Womanhood, Idolatry, and Gospel Amnesia

Idolatry surprises me, time and time again startling me with its craftiness. When I walked away from feminism to a biblical model of gender roles, I assumed that I was walking away from the obsession with “I am an intelligent and undeniably independent woman, hear me roar!”

Read the rest of my post over at CBMW

The Young Restless and Reformed, and Gospel Amnesia

Gospel Amnesia is now available in print and can be ordered here from Amazon. I get asked sometimes who I would recommend the book to and there’s one group in particular that I think may benefit from my book—not because they have gospel amnesia—but because I see small seeds within this group which can, not necessarily will, blossom into gospel amnesia.

The other day the New York Times did an article on a movement that is influencing people in their 20′s and 30′s—the New Calvinists, or, The Young Restless and Reformed (YRR). I didn’t think the article was particularly well done, nor did it articulate the Calvinist or Reformed Christian faith very well. They did, however, use a good quote from Collin Hansen and that’s something to be thankful for. All of this made me think about the Young Restless and Reformed and the objective reality that I really do see God bringing about a revival of the gospel in his Church through a revival of gospel-centered Calvinists—which I rejoice in. But I’m somewhat older than the YRR crowd, and because of what I’ve gone through I would recommend to those who consider themselves in that group—or those who would identify theologically with that group—to take the time to read Gospel Amnesia.

I guess I was a Calvinist before Calvinism was cool—to use a borrowed phrase from notable hipster Barbara Mandrell. And because of it, I’ve seen some things many YRRs haven’t seen yet. My husband and I had older friends (sometime in between our cage stage and our gospel amnesia days) counsel us and warn us about faith-shipwrecking trends they had seen in the Reformed church decades before, but in our enthusiasm and resolve we silently scoffed and ignored their advice, because things were different this time.

I think especially as the YRR movement and its people mature and get older, their understanding of what they believe and how to exercise those beliefs will be tempered a bit, but in God’s grace will be no less faithful or evangelical. I hope the “Y” in YRR is self-consciously teachable because of their youth. I’ve fallen and scuffed my knees a lot; there are lessons I can give, and many lessons I still need to learn myself.

And so I would like to offer up Gospel Amnesia, as a book to read and ask yourselves if you see the seeds of what I write about in your life or in your church. What would happen if those seeds grew and blossomed—can you see the logical trajectory? Can you see the seeds of progressing past the gospel as you “move on” and “mature” in your theology and sanctification? I wrote Gospel Amnesia with a firm belief that God will use it not only for those who have marginalized the gospel, but for those who are still excited about it.

Gospel Amnesia—An Interview

From the GCD Interview:

Luma Simms recently wrote Gospel Amnesia for GCD Books and it has helped many people see the gospel in a new way or even for the first time! In preparation for the release of the paperback version of the book, we asked Luma a few questions.

In a sentence, how would you define “gospel amnesia”?

Gospel amnesia is a name for the state of a Christian life that is characterized by marginalization, suppression, or degradation of one’s consciousness of the gospel.

You say in the book that you suffered from gospel amnesia. What did this look like in your life?

Gospel amnesia manifested itself in my life in a variety of ways. One which stands out to me is what I call Progression Mode. I truly believed I had progressed past (matured beyond) the gospel because I thought of the gospel as a simple proposition—Jesus died on the cross for your sins (i.e. justification)—and then we move on. I was obsessed with becoming “more sanctified.” This “sanctification” turned into a long list of extra-biblical life choices I had raised to the level of salvific importance. Another manifestation of gospel amnesia in my life was a heart full of scorn, criticism and derision for any Christian or church which did not believe what I believed, and practice all the secondary issues I had raised to primary importance.

How does the gospel fight against this type of amnesia?

The cross work of Jesus Christ tethers you to the reality of who you are as a human being. At the foot of the cross, arrogance, anger, and angst melt away and our anthropocentric existence breaks down. The beauty at the heart of the gospel is the cross work of Jesus Christ. When the person of Christ, when Jesus, becomes a conscious presence in our life—and this happens as we meditate, dwell, and preach the gospel to ourselves every day—it staves off our tendency toward amnesia.

What unique message does this book have to offer?

Many people talk about “forgetting” the gospel, often in the context of carelessness or lukewarmness. What is unique about Gospel Amnesia is that I also point out the often intentional efforts we in our sinful hearts make that end up pushing the gospel out of our consciousness, and I try to show exactly what that looks like for individuals, churches, denominations, and the Church corporately.

You can also check out other interviews with Luma here and see the book’s page with endorsements here.

You can find the interview and check out other articles and books from GCD, here.

Standing Against the Prosperity Gospel

I know from my missionary friends in Zambia and from following Pastor Conrad Mbewe that the prosperity gospel is ravaging the African Church. The prosperity gospel subverts the glorious gospel of God even here in America. Here is a short video from John Piper:

God Honors the Needle of Truth in a Haystack of Error

Photo credit: Michael Gil

The title is a quote from J. I. Packer and I have been thinking a lot about it as I pursue correcting the errors of my former (and present) theology. It’s hard. It’s hard to stare at the untouched cello in the corner or at ficus trees outside my window and beg and plead to understand who God is and what he has done in Christ Jesus.

I’m scared, I’m scared to get things wrong, to get wrapped up and out of proportion, to forget the gospel again and sink back into that darkness which still clings to my heels.

I know one thing, I love Jesus. As I probe for him, he has promised to be found by me—even if it takes a lifetime, and an eternity thereafter.

God honors the needle of truth in a haystack of error.—J. I. Packer

 

On Scoffing

Yesterday’s Lord’s Day quote was Psalm 1. I’ve spent the last three years meditating on this Psalm and the ways I have trespassed it.

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,

Psalm 1:1 (NIV)

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

Psalm 1:1 (ESV)

To scoff means to deride, sneer at, mock, ridicule, dismiss, laugh at, and belittle. Does this heart attitude match up with the gospel? Would we consider this a fruit of the Spirit? How often do we really see it used as a “technique” by Jesus or the Apostles?

If we mock the unbeliever or a fellow Christian, we are acting like the wicked, we are sitting in the seat of scoffers. Can a Christian who is saved by the blood of Jesus act in this way? Yes. It didn’t un–Christian me when I sat in the seat of the scoffers. But my words and attitude brought shame to the name of Christ. This sin grieves me deeply. Because I’m well acquainted with it, and because I constantly war against it, I spot it in others, and not rarely enough, find myself scoffing at them for it.

I wrote in Gospel Amnesia that I am concerned about this attitude in the Church. I’m troubled not only because of the witness before an increasingly secular culture, but because what this sin does to individual souls. If you scoff at a brother or sister in Christ then you have forgotten the gospel. If you scoff at an unbeliever, then you have forgotten the gospel. Our hearts are very good at justifying us. Under the cover of “speaking the truth in love,” “sound doctrine,” “fighting for the faith,” “rebuking a brother,” “playing Elijah to Baal of the world,” and so on, we have stumbled brethren, wounded tender consciences, and brought shame to the gospel we think we are “contending” for.

“You are what you worship” may have become a cliche but it is true. Paul says “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1). As someone who has so often fallen in this area I urge you to be careful whom you “follow” and “imitate.” When we imbibe too much from the well of scoffers (no matter under what cover they sell their wares) our souls will imitate.

When our hearts have been transformed by the gospel we remember who we were and could have been, but for the grace of God. Remembering softens our hearts. Softened hearts are strong, strong enough to be longsuffering with the unbeliever and the brethren. Softened hearts are not exacting. Softened hearts give room for the Holy Spirit to do his work in the lives of others. Softened hearts do not equal cowardice or impotence. A softened heart is a meek heart. And if we truly worship Jesus, we will not scoff at a meek heart. After all, our God was not ashamed to say that he is gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11:29).

Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home

In Gospel Amnesia, I discuss one of my biggest idols: the desire to be a godly parent. I know it may sound paradoxical. After all, which Christian parent doesn’t want to be a “godly parent.” And besides, aren’t we commanded in the Scriptures to be godly parents?

You can find the rest of my article over at GCD.

A Glimpse of Grace Will Dispel Gospel Amnesia

I write poetry. From time to time I publish some of them on the blog. Today’s poem is my lighthearted way of breaking up some of my somber philosophical posts. It traces some of my thoughts and feelings as I read my friend, Gloria Furman’s book Glimpses of Grace.  (My full review and recommendation will be published at Gospel Centered Discipleship.) This book softened the heart of a woman like me—a woman who became cynical after over–dosing on motherhood books, a woman who spent years preferring “godly living” books above the gospel. If you don’t want women around you to sink into the darkness of gospel amnesia, like I did, give them an offensive weapon—a copy of Glimpses of Grace, the anti–gospel amnesia book.

A GLIMPSE OF GRACE WILL DISPEL GOSPEL AMNESIA

When I am weak, old, and fragile,
Thin will be the veil.
Long gone my alacrity,
I settle and exhale.

The taste of venom,
Long gone from the memory of my tongue.
Washed away by grace
Back when renewal begun.

Motherhood years
Confusion, darkness, and idolatry,
Left my soul desolate.
Gospel amnesia controlled identity.

Warring against cynicism and disillusionment,
Soul sickness welled up at the sight,
Closing my eyes, turning my back,
On a long line of motherhood advice.

With the tang of weariness,
Flirting on the senses,
Glimpses of Grace proceeded,
To bring down my defenses.

Tenderness, tears, and gospel treasure
Set wisdom accruing.
Unlocking the joy once more,
Setting aside the stewing.

Dispelling gospel amnesia,
Glimpses of Grace,
Restores the treasure of the gospel,
To my home, to my faith race.

It’s All About Me

Photo Credit: John Taylor

Sunday evening we were at a leadership training session at our church when the speaker said something that stuck with me. He pointed out our tendency toward selfishness, etc. and in so doing used the phrase, “It’s all about me.” Although I’ve heard that phrase countless times inside and outside of church over the years, on Sunday night it had a different nuance and my mind filled with some of the thoughts I have written in Gospel Amnesia.

A good tell–tale sign that we have forgotten, assumed or marginalized the gospel in conservative circles, is when we move toward a sanctification–centered theology. There is nothing wrong with desiring spiritual growth and maturity, but the bottom line truth is, that’s not what the Christian life is about. Sanctification or better yet, progressive sanctification, is an ancillary benefit to a life lived for the sake of Jesus Christ and a life centered around him.

Part of the problem of a sanctification–centered theology is that in spite of the fact that it looks like an honorable goal, it is actually selfish to the core. It is one of the best tools Satan can use to distract Christians. Sanctification–centered theology is a me–centered theology, it is replacing God and his gospel with me, my personal spiritual and physical welfare.

So what does a sanctification–centered theology look like? (a) My personal sanctification/godliness and that of my family is my number one priority and is the center of my thought life. (b) All decisions I make for myself or my family are centered around and tested by “will this make me more godly?” (c) A preoccupation with where I am in progressive sanctification. (d) The work and ministry I perform is all gauged by how it will affect my sanctification/spiritual maturity. (e) My doctrine will tend to focus on a strict “rightness,” including the rightness of my focus on rightness. And we can keep going, but these examples should suffice.

Someone might wonder, “well what’s wrong with those things, what’s wrong with desiring to be more godly?” A better question to ask is: What should be the ultimate desire and longing for a Christian? It is desiring God! It is desiring the person of Christ, not of his benefits—which is what sanctification is. Sanctification is a free gift of grace, it is the fruit of the Spirit, it is the beauty of being transformed more into the image of Christ. Christ is supreme, not sanctification. Because Christ is to be worshiped, not our glorified selves. A sanctification–centered theology is a worship of self. A gospel–centered/Christ–centered theology is the worship of the living God.