Today's guest is Andrew Farley. Lead teaching pastor of Ecclesia (ChurchWithoutReligion.com), Andrew us also a co-host of “Real Life in Christ,” a television program that challenges many long-held notions about Christian living. “Real Life in Christ” airs every Wednesday morning on ABC-TV in west Texas and New Mexico. Andrew is also a tenured professor at Texas Tech University where he teaches courses in linguistics and an Honors course titled “Early Church and Contemporary Christianity in Conflict.” Andrew enjoys snowboarding, wake boarding, surfing, tennis, golf, and just about any other sideways sport. He resides in west Texas with his wife, Katharine, and their son, Gavin.
And now without further delay, on to the questions:
The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in Church (an Interview with Andrew Farley)
Question 1: Can you explain your book, The Naked Gospel, in a nutshell?
Andrew: Yeah, I found myself lying on the floor of my apartment, begging God for answers. I was saying, "God, I'm doing everything they say to do. I'm reading my Bible four or five hours a day. I'm sharing my faith with everybody I meet. I'm at church every time the doors are open. But I still don't feel like I'm growing spiritually. I'm stalled, and I can't explain why. You say the truth will set me free. I'm anything but free!"
I needed God to start all over with me, and He did. Although I was already a Christian, my belief system was poisoned with religiosity. Over the next ten years, I began replacing old thoughts with new thoughts. And it changed everything for me.
Back then, if I were honest and vulnerable, my sales pitch would have been, "Would you like to become a Christian and be miserable like me?" But today I'd wish my Christian experience on everyone. I've learned some radical, Scriptural truths that were right there in the Bible, that I never knew existed. That's why I wrote the book - to share with others the radical truths that absolutely revolutionized my life.
The Naked Gospel serves as an intravenous shot of unadulterated truth that will stir us and perhaps even rattle some of us into considering how we've added to the gospel and hindered the pure power of "Jesus plus nothing" in our everyday lives.
Question 2: You tackle issues which would be considered almost sacred and untouchable to some churches. Have you received much negative feedback?
Andrew: When some hear they can be free from religion and only need Jesus for daily living, they call the idea "naive." When some hear that Christians are totally forgiven for all sins - past, present, and future - no matter what, they actually get mad. They call that one a "license to sin."
I call it the Gospel. If you're not being falsely accused of promoting a "license to sin" then you're probably not teaching the Gospel. The Apostle Paul was falsely accused of speaking out against Moses and the law. He also had to constantly answer this one: "Well, then, why don't we just go out and sin so that grace can increase?"
We Christians should be accused of these things on a regular basis. Otherwise, I'm afraid we're peddling a powerless gospel of "Jesus plus something."
So far, The Naked Gospel has received one of two reactions - people love it or hate it. I've been called names. Because of my treatment on tithing versus free-will giving, I've been told the book will harm America's churches.
But I've also heard lots of people say things like, "it totally changed my life," and "I'll never be the same again."
It's no fun to be accused, but it's very rewarding to see people go free. It appears that some may speak out against the book. But it also appears that the book will free lots of people to enjoy the simple, powerful message of "Jesus Plus Nothing."
And that's what it's all about.
Question 3: This book is about the old way of Jewish Law and God's New Covenant of grace. How receptive are most people when you broach the subject?
Andrew: Yes, the core of the book is about a Great Divide at the cross between the old way of the Law and the new way of the New Covenant. And this is the subject that seems to be most controversial about the book.
Primarily, Christians fall into two categories of thinking about the Law. Once view is that the Mosaic Law, or a select part of it, is needed as a moral guideline for the Christian's daily life. The other view is that the Christian should have no relationship with the Law after salvation and that the indwelling Christ, the fruit of His Spirit (love, patience, self-control, etc.), and New Testament behavior verses are sufficient to guide a Christian's daily life.
Only one of these two views can possibly be Scriptural, and the other view should not find any support at all. In fact, the inaccurate view should require a "re-writing" of Scripture.
Here are just a few Scriptural facts concerning the Christian's relationship to the Law:
1. We Christians died to the Law. (Romans 7:4; Galatians 2:19)
2. We Christians are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:18; Romans 6:14)
3. We Christians are not supervised by the Law. (Galatians 3:25)
4. We Christians are not perfected by the Law. (Galatians 3:2-3)
5. We Christians shouldn't even live by rules. (Colossians 2:20-23)
Now, based on the passages above, what kind of relationship do you think we Christians should have with the Law? To claim that the Law is intended to guide a Christian's daily life requires a rewriting of Scripture. Essentially, it requires taking all of the above passages and adding the phrase n"for salvation only" to each one. Examples of this rewriting of Scripture would be: 'we died to the law for salvation only," "we are not under the Law for salvation only," etc. These theological gymnastics simply display our lack of confidence in Jesus for every ounce of daily living.
Immorality is not a concern if we depend on the indwelling Christ for our daily lives. Jesus is not passive. Jesus in us is not passive. We are told very clearly of the life He will produce: love, patience, gentleness, self-control, etc. And Romans 7 speaks of our death to the Law, our marriage to Jesus, and our reliance on Him for bearing fruit on a daily basis:
"Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God." (Romans 7:4)
How do we bear fruit? Through our death to the Law. How do we bear fruit? Through our marriage to Jesus Christ. Why cheat on Jesus when He will produce the upright living that being under Law never could? So if having no relationship with the Law and depending exclusively on Jesus for daily living is naive and absurd, I am privileged to be naive and honored to be absurd.
Question 4: Why do you think so many of us are not walking in our identity?
Andrew: The gospel needs to be taught in its fullness. Right now, it feels like we're peddling a half-gospel that promises forgiveness of some sort (Catholic-style: only if you ask for it), a new destination some day (Heaven), and some self-improvement tactics along the way. My
hope is that we'll learn more about the reality of what it means to be raised and seated with Christ (Ephesians 2:6) as new creations that don't really want to sin. Then, we can stop thinking we have "wicked hearts" and that we're "dirty sinners like everyone else."
We have new hearts, new minds, new spirits, and God's Spirit living in us (Ezekiel 36:26). We're not sinners by nature. We're saints! Yes, we sin. But we are not what we do. That's the whole point of the gospel. Through a spiritual DNA swap, we literally and actually become new at the core. We participate in God's divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
But it's hard for us to buy into all of this, because it came to us a gift. We want to believe we play a role in deserving it. But when God gives us a gift (in the case, the gift new life and righteousness), here's what we should do with it: Own it.
Question 5: What would be your prayer for the Body of Christ as a whole?
Andrew: There's one truth that seems to be clearing up a whole lot for people who struggle with performance-oriented Christianity. It involves drawing a line at the proper place as we distinguish the Old way of Jewish religion from the New way of grace through Jesus. In my teaching, I constantly highlight this Great Divide.
Here's the point. It's not baby Jesus lying in the manger in Matthew 1 that changed everything for us. But with our "New Testament" divider page placed before Matthew 1, we can lose sight of the fact that Jesus' death, not His birth, initiated the New Testament era (see Hebrews 9:16-17). Therefore, Jesus was born under law. And much of Jesus' teaching was aimed at redeeming those who were under law (Galatians 4:4-5). He told them to gouge out their eyes and cut off their hands in their fight against sin. He also said to be perfect just like God. Pretty high standards, I think. If we Christians were truly following those teachings, and not watering them down or dismissing them, today's churches would look much like an amputation ward at the local hospital.
Instead, we recognize on some level that Jesus was placing demands on His Jewish listeners that were just too great. We see this with the Sermon on the Mount, and with the rich man too. Jesus told him to sell everything. Sell everything, really? Yes, Jesus said to sell everything in order to enter the Kingdom. But today, we don't preach this. You'll never see an evangelist telling people to go home and list all their belongings on eBay in order to enter the Kingdom. Why not? Those are Jesus' own words, aren't they?
On some level, we see that Jesus' death, not His birth in Matthew 1 changed everything for us. There are sweeping implications of this dividing line for how we study the Bible - the teachings of Jesus - and how we relate to God and live life. I believe the truth of the New Covenant beginning at Jesus' death (not His birth) as communicated in Hebrews 9:16-17 and Galatians 4:4-5 is largely neglected today. This neglect has led us to a confusing law-grace hybrid that we've excepted as the norm.
We need to get back to normal Christianity, which is life lived exclusively under the New Covenant. It is a life motivated by grace through God's indwelling Spirit. And it is a beautiful life. I attended numerous churches for more than a decade before I ever heard one single message on the New Covenant. We as the Church need to realize how different the New is from the Old, and what makes our relationship with God so incredible on this side of the cross.
This is my prayer for the Body of Christ.
Thank you so much Andrew for this in depth interview.
Andrew: Thank you for this opportunity. I appreciate you, and the privilege of being interviewed.
There you have it. I would encourage you to pick up a copy of The Naked Gospel today. You should also check out the Naked Gospel website for more resources.
To see past 5 Question guests, check out the rotating interview links on the sidebar.