Reading Reflection:

Chaos and Grace, Mark Galli (Baker Books, 2011) Christians use the word faith as abundantly as there are grains of sand, but its thrust may be just as hard for us to grasp as a handful of that bountiful beach. We say we are saved by grace through faith, but is our salvation based on our faith? That would be scary. Our salvation is based on the work of Jesus Christ. And it is by the loving grace of God that we are given the instrument of faith to see the truth of our own sinful condition, and our Savior’s perfect priestly work on our behalf. Our faith looks to Christ, not ourselves. Galli challenges his readers on their idea of faith.
Faith is accepting the fact that there are no conditions, no bargains to be made, no back room deals; that grace is a gift with no strings attached. No strings before and no strings after! Faith is the realization that grace is utterly free (100). If faith is in any way a deal—we believe and then God gives us the power to change—then we will never be free from the inordinate desire for control and order, and in this case, the addiction to power to change our lives. We would merely be using God as an alcoholic uses liquor. God is a means to an end—our transformation! Such a relationship with God is characterized by many things—manipulation, coercion, fear, resentment, striving—but it cannot be characterized by love… We pragmatic American Christians are always tempted to turn the Christian life into a program for moral improvement, when really Christ is about freeing us from anxiety about moral improvement! Certainly there will be moral improvement, addictions healed, virtues strengthened—Christ is indeed transforming us. But these are not the result of our manipulating some power or program for self-improvement or social change. These come as a by-product of having relinquished the whole idea that we are in control of that change. It is God working in us, to do as he wills (169-170).
We want to be comfortable in our Christian life. As a matter of fact, sometimes we measure the maturity of our faith by our ability to comfortably live in the moral status quo. So did the Pharisees.  I think this is a challenge for most Christians, if not all. God’s plan for most of us is not to get too comfortable. Control addicts of some sort, we like to feel like we are calling the shots for our own lives. When crisis happens in our lives, we have to take a hard look at ourselves and ask, "Do I really trust God? Have I really been walking in the Spirit, or have I been treading along the path of what I decided I would do for God?" The fact that grace is utterly free can be both liberating and terrifying. If I didn’t do anything to earn it, then I can completely trust in the One who did. I thought I only wanted a better version of myself, and he has made me a whole new creation. But, God doesn’t give us the GPS of our lives. He tells us the glorious end. We have to trust him on the journey. (Ladies, this is nothing like trusting your husband when he won’t stop and ask for directions!) Galli encourages us to keep our focus on Christ, and receive his love along the way. It can be very uncomfortable. But as Jillian Michaels says in her workout videos, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable!” If we trust them, transformation will be inevitable. But it is their way, not ours. Thank the Lord!