Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What we offer the world

Mark Galli at the Christianity Today site on "The Scandal of the Public Evangelical," the reaction—particularly the reaction of evangelical believers—to bad behavior by public figures who are identified with the faith. Read it all here.
.... It's discouraging to see Christians who could have been models of our faith become merely examples of what G.K. Chesterton called the one doctrine subject to empirical proof: original sin.

There is something in the evangelical psyche that denies this reality. Yes, we're a movement that preaches repentance and confession of sin as a chief means of grace. But after conversion, our holiness heritage kicks in. We preach, teach, and live "discipleship," "obedience," and "following" Jesus. We're deathly afraid of cheap grace. We assume that with sufficient exhortation and moral effort, our sins will become smaller than a widow's mite and our righteousness larger than life.

This is coupled with the long-standing evangelical myth that there should be something different about the Christian. A look. An attitude. A lifestyle. Something noticeable, something that causes the unbeliever to pause and wonder, "What does that person have?" Because it is such an integral part of our evangelistic method, we spend enormous amounts of psychic energy trying exude that something. ....

I sometimes wonder if becoming "sanctified" in this life is mostly about becoming increasingly aware of just how much we are, in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, "miserable sinners," and that, really, "there is no health in us." ....

It is God's utter acceptance of us that allows us to look at our miserable sinfulness and not flinch. If that's not the final step in sanctification, it is certainly a prerequisite to any other step. And it's about all most of us will experience in this life. ....

.... What we offer the world is not ourselves or our moral example or our spiritual integrity. What we offer the world is our broken lives, saying, "We are sinners saved by grace." What we offer the world is Jesus Christ and him crucified.

"Be a sinner and sin boldly," said Martin Luther, "but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly. For he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here, we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness but, as Peter says, we look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. … Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner."

Make no mistake, this is not cheap grace. Not cheap at all—it's free. And it's the most precious thing we have to offer the world. [more]
The Scandal of the Public Evangelical | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction
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