How to Get Better

Religion’s power is stripped away these days not by calling it an “opiate for the masses”* but by reducing it to another self-improvement program.

achievement

But do some of us religious people actually live like this? Are we giving the critics some fodder? Do most of us live as if “getting better” is the only goal of Christianity?

If getting better means becoming something glorious by the sweat of our brow, I don’t believe in that version of Christianity. But, if by “get better” we mean the less-commonly-used-except-at-hospitals: no longer be sick; then I want to be part of that. If we believe (against the most elementary principles of the world) that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness, that even in our sin we are loved by God, that even in our failings God glorifies himself, then we can only mean “get better” as a slow healing process.

feeling any better

Christ said he came to seek those who are sick not those who are healthy. He didn’t mean that some people don’t need his saving grace. He means that you are either delusional or you know that you’re sick. From Christ’s words, we can only assume that “get better” — if it is at all Christian — must be a slow healing process for those in Him.

But, once in the door, can’t we then help people buck up and get it together?

“‘Speaking the truth in love’ . . . is an empty set. It never happens. Although this form of law is loftily protested as being ‘within the bonds of love and affection,’ there is always that basso continuo of judgment in every appeal of criticism, which disqualifies such speaking from having transformative effects.”
(Paul Zahl, Grace in Practice)

pullyourselftogether

The problem is that “speaking the truth in love” is a way of speaking to someone who is already righteous and no longer sick. When you are speaking “challenges” and “hard truths”, you aren’t speaking to sick people. It’s not how you talk to sick people.

crying

To those who know that they are sick, you don’t speak “hard-truths.” You speak grace upon grace upon grace. To the hard-hearted, however, you can speak all the hard truth that you want. But don’t just make it hard truth and challenges, make it impossible truth and challenges, like Jesus’ sermon on the mount. If anyone can look at that sermon as if it is attainable, then they haven’t a clue how sick they are.

cocky corey

I have been railing against pastors on this blog for a while. I should apologize for some of that. Proclaiming justification by grace alone, as Gerhard Forde says, is polemical by its very nature. It’s a doctrine that hogs the whole space of our mind. It creeps into all the dark corners and roots out the lies, captivating them by God’s promise in Christ. But it’s polemical nature doesn’t entirely excuse bludgeoning people over the head with it. Especially those who I know will continue to disagree with me.

i did not do that

It’s for the sick Christians that I write. For those who need Jesus as healer, not Jesus as imputed super-power.

I met with a pastor yesterday and he said to me, “It’s hard for me to preach self-improvement even if I wanted to. I just talked to a lady who probably isn’t going to be alive in six months. How am I supposed to tell her that the goal of Christianity is that she become more glorious in some ambiguous earthly sense?”

To him I replied: Boom.

To you, I say, go forth and ‘Boom’ on behalf of the sick whom Jesus loves desperately, so much that he gave his life for them. For you.

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*A rigorous understanding of law and grace isn’t an opiate for the masses by any stretch, evidenced by how resistant and haunted people are by only a few seconds of God’s law doing it’s diagnostic work on them. If “opiate for the masses” is meant only to make us distrustful of good news, then I think it is a bit redundant: we are already profoundly distrustful of good news. And yet, I say to you, God’s grace in Christ is completely yours. He is for you. And God doesn’t break his promises.

Open Letter to the Preacher who Hates Video-Games

Dear Preacher who Hates Video-Games,

Why did you have to do it in front of me? Why did you have to muddle law and gospel in front of me? I’m the wild-card young guy with not that much to lose who is moderately engaged with the B-team of Christian bloggers. I’m probably gonna write about you.

I liked your church, man. I’m looking for a church in St. Louis. Yours was small. It’s young. I met someone I go to law school with. Then you had to go do your thing.

The sermon wasn’t that bad. It was a bit boring. That’s all, though! Other than that, I can conceive that someone may have heard the gospel. Minus, of course, the one part that made me write this blog.

I don’t even remember why you said this. In case you forgot what you said, here is a summary of what came from your slightly overweight but hiply-bearded self:

Something something not playing freaking video games. Don’t get me started on video games. Every time I say something about video games I get six emails from guys whose feelings are hurt. Listen to me: [you raise your voice at this part] There is kingdom work to get done! If you are playing video games, what you are saying to the world is: I don’t care about God’s kingdom, I’d rather sit here and play this video game. [you lowered your voice at this point] Okay, stepping off my soapbox. [People chuckled. Me not so much.]

“Gosh, Jake, it’s very uncool to call me overweight. You seem to be a bit damaged. I’ll pray for you, but also be careful with your tongue in the future.”

Listen to me: There is kingdom work to get done – if you are not in shape, then your ability to get kingdom work done is greatly hindered. Seriously. Get in shape. When you eat that extra chicken leg, what you are saying to the whole world is: I don’t care if my bad cholesterol takes me off the planet a few years early. You are saying to the world: “Who cares about kingdom work? I wanna put this delicious battered hunk of grease into my gullet, chew it up real slow, then wash it down with this carb-heavy craft beer.”

See how that works?

Yeah, that’s how that works. Your waist testifies to some weak law in your life, but you stand up proudly proclaiming thunder from Sinai.

“But, Jake, how do you know what is going on in my congregation? I mean, what if there is an epidemic of lazy young dudes in my church who spend all day playing video games?”

There isn’t. Some dudes like to play video-games. Some dudes like chicken wings. Jesus loves you both. Personally, I lean towards the chicken wings. The last video game I played was RBI Baseball 1993 on my Sega Genesis.

But.

But ever since you opened your mouth the video-gamer doesn’t know that Jesus loves him. Or, if he does, he thinks Jesus is awfully pissed off up in heaven that the gamer spent the last week playing Call of Duty Zombies with his non-Christian friends, all the while sharing with them snippets of your sermon from the week before.

What did I just do? I created a vision where gamers are accomplishing some glorious Christian works, one that furthers the kingdom.

In reality, I think they should love God and play all the video-games they want. Nervous, justification-seeking exertion probably isn’t helping the kingdom anyway.

If you were trying to discuss the doctrine of vocation, please spend some time with my buddy R.J. who knows how to encourage people to love others without threatening to withhold God’s love.

And you. I think you should buy a Play Station and chill out. Otherwise, I’m going to delete anything moderately entertaining off your iPhone. And ransack your house for coloring books, because what does Christ have to do with Crayola?

Your friend,

Jake

P.S. You can chock me up as the seventh guy who got his feelings hurt. But only if you chock Jesus up as the eighth.

P.P.S. We are all gluttons in our hearts. There is plenty – PLENTY – of grace for our inward and outward gluttony. You seen pictures of Luther? They say the camera add ten pounds, but how many cameras were on him when they took this?

Martin-Luther  by Cranach the Younger

Are People Good at the Core?

We all want to believe that there is something good in us, if only we figure out how to activate it. Those in the church have grown up thinking that the preacher’s job is to activate the core in us that is good, and thus motivate Christians to do more for God, in new radical ways. But is this core even there or are these guys just yelling at dead people to stand up and dance?

BetterYou

Preachers are masters at telling people to do things for God. Most people would call this an accurate job description of the pastor. The problem is that once the preachers tell someone to do something it becomes unclear if they are now just obeying to appease the pastor or to actually glorify God. This could expose all of our piety as actually self-justifying unbelief. In the age of application-driven sermons, when all we get at church are new ways to improve ourselves, our conduct begins to rule our entire relationship with God. If our conduct is the basis for our relationship, we are building our faith on the assumption that the core of humanity is good.

But what is going on with our core? Do we even know?  We could look at the bible, our experiences, and culture to discover what is going on in there, and if it is good.

core

In the bible, we find that God doesn’t have much faith in human achievement. Even when we find the “righteous man” of the Old Testament, it is quite clear that part of the story is God making that person righteous, which keeps us wondering whether there was any good there to begin with. Does the bible say we are good at our core or not? You have heard me quote all of the scripture (if you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time) where the bible makes it explicitly clear that we are not good at our core. In fact the bible says that, left to our own devices, we are downright faithless, rebellious, self-justifying, deceived and deceiving. You are just depressing us, Jake! How is this good news? Well, listen, right now I’m simply trying to highlight why what you have heard for most of your Christian experience is not good news. Pointing people to the “good inside” is not going to help them because it isn’t there, according to the bible.

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(The good news, to jump ahead a bit, is the God creates ex nihilo - out of nothing – which means he calls us lovely and that is the thing that makes us lovely. The liberation of that truth is that when we feel overwhelmed by our unloveliness, we can simply go back to the Word which promises we have been made lovely. And that stirs up profound gratitude. If we don’t go back there in our unloveliness, we will be forced to resort to resolutions of personal self-improvement. “I’m unlovely now, but wait’ll you see me in 6 months!” That doesn’t sound like freedom to me.)

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Next, we can look at our experiences to find evidence for this good internal core. Generally, I would say most of us have no clue if our experiences reveal a good person underneath. I would readily say that you are likely a normal person, but good person, I’m just not sure. There is one experience that calls every other experience into question, that I think is a case for why we simply cannot be sure how good we are. This is the experience of exerting profound effort and telling ourselves in the process that our motives are other-focused/selfless/altruistic, only to find out after a time of reflection that we had selfish motives for doing that work from the beginning — we just didn’t see them at the time. This experience reveals the gullibility of our hearts to believe the goodness of our works despite potentially obvious signs that our works are completely selfish. I’m not saying all of them are, I’m just saying, I don’t think we can be sure of our goodness once we discover how regularly we deceive ourselves. When you tell yourself that you are doing something good: how do you know that you can be trusted?

We are i

^ We are so deceived. ^

(If you think I am again just stripping away any motivation to be nice to people, I’m sorry! Truly, I prefer it when people are nice to other people. More importantly, though, I very much want people to feel free around me. If someone is having a bad day, it is unloving for me to demand they should put on a nice face and pretend they have it together. I want you to be ruthlessly honest with yourself, because it gives birth to deeper intimacy with those with which you share that vulnerability. And it opens up ways for us to be truly loved when we know it’s not a mask that people are falling in love with, but rather our core self with all of our selfish streaks and insecurities.)

maskoff

We can also look to art for a verdict about our loveliness. Really, though, this is just another way of looking at our experiences, because the art that we are drawn to is usually somehow a reflection of what is going on inside of us, which is usually tied up in what we have experienced. But perhaps a good rule of thumb is that the insecurities of our favorite artists are likely insecurities that we share, which makes me think, If we are insecure, almost by definition that means we aren’t sure how good we are at our core. And often art is insecurity that has been dragged into the light so that people can feel the liberation of calling a thing what it is. So studying art makes me conclude that we can’t actually know how good or bad we are, but we can know that we are a little bit scared.

So in conclusion: most of us probably aren’t sure how good or bad we are. Everything in us wants a self-evaluation that says we are good or bad, but I don’t think we would believe anything like that even if we had it.

all good

Coming to this place of vulnerability where you are free to admit that you aren’t sure about your motives, actually feels like your identity is coming apart. Everywhere Jesus went people had identity crises. You don’t even have to subscribe to the gospel for it to really freak you out, but simply positing the question of whether you are as good as you think you are is enough to make you tremble. Trust me, it’s a daily struggle.

lego core

Here is the good news. Admitting the uncertainty of our good works is an echo of Paul saying in Galatians 2: “I died to the Law so that I might live to God.” Admitting that you can never look to your own works to locate your goodness forces you to look outside of yourself to Christ given for you.

And he is yours, indeed. Cling tightly.

Where God Meets Heroin Addicts

I usually post satirical posts on Friday, but this one couldn’t wait.

I’m on a road trip with my parents and my sweet girlfriend yesterday. We were returning from a week in Destin, Florida. The ocean was wonderful, the sun was wonderful, the food was plentiful. It was a blast. My sister and her family were driving separately, but they were there when the crazy stuff below went down.

I am always the one who has to go to the bathroom. This time, though, I waited like 12 miles before I said a word. I would rather suffer than inconvenience a whole car of people who just want to get home and into their own beds. Finally I say something, and finally we stop at a gas station.

Everyone piled out, and everyone went inside to the bathroom. On my way out, I passed a guy who was singing to himself. He was a Latino guy in his mid-twenties. He was with a long, curly-haired white girl of about the same age who was having a discussion with the cashier about the soda selection. She had on a slightly risque outfit, and I remember noting that she looked oddly confident, or content, or some elated feeling I couldn’t put my finger on.

We all came back outside and decide that, to save us stopping for a big dinner, we should just eat a sandwich at the car. So we opened the trunks, and were standing around in this gas station parking lot making sandwiches. I sat on the curb next to my nephew and we ate our Doritos. My dad snapped a picture.

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Suddenly, I look up and see a guy laying on the ground about 20 yards away. It is the same guy who was singing to himself no more than 4 or 5 minutes earlier. His back is on the ground, and his arms are spread out. He is obviously unconscious, but his left hand clung tightly to a 32 oz soda that rested oddly on the ground. His girlfriend was knelt down on top of him, silent but obviously sobbing. I stood up from the curb and my family turned to see what was happening. The woman was dead silent, and her head was on the man’s chest. Her shoulders were shaking up and down. Her long, curly hair covered both of their faces. A few people shuffled cautiously around her, attempting to help. None of us approached.

A black guy walking slowly away from the scene, looked at my family and said with genuine sadness, “He pissed himself, too, man. Another OD.” I looked at the woman. I couldn’t see her face. She wasn’t crying to anyone for help. She just knelt on top of this man that she loved, sobbing as he grew colder. She was strung out, I’m certain, but I’m also certain that the gravity of death was pulling her rapidly back to earth.

The elated look that I noticed earlier had disappeared. She was completely broken.

People tried to pull her off from on top of the man. I am not sure why they did this. I think from where they were standing, they could see the hopelessness of the situation much clearer. She was fighting away from them. I had an impulse to stop people from grabbing her so that she could lay beside the man. I stood twenty yards away, along with my family, frozen.

Finally, maybe seven or eight minutes later, the firetruck arrived. We watched the firemen forcefully remove her from kneeling and sobbing on top of the man. She wouldn’t show her face, and she still didn’t make a noise as she fought them off. Finally, she slipped from their grasp and fell down, reaching out to her unconscious lover.

The EMTs did not seem hopeful from where we were standing. I saw them feel for a pulse, then slowly move towards their bags. They seemed to be glancing at each other and going through the motions, while two of them tried to hold the woman back so they could work.

We left. We are pretty sure the singing man at the gas station in Alabama didn’t make it.

I’ve had two high school friends overdose. I wasn’t close to either of them when they overdosed, but I had been close to them. I don’t know what made them do it.

I know that life is incredibly difficult, and that drugs and addiction make a false promise that they will take us out of our suffering. They don’t. They bring us deeper into it. Drugs won’t help anyone escape life.

But I think the sobbing woman knows that now. At least I’m certain she will hear it in the next few days, as news trickles back to her family about what happened to the boy they met last Christmas. The one they thought was clean and would help their daughter kick her awful habit. The one hope they had after their daughter’s multiple failed rehab attempts. I’m, of course, speculating.

I don’t want to sermonize this. I don’t understand it well enough to begin to make a fine theological point. But I must say that part of me was dying for Jesus to come right to her in that moment and say what he said to the woman caught in her adultery: Your sins are forgiven you, go and sin no more.

I wish someone would have held her and cried with her. I hope someone does. I hope a pastor out there convinces her that she is not too far gone, will never be too far gone, to be welcomed into God’s restful arms.

Next time that you see that woman, please cry with her. I hope that I will. Jesus loves her very much.

I don’t know what else to say. I’m so saddened by life under the sun. I’m so thankful that God loves sinners like that strung out woman and like me.

 

Why Church is So Exhausting

“You can become like me if you listen to my sermons and do everything that I say. If you like me and think I’ve got it together, then you will want to be like me. Put your hope in my words, and do what I say. My yoke isn’t easy, and it certainly isn’t light, but the pay-off will be worth it.”

Most preachers are, whether they know it or not, projecting an image of the ideal Christian for you to strive towards. That image, like the paragraph above, usually points back to themselves. It’s never quite so explicit, and in the preacher’s mind, they are giving you the best gift they have to offer: their experiences. You, the hearer, are left to buy into that projected image by heeding their advice and living accordingly.Terrible Preachers

This is why so many non-Christians have no interest in ever becoming a Christian. They hear the image that we are projecting at our churches and say: I don’t really care to be like your preacher, thanks anyway. “But don’t you want to have a nice little family like he has! Did you see how faithful and confident he seemed! And did you see how he beat himself up in front of all of us, to show how devoted he was to God? Don’t you want that?” Not really, they think, but then they go off and cast their hope in their favorite movie star, or the CEO of their company, or their spiritual guru – hoping to become more like that person. We are all casting our hope on trying to become like somebody else. And it’s exhausting us!

exhausted

Unless we are explicitly told about God’s promise (that everything we need we already have in Christ), we will instead hear the law (masquerading as a promise) from the preacher that says, “If you heed my words, you will become like me.” But, if we are thinking clearly, we realize that isn’t a “promise” at all, it’s a new law. In order for us to benefit from the words of the preacher, we must assert ourselves and do what we are told. It is a transaction (do this and you get this in return) that cannot reach down to us where  we currently are – in our constantly-failing, un-idealistic self. In order to be taken seriously, we realize, we must work to become something better.

self improvement

Most of what we do is driven by a desire to become a better version of ourselves. We hear a preacher and the first thing we think is: “Should I do what he says? Well, do I want to be more like him? Is he nice? Does he have a good-looking family? Does he have a steady job?”

See how we are looking for promises? We want a good-looking family. We want a steady job. We think by becoming like him we will get what he has as a reward for our efforts. Our brain does the math all by itself before the preacher even opens his mouth.

math

But, isn’t this good? Isn’t it good to preach that people become like us? As good, upstanding Christians, don’t we want that? If we have it together, why not? If this is the question that comes into our heads, it should convict us that we are believing our own press: we think we have it together. We think we are healthy. “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Jesus said that. This doesn’t mean that some people are actually righteous, it means that you are sick or you are delusional.

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This is why I find it so dangerous to preach “advice” from the pulpit. Because people are already so desperate to heed your advice before you ever say a word. They will take your advice even when you don’t give it – by dressing like you and talking like you (and you say, “But I never told them to do that!” You didn’t have to, they made you into a new law without your help – we humans are addicted to law-making).

I keep tossing the word “law” around. What do I mean? What the law says is “Do this and you will live.” The gospel answers that voice that is perpetually ringing in our heads and says, “Christ did this, now you are free to go live in his grace. The law has been fulfilled. You are free, indeed.”

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We need to shut out that condemning voice in our head that is always looking for promises in things other than Christ. Find a preacher that casts his hope solely on Christ and him Crucified instead of Man and him Reformed.

God Loves Sinners: A Dialogue

A: Yes. But only after they have stopped sinning, or at least vowed to try their hardest to stop sinning, right?
B: No. It’s not conditional.
A: Well, yes, it’s not “conditional.” But, I mean, they will want to stop sinning, right?
B: Maybe, but that is totally different from the first thing that you said.
A: Yes, but listen, we can’t really be saying this to people all by itself. They will think they can just do whatever they want and God will keep on loving them.
B: They can’t?
A: Well, no. Of course not. They can’t just take grace for granted, that would be cheap grace.
B: So you prefer expensive grace?
A: No, I just mean, can we really expect God to do all the work that saves us? We have to contribute something, right?
B: What exactly should we contribute?
A: Our obedience! Of course.
B: Actual obedience?
A: Is there any other kind?
B: Well, do you mean “trying hard” obedience? Or like, rigid, “you are actually following the law in word and deed”-type obedience? Because Jesus himself made it clear that white-washed outward obedience isn’t the kind of obedience in which God is interested. So, what exactly is it that we have to add to our salvation?
A: What?! I didn’t say we have to add anything to our salvation! See, you are trying to trap me into saying something I’m not! That’s not very Christian of you.
B: Okay. I’m sorry. Tell me again what kind of obedience you think God is interested in: the kind that just looks on the surface like God-honoring obedience but on the inside is lusting and envying and raging and rebelling; or the kind that is actual obedience?
A: Well, okay, maybe sometimes it is the first kind. But that doesn’t mean all obedience is bad. We should at least aim to be actually obedient to God.
B: So we should obediently aim to be obedient to God.
A: Umm. [Mumbles to self: "....obediently aim to be obedient..."]. Yes. Definitely. Yes. We should, right?
B: And you think that is foolproof? There is no way that could go wrong?
A: I mean, I guess no, not really. Aiming to be obedient can’t really go wrong. But even if it could, should we really worry about it? I mean, it’s good to try to be obedient, right?
B: There is no way anybody could ever become self-righteous if the aim is to just try our hardest to be obedient?
A: I suppose it is pos-
B: So you still think we should preach that? Even if we know most people will take it and turn it into a method of projecting their skin-deep holiness to the world and to God, leaving them basking in a lonely, toxic pit of pride and despair?
A: I don’t know about “most” people. Do you really think people are that bad?
B: I think we are programmed to jostle control of our salvation out of the hands of another. I think we are sickened by the idea that God could actually be responsible for our entire salvation. I think we don’t like low-stakes, child-like, joyful obedience that comes from weakness and humility. Obedience that is rooted in our certainty that God loves us more than we could ever imagine. I think we spit that out perpetually in favor of begrudging, self-absorbed, self-evaluative, begrudging (did I say that already?), self-congratulatory faux-obedience because it looks much more glorious than beggars receiving bread. I think we love a trajectory that sends us towards high-stakes, salvation-on-the-line-at-every-turn self-righteousness. So, yes. We are that bad.
A: My goodness, man! Okay. But. I mean. What?
B: You okay, buddy? Your face is turning a bit green? Should I call a doctor?
A: I’m fine.
B: You don’t look fine. Are you dry-heaving?
A: I said I’m fine. Listen, what you just said leaves me with nothing. What am I supposed to say to my non-Christian friends? Or my Christian friends? Or anyone! Who am I?
B: Let’s talk about something else, you really don’t look so good.
A: No. Tell me. Where do I go? You are leaving me with nothing! You just ripped everything away and now there is nothing left. Why are you doing this?
B: Really, listen, I think I should go. The cappuccino was outstanding. Do I pay you or up at the counter?
A: Tell . . . [gasps] . . . me.
B: [sighs]. God loves sinners.

Why Tullian’s theology is not only good for America.

There was a Greek guy who once said our purpose on earth is to be excellently rational and to use this function to bring every emotion, desire, appetite and behavioural disposition and their corresponding moral virtues and vices in line to cultivate the good while abandoning the bad through activity and habitation and all that makes me think is bloody hell, that sounds like a lot of effort. I wonder then, why is that guy from down the road giving me a dirty look? Which moral characteristic is letting me down? What’s interesting is that it is here my brain will take me down one of two extraordinary roads (or country lanes as it were, because I’m English).

Pottering down the first country lane a little voice will say in my ear: ‘no, no, no, that dirty look had nothing to do with you. He probably just got fired last week’. “Oh no wait, there he goes, he’s driving off to work …” ‘It’s ok! Still nothing to do with you. His wife left him. Yes that’s it!’ “Oh no there goes his child on his bike and who is that behind him? Oh yes, it’s his wife….” ‘It’s all fine! She’s going off to spend all his money again after she’s dropped the kid off Your heard them shouting the other day, didn’t you?’ ‘Yes, yes I definitely did!’. And that’s it! I walk away!  Everything is in-line with me, no deliberation about me is needed. My safety nets of delusion save me once again. Thinking about it more:

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This is all well and good but at some odd points in the week arrogance sets in and I’ll take a wander down the second lane. In a quiet moment another, a much louder shout of a voice will suddenly proclaim that actually there is much point to examining myself, ‘come on, what about that Greek guy! Go you! You can handle it all and fix everything!’ However, every bloody time, this voice quickly loses its niceness and turns into mercilessly telling me that yes, it is ENTIRELY my fault and that I have a horrendous amount of work to do if it’s ever going to be not my fault. (Why on earth do I continue to listen to it?) ‘You didn’t smile at him and say good morning the other day, remember that you malevolent fool?’ It will say. ‘You know he watched and saw your face as you crushed that 50 year old man in that 10k you ran last week, right? Do you remember how happy you were about it because you beat him fairly? Do you even grasp that you are the type of person that would have happily tripped him up if no one was watching? Do you get that?’

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‘You have so much to work on. You better get down to it! Don’t mess it up now!’ it continue’s to say. And so it goes, on and on down the rabbit hole, circling around and around what’s wrong with me and how to fix it until I am sitting and crying in the corner slowly rocking myself back and forth.

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(Not literally, I’m far too weak to let it get that far, but you get the point).

You’re feeling it too but in the corner just to distract myself from my own voice, I’ll flick over to Twitter and I’ll see some posts by, as already mentioned before, a far-too-overly-tanned, beanie-wearing, no-one-can-pronounce-his-ridiculous-last-name American pastor in Florida giving some insight with links to some articles and stuff. Go look and come back! If you do, like me, you’ll discover a theology. And one that not only exposes what is going on inside my head but at the same time allows me to call it for what it is: A rat-race. And that it is completely not merely English at all. It’s universal. (Good Job you looked).

For me it quickly becomes apparent the first road is just irrelevant self-protection and the second is actually endless. Plus my ‘methodology’ of fixing anything along the second is but mere ‘performancism’ (see below). If it works for a week then all I can think about is how much better I am than that guy who does the things I used to do, and then I crash and burn and do what I was doing before again. But here is where it just gets fascinating for me. On top of all this he says that all the above effort I put into myself (my perpetual discovery and ‘fix-it’ mode) I now have to do that perfectly above and beyond anything that Greek guy was saying AND perfectly love God and my neighbour as well. That is actually what is required of me. ‘And not just your neighbour the ‘friend’ either, it’s your neighbour the ‘rapist’ and your neighbour the ‘persecutor’ as well!’ WHAT!? I don’t know about you but I’m already sitting and crying in the corner rocking back and forth because of myself! Now there’s God and other people! You’ve got to be kidding me.

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‘Well at least if I put some effort into other people, I’m sure they’ll reward me’, I’ll say to myself. ‘Isn’t it the same with God as well? Good gets good, bad gets bad? I’m not that bad’. And so the safety nets of delusion come up again. That is until this pastor guy starts writing about a carpenter back in the day who lived the perfect life so I don’t have to.

Good does not get good, bad does not get bad, you are worse than you think and you have no control over other people. Even in this, Jesus’ actual perfection exposes the sinner that you are and that exchange of his perfection for your rat-race happened without you even realising that the only thing you contributed to it is the sin that made it necessary. Even in this, you are perfectly loved by God without you even realising that you could never perfectly love God back and you manipulate your neighbour into getting things you think you need. Even is this, you are proclaimed as justified for Jesus’ sake without you even realising that God does so regardless of what you do. Let that sink in. Your rat-race is crushed by the Golden commandments and is washed clean by the  death and resurrection of Christ.

Thank you, Tullian. Your message at church every Sunday frees my soul. (And teaches me that Aristotle is a burdening son-of-a-gun.)