I got this email yesterday and it is one I get a lot from people who are trying to rethink the nature of sanctification outside the religious process of setting expectations and trying to coform people to them. I don’t that that’s exactly what this brother was asking, but it does invite that deeper dialog.
Does God change us by setting a standard and holding us to account, or has he prepared a better way for us? Here is the question that got this rolling in my mind:
I’m confused as to how to distinguish between what you call “performance-based establishments” and churches with biblical expectations. The scripture clearly lays out some expectations for overseers and deacons (as just one example), but of course these expectations shouldn’t be interpreted as a reflection upon earning one’s salvation. Isn’t there a way to maintain the biblical expectations for the church without undermining the truth of grace in salvation?
â€˜Expectationsâ€™ isnâ€™t one of my favorite words. It kind of reverses the process by which transformation takes place, though I realize you might be using it in a wholly different context than I hear it.
In my mind â€˜performance-based establishmentsâ€™ use guilt and pressure to conform peopleâ€™s behavior. I think Galatians is makes it clear that this process isnâ€™t necessarily evil, it just doesnâ€™t work. The law may get people to ACT different in the short term, but it cannot transform them from the inside. Elsewhere Pauls says law only adds to our sin by increasing our temptation and multiplying our shame.
On the other hand nonperformance-based environments will extend people the authentic grace of Jesus as it invites them into a relationship with him that will transform them from the inside. So while the goal is still the sameâ€”being transformed into his imageâ€”the process is vastly different. And they wouldnâ€™t see the attributes of an elder in Timothy and Titus to be an expectation to perform to, but the fruit of Godâ€™s transformation evidenced in their daily lives. Remember, the â€˜eldersâ€™ in Ephesus and Crete didnâ€™t have those lists BEFORE they were â€˜appointedâ€™ by Timothy and Titus. This was not something they tried to live up to, but rather what had become true of them out of their relationship with him.
Thus a performance-based environment will be one where people feel they have to pretend, are looked down upon when they donâ€™t measure up, and usually picks on the obvious sins of sexual brokenness or the obvious failures that impact the institution, such as giving and attendance. But they ignore the weightier issues of spiritual arrogance, greed and gossip. Nonperformance-based environments encourage people to be authentic even in their doubts and struggles realizing that it is only Jesus who change us and thus none of us end up with anything to boast about, nor to look down on others…
If we introduce people to the living Jesus, we donâ€™t need to â€œmaintain biblical expectations without undermining the truth of grace. They will WANT to be like him and as they learn to live loved and love, they will keep the entire law. I donâ€™t think the new covenant changed the outcome God wants in us, but id did change significantly our perception of the process.