Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On Faith and Works and Crazy Love [Part 2]

*This is part two of a mini-series on my response to Francis Chan's book Crazy Love.  Please go here to read the first part.*

It's taken me this long to write this entry because I feel like I had to offer some sort of conclusion.  Here's the best I've got. :-)

When I finished that last entry, I was going to start the next one like this:

How many of us are doing anything to live out our Christianity?  Sure, many of us refrain from getting drunk, swearing excessively, or sleeping around, but what are we doing to further the kingdom? Are we reaching out to the poor, witnessing to the lost, etc?

I'll be honest and tell you that about 15 minutes after I finished Crazy Love, I signed up online to sponsor a child through Compassion International.  I felt like I had to DO something right then.  Maybe that was God pressing on my heart, but honestly I think it was fear.  Obviously, sponsoring a child is not a bad thing, and I've enjoyed writing letters to her, and trust God to provide the money to pay our monthly sponsorship.  But it just goes to prove my point.  Since then I've been thinking a ton about works and how they relate to faith.  I've also been fortunate enough to glean wisdom from a few people who have worked through this themselves.

I talked to my Uncle John on the phone for an hour and a half one day during Lucy's nap and took meticulous notes.  Here's some of what I learned.

One of U.John's main points was that we are part of God's family.  There's nothing we can do to get kicked out of the family.  Keep that in mind.

He also had some insight on the passage about the lukewarm in Revelation.  That letter was written specifically to the church in Laodicea.  Here are some fun facts about Laodicea:

- Laodicea had 2 water sources: one that ran hot and was used for medicinal purposes and comfort, and one that ran icy cold for drinking water.  When John wrote his letter to the church about being either hot or cold, he knew they would associate it with their water sources.  Hot and cold, in this case, are both good.  U.John related it to either a hot cup of coffee or an icy cold Dr. Pepper.  You don't want either of those beverages to be lukewarm.  And you'd likely spit them out of your mouth - simply because it's distasteful - which is how God feels about our apathy.  It's not a deal-breaker.  His mouth doesn't represent heaven.  He just doesn't like it.  He has better for us.

And look at the verses that follow the famous "lukewarm" verse: "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.  Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." (Rev. 3:19-20)

These verses are often used to preach salvation.  But I don't think that was their initial function.  This letter was written to a church - a group of believers.  After God rebukes them, he calls for them to repent, then invites them in . . . to eat?  That seemed so weird to me.  But U.John explained that eating is a sign of intimacy.  God calls us to repent, turn to Him and develop a relationship with Him.  He desires intimacy with us.  

Getting off track . . . I'm not 100% sure if there is such a thing as "eternal security" and if "once saved always saved" is an appropriate mantra, but let's pretend for a minute that it is.  Even if you say the prayer, then go on to live your life as if nothing's changed, you will face the following consequences:
- You'll be rebuked and disciplined (Rev. 2:19)
- You'll miss out on God's blessings
- You'll miss out on an intimate relationship with God.

The last one is really how this debate is summed up for me.  I explained it like this to Niki: Say I have a piece of the most amazing cake ever, and I tell you, "You have to try this. It's the most amazing thing ever."  If you say no, I'd say, "Wait - you don't realize what you're missing!"  She wouldn't understand how great it was if she'd never tasted it.

Similarly, I think if we've never tasted that genuine intimacy with God, we can't comprehend how amazing it is.  I don't think it means we're not saved, just that we're not striving for what's important.

Despite my disregard for Francis Chan's fear-mongering tactics, one thing he said really did stick with me: "The fact is, I need God to help me love God." (pg. 104)  He explains that loving God doesn't necessarily come naturally and it's ok to pray and ask God to help me love him more.  That seems kind of crazy to me, but I think it's true.

And as we seek to love God more, I think the "works" will come as a natural result.  This is getting long, but I have a couple more illustrations that really helped me.  I'll try to be quick.

U. John drew my attention to the story of Mary and Martha.  He said we need to stop trying so hard to love God, and just pursue a relationship with Him.  I kind of thought the two go hand in hand, but U. John put it like this.  Trying is doing a bunch of things to show God how much I love him. (Martha in the kitchen.)  Pursuing a relationship is sitting at His feet (Mary).  I bristle a little at that.  We can't all just hang on to Jesus' legs all the time.  Stuff has to get done!! U.John went on to explain that when we are set free to enjoy Jesus, the doing of things follow - the motivation will come as the intimacy grows.

A final word on Crazy Love.  I was a little hard on this book.  But tonight as I flipped through it looking for quotes, I was reminded that Chan did have some awesome things to say.  I will go so far as to say I disagree with his statement about the lukewarm not being found in heaven.  But don't disregard this book on my say so.  Honestly, I think Chan came to the same conclusion I did (much more eloquently and expediently).  I just got hung up on my fear somewhere along the way.  I should've know better.

The week after I finished Crazy Love Pastor Chris admonished us from the pulpit not to let Satan entangle us in fear - something I'm very susceptible to.  Uncle John lives by this principle when reading the Bible: Never buy into something unclear if there's a clear statement in contradiction to it.  If God says it clearly, don't buy into Satan's fear-mongering.

Here are some clear statements to end with:
Galatians 2:16, ". . . a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ."
Romans 4:23-25, "The words 'it was credited to him' were not written for him [Abraham] alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness - for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to our death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."
Romans 8:1-2 "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."
Romans 8:38-39 "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Hebrews 10:10 "And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
Hebrews 10:22-24 "let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."

Whew! Way past my bedtime.  Thanks again for your input, everyone! I really do appreciate it.


  1. I don't remember who said this to me but it's stuck with me every since: "If you worry that you are saved, chances are you already are. If you weren't, you wouldn't be worrying." I know that sounds obscure, but the fact that you just wrote this entire post (and the previous one) has "SAVED!" written all over it.

    Hebrews 10 is great. We have full assurance of faith through Christ's sacrifice (our hope), and then the love and good deeds follow.

    I love what your Uncle said though. Don't just settle for the lukewarm; reach for that intimacy with God. DINE with God. I love that picture. I'm sure you have tons of great mealtime memories with your family just like I do mine. Imagine doing that with God the Father and His family. So what are you doing to "savor" your dining experience?? :-)

  2. Ps. The hotsprings at Laodicea? HEAVENLY. I haven't been many places in the world, but I've been there. *Drools*

  3. I like to add to Romans 8:38-39 "including me" - clears up the eternal security issue for me;) If nothing can separate me from God, nothing in all creation, that most certainly includes's not dependent on me in any way. So no fear. He's got us, and He will never let us go.

  4. The Mary-Martha story has always been very personal for me. I'm much more a task-oriented person than people-oriented, and I love to show hospitality... So I struggle with the idea of just sitting at Jesus' feet. Not that the works is a bad thing -- faith without works is dead -- but I know I don't take enough time to just be with Him.

    I mentioned this (the lukewarm/passion stuff) has been the theme in our GEMS Girls Club this year. Well I've discovered what our theme will be next year -- wisdom. Specifically, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10) We're going to mostly focus on Proverbs and wisdom, but we will also be touching on the *healthy* fear of God. Because while yes God is loving, he is also just.

    P.S. We've sponsored a child through Compassion for almost 10 years and it's been such a blessing!

  5. Wonderful post. It sounds like you learned a lot and came to some strong conclusions. Good illustrations too!

    I want to recommend the book "Calm My Anxious Heart." I'm reading it as a study with a group of women at church and I'm only two chapters in, but it's fabulous so far. I think you'd like it and it'd do you good- I know it's helping me!!

  6. Karen - you've been do Laodicea?? What the what??

    Cara - I like that addition!

    Carrie - after I wrote this post, I regretted that I didn't mention there IS such a thing as healthy fear of God. I was going to use that exact verse from Proverbs :-)

    Rachel - that books sounds awesome! Thanks!

  7. The best part of the quote you put in of Chan's is that if God is giving us the ability to love him we can have no pride in ourselves (like the pharasees did) because Jesus has done everything he died for us and gave us the ability to love him. We have done and don't do anything. It's all about Jesus!


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