Monday, November 8, 2010

A "pretty good" Christian

Today I was riding in the car with the local Christian radio station on (yes, it does happen occassionally) when I was struck by the comments of a caller. He said, "Yeah, I'm a Christian myself...I try to do good, and I talk about God some. I wouldn't say I'm a great Christian, but I do pretty good."

I can't help but wonder if behind this comment is a righteousness that is, at least in part, based upon works. I think it is more implicit, but there nonetheless. My feeling is that many Christians understand that they are saved by grace but fail to understand the keeping power of God through sanctification that is also entirely a work of grace. They feel that God has done His part and now they are obligated to do theirs. Of course, they fail miserably to live up to even their own standards, and feel on good days they are "pretty good" Christians at best.

When we truly understand salvation by faith through grace, I think we will stop thinking in categories of great, good, marginal, and "hanging by a thread" Christians. If this man has truly professed faith in Christ and has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, he is not just a pretty good Christian. The grace of God is more powerful than good enough. It is more than enough to declare righteous the worst of sinners.

It is perfectly appropriate to talk about maturing in Christ, but this is very different from the burden of moralism that continues to enslave so many.


  1. Good thoughts here. I think it is part of our nature to focus on works. It is more tangible and easier to grade ourselves and gauge how we are doing. It is especially nice to compare ourselves to others and bask in the warmth of our smug superiority :) As you point out, it ends up being a burden, because we simply cannot be good enough.

    In general, we are suspicious of any free gift, no matter how small. A gift as huge as forgiven of our sins is hard to grasp. As I have matured, I see more clearly just how wide the gap is between me and our holy God. My response to that grace - that He loves me and wants a relationship with me - drives my behavior. I focus on the motivation for my works - loving God - and not on the work itself.

    What do you think? How do you wrap this up into a neat package?

  2. I think you have wrapped it up fairly nice yourself. We understand (as best we can) and receive the grace of God and his redeeming love. Then we respond with a life of overflowing love in word and deed.

    Where I think we get into trouble is when we go too long without hearing the message of God's grace and our complete dependence upon Him. We are attempting to live out our faith, but that can easily get swept up into attempting to earn God's favor or "trying to do stuff" for God...rather than allowing Him to live through us.

    We need to keep hearing the gospel. We need our music to contain the gospel, our preaching to be constantly be shaped by it, our Sacraments to intentionally reflect it.