The Futility of Behavior Modification

Jonathan Merritt recently interviewed Tullian Tchividjian, pastor and author of the new book, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World (David C. Cook, 2013).

Tullian is the grandson of Billy Graham. And he seems to have Graham’s gift of stating things very plainly. Listen to what he says.

Tullian claims that grace has been “tragically hijacked by an oppressive religious moralism” that leads to condemning others in and outside the church. For these terrorists, it’s about rules, rules, and more rules!

Sadly, too many churches have helped to perpetuate the impression that Christianity is primarily concerned with legislating morality. Believe it or not, Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good. Too many people have walked away from the church not because they’re walking away from Jesus, but because the church has walked away from Jesus.

That’s a hard pill to swallow for many evangelicals. And I’m glad to hear it coming from a reformed pastor. It needs to be said because it’s true.

I’ve seen it firsthand. I’m sure many of you have as well.

OK, maybe you don’t believe in legislating sin and supporting the Religious Right, but you may need to hear what Tullian says next.  Have you traded your identity in Christ for performance based spirituality?

Ironically, I’ve discovered that the more I focus on my need to get better, the worse I actually get—I become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with our performance over Christ’s performance for us actually hinders spiritual growth because it makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective—the exact opposite of how the Bible describes what it means to be sanctified. Sanctification is forgetting about yourself.

What is the remedy for this neurosis of the soul? It is nothing more than discovering our true identity in the Christ of grace, and replacing our narcissistic self-absorption with an undying concern for others.

Read the full interview: Billy Graham’s grandson takes Christians to task: An interview with Tullian Tchividjian

What do you think about Tullian’s words of challenge and rebuke? How have you been discovering your true identity in Christ?

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David has over 20 years experience as a pastor and teacher in and outside the church. He currently pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Pennsylvania. View all posts by David D. Flowers

6 responses to “The Futility of Behavior Modification

  • Lane Lester

    Thanks for posting that. I’ve sent the full interview transcript to InstaPaper for later reading on my Kindle. From what I’ve read, T’s ideas may benefit me in my own walk with Christ.

  • Jeff

    I’ve been moving more and more in that direction for years, now. I can’t say that I’ve managed to completely shuck the dead weight of that errant theology, but I’m getting closer. It’s tough when you were raised to believe that for decades. But God’s truth is making that change in me. Grace is truly amazing.

  • Dan Roberts

    This article brings to mind one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes (from Mere Christianity). This one paragraph has been a tremendous help to me over the years. It reminds me that I must not look to myself – certainly not to the “good” in me nor the “bad” – but to keep my eyes on God himself (Jesus) if I am to progress in my walk of faith. The quote is: “I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps as a joke. Everyone there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes.”

  • David D. Flowers

    Thanks, Dan. That’s good stuff.

  • Charles Allen-Palmer

    The carnal minded – The Spirit filled – The spirit of error. These are the 3 avenues found within Christianity today. Having done 24 years of intensive study of the Holy Scriptures of the Bible in English, Africaans, Hebrews and Greek, together with the research of Christian behavior today, I can without doubt say that not less than 83% of christians are mind controlled and not God Spirit controlled due to the spirit of error. 1) The carnally minded christian is someone who refuses to let go of his or her worldly standards, and yet, falsely believe that they can please God. What they learn and know about God’s Living Word is not taken serious, and they use it to satisfy their own selfish needs and beliefs. These are the christians who are manipulated, charmed and brain washed by the spirit of error, which works through Preachers and Teachers. The fruits of this can clearly be seen today, which are pride, self-indulgence, greed, self-righteousness, envy, strife and division. These are they who bluntly refuse to accept the God given process of total obedience, perfect love, faith and hope, as they walk their own carnal way and not God’s way. They love to argue and justify their wrongful deeds, and refuse to submit to God’s authority Jesus Christ. 2) Then there are the but few who are God Spirit filled, who show the true Light of Jesus Christ in deed and in truth. These are they who have considered the cost of following The Lord Jesus Christ carefully, and by this, they follow the God given process of total obedience, perfect love, faith and hope, no matter the cost of suffering. These God Spirit christians not only live in the Spirit, but they also walk in the Spirit daily, pleasing God with the deeds of love, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, care, acceptance, understanding, giving and helping those who are in need. These are the christians who reject status, fortune and fame, and live for only one reason, and that reason is the way, the truth and the life of God, Jesus Christ. 3) The spirit of error, which works through many Preachers and Teachers today, so to destoy the Truth of God in every possible way. Their snares are filled with worldly lusts, pleasures and false promises, that lure unstable or ignorant souls into their snares to be captured and slaughtered. With seducing spirits of charm, they mind control their victims, brainwashing them to believe in their most deceitful ways. They promise their victims peace, freedom and prosperity, filling them with false belief and hope for the future. These Preachers and Teachers can clearly be identified by their standards of living. They are normally well groomed, good charmers, filled with financial and materialistic wealth, and with pride they boast about their status, fortune and fame. These are they who live and only concentrate on the rich areas, knowing that the poor cannot supply them with their greedy financial needs. They are expert con- artists and do performances to impress their audiences, so to attract greater attention.

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