Thursday, October 25, 2012
Hope for me... even if I DON'T agree with Francis Chan and Dudes like him.
I had a friend recommend a book to me. It was the book, "NOT A FAN" by Kyle Idleman. I remember her telling me how very, very good it was.
So I decided to pop it open just to any random chapter and read a few paragraphs. SURE ENOUGH... I happened on a paragraph where, once again, the author was talking about Jesus "SPEWING US OUT OF HIS MOUTH" if we're not "totally committed" followers of Him.
Now, I didn't read this book, so I KNOW I'm just basing my thoughts on this one section. It's probably a pretty good read...
I just thought it was so very interesting that I should land right on that statement. I had a VERY eye opening experience after reading the book "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan a few years ago. I felt as though I was starting to see how very threatening, works based and graceless a lot of these books are in a veiled sort of way. It's a WORKS based Christianity. It's early strict Catholicism in Evangelical clothes. It's Old Testament Law and Performance Demands with the label of a "New Covenant".
The book Crazy Love has MANY references to people "not really being committed followers of Jesus" (thus going to Hell is the logical conclusion). Chapter four, for example, describes in detail what a "Lukewarm Christian" would look like and then in Chapter five, he makes this statement. "As I see it, a lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron; there's no such thing. To put it plainly, churchgoers who are "lukewarm" are NOT Christians. We will NOT see them in Heaven." (emphasis mine)
Sure, Chan will throw a couple lines in the book here and there to say, "it's all about Love and Grace and that we shouldn't use our standard to judge others." Then He goes right back to all the ifs and the buts and the fear and the threats.
One example he gives of a "committed Christ follower" is a man who had to leave his mission field to get a tooth fixed. He decided to have ALL his teeth pulled so he would never have to leave God's work again. This is the standard? I'm sorry, that isn't crazy love, that's just plain crazy.
"Counting the Cost" and "Carrying your cross" are the new catch phrases for becoming a "true believer of Jesus" these days. Jesus told this to His disciples when He was talking to THEM about what was going to happen as He was heading to the cross. So apparently that is what He has to say to all of us? Then people in church leadership positions can tell you exactly what that needs to look like. Context anyone?
Francis Chan uses the Parable of the Soils to prove his point that only ONE type of soil really belongs to Jesus. He ALSO uses the "Spew you out of my mouth" threat. Both taken grossly out of context I believe. The story of the soils isn't about going to heaven or hell in my opinion, it's about whether or not we can really believe the Good News! I just don't read these passages the way it was given to me anymore I guess. That's why I think it's very important to remember that scripture is Inspired by God... but men and interpretations of scripture are NOT ALWAYS right. (Just like my thoughts and my interpretations are not always right!)
I KNOW many of my friends LOVE these books and I respect that, I truly do. Many of the people who enjoy this type of encouragement in their personal journey with Jesus are wonderful, loving people! They see a difference in "believing" that Jesus existed and believing IN Jesus and trying to live accordingly. They also don't judge others by their standard and their journey. That is wonderful.
There were even parts of Chan's book and video that accompanied it that I appreciated. Francis Chan appears to be a self-sacrificing, giving, loving and humble man. You can completely see this in him. That is why his message can be VERY persuasive and looks like "The Perfect Way". Many might say that people who want to argue the point of these books are only doing so because they want to live "sinful lives" and have therefore "missed the Gospel".
But if you think that the Gospel (Good News) and life IN Christ is about "being committed enough" ... I would dare say that it may be YOU who have missed the Gospel.
1 Corinthians 1:30
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
(or check out the entire book of Ephesians while you're at it)
I don't want to condemn certain books as "evil". I certianly don't like it when people do that to me! Heck, I faced "church discipline" basically because I had a positive view of a theological book that "Leaders" didn't agree with, even though they hadn't even read the book! I didn't feel it was my duty to submit to their opinions.
I won't "kick you out of my club" if you read and enjoy the "be more committed " type of books! I truly am sorry if this is your absolute favorite book and I just put it down. It's just an opinion formed on MY journey and through MY convictions.
I once had a conversation with a friend who was "discipling" a young woman. If you don't know what that word means, count yourself lucky. It's the catch phrase of some Christians who feel they are teaching others the "right way" to be a Christian. It's a phrase I have grown to strongly dislike because of the arrogant "notch in my belt" attitude that can often accompany it. Anyway, this young woman was experiencing much trauma in her life and had called this "discipler" woman during a panic attack telling her that she has been having horrible dreams and didn't know what to do. The woman actually told me, while she was sharing this story with me, that she knew this lady "was never going to come to church anyway"... So she told her that she felt the panic attacks and the nightmares were because of her exposing herself to the demonic book on Angels she had been reading! You know what is terrible about all of this to me? At the time, I wasn't horrified with how this person handled this situation! I thought it was the right thing to do. What kind of book do you have to read to treat another human being that way!?? I don't think it's the Bible...
EVERYTHING you read needs to be weighed and measured and thought through. Which is what I try to do and why I feel the need to free others from the potential guilt and shame based relationship with Father some of these more legalistic books can bring.
I guess the person I described above felt she was also helping the person reading a book she thought to be "demonic". The whole... "I knew she wasn't going to come to church anyway" thing, is what cut to my heart however on how we as Christians really "love" others.
If you find yourself getting angry that I am even sharing these things... perhaps it is you that needs to examine your heart?
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
From Galatians 4
(as well as ALL THROUGH the scriptures) For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”
Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”
The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
It's one thing to spur one another on to LOVE and Good Deeds. I DO think that is a good thing in the Kingdom! But many of these books REEK of threats and the hint of a loss of salvation if you don't "pony up". Then, when the poor saps who read these books, feel the horrible guilt, doubt and shame that this message will bring if you're not "good enough", they go to their Pastors for "counseling". If they're regular church attenders, serving in a ministry, taking part in a small group and their "sins" are acceptable enough, they will receive a pat on the head and are granted "assurance of their salvation".
~You are absolved.
The other possibility is that you will actually come away from this sort of message and start to feel that you ARE a "committed follower" by all your good deeds. A perfect breeding ground for the Pharisee mindset. I've seen it, I've lived it. It's not worth it. It's NOT the Kingdom.
The message behind many of these books is "You better be a perfect 110% committed follower of Jesus, or He will have NOTHING to do with you!"
You really aren't "saved" unless you look like ~This~
This is a "works" Gospel!
If you understood what these statements are REALLY saying.
Then statistics of these books would actually point to only about .03% of the world really knowing Jesus.
I closed the book I had skimmed through and thanked Father for giving me the courage and strength to live by Faith and to trust wholly in His Love.
I have hope that I am LOVED. That I can live LOVED and doing so IS living out the Gospel. The Good News!
As Paul put it,
"Let no debt remain outstanding, exept the continuing debt to love one another
I WILL do my best. But not out of guilt, or fear or shame or manipulation. Because that was ALL taken care of by my Loving Daddy on that cross!