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The Idolatry of Spiritual Laziness

by Jared Wilson from Gospel Wakefulness

Let’s talk about laziness.

Laziness is idolatry. It is closely related to its opposite—workaholism. Both the sins of laziness and workaholism are sins of self-worship. The behavior looks different, but the root idolatry is the same. And the problem we face is that the law cannot do for either of these sins what grace does. There is no saving power in law. Further—and this is the crucial point in this particular discussion—there is no sustainable keeping of the law apart from the compulsion of grace. We can (and should) command repentance from sin, but it is grace that enables repentance and belief that accompanies it. Repentance problems are always belief problems. When we are set free from the law’s curse, we are set free to the law’s blessings. The difference-maker is the gospel and the joyful worship it creates. Any other attempt at law-abiding is just behavior management.

So we cannot cure spiritual laziness by pouring law on it. God turns dry bones into living, breathing, worshiping, working bodies by pouring gospel proclamation into them. When we truly behold the gospel, we can’t help but grow in Christ and with the fruit of the Spirit. Paul captures the essence of this truth in 2 Corinthians 3:15–18:

Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

The law cannot lift the veil. It cannot supply what it demands. But when by the power of the Spirit we turn to behold the Lord—not just see him, but behold him—the veil is lifted and we are transformed bit by bit, so long as we are beholding. This is not self-generated. It comes, Paul says, “from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Vicky Beeching’s song “Captivated” captures this truth well with these lyrics:

Beholding is becoming, so as You fill my view
Transform me into the likeness of You.

According to 2 Corinthians 3:15–18, beholding is becoming. See how Psalm 119:18 relates “beholding as becoming” to obedience:

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” What must happen for a lazy person to be able to become diligent? He must behold the wondrous things in God’s law.

Does he just decide to do that? No. Okay, well, yes, sort of. But he must be moved to decide to be diligent from a force outside of himself. His eyes must be opened by the Spirit. And in this opening, the law and his keeping of it become wondrous, not tedious. This is really what we’re aiming for with gospel centrality, and it’s what gospel wakefulness (super)naturally produces: obedience to God as worshipful response, not meritorious leverage. We are fixing our eyes on the finished work of Christ so that we may be free, and therefore free to delight in the law, not buckle under it.

Religious people can’t delight in the law like the psalmists do. They have to be set free—and feel free—from its curse first. This is where accusing gospel centrality of facilitating antinomianism becomes nonsensical. Generally speaking, people aren’t lazy because they think they’re forgiven for trespassing the law; they’re lazy because they think the law doesn’t apply to them. The truth is that we worship our way into sin, and we have to worship our way out. When people are lazy (or restless), they do have a sin problem, but the sin problem is just a symptom of the deeper worship problem. Their affections are set somewhere else. And wherever our affections are set is where our behavior will go.

So gospel wakefulness does not mean or produce laziness. But what gospel wakefulness does to the work of obedience is something we cannot muster up of our own power. It is the difference between driving our car and pushing it. Or, better, it is the difference between seeing the Christian life as a rowboat and seeing it as a sailboat.

Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. He is an award-winning author whose articles and short stories have appeared in a number of periodicals, and has written the popular books Your Jesus Is Too Safe and Gospel Wakefulness, as well as the curriculum Abide. Wilson lives in Vermont with his wife and two daughters, and blogs daily at GospelDrivenChurch.com.

Grateful for Expiencing Grace

Timothy George has a great section in his book Amazing Grace: God’s Pursuit, Our Response where he speaks of the varied ways we experience grace. May his reflections lead your heart to gratitude and worship as you celebrate Thanksgiving today!

Grace is not an impersonal force or a divine quality to be studied only in the abstract. There is no hell on earth so deep but that God’s grace can go deeper still. Thus, the New Testament states that Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him” (Heb. 7:25). We experience grace on many different levels in our lives:

  • We experience grace as pardon. God’s forgiveness and justification remove our guilty standing before him—our real guilt, not just our guilty feelings. The psalmist claims that God’s pardoning grace removes our guilt of sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12).
  • We experience grace as acceptance. In Christ we who were distant from God, covered with shame, have been embraced, welcomed, and accepted—not because we are acceptable, but solely because we are loved.
  • We experience grace as joy. This delivers us from the frantic quest to be “happy” through stuffing our lives with fleeting pleasures and “joyrides” that only leave us sadder, more depressed. Real joy comes from knowing God and serving him.
  • We experience grace as peace. God’s shalom answers the anxieties and insecurities that threaten us from every side. The standard New Testament greeting is “grace and peace.” Grace and peace are twins; they belong together, related as cause and effect.
  • We experience grace as power. Most people do not so much lack the knowledge to live as they should as they do the ability to carry out what they already know is right. God’s grace acts as an antidote to our impotence. It transforms, energizes, enables.
  • We experience grace as hope. This is hope not in the loose sense of a vague general wish that may not come true, as in “hopefully it won’t rain tomorrow.” In Titus 2:11–13, Paul connects the grace of God with the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ return in glory, a great motivation for confident Christian living.
  • We experience grace as love. God’s grace and love are so close that, at times, we cannot distinguish them. The Bible says that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), and God’s gracious love counters the nagging fears and doubts all of us have.
  • We experience grace as gratitude. The most basic response we can make to grace remains a life of thank-yous to God. As Lewis Smedes points out, true gratitude involves “a sense of wonder and sometimes elation at the lavish generosity of God.”
November 24, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life & Doctrine,Sanctification,The Christian Life,The Gospel,The Grace of God | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 8:00 am | 0 Comments »

Video: Give Them Grace

Mother-daughter team Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson discuss a radical approach to parenting. What does gospel-centered parenting look like?

Here are some highlights from the video below:

  • 0:55 Elyse on how she just wanted her kids to be good.
  • 1:22 The goal is to love Christ. You want your kids to know that the motivation behind rules is the gospel.
  • 1:51 We’re all legalists
  • 2:20 When you parent with the law you only address the law-breaker. When you parent with the gospel, you address the heart of the Pharisee (rule-keeper) as well.

Learn more about Give Them Grace, read a sample chapter, or see similar posts:

July 29, 2011 | Posted in: Children,Parenting,The Gospel,The Grace of God | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 3:41 pm | 0 Comments »

What Reviewers are Saying About “Give Them Grace”

Give Them Grace is flying off the shelves and we’ve had a hard time keeping it in stock! Check out what reviewers are saying:

  • “In my 13 years as a parent, I’ve read literally dozens of books on parenting, discipline, and so on, and I must say that Give Them Grace stands out from them all!” -Home with Purpose
  • “Get this book!” -Noel de Luna’s Blogspot
  • “I was encouraged to continually point my children to the love, beauty and grace of God that is ours because of Jesus.” -Eskypades
  • “If you are a parent, know a parent, want to become a parent, or just want to fall deep into God’s grace, get this book!” -Abundant Blessings
  • Give them Grace” is not like all other parenting books that have so much in common. Through this book Elyse focuses on teaching you to rely on God’s grace instead of our own abilities (using the Law/rules) to transform our kids.” -Think Outside the Box
  • “If you are ready to look at your parenting in a whole new way and ready to change yourself FIRST…then you should read this book.” -For One Another

More reviews:

Learn more about Give Them Grace.

July 22, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,Books,News & Announcements,Parenting,The Grace of God | Author: Crossway Staff @ 3:03 pm | (4) Comments »

The Purpose of the Law

Joe Thorn talks about the law and the gospel (and his new book Note to Self). Read the original post over at Joe’s blog.

What is the purpose of the law? The law shows us three things:

  1. The law shows us what is right (God’s will/way): Ps. 119:1, 23, 44, 47; Rom. 7:12
  2. The law shows us what is wrong (our sin and corruption): Rom. 3:20; 7:7-12; James. 2:10
  3. The law shows us what is needed (redemption): Rom. 7:13-18; Gal. 3:19

July 2, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Biblical Studies,Life & Doctrine,Old Testament,The Gospel,The Grace of God,Theology,Video | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 6:00 am | (2) Comments »