Wednesday with Michael Spencer
Excerpt from Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality
I discovered, while listening to a lecture on Luther’s breakthrough discovery of grace, that the victorious Christian life is a lie. It is a completely un-Jesus-shaped imposter. The Christian life isn’t a denial of the prodigal son parable, with the prodigal suddenly becoming a good boy and making his father proud. It is lived at the point where the empty-handed, thoroughly humbled son kneels before his father and has nothing to offer. The son can do nothing but be loved. He is empty and has only one recourse—receive the gift of all things and eternity.
The exhausting effort to be a good Christian denies Christ. If you insist on securing your own holiness and acceptability, you disqualify yourself from receiving anything from Jesus. He came to earth to save sinners, not good Christians.
This discovery, like most Jesus-shaped discoveries, doesn’t go over well in your usual religious environments. It plays well in AA meetings, counselors’ offices, bars, and prison chapels, but doesn’t fit the program in the success seminars and motivational sessions passing as mainstream North American evangelicalism. It falls far short of the glamorous lifestyles of wealth, beauty, and popularity that keep showing up in church promos. It is, however, very good news to the poor, the brokenhearted, and the destitute, who welcome the message that Jesus proclaimed and lived.
If you have left the church or are headed for the door, there is a strong possibility that you have to leave in order to hold on to your integrity. You realized you can no longer play the religion game. You may be playing other games—I’m not letting any of us off the hook. But you found you could no longer be party to the endless act that says you are living the victorious Christian life.
If that is the case, your leaving in order to find true humanity, real vulnerability, and surprising grace may be the greatest gift you could give to the church. Not because of your absence, but because you have become one more person who has chosen real life in place of the inauthenticity of pretending to have it all together.
• Mere Churchianity (p. 135-136)