Thursday, April 01, 2021

Fleshly Guilt and Motivational Speeches vs. God's Grace at Work

I received an invitation to a men's retreat via email, and while there's nothing inherently wrong with these things, there was some wording in the invitation that stuck out to me. It said something about how easy it can be to dismiss opportunities like this and to come up with excuses to not attend. This actually says a lot about the mindsets of people who put on things like this.

If I were to attend a men's retreat, why would I want to go to one in which the hosts think I'd want to make up an excuse to not attend?

Due to past experience (and I'm not saying this particular retreat is set up this way), I know that many of these events are set up to "challenge" men to do more, be more, work harder, be more committed. They are essentially based on a legalistic, performance-based mindset that believes in a type of Christianity that is all about doing. All about behavior. All about performance.

The teachers and leaders in these retreats essentially try to guilt men into being dedicated to performing better for God in order to become the men He wants them to be... rather than teaching them and encouraging them in who God has already made them to be, and that they don't need to "become" anything, and how it's His faithfulness, and it's His grace that is at work in them that causes an outflow of thankfulness and fruit.

Look, I used to attend these things, and I'd get all pumped up from the motivational speakers (that's really what they are) about how I'm going to change, and how I'm going to be "on fire" for Jesus! And then within days I'd be all deflated and discouraged because I couldn't sustain the fire. The reason for this is because all the preaching centered on ME and MY commitment, MY performance, MY attempts at taking the world for God. And I don't have what it takes.

But if you put me with other people who will daily encourage me in Christ's finished work... in who I already am in Him... in how I'm already complete in Him... in how He Himself is faithful to perform the work He began in me... in how I'm already fully in Him and He in me... in how it's not up to me and my faithfulness and commitment but in how He sustains me by His faithfulness and commitment to me, and by His grace... I don't need an excuse to not attend, but rather I'm running as fast as I can to get there!

Is it that I don't want to "do," or that I don't want to "perform," or even that I don't want to be "committed" to good things? Of course not. But legalism and guilt, and fleshly motivational speeches, are not the way. Rather, being free to be who God has already made me to be, and to rely on His sustaining grace... that is the way.

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