Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Grace and more grace

In "Grace, grace, and grace: how to battle Osteenism in our time" a non-Evangelical asserts truths we all need to remember:
.... Oprah fell in love with Osteen’s preaching when she encountered a sermon he gave called “The Power of I Am.”

Students of Scripture, familiar with Exodus 3:14, might assume that such a sermon would be focused on the power of God, but in fact the I Am that Osteen has in mind is not YHWH but us. “When you wake up in the morning, don’t focus on all your flaws,” says Osteen. “Instead, look in the mirror and dare to say “I am beautiful, I am young, I am vibrant, I am confident, I am secure.”” According to Osteen, the words we use to talk about ourselves have power to shape how we actually are. Therefore, rather than focusing on God’s Word, we should focus on our own words, seeking to mold ourselves through the power of positive thinking into the kind of happy, successful people that God wants us to be. ....

What we are preaching and teaching in many of our parishes is not the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified and risen for us. Instead of preaching the power of the great I Am, we point to some inner, mystical power that exists only in our imaginations. ....

...[O]ne of the great insights of the Reformation was that God speaks to us in two ways in Scripture: (1) through law, which is God’s commands for how we are to live, and (2) through Gospel, the proclamation of God’s free gift of his Son on the Cross, which justifies us before God even though we are unable to meet the demands of the law. The law’s main purposes are to expose us to our inability to be good (even if we want to be good) and to restrain us from acting on our worst impulses, but there is also a third use of the law by which it becomes a guide for Christians on how to live moral lives once we have been given new hearts and made holy. The problem is that, this side of the Lord’s return, that kind of living is always aspirational. Our sin continues to infect us even as God is making us holy through the blood of his Son. The law can point us towards how we are to live as Christians, but only the Gospel can actually transform our hearts so that we are able to do it. The solution, in other words, is not to temper our preaching of the Gospel with more law. The solution is more Gospel. ....

The law is good, but the law cannot save us. Christian community is good, but it cannot save us either. Only the Gospel can do that, and far too few faithful, church-going Christians today can even identify what the Gospel is, let alone rest in its promises. Until we learn again to center all that we preach and teach on grace, our calls to live the Christian life will not yield the fruit we hope to see. ....

Until we make grace our first and last word, even our most well-intentioned efforts to proclaim the Kingdom will be absorbed by our listeners as a recipe by which they can make themselves better. We must take the Osteen out of our own eyes before we go looking to remove it from our neighbors. [more]