Setting them up for failure ... even in success

Can you live the Christian life without God's help?

This has proven surprisingly difficult to answer.

The question came up this week.  Talking with Bill, our faithful campus minister on the West Coast of Florida, I realized that I didn't have an easy answer.

Bill's campus received a visit from a megaphone man.  Not the Westboro gang.  Someone more gentle.  A brother in Christ, perhaps even a co-laborer.  But a megaphone man nonetheless.

I've had rough experiences with megaphone men.  They shout without gentleness.  They call names without knowledge.  They seek to overpower hell's gates using hell's tactics, without success.

The Jesus who ate with tax collectors and prostitutes ... soft on sin, liberal.  The Jesus who went to the cross ... unwilling to stand up for truth, a coward. 

The megaphone men may be my brothers, my older brothers, ever at home with the Father, ever unaware of his love.

But I overreact to megaphone men.  And that confuses things.

Can you live the Christian life without God's help?

Jesus called people to repent.  He joined John the Baptist, calling people to turn from their old ways of life.  And, especially at first, this call to repentance didn't always involve what I'd expect.  Instead of saying "Follow me," sometimes Jesus said "Go and sin no more."  And that was it.

On top of this, let's be honest.  Even though God impacts Christians' lives daily, none of us perfectly live according to his commands.  The deeper I dig, the more brokenness I find.  And so I wonder, at times, if it's possible to live the Christian life ... even with God's help.

And this, for me, revealed the problem.

I often, mistakenly think of "the Christian life" as mere obedience to God's commands.  So do the megaphone men.

But what if "the Christian life" oriented around something bigger than obedience?  Something larger.  Something more basic.  Something that could command or draw out obedience.

Can you life the Christian life without God's help?  No.

The Christian life is the life lived with God.  Relationship.

Relationship with God always comes with help from God.

So, what happens when we call people to repent and behave apart from a relationship with God?  Governments and parental units may need to do this, but pastors and preachers and campus ministers do not.

There's no excuse for preaching law without gospel.

We will either exasperate our people or deceive them.  The exasperation comes when they try to obey God apart from a relationship with him ... and fail.  The deception comes when they succeed in their obedience (or believe that they have).

Can you imagine anything worse than the megaphone men getting what they want?  Imagine everyone on campus behaving themselves.  Now, imagine everyone believing they are on good terms with God because no one yells at them any more.  Their shame is gone, but their guilt remains.  And they will never have known God.

What can we do to prevent this tragedy?

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