Gospel

When You Need to Be Reminded of the Gospel

When You Need to Be Reminded of the Gospel

If I’m being honest with myself and others, I forget the gospel every day. That didn’t seem like a big deal when I was pursuing my faith in my own strength, because the gospel was just that story that “got me in.” Beyond that, I wanted to be told what to do. I wanted to tell others what to do (and I did that; mea culpa).

But now I sit in the gospel with the reminders of what Jesus Christ has done for me and how that spills out into what I do every day. It’s a paradigm shift, away from behavior-based religious activity and toward the truth that He is more than enough.

If that’s all new to you, or you’re really just wondering what sitting in the gospel looks like, here are a few resources to help you out. And I’m here, too. Feel free to comment or email me.

The Gospel is a Story

Where to begin? What do I mean when I say that we must always return to the simplicity of the gospel? Start here, with Paul Tripp's explanation of where we find our hope.

[Gospel 1]: The Gospel is a Story - Paul Tripp

In Need of a Redeemer

And then go here. It's the beginning of a life-changing series out of Exodus, and it helped me exit my own self-relying works-based religiosity. Spoiler alert: Grace wins! 

In Need of a Redeemer - Jim Applegate

The Gospel is Scandalously Offensive

“The gospel is scandalously offensive to those who are trying to earn their way. Rightly so.”

The List Kimm Crandall

Good Parenting

We want so badly for our good parenting to be what makes our kids who they are. But the truth is, all we really can do is point our kids to the One who shapes their souls.

Good Parenting - Jessica Thompson

The Cross Took Care of That

And then remind yourself again.

The Cross Took Care of That - Kendra Fletcher (me)


The Cross Took Care of That

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My friend Hannah has three sons with autism, all under the age of six. I’ll let that sink in a little bit, because that fact about Hannah alone is as extraordinary and overwhelming as it sounds.

But Hannah doesn’t come across as overwhelmed. She’s tender, often tearing up as we moms gather every Friday morning with one main thing in common: the parenting of kids with special needs. We share our struggles and our triumphs over a living room coffee table, and for some of us, our weekly gatherings together are the only place where we feel truly understood.

I want you to know Hannah as I know Hannah, because not only is she tender-hearted and kind and extraordinary and yes, sometimes overwhelmed, she is rock-solid. When she tells stories of the escalating tantrums her sons stage, complete with violent bouts of throwing objects at each other and kicking and biting, of the daily phone calls from school because of yet another behavioral issue gone down, of the screaming and the lack of sleep and the way in which their family has had to change everything about how they even live inside their home, she also reminds us that God is there in the chaos of their environment, that He gives her what she needs in each singular moment, that she knows, because He has always been faithful, that He is unshakably faithful. Hannah is a rock of a woman.

If Hannah were to read this, that’s what I would want her to know: that each of us feels as if we’re about to be pummeled by the next big wave, but standing outside of each other’s catastrophes, we can see the strength and courage and beauty of each other when we often cannot see it in ourselves.

I hosted our gathering on a late autumn morning before Thanksgiving, and only Hannah was able to come. We poured steaming mugs of tea and sat together at my dining room table. Hannah’s youthful smile was hiding behind weary eyes, but it emerged as it always does, especially when she talks about Jesus. Hannah doesn’t know the details of our story — of the legalism and religious gate-keeping we slowly shook out of nearly a decade ago — and so when I made an off-handed remark about doing something for God, she replied without any sense of self-righteousness, “Uh-uh. The cross took care of that.”

Just when I think I’ve grasped the whole impact of the gospel, I am shown, again, how much I really want to prove to God that I am worthy of all that Jesus did for me. As if I could.

Boom. If there were a word for the gospel slapping me fresh across the face, I’d use that. It would be better than “boom”. Hannah’s words caught me with my law-loving pants down and I felt thrown a little off-kilter, too. In that disorienting moment, I saw once again that in my heart of hearts, I am a legalist who continues to look for ways to add to what Jesus has already done for me. Just when I think I’ve grasped the whole impact of the gospel, I am shown, again, how much I really want to prove to God that I am worthy of all that Jesus did for me. As if I could.

For more than 40 years, I’ve misunderstood grace. Seven years ago we left a church culture that informed us of all we must do, how we must strive, work, gain, grasp, and earn God’s love for us. When God gently began to peel off the layers of religion, as He reminded us of Who He is and what He’s done (done: finished, already accomplished, put to bed), our lives began to change in remarkable ways. First of all, we finally understood what Paul was talking about in Romans 8. Truths like “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, and “God has done what the law could not”, changed everything. The cross changed everything.

We began to grasp what it actually means to “live in the flesh”, too. For all of my religious years within evangelicalism, I was led to believe that those people who ran to sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll were the only ones living in the flesh. No one ever pointed to our own religious, law-loving hearts as also rejecting the freedom of living in the Spirit. But when God pulled us out of our legalistic environment, my religious heart finally understood that by trying to add to what God has already done, I was living far more “in the flesh” than all those heathens I thought were doing so because they wore their worldly sin on their sleeves.

That’s what it looks like to live in the freedom of the gospel.

We’ve been pursuing a relationship with the loving God now for the past seven years, and it looks very little like the old religious lives we led for nearly a decade before. Our choices are made in freedom, our daily lives influenced by the solid knowledge that God loves us, and there’s nothing we can do to make Him un-love us. But even so, I am, in my very human heart of hearts, still wanting to try harder and do more. And God shows His love has no bounds, no constraints, no end, when he brings into my life the mother of three little boys with autism and she looks me square in the eye and declares, “The cross took care of that.”

That’s what it looks like to live in the freedom of the gospel. It eternally redeems the worldly and it beckons and restores the religious, freeing both from sin and sure death. The gospel seeps into the dark corners of autism and uncertainty of every pedigree, and it declares, with a resounding boom, “The cross took care of that!”



Why is Grace So Scary?

In a recent FaceBook Live video, I posed the question to viewers, "Why is grace so scary?", and there was plenty of response.

In our church circles and Christian communities, often the word "grace" is whispered like some clandestine dirty scandal and we all start to tense up. I mean, if we show unmerited grace to our neighbor, or even crazier - from the pulpit - suddenly we've opened up Pandora's Box, right?

If we give grace, then people will just do what they want, and we can't have that! 

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But what if our obedience to God is a response?

What if our understanding of grace and the gospel informs how we behave? What if, when we fail, as we do (and often), we know because the Bible tells us so, that He will never leave us or forsake us? And what if we give that same grace to others?

Don't be tempted to throw the baby out with the proverbial bathwater. Giving grace, forgiveness, mercy, and understanding to a fellow sinner doesn't automatically cross out the consequences of choices, sin, and action. There is a right and proper place for church discipline, but ranking people on a netherworld spiritual scale must not be allowed to lodge there. 

Is grace scary to you? Do you think you understand the grace of God? How does grace play out in your life?

Comments from viewers:

We somehow think that we keep God’s commandments by rewarding and punishing others. When we give grace, we give up control. Oh so scary.
— Melany
Grace is scary, because it means we have to vulnerable and authentic with ourselves and others. True grace can only be given when we are able to let others see the broken us. That is scary.
— Shanna
I think it is because we are driven by a misunderstanding of justice and we don’t fully understand the grace (and mercy) God has given to us.
— Amanda
Receiving grace can be scary! Since grace isn’t “earned” it feels like it is something that can be taken away. You didn’t pay for it, so there’s this feeling you may/should have to give it back. Does that make any sense? 
— Chelsea
I’m late in joining this conversation, but just wanted to add that grace can be terrifying for the person who’s been grievously sinned against, because of a misunderstanding of grace and trust. Grace is given freely, but trust must be earned. Some people have been harmed greatly by bad counsel, particularly in situations of adultery or domestic abuse when this distinction is blurred. Pouring out Biblical grace on others however, is beautiful, safe and healing! 
— Lindsey
I think it can seem ‘too easy’ like we can’t possibly be let off the hook for all we’ve done. Somehow, we, or maybe it’s me, think that I’m never able to make up for the mistakes I’ve made. If I can’t ever sort myself out, why or how could He accept me the way I am. Warts and all. But, then I come back to the obvious, that, that’s just what grace is. 
It ‘seems’ safe to have rules and a formula, and scary to have complete freedom. 
I guess that’s why it’s called faith? 
— Angela
I’m afraid of the absolute freedom. I want rules and restrictions- why?? I’m afraid I won’t have enough and that I’m not enough and never will be. Restricting ourselves as a means of control is NOT the same as being changed right? I think that is why grace is so scary. It feels too out of control. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not logical! My hard work hasn’t done anything? I didn’t prove anything to God? So what if magical grace fails? Nothing is left and it’s really hopeless now. Grace blows the doors off and offers total freedom right now whoever and wherever and whatever you’re stuck in. We have to believe sin is dealt with forever by Jesus’ blood.

Grace means I can fail. That’s the scariest. Which I know is ridiculous but that’s the hardest part of grace for me. Because I never wanted to fail even though I knew I was failing all the time. Grace is humbling and liberating. It’s wild- so against who I am. I read something recently (I need to find the reference in my notes!) along the lines “fruit trees do nothing to produce fruit expect take in the necessary nutrients.” The shackles of legalism would throw me against the rocks of Galatians 5 over and over. I was supposed to have all these fruits! How come I’m not reaching perfection? So God just loves me and sometimes he still cuddles the frazzled worn out rule follower in me much like we would an overtired, too much sugar and no nap toddler. He sets me straight. I’m enough. Grace is enough. You’re free in me. The good stuff. 
— Tessa