When good lives are bad news

There are two ways we get life wrong.

1. We want to be our own Lord instead of Jesus

In other words, I replace Jesus as Lord with Tim as Lord. I run my life my way. I want to be in charge. That often leads to behaviour that by moral standards is bad: ‘sex and drugs and rock-n-roll’. We do not think Jesus is enough. We do not think the rule of Jesus is the good life. So we replace Jesus with others things.

But there is a second way we can get life wrong.

2. We want to be our own Saviour instead of Jesus

On other words, I replace Jesus as Saviour with Tim as saviour. I want to save myself by doing good things or I want to save other people by straightening out their lives or I want to save the world through good causes.

Now, here’s the tricky thing: This way of getting life wrong often leads to behaviour that by moral standards is good behaviour. People who are trying to be their own saviour are going to live moral lives. Or they are going to be good husbands and wives and parents because they want to rescue their family. Or they are going to be involved in good causes, raising money for the poor or campaigning for justice or getting involved in the environmental issues.

Those are all commendable things to do. So replacing Jesus as Saviour can look like a good life. They will be people in your congregation who are doing this and you will think they are doing great.

But its fruit will eventually become apparent. It will lead to pride or frustration or stress or anxiety or manipulation. Think, for example, about a parent who is trying to save or sort out their children and who thinks it all depends on them. They might be manipulative or domineering as they attempt to control and protect their children. Or they might be bitter about their children’s behaviour or weighed down with stress.

The people who are rejecting Jesus as Lord will usually be easy to spot. But be on the look out for people who are rejecting Jesus as Saviour. I can think of people who have come to us highly recommended, but whose hard work turned out to be driven by deep insecurities. Gently and firmly we have taught them the good news of justification and adoption. I tell people who are rejecting Jesus as Lord to repent, find joy in Christ and change their ways. I tell people who are rejecting Jesus as Saviour to do … nothing. Stop. Listen. ‘It is finished.’ There is nothing left to do. You have a heavenly Father who loves you and cares for you.

And look out for saviour-tendencies in your own heart. Many of us are rejecting the lordship of Jesus in some areas of our lives while trying to be a saviour in other areas. Here is the good news: Jesus is Lord and Saviour. And he is better Lord than you and a better Saviour than you.

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8 thoughts on “When good lives are bad news

  1. Pingback: When A Good Life Replaces The Good News (via Tim Chester) | mgpcpastor's blog

  2. Oh for pure motives! I find that I can have mixed motives, although I want to work for Jesus I often find I end up thinking ‘how good am I’ and offering up my good deeds to God as though they make me acceptable. Oh how foolish, I have to repent daily and remember that I’m not saved by good works but saved to do good work which he has prepared for me, and my security is not in my good works, but in his once for all good work that makes me right with God. What a relief, and it really is good news, he is a better saviour and lord.

  3. Do nothing ! Hardly a surprising mainstream evangelical statement (I sadly hear it all the time in my evangelical circles) but it is surprising to hear it from you – I love ‘You can change’ simply because it goes outside the evangelical pigeonhole.
    Sometimes I wonder if many evangelicals know that Pentecost took place.
    When in scripture is such terminology as ‘do nothing’ used ? There are surely plenty of scriptures in the new testament urging us to DO. And our Lord and Saviour wasn’t afraid of telling us to DO was he ?.

  4. @Tony

    We are commanded to do nothing with respect to achieving salvation. Our salvation comes entirely through Jesus’ blood, and not through our own works. To be saved, I do not need to do anything whatsoever, other than trust in Jesus. Paul says in Philippians that he doesn’t have any righteousness that comes from himself, but that which is from Jesus. Or Romans 5:5 — ‘[a]nd to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.’

    When Tim says ‘do nothing’, he’s saying, ‘stop trying to do things to save yourself — accept the truth that Jesus is your sole saviour.’ He says that we need to tell those who are frenetically trying to make themsevles right with God that they are Justified and Adopted — there’s nothing they can do to make themselves any more right in God’s sight than they alraedy are. There’s nothing they can do to win God’s Fatherly approval, because they are his children.

    Tim doesn’t mean stop doing anything whatsoever, but stop trying to save yourself.

    Incidentally, I think if a Christian is doing things for the sole purpose of making themselves right with God, their actions do not glorify God at all, because they are not trusting in Jesus as the sole solution to their problem of sin — which he is. Their actions are actually insulting rather than glorifying God because their motivations are askew. Therefore they need to be told, do nothing. Just do nothing. Do nothing to try to save yourself. Get your head around the fact through Jesus’ blood alone you are as accepted and justified as could be. Stop your frenzied, terrified, guilt-laden works, and trust in Jesus.

    Hope that helps!

  5. Rob
    I appreciate your concern but you need to know I do find it patronising. As soon as you challenge the ‘do nothing’ camp, they immediately take pity on you and assume you need to come to Christ for salvation. Brother, I have come to Christ for salvation, and I follow his teachings alone. If you can’t find an example of Jesus himself emphasising ‘do nothing’ then you need to beware. And if you can’t find in the whole of the new testament the phrase ‘do nothing’ then its you who needs to ‘get his head around’ holy scripture and make sure the tone and emphasis of what you preach is in line with God’s word. Jesus is more gracious than you can imagine – trust Him alone.
    Tony

  6. Pingback: Passion Points | Three Passions

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