Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Fallacy of Bargaining with God

I just started a new book, The Explicit Gospel, by my favorite pastor, Matt Chandler (http://www.thevillagechurch.net/article-leader/595002/matt-chandler/).  The link I just provided to his profile on his church's website is largely incomplete to understand this man's heart and mission.  This story adds an important component to his story (http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/health/Pastor_s_Faith_Endures_After_Cancerous_Brain_Tumor_Dallas-Fort_Worth-107012898.html).

I can only describe his messages as those of a man who realizes his days are numbered and is determined to do as much for the kingdom of God as possible in however many of those days he has left.  Most pastors recognize that the crowd on Easter Sunday is sprinkled with those who attend a church service once a year.  Every other Easter sermon I have heard is a rather soft, non-controversial, feel-good message designed to not offend and hopefully invite those people back (although the reality is most will never come back, or at least not until next Easter, assuming they live that long).  Chandler recognizes the same make-up of the Easter congregation, but takes a polar opposite stance.  He leads off with something along the lines of "I only get one crack a year at you, so I'm gonna make it good."  What follows is an unapologetic, no punches pulled sharing of the cold hard truth that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you get offended and don't come back, your loss.  

The first part of his book is very consistent with his style and mission, and I have no doubt the rest of it will be.  One of his biggest laments about the state of Christianity today is how the self-centeredness of today's world and our society has infiltrated our view of a relationship with God.  One of his favorite phrases to remind people of the reality we live in is, "It's not all about you."  In fact, when it comes to the Bible, none of it is about you!  Here's a taste of the book, regarding what position we are in to bargain with God:

"Paul continues in Romans 11:35: 'Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repaid?'  If everything is God's, you have nothing to give Him that He doesn't already own.  This means that you cannot put Him into your debt.  And this means, alternately, that God owes no man anything.  Our very existence has been gifted to us by His grace.
While we lament the apparent injustice of pain and suffering, how often do we forget that every good thing in a fallen world is wholly a gift of God's mercy and grace?  We think to question God when bridges fall but not to wonder at His grace that every bridge does not.  Every fit of laughter, every delectable morsel of food, and every single smile is the result of His mercy and grace; He owes us none of it.
Now let me tell you why this is so terrifying.  If this is true, we have nothing with which to negotiate with Him, nothing to bargain with.  But it has been my experience that most evangelicals believe Christians are in a bargaining position.  We carry an insidious prosperity gospel around in our dark, little, entitled hearts.  We come to the throne and say, 'I'll do this, and you'll do that.  And if I do this for you, then you will do that for me.'
In the end, God says, 'You keep trying to pay me off with stuff that's already mine.'...The profitable result in these exchanges is the revealing of idolatry and pride within us.  We want to live as if the Christian life is a 50/50 project we undertake with God, like faith is some kind of cosmic vending machine.  And we are reinforced in this idolatry by bad preachers, by ministers with no respect for the Scriptures, by talking heads who teach out of emotion instead of texts, who tickle ears with no evident fear of the God who curses bringers of alternative gospels (Gal. 1:8-9).  He owes us nothing."

He goes on to explain that the Bible is not our Magic 8-Ball, our Daily Manual for Living.  That would imply that the story within the Bible is all about us.  What if the Bible isn't about us at all?  What if WE aren't the story of God's revelation?  He quotes Herbert Lockyer, who said the Bible is FOR us, it is not ABOUT us.  All of creation exists for the glory of God.  Nothing else.  We exist for the glory of God.  Nothing else.  And as I have heard Chandler say before, EVERYONE will glorify God either through your obedience to Him or your utter disobedience to Him.  He is glorified in all things, good or bad.  Nothing bad that happens in this world is capable of derailing God's perfect purposes and His plan.  That would be creation driving the Creator, and it just doesn't happen.

Who better to understand that ALL things work together for good than someone who has survived (for now) stage three brain cancer.  And who better to understand that "good" has nothing to do with us and what our definition of "good" looks like.  God owes us nothing, and it is perfect.