Trying harder is not your best option

Try harder! Try harder! It is the mantra of both American culture and American Christianity.

Do you want to get ahead? Work harder!

Do you want to excel? Do more!

Do you want to be a better Christian? Strive more intensely!

Do you need to deal with some sin or struggle in your life? Start fighting to overcome it!

This is common fare in many Sunday morning sermons, and on the surface it sounds like wise counsel. The Apostle Paul talked about “pressing toward the mark” and “fighting the good fight,” and the author of Hebrews even said, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your own blood.” So apparently, there is a greater striving to be reached and a fiercer resistance to be waged. However, the striving and the resistance are not the starting points.

The reason we sin is because we love it. Sin is not an annoyance that we need to deal with, it is something that we have actually grown to love. Granted, it is possible to both love and despise our sin simultaneously, but the reality is that if we only hated it, we wouldn’t keep returning to it. So, technically speaking, we don’t primarily have “sin” issues we actually have “love” issues.

The first step in moving beyond a lesser love or addiction is to develop a greater love. We cannot merely tell ourselves, “Stop sinning! God hates it and it isn’t good for me. It will hurt me in the long run, and I need to be a better person.” All of those sentiments may be true, but none of them can cure our longing for the sin, unless we learn to long for something greater.

Here is how one of America’s early Pilgrims expressed it in The Valley of Vision: “Teach me to believe that if ever I would have any sin subdued I must not only labor to overcome it, but must invite Christ to abide in the place of it, and He must become to me more than (the sin) had been; His sweetness, power, life must be there.”[1] In other words, we overcome sin when we begin to love God more than our sin; we say no to lesser loves when we encounter something greater to say “yes” to.

Let’s process this in our hearts with God. Let’s admit that we love our vices. And then rather than beating ourselves up and pledging another round of well-intended vows, let’s ask God for a greater love. Let’s ask Him to reveal Jesus to us and introduce the Holy Spirit to us to such a degree that everything else grows dim by comparison.

[1] Arthur Bennet, Editor, The Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 295.

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Read the red and pray for the power!

red-lettersRead the red and pray for the power.

These were the instructions that Dr. Fuchsia Pickett gave to our class when Jessica and I were in Bible school in the early 90s, and I think they are the perfect marching orders for each of us as we start a New Year together.

Yesterday, Grace Church committed to three New Year resolutions, and I would love for you to join us as well.

  1. We set a human goal. This is an area of our lives that can be changed solely through the efforts of our determined humanity. We don’t need God’s help to accomplish this goal—we simply need some leverage and true resolve.
  2. We set a supernatural goal. This is an area that will require some divine intervention—we will not be able to accomplish this goal unless God gets involved.
  3. In order to position ourselves for our supernatural goals, we committed to a 90-day “Read the red and pray for the power” New Year campaign.

Our “Read the red and pray for the power” campaign includes two elements: we are going to read a 90-day Bible reading schedule called “Read the red stuff” that will take us through all of the written words of Jesus Christ in 90 days, and we are going to engage in focused prayer around three areas. If you aren’t a part of Grace Church, your three prayer targets will differ slightly from these, but here are the items we are praying for at Grace:

  1. We are praying for each others’ supernatural goals.
  2. We are praying for our “becoming”—we want to step more fully into our individual and collective destinies in 2017.
  3. We are praying for resolution regarding a permanent church facility.

Please join us. Let’s work hard and pray hard this year. Let’s live 2017 to the best of our human abilities and then let’s pray for some things that are dependent on an amazing God. My daily prayer book, The Valley of Vision, includes the following prayer: “May my desires be enlarged and my hopes emboldened, that I may honor you by the greatness of my request.” Let’s not focus on trivia this year; let’s ask some great things of a great God.

You can download a copy of the “Read the red stuff” Bible reading schedule here, and join our campaign today.

Happy New Year! Know you are loved.