Liberate

We Are Seasoned Do-It-Yourselfers

Thanks to my good friends Mike Horton, Rod Rosenbladt, and Shane Rosenthal from The White Horse Inn, I was introduced to Harold Senkbeil. Dr. Senkbeil is a confessional Lutheran theologian who for many years served as Associate Professor in the Pastoral Ministry and Missions Department of Concordia Theological Seminary. He’s the author of many books including the one I’m reading right now entitled Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness. You’ll be hearing more from me about Senkbeil, but this section on page 170 that I read last night is too good not to share right away.

Speaking specifically to Christians, he writes:

Our Heavenly Father attaches no strings to His love. His love for us doesn’t depend on our love for others. Our relationship with the Father was established long ago, in the body and blood of His Son. Jesus Christ erased all our sins and shouldered all our sorrows. Already now we have a solid relationship with our heavenly Father; there’s no need to fret about it. That relationship doesn’t depend on our love for Him, but on His love for us. It hinges on the Gospel of God, not the Law of God…Again, the Old Adam betrays us. Our sinful nature would much rather hear Law than Gospel. The sinful nature is a seasoned do-it-yourselfer. We’d rather know what we should do, yet God insists on telling us who we are. The best way to tell you what to do as a Christian is to tell you who you are in Christ. The sinful nature likes to think it can earn (and keep) God’s favor. Our Old Adam prefers to base security with God the Father on His Law rather than His Gospel.

What Senkbeil gets at in this section is the fact that we are, without question, a society of doers. Ever since the Enlightenment, we’ve been told in a thousand different ways that accomplishment precedes acceptance; that achievement precedes approval. And since we all long for affirmation and validation, we set out to prove our worth by working. Unwittingly, Christians in this cultural context have absorbed this mentality and taken it into their relationship with God and their understanding of the Christian life. Even when Jesus was asked in John 6:28, “What must we do to be doing the works of God?” he answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him who he sent.” What? That’s it? There’s has to be more work for us to do than that!

As it was with Martha in Luke 10:38-42, so it is with us: we just have to be doing something. We can’t sit still. Achieving, not receiving, has become the mark of spiritual maturity. With this in mind, Martin Luther wrote, “To be convinced in our hearts that we have forgiveness of sins and peace with God by grace alone is the hardest thing.” The hardest thing to do even as believers in Christ is to simply sit down and receive something, which is why Mike Horton titled one of the chapters in his book The Gospel-Driven Life, “Don’t Just Do Something Sit There.”

As I mentioned a few posts ago, preachers these days are expected to provide a practical “to-do” list, rather than announce, “It is finished.” They are expected to do something more than placard before their congregations eyes Christ’s finished work, preaching a full absolution solely on the basis of the complete righteousness of Another. It’s important to remember that the application that defines Christians is the application of Christ’s work to them, not their work for Christ.

John Piper once asked, “How do you glorify a water fountain? Come thirsty and drink!” Jesus is not glorified by our “doing” things for him. He is glorified by our resting in, and receiving, what he’s done for us.

17 Comments
  • Mike says:

    That is a great quote.

  • BlaCorc says:

    Jeff Dunn over at internet monk wrote this recently:

    Grace makes us angry, for God’s grace has nothing to do with us and our efforts. We play no part in grace any more than Lazarus did in his resurrection: All we are is dead. We fight death with everything in us. That’s our nature. A drowning man flails and thrashes with all of his might to stay above water. So when we are told we need to sink beneath the waves and die, we fight this notion mightily.

  • Steve Martin says:

    Yeah, but we want to see something. We want proof. We are living, breathing beings so we need something tangible to hang our hats on.

    That si why God said, “whoever does not eat my body and drink my blood has no life in them.”

    So God in Christ Jesus commanded Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Tangible acts that He has performed…for us…that we might have that assurance and be able to rest in Him without engaging in spiritual ladder climbing.

    Luther had it right. Zwingli didn’t get it.

  • Walter Flach, Geneva-CH says:

    Hi Tullian,

    Your Gospel messages make my heart dance, dance, dance! It is my prayer that the LORD will raise up a new generation of Grace preachers like you. We so desperately need it that our heart-breaking cry “I believe, help my unbelief” becomes a daily reality. Only the Gospel of Grace can do that!

  • Mark says:

    It’s surprising how hard it is to stop doing and start trusting Christ and going to him to receive. You would think that receiving freely would come easy but like this article says, our human nature demands that we are self-sufficient. Thanks Tullian for always remeinding me to look at the objective truth of my position before God because of the cross. Knowing that my righteousness was purchased 2000 years ago takes the wind out of my self-sufficient sails.

  • […] ht:Tullian Tchividjian ← On Truth – 2 Helpful Links […]

  • Kathy Morse says:

    From the opinion of a sometime prostitute/tax collector sometime Pharisee today’s sermon was the best yet. (not that my opinion holds weight) I just wanted to put my self-righteous 2 cents in. :o)
    …interesting what happens when we let go and let God…

  • PQD says:

    Although, Horton’s quote, “Don’t Just Do Something Sit There,” may not be very helpful in the broader sense.

    What happens when I ask my child to do his chores and they respond to us, “I’ll not do anything, we’ll just sit there!”

  • Jimmy Elliott says:

    Thanks Tullian once again for drawing my mind back to what God has done for us in Christ. Your articles always massage my heart in the grace of our Lord. I desperately need that all the time. I would also recommend Harold Senkbeil’s book on Sanctification. It is a very good read. I will have to read this one on forgiveness also. Sounds good. Thanks again for you ministry.

  • paul st.jean says:

    Pastor
    Michael Horton also said in “The Gospel Driven Life”
    “Don’t just sit there, go! There is a time to sit and there is a time to stand and there is a time to go; a time to be a passive recipient of grace and a time to be an active witness and servant.
    which was a relief to me because i like balance.

  • […] Tullian Tchividjian: Thanks to my good friends Mike Horton, Rod Rosenbladt, and Shane Rosenthal from The White Horse Inn, I was introduced to Harold Senkbeil. Dr. Senkbeil is a confessional Lutheran theologian who for many years served as Associate Professor in the Pastoral Ministry and Missions Department of Concordia Theological Seminary. He’s the author of many books including the one I’m reading right now entitled Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness. You’ll be hearing more from me about Senkbeil, but this section on page 170 that I read last night is too good not to share right away. […]

  • John Thomson says:

    Absolutely true at the most fundamental level. Has to be balanced however by

    Matt 5:7 (ESV)
    “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

    Matt 6:14-15 (ESV)
    For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

  • C says:

    Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)
    And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

    This is all in His plan. But even the witnessing, building up others, etc that we do is COMPLETELY of grace (see below), i.e. “created in Christ Jesus for good works, WHICH GOD PREPARED BEFOREHAND, that we should walk in them”. So, rather than a balance (i.e. one-way grace from God balanced with us doing good works, so it’s not just “getting and never giving”), even our good works that we do here on earth are grace from God (in the sense that Paul uses it in Gal 2:9, Eph 3:7, etc), just as our salvation is a free gift, of one-way grace from God, “so that no one may boast [in their works before God].”(Eph 2:9)

  • Man, this is so good to hear. No matter how many times (or ways) I hear it, “Yes, Jesus loves me” never gets old.

  • […] We Are Seasoned Do-It-Yourselfers (by Tullian Tchividjian) As it was with Martha in Luke 10:38-42, so it is with us: we just have to be doing something. We can’t sit still. Achieving, not receiving, has become the mark of spiritual maturity. With this in mind, Martin Luther wrote, “To be convinced in our hearts that we have forgiveness of sins and peace with God by grace alone is the hardest thing.” The hardest thing to do even as believers in Christ is to simply sit down and receive something… […]

  • David L. says:

    Amen. We are not saved by grace through faithfulness, we are saved by grace through faith in Christ’s faithfulness.

  • […] have been reading over and over a blog post about how we are "do-it-yourselfers" and the hardest thing for us to believe is that […]

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