In this abiding series, each post will be framed as an email correspondence to a friend who is seeking to get ‘more’ out of his or her faith. My hope is that by exploring this topic as a conversation, you will resonate with the message as deeply as if it were a letter addressed to you.
To: Friend Seeking More from Faith
From: Doug Nuenke
Subject: The Third Way
Do you remember a few weeks ago when we talked about believers who live under the same ‘earn-your-own-salvation’ mindset as the Israelites of the Old Testament? Or your friends who gave up on the Christian life because of perceived hypocrisy and legalism?
Throughout our emails, we have discussed many ways we can backslide to a performance-based religion. It breaks my heart when we impose human-made laws on others (and ourselves) that undermine freedom and joy. This is the gravitational pull of religion – to turn a gospel of grace into a do-it-yourself endeavor.
This forces us to go back to the beginning, to the early roots of Christianity, and consider the words of Jesus as he counseled his disciples on the Kingdom way. Here, he instructed them to focus more on issues of the heart than on physical needs and longings:
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. (John 6:27)
Amazingly, the disciples were distracted by the word “work” and fell back into their Old Testament perspective. They said: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (6:28).
And that’s your point, isn’t it? Works-based religion pulls on us as constantly as gravity. It’s as if we start out the Christian life by receiving Jesus in an act of faith, then return to living by performance!
Listen to Jesus’ response to the disciples: “The work of God is this: to believe in the One he has sent.” It sounds too good to be true! The “work” this side of the good news of Jesus is to believe … plain and simple.
In one of our recent conversations, we discussed the common misunderstanding that the “Christian life” is an inheritance we receive after we die, rather than an abundance that begins right now. That truncated gospel leads us to either live however we like in this life or return to a law-bound perspective.
But there is a third way! Paul described it to the Colossian church, as they were coming up with new religious works rather than putting faith in the abiding presence of Jesus. He wrote:
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Col 2:6-7)”
My encouragement to you is the same. Pursue the third way. Live your life in Christ! Hour-by-hour acknowledge a posture of dependency upon Him. Make a practice of reflecting on the finished work of Jesus, turning your attention to His constant presence, meditating on His Word, remembering that Christ has sent a Counselor and Helper who is with you right now.
This is the work of overcoming gravity: training ourselves moment-by-moment to lean into the sufficient grace of Jesus.