Every Sunday morning, I have a bible study with a small group of believers at my church, Fellowship Bible Church Dallas. The group emerged out of a 10 week class called Starting Point, that gives the basis of the Christian faith – the gospel – and a place to ask the hard questions that many seekers, returners and new believers have. Towards the end of the 10 weeks, some of the group members were hungry for more and I was eager to teach, so a new group was formed.
Compatible with my ministry philosophy of teaching Christians who God is and what he has provided, I like to focus on teaching the bible through this lens – the self-revelation of God. It fuels love for Him as we discover his grace and mercy. So we spent the first few weeks discussing how the bible was put together, how it reveals God, his progressive revelation and culmination in the Son. This gives a parameter of how we consider the 66 books and read through them. We then spent several months plodding through the book of John, always connecting Jesus actions and his revealing of the Father. Next, we spent several weeks in the book of Acts to show how the apostles carried out the testimony of Christ and the establishment of the church. Both books were incredibly rich studies and brought many expressions of awe of our great God.
We started in Galatians today and I was reminded once again, of our tendency to trust in behavior of right and good, instead of placing faith in Christ. Grace is hard because there is something within us that makes us believe that we need to contribute something in order to be accepted by God. Faith in Christ is not enough, says our humanness that relies on human merit. And this was the problem with the disruption that was going on in the churches and why Paul was upset. Burdens were placed on belief. But faith plus some type of human endeavor for approval from God is a distorted gospel. In fact, Paul says it is really no gospel at all.
I find that there is also a tendency in contemporary evangelicalism to allow human merit to intrude and dictate acceptance. It might be well hidden in sermons, books and discipleship programs that treats the gospel as a one time transaction for salvation and the rest of the Christian walk is spent trying to measure up to earn approval. Earn more, do more, measure up, get it together, walk right, etc. to be a real Christian. The shame of not measuring up is compensated by greater human efforts instead of realizing that real Christians trust in the completed work of the cross and follow after the Spirit. The rest flows from there – how we live and serve the body of Christ.
Sadly, this is my last month with the group. But my departure fits with the our discussion today. The past few years have been personally eye-opening as the Lord has been exposing a lot of junk that needed expunging. Knowledge and service were a way to compensate for some deep rooted issues of shame. As long as I’m serving, it’s ok because maybe that will give me some way of measuring up where so many other areas of my life had failed and particularly, where I have failed.
I am tired, exhausted and drained. The recognition of how long I’ve lived in survival mode, how long I’ve exerted efforts for compensation, how long I’ve carried around baggage and the identification of that has just worn me out. And this on top of getting through the academic requirements for seminary. I’ve been stripped and emotionally drained. But it’s good, because with that comes freedom and lightness.
So I need to rest for a bit. After looking at the syllabi and the intense requirements for classes, I was confronted with my need to serve vs. my capacity to serve. I realized that stepping down was the best thing I could do now. Ideally, I would love if I did not have to work and can focus on these last 29 units, including my thesis. Plus, I’ll write when I can and hopefully finish the manuscript of my book proposal. My job is stressful and demanding though, so we’ll see. Oh my job, that’s another issue altogether and another transition that needs to happen. Praying and working on a transition plan.
Transitions. Yes, that is the best way I can describe this time – shedding the old, preparing for the new in a place where I can be refreshed, restored and ready to make a splash for the kingdom. In the meantime, I’ll focus on my current responsibilities and rest. I’ll rest physically when I can and definitely emotionally, taking delight in today’s blessings. But most importantly, I want to rest in the finished work of the cross and the promises of a heavenly Father who accepts me because of His Son. Rest because I am in Christ, united to Him by the Holy Spirit who guarantees my acceptance. There will be more opportunities and I’m grateful I don’t need them to earn acceptance or favor.