by Matt Erickson
Matt Chandler serves as lead pastor of the Village Church, a multisite church across the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. His most recent book and related Bible study, Recovering Redemption, aims to help Christians start living like they actually believe in the power of redemption.
The abundant life Jesus promises His followers is real and available. We asked Matt to talk about our need to “recover redemption.”
Why is change so hard? It can seem as if our only options are giving up or trying harder—yet again, and against all odds. What’s wrong with this picture?
Chandler: Several things collide when we talk about change, sanctification, or transformation. A lot of promises have been made that aren’t rooted in Scripture.
One reason change is difficult for us is that the process moves slower than we want it to. If you grew up in church or you grew up around people who taught the Bible, there’s a perception of a set of silver bullets that will set fire to your relationship with Christ and generate transformation quickly. In reality there aren’t any silver bullets.
I think testimonies of, “I never struggled after that,” or “I got saved and I never craved anymore”—although good and awesome and I praise God for them—are not normative. If that’s the testimony we’re always putting in front of people, then ultimately they can grow disheartened.
Change is difficult for us because our flesh is strong. Yes, Christ is stronger than our flesh, but the process by which He removes those things and transforms us is life-long and not instantaneous.
We need to teach that more clearly, and explain to people the fight to lean in to Jesus and trust Him can last for decades around certain issues that are deeply embedded into our flesh patterns.
Talk about misguided attempts at redemption through: ourselves, others, the world, and religion. Why do these attempts fail us?
Each of these fake saviors we run to end up enslaving us. You can look back on who you were 10 years ago and realize that guy wasn’t as smart, talented, or together as he thought he was. And then 10 years from now you’ll look back on who you are today and think that again.
The idea there will one day be a version of me this side of heaven that satisfies me goes contrary to the Word of God and contrary to our experience and reality. So, when I haven’t put my hope in Jesus, but I’ve put my hope in myself to make me better, I become enslaved to, “I’ve got to get better; I’ve got to do this better,” which results in comparisons to someone else’s perceived success.
And if I think someone else is more successful than me, they become a threat to me. Or if someone fails, then I get to rejoice in those failures because that exalts me. That’s how you enslave yourself when you try to redeem yourself.
If your tendency is to try to redeem yourself through others, then you’ve got relationships where you’re using people to try to feel better about yourself. Once again you’ve enslaved yourself, because their acceptance of you might come and go, where the Lord’s acceptance is steadfast and unmoving.
As for the world and religion—trinkets and toys only satisfy for a certain amount of time, and then we have to have new trinkets and toys. Religion is similar.
Religion is like trusting in yourself and others, except with a choir robe on. So all of these pursuits end up with you being enslaved to them, rather than ending in the rest and freedom found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
How do we experience more of God’s love? Isn’t that the ultimate solution to our wandering hearts?
Experiencing and understanding the supremacy and beauty of Jesus Christ is what we’re looking for that ultimately conquers and overcomes the other desires of our hearts. How we go about it varies, but here is what should be true about everyone: We should be rightly seeing Jesus Christ for who He is and what He has done.
The way we know He is not a god of our own making is through the Word of God. Once we see Jesus for who He is according to the Scriptures, and gain an honest understanding of who we are, we will then begin to marvel at God’s long-suffering with us, His grace and mercy toward us, and His love of us despite us. We will begin to see and savor Jesus like we’ve always wanted to.
The tag team of guilt and shame can do a number on us. Explain the difference between the two, and more important, how we can be free from them.
Guilt is almost always tied to an infraction of some kind. We’ve broken a rule, so we are guilty. If you feel guilty for lying, it’s because you’ve broken the rule, the moral command that says, don’t lie.
But shame doesn’t necessarily work like that. In fact, we can feel shame when there is no breaking of the law at all. We can feel ashamed of where we live, or what we drive, or our level of education.
Another reality is that shame can combine with guilt; breaking a rule can lead to not just guilt, but shame over the infraction. Shame is almost always built around identity and how I see myself. I feel shame when I live in such a way that opposes how I see myself or how I want other people to see me.
For example, if I want people to see me as having it all together and being a hard worker, but in reality I’m lazy, then shame can creep in. So that will hit my heart hard on a day when I haven’t done anything.
Instead of completing the task I was supposed to, I sat on my couch and watched TV for five hours and did nothing else. I see myself as being hard-working and yet the reality of my life is that I’m lazy. When those two things collide, shame is born.
But the answer to both guilt and shame is found once again in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus has taken our guilt upon Himself on the cross and fully absorbed God’s wrath toward our guilt so there is no condemnation left for us.
In fact, in Romans 8, Paul asks who can bring a charge against God’s elect, who can even charge me? Because my sin and guilt have been paid for—it’s not that I am innocent as much as it is I am forgiven and justified completely.
So that takes care of guilt, and then shame can vanish when I understand God’s delight in me as His child. Not only have I been forgiven, but I’ve also been adopted and been called a son. To understand God’s delight in me eradicates and destroys shame in a way nothing else can.
You close the book encouraging us to remember joy is the engine of sustainable growth. Expand on that, please.
The motive behind everything we do is joy. So we all pursue our own joy.
What I wanted to do in the book and even what we want to do here at the Village, is to continually put before people that if Christ is the fullness of life and joy, our pursuit of Christ is a hedonistic pursuit.
We are to pursue Jesus Christ like He is the treasure buried in a field that we would be willing to sell everything in order to have. That’s what I mean by joy being the engine. To pursue joy at all costs. Not just happiness in the moment but deep-seated, sustaining joy in Jesus Christ.
Matt Erickson (@_Matt_Erickson) is managing editor of Facts & Trends.