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Oct 2009

The Gospel vs. “Enough”

I had the chance to spend some time with my good friend J.D. Greear last week and like usual I walked away wondering “am I doing enough as a Christian or a pastor”? This isn’t J.D.’s fault…he, nor his amazing church have ever made me feel this way. It’s simply the ugliness of my heart.

So, I had to laugh at the providence of God when I was sent a recent post that J.D. wrote about his own struggles with “enough”. I wanted to share it with you guys with the hope that you’ll be as encouraged as I was.

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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