Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What Blocks Your View?

Are you living with the cross of Christ in view as Paul encourages?

That's a profoundly challenging question. As a believer, my knee-jerk response is, "Of course!" But
I've been reading C. J. Mahaney lately and thinking about the cross (the Gospel of Christ). I've realized while I go through my days with God firmly planted in my mind, that's not quite the same thing as living with a view of the cross.

Mahaney outlines three things he believes pulls our focus away from the gospel: subjectivism, legalism and condemnation. You can read about those in Mahaney's words in his book Living the Cross-Centered Life. I'm going to walk through them here in my words.

1) Subjectivism = basing our view of the unchanging God on our fluctuating feelings.

Our feelings will always fluctuate. Let's face it, they rise and fall with our circumstances, our moods, our hormones, our health, our hair-cut ... they aren't stable. 

Our feelings about God can easily rise and fall too. We see a prayer answered - we get warm feelings about God and increased faith results.  Then we get sick and can't seem to get well again despite praying - negative feelings ensue and our faith decreases.

We wonder if God hears us, or if He cares. And we decide He must not.

I believe a marker of spiritual maturity is the ability to pull our faith out of the hands of our feelings. To preach the truth about God, from the Bible, to ourselves no matter how low we feel when the preaching begins.

2) Legalism - basing our relationship with God on our personal performance.

This is a shift from experiencing grace to seeking to earn it. We slip into legalism when we want to deserve God's forgiveness - when we try hard to be worthy of it. Or maybe, when we try so hard not to need it that we fall into perfectionism.

I wrote about this in one of the chapters in my book It's No Secret - it's been the most popular chapter based on reader feedback. Apparently a lot of women have a tiny little issue with perfectionism. I know a thing or two about that.

As we grow in our faith, we come to dislike sin.  That's great!  But we must be careful not to come to dislike grace in the process.  I believe a marker of spiritual maturity is a lavish welcoming of God's grace.

Mahaney writes, "Legalism is essentially self-atonement for the purpose of self-glorification and ultimately for self-worship." When you put it that way, C.J., ouch.

3) Condemnation - focusing on our sins more than on God's grace.

You've heard the saying, "You can't see the forest for the trees." Meaning you are too close to the thing to see it in proper perspective.  This happens when we fixate on our sin.  We obsess about our inability to live up to Jesus' standards, rather than turning cartwheels over the fact that in all the ways we fall short, God's grace covers. 

God isn't interested in our punishing ourselves over our sins. He is interested in our turning away from sin towards His grace and love. His love towards us abounds!

Not just in an "Aww bless her heart, she's such a mess" kind of way but in a "I'll go to the ends of the earth - to the cross even - to redeem you because you are my prized possession" kind of way.

If God holds nothing against me, why would I hold it against myself?

I believe a marker of spiritual maturity is staring less at my faults and more at the cross. Forgiveness is constantly there for the believer. We don't have to atone for our sins - Christ already has.  Somebody wave a white hanky and shout hallelujah at that!

What is blocking your view of the cross?


  1. Again, thank you for the thought provoking post. I can always count on you for that! I would have to admit that I have been guilty of all three of these terms at some point (maybe more than once or twice ~ is it possible to play musical chairs between the three?). I think the trap I fall into more these days would be self-condemnation. I focus too much on my short comings, how I can overcome them, what I need to do better, etc, etc, and so on. I feel like if I could take the I's out of my thoughts and lean more on the Lord, some issues would resolve themselves. That's why I am trying to dig further into the Word, hoping that my intimacy with the Spirit will grow and He will teach me how to let go of the things that hold me back.

  2. I am waving the white hanky! I agree I agree I agree! I love the statement " I believe a marker of spiritual maturity is a lavish welcoming of God's grace". That has always been a hard one for me to grasp. I seem to have difficulty realizing that God is not as hard on me as I am on myself. It humbles me when I recount the times God showed his grace over my life.

    Thank you for a wonderful reminder that God stopped focusing on my sin the minute I asked forgiveness.

    May God's grace be all over you today.

  3. Yes - Hallelujah!! "If God holds nothing against me, why would I hold it against myself?" Because I was believing a lie. Praise God He's showing me the truth of His grace. Thank you for this post. It's hard to express the fullness of my feelings, but your words are helping to unlock some chains. Blessings and thanks to you, Rachel!

  4. I stalk but seldom comment. Just wanted to say how much I love reading your writing, Rachel. Cyber {{hugs}}!


Chime in.