Notes on what I marked in my copy of Earthen Vessels - Matthew Anderson -
Grace is not a technique.
It is not a magical quality that God dispenses like a candy machine, or the power for self-actualization or personal peace and affluence. It is not a lubricant to get the parts inside working properly. And it is not a three-step program for self-improvement. When we treat grace that way, we surrender to the spirit of our age by fashioning ourselves and our bodies through our own efforts. We don't use grace to shape ourselves - it shapes us into the image of the one who gives it. ~pg.27
I recently pooled a chat group of my oldest friends asking what do y'all think would be an important attribute/characteristic/quality/etc. to begin your 60s with ... what makes the 60s great? One friend answered I would propose grace. She went on to say grace encompasses several things including physical grace,the grace of forgiveness,the grace of knowing when to keep your mouth shut and the grace of knowing the best thing to say or do. The "in and out" on going conversation took a different turn after that one (and only) response. Grace probably is the ultimate answer to that question.
Through grace - the presence of God himself is in our hearts and lives - it is not a technique, it does have a shape. And it looks like Jesus. ~pg.27
Christ is not only the pattern for our lives - he is also the power. ...
The reduction of our lives and morality to a "technique" is at the root of the malaise within the evangelical world. Sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Denton introduced the term moralist therapeutic deism to describe the dominant religion among young people in America. It is deistic because its God is not present or active in the world. It is therapeutic because its benefits involve feeling "good, happy, secure, and at peace." And it is moralistic because it teaches that doing the right thing is central to having a "good and happy life." It is technique - the assertion of our wills on the world - applied to morality. pg.28
Unfortunately, evangelicals sometimes suffer from an anemic understanding of how grace shapes our lives. We alternate between playing the legalistic card when people attempt to draw lines about how Christians should or should not act, and playing the libertine card when others sanction their immoral actions with the gospel. We either have cheap grace or it doesn't exist at all. ~pg.28 A gospel ethic, though, is a normative account of how our lives conform to the pattern of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that is discerned and freely enacted by the power of the Spirit's indwelling presence.(*15 - Donovan's Resurrection and Moral Order is the key text here.)~pg. 29
So what does that mean Matthew Anderson asks ... and suggest that we reconsider and clarify three popular ways in which we talk about ethics:
First we need to guard against conflatulating our understanding of Christian freedom with our culture's premise that freedom is our absolute right to do whatever we want without harming others.
Second - and I put this forward tentatively - I suspect we need to rethink whether conscience is an adequate guide for how we live in the body. ... Specifically, if my conscience did not trouble me and the action in consideration was not explicitly commanded or prohibited in the Scripture, then I was "free" to move ahead. But if the conscience is a faculty like the mind or the heart, then it too is fallen - which means it needs to be brought into conformity with Scripture, the authoritative witness to the reality of Christ's death and resurrection, and is insufficient as a guide to how we should love our neighbors as ourselves.~pg.29
(In the margin I wrote - numbed conscience shaped by repetitive sin and societal norms. I believe that "repentance" is not just saying "I'm sorry", it includes stopping doing whatever it is one is "sorry" for doing.)
Third, ... our experiences are an inadequate guide for determining how we should live ... . ...We must always evaluate our own circumstances and experiences in light of the authoritative Word of God. ~pg.30