire talk: the Gospel in You.

Growing up, I used to play Monopoly (always wanted to be the banker so I could organize the colored money). In Monopoly, you can get these cards called a "Get out of jail free" card. Unfortunately for us, that's how we tend to the view the gospel. You were supposed to go to jail (hell). But then you believe that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for you and now you have a get out of jail free card. That's great for eternity, but it doesn't leave you with much in the here and now. A convict who has been pardoned has no money, no job, no home--but at least he doesn't have a jail cell.

You see, if all Christ did was forgive sinners, our future would look bright but our days would look dim. The pardoned convict has to prove time and time again that he is no longer the way he was, that he can be trusted, that he can do a job well, that he can be a full-fledged member of society with all its rights and privileges.

Sound familiar? It's exhausting to feel like you have to constantly prove yourself. Believe me. I know. You see, where I work, the majority of people raise their own financial support to get paid. And because we are sinful people, our tendency is to look at that as a litmus test of--let's just be honest here--holiness. The holier you are, the more you will trust God with your mortgage payment. And when you're a paid staff in a sea of supported, there's a lot of proving that goes on. (If I had a nickel for every time I was asked, "why are you here?") It's a fair question, to be sure, but one that immediately triggers a resigned emotional response--"you're right. I don't belong. there's a clearly defined circle and I'm not in it."

I don't say this to point fingers and I certainly don't say this for pity. But that's the framework I entered with for my fourth staff training experience. And on the first session of the first day, God had this message for me: the Gospel is not about you proving yourself. You don't have to justify your existence for being here. You are here because of My Son. And that's more than enough.

Here's the thing. I live my life as if the Gospel means I'm forgiven. Period. But if Christ only forgave me, I would be like that poor convict with a get-out-of-jail-free card. No prison cell, but no money, no job, no honor. Rather, He forgives and He justifies. He validates who I am and it's not based on what I do, where I work, or how I get paid, but it's based entirely on the finished work of Jesus Christ. Every good work that Christ did gets applied to me. It's going from being a convict to receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor--and doing absolutely nothing for it.

Free justification.

I get the honor, the robes, the crown, the cross and the nails. And then I live for Him. Not the other way around.


michael said...

Hmmmm. Yes, but... in light of John 15 and Matthew 17, the first metaphor of the convict kinda makes more sense to me, personally.

That is to say that while our motives are (or should be) be because of the gratefulness for his forgiveness, we still have a responsibility to bear fruit too.

I'm not saying that we should live our life as if our salvation depends on it. But in light of what seems like some degree of expectations from God, living our life as if we have a permanent "Get out of jail free" card is reckless and foolish at best, and spiritually suicidal at worst.

I'm sure that you weren't saying that we don't need to care about how we live our life, since we're all justified anyway. I'm just saying that feeling like we have to prove ourselves is maybe a good thing, but only if there is some benefit to be gained from it (being a better employee, a better witness, a better whatever).

On the other hand, if you're hearing voices in your head (maybe in the form of persistent "thoughts") telling you that you're not good enough, you don't belong here, etc. then you probably have spiritual problems of another kind.

drh said...

I wanted to respond to this earlier, but I wasn’t able to find the “like” button. I liked it, though.

Scot said...

Yeah Monopoly!

I love his first talk. And some good thoughts by scholar Karin.

Jon said...

@michael - I think Keller's comments (and hence Karins) on having to prove oneself are based on identity. If you need to prove yourself or your identity takes a hit then you are missing the fullness of what Jesus did and your still trapped in a works mentality.

If you are free of NEEDING to prove yourself you can keep getting better at whatever it is as a joyful and free response. There isn't pressure to do better there is just freedom in growing better.

Bonni said...

Karin, I watched a video of Tim Keller addressing Google employees about the Reason for God (link here) the other day and was profoundly affected by some things he had to say at the end. Not related to justification or anything you talked about here ... but I just wanted to point it out so that you could watch it someday if you choose to. I think it will be a blessing.