I've been reading 'Centre Church' by Tim Keller and (after the initial slight shock of realising that I hadn't read anything that required me to concentrate and think quite hard for a bit!) have been challenged and inspired by his perceptive understanding of our human hearts. He talks a lot in the first section about how our sinful hearts have tainted how we understand the gospel. We can be legalists whereby we scold ourselves (but usually others!) for where we fail God's standards (or our perception of what this is) and live life by a rigid routine of works and trying to build up self righteousness. Or we can be relativists - we can claim God isn't bothered about sin and have very loose terms for what the Bible says is right and wrong.
Keller says: "In the end, legalism and relativism in churches are not just equally wrong, they are basically the same thing. They are just different strategies of self salvation built on human effort"
In fact Keller argues that 'self salvation' is our default mode.
This led me to do some soul searching about where I stand. A line in a song I've been listening to has been making me think - "I could hold on, I could hold on to who I am and never let you change me from the inside. I could be safe, I could be safe here in your arms and never leave home, never let these walls down". (All Sons and Daughters. Call Me Higher)
Do I want to spend my life trying to change myself by my own effort? Do I want to spend my life trying to impress others by changing outwardly what they see of me? Do I want to spend my life striving for God's blessing by the stuff I do?
Or do I really want God to change me from the inside?
Outwardly, people in churches can look much the same. The outward appearance of someone's life who is being transformed by God's grace from the inside and the outward appearance of someone who is striving for self salvation can be virtually impossible to separate. I don't want to make myself just look right from the outside - I want the Holy Spirit to transform me from the inside out.
This will mean some scary stuff. It will mean giving over my need for respect, control and power over to God. I don't want my needs to overwhelm me and drive my behaviour. It will mean letting the gospel, the grace of Jesus drive down deep in my life, the gospel must train and discipline my life - I want it to destroy my pride and fearfulness which drives me to self-salvation. In short I want my actions to be motivated by Jesus' grace for me. I want everything I do to be from a desire to "know, resemble, please and love the One who saved me" (Centre Church)