This one was written by our fallen friend, Julian Brooks.


A few years back I was blindsided by the Gospel of Grace. Things I had heard for years about God’s love and forgiveness started to take on flesh and become more than just recited truths; they became a living person. And that’s when the downward spiral began. I started falling away. Everyone warned me this would happen if I focused too much on God’s love and forgiveness. I just didn’t expect it to happen so fast. The world of control and manipulation around which I had built my life and identity was collapsing. I have fallen from Law, and now I can’t get up.

There are moments when I read something or hear a quote from my past, and I realize just how far I have fallen. One quote in particular jumped out at me the other day…perhaps you’ve heard it before: “Is what you’re living for worth Christ dying for?” The credit for that one goes to the late great Leonard Ravenhill. Definitely a challenging question. One that used to haunt me. And by ‘haunt’ I mean literally—this quote is the inscription on Ravenhill’s tombstone. It had such an impact on me that I couldn’t preach a sermon without referencing it. “Are you sure you are living the life Jesus Christ would want you to live?” “Are you doing enough?” “Are you wasting your life? Yes, God loves you, but you can’t just sit around and not even try to get better.” Sound familiar? I wouldn’t doubt that many of you reading this have heard similar questions, or the above Ravenhill quote, dished out in a variety of ways. This was my life before, and great was the fall from it.

And because I hate being alone, I’ve done my best to take down anyone I can with me. Just to make sure I wasn’t the only one losing it, I asked a few of my fallen comrades what they thought of Ravenhill’s question. I asked them two things. “What is your first reaction to a question like this?” Followed by: “Would you classify this as Law or Gospel?”

Oh how I have ruined the lot of them. Without fail, the question made them think about their lives and failures. It made them want to take their Christianity more seriously. And they all claimed it must be Law, because it produced the stinging awareness of sin in their lives. Now all that is fine and dandy. In fact, the Law is a necessary word that God gives us; it’s one we need to hear. But the problem is that when God’s Law, which is sent to diagnose us, is not followed with a word of deliverance, or if we are told that his word of diagnosis is also his word of deliverance, we only harm and hurt, and perhaps even destroy, lives.

This little rant isn’t meant to start a theological debate with a dead saint. I do not even mean to criticize anything about Ravenhill’s life. But his question, when left to itself, uses what God has given to absolve us of guilt as a way to motivate us with guilt. It takes the very thing God uses to save us from ourselves and twists it back into another self-salvation project. It’s frustratingly anti-gospel without God’s final word. The cross is the one place where we find relief from a world that screams that we need to make ourselves count. It’s the one place where the Law can no longer declare us guilty. And its purpose is not to squeeze us into excelling more at morality. The cross by itself declares our lives worthy in spite of us.

“Is what you’re living for worth Christ dying for?” It’s ironic question to say the least. I’m guessing its intent is to cause someone to make his or her life more about Christ. And yet it only makes things more about ourselves. From my place in the distant camp of the fallen antinomians, I’ve noticed that this question strongly implies that grace was and is nothing but a loan. Yes, God gives us what we don’t deserve, but in the end, did we do enough to deserve it? It’s so subtle and yet so silly. In the end really nothing was free. And God, didn’t actually love us unconditionally–he simply saw that we had some potential, that we were people who needed a second chance but not a total resurrection.

Now to answer the question. After all, fall from Law or not, we should give a proper answer to such a pertinent question. I would have to say, “No.” When I get to heaven and I’m sitting around the dining table with Mr. Ravenhill and we look up at that spotless lamb, I doubt there will be anyone who, in light of him, will say that they lived a life worthy of his death. When we see him there, wounded from before the foundations of the earth, we will say, “I do believe not a one was worthy. And yet here we are.” For whatever reason, he did die for me, and through his death I was once and for all declared worthy.