Monday, April 4, 2011

On Faith and Works and Crazy Love [Part 1]

Here we go again with me being all vulnerable and honest.  This is going to be another difficult entry, but I will try to articulate as clearly as possible.  Put on your thinking caps. :-)

Growing up a Christian, I sometimes lamented that I didn't have a radical transformation story.  I was saved at a young age and have spent my life trying to please God.  But somehow I feel like I always fall short.  I wonder often if I'm pleasing enough to God.  I try to convince myself that I am.  Anytime I get particularly nervous, I flip through my Bible, reading all the verses I've underlined about God delighting in me.  But the verse that haunts me perhaps more than any other in the whole Bible is this: " . . . faith, by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:17)  *Shudder*  I know that I am saved by grace, not works.  But how many deeds do I need to perform to keep my faith from being dead?

This is where Crazy Love comes in.  Many of you expressed surprise that the book evoked such fear in me.  It was a beautiful book.  It was full of proclamations of God's love.  It was an incredible reminder of Jesus' sacrifice for us.  But it raised some very scary questions.

To me, the scariest part of the book is wrapped up in this quote: "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."  (pp 83-84)


It seriously gives me a stomach ache to go back and read this.

Chan, (the author of the book) is not just making up crazy things.  The entire book is punctuated with Scriptural references to back up his claims.  He has an entire chapter devoted to what lukewarm looks like.  Here a few of his examples.

- Lukewarm people don't really want to be saved from their sin; they only want to be saved from the penalty of their sin. (pg. 70)

- Lukewarm people rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, or friends. They do not want to be rejected, nor do they want to make people uncomfortable. (pg. 71)

- Lukewarm people say they love Jesus and He is, indeed, a part of their lives. But only a part. They give Him a section of their time, their money, and their thoughts, but He isn't allowed to control their lives. (pg. 72)

- Lukewarm people love God, but they do not love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength. They would be quick to assure you that they try to love God that much, but that sort of total devotion isn't really possible for the average person; it's only for pastors and missionaries and radicals. (pg. 73)

- Lukewarm people will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go or how much time, money, and energy they are willing to give. (pg. 74)

- Lukewarm people do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty. They want to do the bare minimum, to be "good enough" without it requiring too much of them. (pg. 76)

- Lukewarm people probably drink and swear less than average, but besides that, they really aren't very different from your typical unbeliever. They equate their partially sanitized lives with holiness, but they couldn't be more wrong. (pg. 79)

ALL of those statements apply to me, which is why his initial statement about the lukewarm not being found in heaven is so terrifying.

Of course, Chan is referring to Revelation 3:16 when he talks about the lukewarm.  "So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth."

Chan says, "My conclusion? Jesus' call to commitment is clear: He wants all or nothing." (pg. 85)

And Chan's definition of "all or nothing" is nothing like the Christians I know (who have read this book and sung its praises to me)!  He writes chapter after chapter calling us to be "radical," to give all we have to the poor, to serve God on mission fields in Africa, to get out of our comfort zones, quit trying to be safe and happy, and to live outrageously for God.  Yes, those are all great things! Yes, I wish I was more willing to do them!  But is my lack of willingness a testament to the genuineness of my faith?? 

I finished that chapter of Crazy Love, sat on my couch, and feared for my [eternal] life.  I had a terrible stomach ache and wanted to distract myself with the TV or the Internet, but thought No, those things are not of God. How can I watch "30 Rock" when I just read that book?  So I went back to my bedroom and started the next chapter.  Relief flooded my soul when I read this:

My fear in writing the previous chapter is that it only evokes in you fear and guilt.  Personal experience has taught me that actions driven by fear and guilt are not an antidote to lukewarm, selfish, comfortable living. I hope you realize instead that the answer is love.  (pg. 101)

My relief was short-lived.  Now my mind is screaming, "Love? Oh snap. All that stuff about not living comfortably is supposed to be my response if I truly love God?"  Chan is clear that living a life that pleases God must come as a response to our love for Him.  Fear and guilt don't cut it.  But if we truly love God, it will be our natural response to react radically.  Which leads to my next question:

If that's not my natural response, does that mean I don't love God enough?  And if I don't love God enough am I even saved to begin with?

This has already gotten ridiculously long, so I'm going to wrap it up for now.  What do you think so far?  Next time, I want to talk a little bit about Pastor Chris' sermon from today that relates to this.  He was much more hopeful, though I still have many questions.

Please feel free to give your opinion.  I'm looking for all the advice I can get!


  1. I guess I would start by saying that I don't think our love for God -- or, more importantly, His love for us, is about "how much". I think it is about "how". I heard a sermon onetime that dealt with John 3:16 and the pastor paraphrased the verse to say that God loved the world "in such a way" that He sent His son Jesus to die for us. I think one of the modern translations says God love the world "so much" -- and those 2 phrases mean 2 different things. Think about those 2 statement and send me a message or post if you are interested in hearing more. Also, be sure to go back to scripture itself and rely on that -- not just what an author says (even if they are good -- they are still interpreting things for you and God can talk to you too!!)

  2. First off, I totally get where you're coming from, especially about lamenting not having a radical conversion experience. People talk about remembering the exact date and time they were saved, and how much their life changed that moment. I don't have that. So it's hard to see the good in my life because I don't have a "bad" past to compare it to.

    Let's remember, though, how we are saved. "Whoever believes in Him" receives eternal life. It's not about WHAT we do with our life, because we can never earn our way into heaven. My favorite section of scripture when dealing with salvation is 1 Cor 3:10-15. If we have a foundation of faith in Jesus Christ, we are safe from judgment by his blood no matter what kinds of crap we build with on top of that foundation. So even if you never do a good or kind thing with your life, or if you screw up royally, you are STILL covered by the atoning blood of Jesus.

    Which brings us to "faith without works is dead." Nathan helped me understand this a little better recently. It's not so much about doing a certain number of service projects in order to secure your salvation. It's more about having the desire to please God with your life because of your faith in Him. THAT is why you may swear less, drink less, try to be a morally "better" person. It's because we know that God IS and want to please him.

    ...also, having a fear of Hell is totally normal and healthy. Not fearing Hell is ignorant.

    Finally, I want to mention that NOBODY gives up EVERYTHING for God. I don't care if you sell all your stuff and go live in a cave... we still have control of our own minds and bodies, and with those we WILL sin.

    I've already written a novel here, so I'll leave it at that, but I hope that helps a little bit! I DO think being excited about doing things to please God is an awesome thing, but I don't think those of us who don't live in a cave in Africa need to feel such guilt. God loves you and you love Him and are so thankful for what He did for you through Jesus... and I think that's enough. <3

  3. Also, keep in mind --- that even if you never did anything really "bad" to be saved from --- you were still born a sinner. That means you need to be saved as much as the worst sinner you can possibly imagine. I don't have the "saved from a gutter" testimony either, but that gives us the opportunity to be THANKFUL to a loving God who spared us that and gave us loving Christian families who raised us in the church, taught us to love Jesus, and died for us as much as anybody -- not because of what we did or didn't do but because He LOVES us and wants us as His children Think of it this way -- as Lucy's mom, do you want her to be a rebel involved with drugs and all other horrible things so when she grows up she can have a spectacular conversion experience?? OR do you want to raise her, starting now to love Jesus and believe in Him at a young age and be spared the same things you were spared and see her serve God by following her mommy's example??

  4. Thanks for your open, honest post! I have this book and have been wanting to read it since it first came out (I've seen Francis speak multiple times), but of course life has gotten in the way... And this year in our GEMS Girls Club at church, our annual theme is based off that Revelation 3:16 verse. I'm with you, I don't have one of those radical testimonies. And I've been feeling dry in my spiritual life lately. Maybe I'll go pick up that book off my shelf right now... Thanks for letting God use you to write this specific post on this specific day so I'd read it - this is the first time I've visited your blog!

  5. I truly think that no matter what you do, how you act, what you where, as long as you love God and have Christ in your heart it doesn't matter. He won't love you any less. Sure, he might be disappointed in you, but he wont love you any less. No one can tell you if you love God, or if you are saved. The only ones who know, are you and God. Personaly, I never think I'm good enough for his love, I KNOW I'm not! But, Christ said I was. He took the cross. He loves me. He loves you and everyone else. You can think you are "lukewarm" but only you and God know your fate. All he wants is love, your love, and for you to spread it. (:


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