photoTullian Tchividjian’s  book, One Way Lovedecries the tendency in our churches to focus on changing behavior. Some make the distinction between the indicatives and imperatives of Scripture. The indicatives are statements of fact regarding what God has done for us—the great truths of God’s initiation of redemption. The imperatives are the commands that tell us how we are to respond to the imperatives. Tchividjian says too much of our preaching and attention is on the imperatives of the Christian life to the neglect of the indicatives. The result is that Christianity becomes performance focused:

We’ve concluded that grace just doesn’t possess the teeth to scare us into changing. As a result we get a steady diet of “do more, try harder” sermons; we get a “to do list” version of Christianity that causes us to believe the focus of the Christian faith is the life of the Christian.

In my opinion, this varies from church to church, and ministry to ministry, but it is generally true in evangelical and fundamental churches. The whole idea of maintaining high standards, doing my absolute best in everything, looking my best, etc. can easily devolve into a performance mindset that reeks of pride and judges my standing with God by how well I have done. It is entirely human-centered and typically results in either vanity and self-righteousness or guilt and despair.

The fear of many Christian leaders is that if they stop preaching the imperatives, Christians will start to live lives of license and sin. The truth is, the transition from law to grace sometimes has that effect for a while. When people are used to being motivated by guilt and fear of God’s judgment, it takes awhile for them to begin to respond to God properly in gratefulness and worship. The transition is necessary, however, if the believer is to ever experience a Christian life that reflects the New Testament reality of the finished work of Christ, instead of their own obedience.

One distinction that needs to be made is the one between our standing with God and our fellowship with God. Teaching grace reminds us that our acceptance before God is based entirely on the imputed righteousness of Christ. It depends not at all on anything we do. This is often confused in legalistic ministries. Our standing with God, we are told, depends upon our obedience. This is indistinguishable from Roman Catholic doctrine. On the other hand, grace emphasizes justification by faith through grace. My standing before God has nothing to do with my performance as a Christian. God accepts me because of Christ’s righteousness. It is true, that my experience of God’s blessing is affected by my choices, but not my relationship with God.

For those who bristle at the contention that they are actually preaching law and not grace, there is a consolation. Tullian Tchividjian is not among the most influential evangelicals teaching a Reformed, Calvinistic emphasis on justification. There are many others who are more influential and more widely read, such as John Piper, John MacArthur, and Mark Dever. In fact, the book, One Way Love, is not all that good, compared to other books that cover the same topic of grace and legalism. It contains far too many stories, and tends toward tiresome repetition.

His main point in the book, however, is unlikely to be missed by a growing number of Christians who attend churches that are characterized by a performance mentality. Once a Christian comes to understand the grace of God and the beauty of living in light of the indicatives of Scripture, there is no going back to a Christianity that is still mired in the crushing demands of the law.

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Finding Contentment in a Mundane Life

61L0lFuj3PLMany Christians live from one spiritual high to another. They look forward to the next big conference, concert, or special event that promises a mighty work of God, an experience of Jesus, or outpouring of the Spirit. In between the exhilarating spiritual events they have to endure the monotony of real life. Boring, repetitious, and uneventful. In his book, Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life (B&H, 2013), Michael Kelley reminds us that because of God’s unfailing presence and working in this world, everyday life should be anything but boring for a Christian. He writes,

 God’s constant presence is ultimately what makes the insignificant significant. If we look through the pages of Scripture, we find time and time again God invading the ordinary and then making the ordinary into something extraordinary. It’s not that the thing itself changes; rather, whatever it is, in the midst of its ordinariness, becomes ordinary by the virtue of the presence of God…

According to [G. K.] Chesterton, it is a mark of strength, not weakness, to do the same thing gain and again. It is, then, the weak man who is constantly searching and seeking out the next great thing, never content with what stands before him. Ironically, it is the ability to do that which we might consider mundane with honor and even joy that is most difficult for us. We must, in a sense, fight to not fight to escape the ordinary. When we do, we’ll find the extraordinary lurking inside what has become ordinary to us.

I’ve heard it said, and I agree, that the most manly thing a man can do is not to fight an enemy or win a battle, but simply to come home every night to his family, and be a good husband and father. The reality of life is mundane. For the Christian, it is in the daily grind where our faithfulness is tested. First Thessalonians 4:11-12 reminds us of our calling:

Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

If you find yourself always looking for the extraordinary in order to feel close to God or need a spiritual experience to stay motivated, this may be a book that will help you see God in the ordinary.