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“enough” is an enemy of the gospel

October 29, 2009

This is a post from JD Greear. Jana and I read this together over breakfast yesterday. We both struggle to believe the gospel. Just seems too good to be true…

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The word “enough” is the enemy of the Gospel. The word “enough” about killed me spiritually.

For many years I have lived with a complex… Have I given enough? Do I love enough? Do I share Christ enough? Do I sacrifice enough? Should I be living in a downtown Durham project? Should I adopt 3 adolescent runaways from Russia? Should I be sharing our house with a homeless man? Should I give away 50% of my income?

Every time I have heard a new preacher with a new “cause” I have left thinking, “Do I have to do that to be a real disciple of Jesus? Am I doing enough?”

That is because many well meaning (though I think misguided Christian preachers) preach a message built on enough. Their message often appears to be, “Do you give enough to the poor to really consider yourself a good Christian? Why don’t Christians in America die like Jesus’ first followers? After all, good Christians… adopt, live poor, die martyr’s deaths, win all their neighbors to Jesus, use only recycled cooking oil, drive hybrids… etc.” I am forever left thinking, “If I were a real Christian, I’d be doing this or that…” (and, to be fair, it’s not always the individual preacher’s fault, sometimes it’s how I misinterpret them–which has more to do with me… I seem addicted to works-righteousness and can turn anything into a new “standard” to reach.)

Obviously, giving and any form of sacrificial living are all important questions and things that many Christians who have experienced the love of the Gospel will want to do. But never in the context of “enough.”

Whenever we preach “enough” we preach legalism. Legalism has two unmistakable marks: pride in those who feel like they live up to the standard or guilt-complexes in those who don’t. The Gospel creates neither. The Gospel is not about how much you give, or whether or not you die, or if you adopt, or if you go overseas, the Gospel is about a heart of love that does things simply and freely in response to what God has done for us.

“Not under compulsion” is one of Paul’s favorite phrases in the context of generosity. The word “enough” is its own type of compulsion. The Gospel is not about any response that is “enough”; the Gospel is about the free response of love flowing from gratefulness for the sacrifice of Christ which set us completely free.

The Gospel is not about what we are to go and do for God, but about what He has done for us. There are only two ways to approach God… one says, “I’ll obey some standard, and because of that I’ll be accepted.” The other says “I’ve been accepted by what Christ has done for me, and I love in response.

This is why the preaching of the announcement of the Gospel (that Christ has DONE all that is necessary to save us) is so absolutely essential for all Christian living. If you do not preach the announcement of acceptance because of what Christ has done, there is no way he can create free love. Legalistic preachers, no matter how “evangelical” or “radical” they seem to be, don’t create love for Jesus in people, they create pride and guilt-despair. Because they don’t preach an announcement of freedom, they preach an obedience of captivity.

 

Paul said in 1 Cor 13:1-4 that “real Christianity” had nothing to do with “giving enough” or “dying enough” or “suffering enough” or “witnessing enough.” He said it had to do with love, and love, as I’m saying, only grows in absolute freedom.

The only time the word “enough” ought to be used for the Gospel is in reference to what Christ has done for us. Those who understand this will live their lives in response, and their lives will be characterized by radical love.

The Gospel is not spelled “D-O” or “D-O-N-T” but “D-O-N-E.” If you don’t love and live radically, think about what Christ has done. Repent of the idols and saviors you have served in place of Him, and when you do , He will change your heart from one of selfishness to one of love.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Lance permalink
    October 30, 2009 7:32 am

    WOW, LOVED the article and could not agree more. I grew up in faith and have sat under so much preaching which was about doing enough, giving enough, loving enough, working enough… I have lived through a time when denominational fighting was about who was good enough, Christlike enough… We, believers, spent our time talking bad about each other and our witness was, and still can be, less than Christ like. Even the world says: sleep 8 hours a day, exercise 2 hours a day, work 10 hours a day, spend 1 hour of quality time with your kids a day, spend 1 hour of quality time with your wife a day, read for an hour each day… don’t forget to pay your bills, close your pool, do the dishes, laundry, iron, cut the grass, fix the sink… Oh yes, small group, our daily quiet time, church on Sunday… Somewhere there is time for mission trips, working at the new building, taking care of aging parents, time with friends… I love what Greear is saying. If we are not careful it is about the doing rather than the being. As Christ followers we are always looking at how to live as Christ. Not always easy. I think that is because we too often work to make those around us happy rather than Christ. Simply said. Enough!

  2. Jordan permalink
    November 10, 2009 3:23 pm

    I agree when it comes to the amount of work we do and the attitude with which we do it, that the word “enough” can be dangerous. It offers an escape from sacrificing in order to move the Gospel forward. However, I think that in respect to God’s Grace and his work in our lives, the word “enough” should be used more often. When God tells Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” he isn’t saying that His Grace goes above and beyond what we need. His Grace is sufficient, or “enough”. It seems to me that in our culture we continually seek more. We see deficiency as dangerous, but excess as safe. So we eat more than we should, we buy more clothes than we can wear, and we earn more money than we can use. It is imperative that we see that “perfection” in respect to God’s Grace is not more than we need, but exactly what we need. So it becomes easier to sacrifice our excess food, clothes, and money to make Jesus famous and push the Gospel forward, because God will provide just “enough” or our needs.

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