Thursday, April 7, 2016

Hugged by a Doctrine

I didn't realize, "stiff arm" was a football term.
Sitting across the table in a local eatery that night with our new friends, it was like I was holding my arm out straight, wrist bent back, my hand saying stop

Let's not get too close. Do I really want to be friends with you?

These are not normal feelings for extrovert me. I was wise enough to pause, and silently, secretly ask God, What is going on? Why am I responding this way?

I may have received one of my fastest answers to a prayer. Sue, you are judging. OUCH! Sue, you have put limits on my grace. OUCH, OUCH!

You see, I know some of their story. And I was giving myself permission to judge; I was giving myself permission to limit God's grace. I was acting (hopefully without showing it) self-righteous. After all my story is not quite so sinful. Hmmmm, since when is sin quantified?

Steve Brown in his book, A Scandalous Freedom, asks this question ...

Have you ever been hugged by a doctrine?

Of course not!

Knowing doctrine and living from that doctrine are two separate things.

Over the last few years I have been awed by the doctrine of righteousness.

With my faith came my righteousness. How did I miss this? I'm seeing it throughout the epistles these days. One of my favorites is ...

"And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly,
his faith is counted as righteousness,"
Romans 4:5

My faith is counted as righteousness - mind-boggling.

But knowing the doctrine did not change me. 

I needed God to hold me close, and whisper into my ear, how I was twisting this wonderful doctrine into self-righteousness. 

God prepared me. 

The week before this evening, I heard two - not one, but two - sermons on Philippians 3:3-9. 

In the first one, my son (the pastor) highlighted the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (verse 8). That is quite an expletive. And I'd been pondering that for several days. 

In the second, our home church pastor, focused on repenting of our righteousness. In verses 3-6 Paul laid out an impressive resume, but then he said, but whatever gain I had I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. He repented of his man-made self-righteousness. Some of Mark's words were, "our greatest spiritual danger is not our sin, but our righteousness".

Jerry Bridges said it this way, "I believe that human morality, rather than flagrant sin is the greatest obstacle to the gospel today".

The doctrine of righteousness did not hug me. 

But God hugged me as he used that night with our new friends to deepen my understanding of this wonderful doctrine, to live it out in my every day.

For me spiritual growth happens in community, in real life, with friends. This is the place that doctrines take on meaning.

I repented of my self-righteousness!

As we hugged good-by the next day, I knew I was a different person. The surpassing worth of living the righteousness of Christ, had changed me.

How do you experience doctrines changing your reactions to life?

"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law ...the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:"
Romans 3:21, 22


  1. This is so good. Loved all of it, but

    "For me spiritual growth happens in community, in real life, with friends. This is the place that doctrines take on meaning."

    was particularly powerful to me. Much love to you Sue!

    1. Hey Nancy, Thanks. You are such an encouragement! It's always an amazing ah-ha when something I've said I believe for ever, comes alive. Love it and love you.

  2. Well, my friend, you just stepped on my toes. Thanks for being God's instrument of change.

    1. You are so kind. Glad you heard from God as you read it. I write because it helps me clarify what I'm hearing from God AND because I pray it will minister to others. Bless you my friend.