Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Christine Hoover. 

Christine Hoover: I think it’s helpful to look, first, at how God disciplines us, and over time, He is patient with us. It may be a process that we walk through as He leads us through: What is it that He’s wants us to do in obedience to Him and His conviction?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Thursday, July 20, 2017.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Earlier this week, we heard an interview Erin Davis recorded with Heather Nelson about being set free from shame. It showed us how to know that you’ve been completely forgiven, even when you feel like you don’t measure up.

Today, we’re going to hear about a related theme, recorded in the same venue. Christine Hoover has written a book called From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. This book is designed to help us stop striving to win God’s approval—especially those of us “type A” women who always feel like we have to work to measure up. Erin and Christine had this conversation at a Gospel Coalition women’s conference, so you’ll hear some of the events going on in the background.

Let’s listen as Erin Davis and Christine Hoover show us how to move from good to grace.

Erin Davis: Hi. How are you?

Christine: I’m good.

Erin: Good. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your family? You’re a church planter’s wife; you’re a momma. Tell us all about that.

Christine: I’m married to Kyle, who is a pastor of a church that we planted in Charlottesville, Virginia about eight years ago. We have three boys who are thirteen, ten, and eight. Prior to planting the church, we were at a church in Texas.

So I’m a Texan by birth, but we live in Virginia now—and I love it.

Erin: You’ve written this book called From Good to Grace.

Christine: Yes.

Erin: I feel like we as women have a tendency—just a gravitational pull—to need to be perfect, do it all, be it all. Do you think it’s universal to all women?

Christine: I do. Actually, I think it’s universal for all people, because I think it’s an innate thing in us to look to ourselves, to save ourselves, to fix ourselves, or change ourselves, or whatever it is . . . instead of looking outside to someone else—who we know is Jesus—to save us and to change us. To depend on somebody else not just our salvation, but for our spiritual growth and spiritual fruit. That is not something that is natural to us.

I think that’s why we have to have the gospel proclaimed to us all the time. We never move away from that because we need to be reminded of it—it’s not natural to us.

Erin: Yes, it reminds me of what Paul said in Galatians 1. He said, “I’m amazed how quickly you’ve accepted other gospels,” and then there’s this little phrase he says—which I love: “Not that there is another gospel.”—right? (see Gal. 1:6–7)

But I’m not sure why it amazed him, because I think we do have this tendency to add to say: “I need the cross—and to be the best wife and mother.” “I need the cross—and to serve at my church non-stop,” or “I need the cross and . . .”—any number of “ands.”

I wonder how you saw that manifested in your life?

Christine: I grew up in a church where—I don’t know if it was that I just didn’t hear it, but—I don’t remember learning about grace. I remember learning, “These are things you do. If you’re a Christian, you do these things, and you don’t do these things.”

I really missed the “why.” “Why are we doing these things?” What motivates us to do these things?” And so, it really became a very legalistic life for me, and that led to a lot of dysfunction, internally.

If you would have looked at me on the outside, you would have seen a really “good” Christian girl, doing all the right things—but inside, there was a lot of turmoil. I kind of went on this roller coaster between pride and self-condemnation.

Sometimes I felt good about what I was doing for the Lord, to please Him and to earn His love—doing what a good Christian does. But then I would fail and fall into this self-condemnation. It was just this up and down, up and down. I lacked joy.

I would hear pastors talk about joy and God’s love, and I really could not understand what they were talking about, because I did not see that in my life. I didn’t experience that. It was really difficult to live under that.

Erin: I wonder how you came to Christ without a concept of grace?

Christine:Well, I think that my issue was that I knew I was saved by grace through faith, but I didn’t know, “What do I do after that?” How does God work in my life on a daily basis, to lead me, to convict me, to change me?

I remember reading Galatians 5, the fruits of the Spirit. I literally sat down and made a list of the fruits, like: “Monday, I’m going to work on love; Tuesday, I’m going to work on joy . . .” I missed the whole Holy Spirit part, that He’s the One doing it in me!

I really felt that I was responsible for my Christian life, and doing things in honor of God—but not through Him, through His power and what He had done for me.

Erin: Other than a lack of joy, what were some of the shock waves of trying to operate the Christian life without grace?

Christine: Well, it definitely affected how I related to other people. Galatians 2 talks about that, where Paul kind of calls Peter out. Peter’s dividing from other people. He's going back into his Jewishness rather than living in his identity as a child of God.

That was me. I feel like I really compared myself to people like crazy. “How am I doing? Well, I’m going to look at other people and not really look at the Lord."

Erin: And sometimes you thought you were doing better than others, and sometimes you probably felt much worse.

Christine: Oh, yes. I was, honestly, pretty judgmental, and feeling like I was doing pretty well most of the time. But then, I think I felt pretty isolated from other people. There’s not a sense of, “I can let people know me.” Because they’re going to see that I’m imperfect; they’re going to see that I don’t have it all together. And so, really, I think it affected me a lot relationally. That was the main thing.

Erin: Yes. (I need a new cultural reference, because this one’s gotten outdated, but . . .) When I speak to students, I often call it “Brittany Spears morality,” like, “I’m more moral than Brittany,” and so, “I’m moral!” This is obviously not the gospel and not the truth of Scripture.

So I’m interested in how the Lord started to soften your heart and teach you about grace and how to operate differently under that.

Christine: Well, I got married, and I got married to a man who was called to ministry. We went into ministry, and I was living under this distorted gospel—as Paul calls it. I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t be the perfect pastor’s wife. I couldn’t love people.

I couldn’t conjure up love for people based upon my own strength. That was really the catalyst God used to begin show me that I really did not understand what grace was. And just the example of how my husband related to me was a huge catalyst.

But honestly, I was sitting down with some college students—because we were doing college ministry and I was discipling these girls . . . I said something like, “You know, if you do these things, then God will act in your life.” It was kind of like, “It’s up to me.”

And one of the sweet little girls said, “Uh, Christine, I don’t think that’s right.” She really challenged me, and it was like God pierced my heart through her with what she said. She began telling me that day just what God was doing in her life in teaching her about grace.

And for whatever reason, God used that conversation. I remember driving home that day and just praying, “God, I don’t understand Your character. I don’t know Your love for me. I don’t understand grace. Just show me!”

It was through the book of Galatians that the Word just came alive to me during that time. It wasn’t just immediate, but it was a process of recognizing how this distorted gospel was playing out in my life. It was a process of replacing that with the truth of the gospel. 

Erin: So to the woman who’s driving in her car right now, or she’s podcasting on her way to something, and she doesn’t have her Bible in front of her, can you explore some of those truths in Galatians that really were powerful to you—and remain powerful to you, I’m sure?

Christine: Definitely. You mentioned earlier in Galatians 1 where Paul says, “How soon you’ve gone . . . you’ve kind of set Christ aside . . .” He’s speaking to believers: “You’ve come to faith through Christ, and then you’ve set Him aside, and you think that you can . . .”

In Galatians 3:3, it says, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being [made perfect] by the flesh?” That verse pierced me, because that was me. He calls them foolish for that—that they would set aside this Jesus, who had done everything for them.

And so then, moving on in Galatians 5, Paul gives instruction on how we live in grace. He says, “Stand firm” in this grace [Gal. 5:1], and in Colossians 2 it says that as you began in Christ, therefore continue in Him.

That really showed me, “What am I standing firm in?” I’m standing firm in faith! I never move away from faith. I came to Christ by faith and every day I walk by faith. That seems counterintuitive to: how do we grow and how do we produce fruit? Just by . . . faith?

But God does supernatural work in us as we look to Him in faith each day and depend on Him to lead us, to convict us of sin (we don’t have to convict ourselves). I was my own convict-er for so long. “I’m not good enough; I need to be doing this; I need to always be trying harder and doing more.” But I was learning to rest and know that I have the Holy Spirit.

Galatians talks about that we’ve been given the gift of the Holy Spirit who is with us. It’s God with us, indwelling us, helping us each day—leading us, convicting us, growing this spiritual fruit in us. 

Erin: That’s great! I think as a woman and a wife and a mom (I don’t know why) we just want to “hit it out of the park” every day. For me, that’s where I start to feel a lack of worth or a lack of value, or question—because you can’t, you know? I can’t.

I have three boys, too, and it’s good if we just stay alive—a lot of days—right? I wonder if the Lord has used, specifically, your roles as a wife and a mom to continue to teach you about your need for grace, and how that looks in your life.

Christine: Most definitely! I think in the beginning it was just very formulaic Christianity. But as God changed this in me and showed me His grace, now it’s more subtle. The subtle ways this distorted gospel plays out in my life are generally through the things I care most about, like parenting—or ministering.

I’ve recognized it as anything where this kind of idea of where, “I need to do more,” or “I need to try harder." "I want to be a better mom, and so I need to do all these things to be a better mom.” That’s a self-standard, that I’m setting for myself . . .

A lot of these things are good, but there’s never enough, right? I think anything where I look in parenting but Christ . . . That could be my own methods, that could be my hope of education for my kids, that could be anything where I’m saying, “What I decide about this, this is my hope for my kids—this is going to change their hearts!” But, we can’t change their hearts. It’s God who does that. I’m going to lay out a feast for my kids, as far as, “Come and taste and see the Lord,” through these methods—but the hope is in Christ. He’s the One who can change my children.

I’m going to trust Him, by faith, that however He’s led me to educate my kids or feed my kids or whatever—it’s Him who’s going to actually change them. And that is different than focusing on myself and what I can do. That gives me a sense of peace.

Erin: It's so liberating! Yes, I just “wave the white flag.” I’m a “conscientious objector” to the “mommy wars.” I just like don’t want to participate because none of those hills that moms tend to want to die on—you spoke to that so beautifully—none of that is their ultimate hope.

Wars like: formula feed or breast feed, eat organic or don’t, homeschool or public school. Make a wise, discerning choice for your child—but, ultimately, none of that is our hope.

Christine: Ultimately, our hope is in Christ.

Erin: I wonder how you parent, or what you say to your boys? Because I hear myself teaching a “goodness gospel” to my boys, even though I know that’s not right, and I don’t want them to believe that’s right. 

I just have a tendency to somehow communicate that “Jesus wants them to be very good boys” or that Jesus is very concerned about their behavior. And so I wonder, as the Lord’s really helped you to understand grace, how that’s changed specifically how you parent them.

Christine: Well, I think it’s helpful to look, first, at how God disciplines us. How He changes us is not always this immediate thing. Over time, He is patient with us, and He works things out in us. He may convict us of sin, and it may be a process that we walk through as He leads us through: “What is it that He wants us to do in obedience to Him and His conviction?”

A lot of times with children, we expect immediate behavior change: “Just do it,” because it makes me feel better if your behavior changes. But I think that we need to recognize that parenting—obviously—is a process. It’s over time. It's trusting that God is going to work in their lives through our consistent relationship with them and discipline of them. I think of my youngest son. He has not yet become a Christian. A lot of times I talk to him when he does something.

He knows. His conscience is strong. Talking to him about the right thing he should have done—and can he really do it? Can he really obey all the time? And he says, “No, Mommy, I can’t.”

And I say, “I know. That’s why you need Jesus.” I'm always pointing him to Jesus.

And he said, “But I’m not a Christian yet—I don’t have the Holy Spirit!” He knows what I would say is that, “You need someone outside of yourself to help you obey.” I mean, obviously, he’s going to be disciplined and I expect him to change, but I’m also always talking to him about, “You really cannot fully obey, but God is gracious to you and forgives you—and I do, too!”

Erin: My oldest is a wild stallion of a boy. (When the Lord bridles him, it’s going to be a beautiful thing!) He is a wild stallion of a child. I was in church one day, and I just had this thought—an open-eyed vision—of just being squashed by his sin. I mean, six feet under, squashed by his sin, and his need for grace was huge. I appreciate the Lord reminding me of that.

He’s since come to know the Lord. He’s a little guy, and I love the language he uses. The day he decided that he was going to follow Jesus, he said, “I just feel so much better!” I think it’s because he was no longer “squashed” by that. It was grace did that, not me.

He still is a wild stallion of a boy; he’s just a redeemed wild stallion of a boy! I so appreciate God’s grace for me, God’s grace for him. I’m not perfect at it, but it’s good to communicate grace to our kids.

Christine: Definitely!

Erin: Can you give moms some language of things that they can say? You said, “Can you obey?” That’s a good one. Are there some other things we can say, specifically, to communicate grace?

Christine: That’s the main one I use with my kids, but for my kids who have become believers, who have professed faith, they’re still coming to understanding what that means. So giving them the language of: “What you did was wrong. How does God feel about that? He’s grieved by our sin, but there’s an avenue for forgiveness.”

“And what is that? It’s confession. Go to Him and confess your sin. How does He respond when you come to Him? He doesn’t shame you. He welcomes you, and He forgives you of your sin. And He will help you obey next time.”

“So, next time, when you . . .”—helping them understand what temptation is like, naming the temptation, and talking about how they have the Holy Spirit. When they recognize the temptation, that’s the Holy Spirit speaking to them. He’s going to give them an out, to choose what’s right. They don’t have to choose what’s wrong; they can choose what’s right.

So, those are kind of the things I talk about with my older kids.

Erin: And how are you communicating about it in ministry—in church, or as you minister to women? What’s some of the language you’re using to talk about grace?

Christine: I’m really impassioned about speaking to women about this. I’m a pastor’s wife, and with our women in our church, we talk a lot about this. It’s mainly one-on-one, getting to sit down with women. 

They just come with such pressure, and they’re just in turmoil over things like: “Am I a good enough mom? Am I a good enough wife? I don’t know if I’m doing all the right things.” And just bringing them back to the Word. Don’t move away from the simplicity of the gospel, the simplicity that is in Christ. Just bring them back to the very simple thing of faith. God is at work, and He’s going to lead them, but they don’t have to worry they’re going to miss it. He’s not going to let His children, whom He loves, just go off without giving us leadership. He'll help us. 

So I just remind them of that: It’s not up to them, but to rely on the Lord.

Erin: I think one of the great shocks of my early thirties was that I wasn’t a good girl! I mean, I grew up in church and youth group in the era when it was pretty much all about “true love waits” and not listening to secular music, right?

Christine: I think we must have grown up in the same time.

Erin: Man, I was all in for that! True love did wait, and we would burn our CDs. Once a year our youth pastor would have us bring our secular music, and we would have this ceremonial burning. If those were the marks I needed to hit, I hit 'em out of the park.

And then I came to a couple of passages, that all of our righteousness is like filthy laundry. I know enough about filthy laundry that I thought, I don’t want that to be me! And that there’s no one righteous, no not one! I maybe thought I was the one exception.

Suddenly, I had the realization that there are no good girls—and it was actually a really good thing! Because seeing the ugliness of my heart helped me see, with new clarity, my need for Jesus.

And so, I wonder what you might say to that woman listening who has spackled over her sin for years or decades, and through the light of Scripture she goes, “Oh! I am not a good girl! I am not a . . .” (fill in the blank). I wonder if you could speak any hope to her?

Christine: Well, actually I think that’s a good thing, to be in that place, because I always say it’s a two-part sentence. And that’s the first part of the sentence: we truly are not righteous. And part of this distorted gospel keeps you in this place where you don’t really think you’re really that bad.

What you just described is exactly what happened to me when I realized, “You know what? I am not righteous! I cannot be perfect, no matter how hard I try! And not just that I can’t be perfect, but I am a sinner! I have wickedness in me.”

And so, recognizing that is really a great first step, because it leads to the “but God” of Scripture. You know, “We were once these things . . . but God! He has given us Christ, He has given us imputed righteousness through Christ.”

And suddenly, we see that as the gift that it is. I think that’s what changes us. It's this identity that we’ve been given love—of belonging, of divine approval that cannot be taken away, no matter what we do or don’t do. That is what just comes in like dynamite and explodes out in joy and response and worship and service.

So for that woman who is sitting in that place of, “Oh, my goodness, I recognize that I’m a sinner and there’s nothing I can do about it!” That’s a great place be.

I would say to her, “Then look to Christ, and look to see what He has done for you.” I think, a lot of times what women do in that situation is that they go, “Oh my goodness, I am a huge sinner! I’ve got to do all these things to cover that over. I’ve got to fix that. I’ve got to change that!”

And so, instead of going to the second part of the sentence, we turn around and go back to the beginning of the sentence, and we just continue in this wallowing in self-condemnation and saying that there’s nothing we can do. And it’s true. There’s nothing we can do, but that’s why we have Christ; that’s why He came.

So look to Him, and move into that second part of the sentence of the story!

Nancy: We’ve been listening to a conversation that my good friend, Erin Davis, had with author Christine Hoover. They recorded this interview at a recent women’s conference. Christine has been showing us how to trust in the sufficiency of Christ and stop trying to earn God’s favor.

Christine is the author of a book called From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. I want to encourage you to get a copy of this book and to explore this topic even more deeply. Learn how to be free from trying to measure up on your own and earn God’s favor. This book will show you how to find freedom from that struggle.

We’d be glad to send you a copy of Christine’s book when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Ask for Christine’s book, From Good to Grace, when you call us at 1–800–569–5959, or visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Tomorrow Christine Hoover will join us again, and show us how to give up the lost cause of trying to be good and to embrace God’s grace instead.

Christine: I think it feels counterintuitive to depend on someone else to do the work, and to say: “We’re going to stop, and we’re not going to strive, and this God that we can’t see is going to change us.” I can say from my own life that is exactly how I have changed and grown. My life is completely different than what I described earlier.

I do know what people are talking about when they talk about joy, because God has done the work. He’s done the work in me when I quit trying to earn something that I already had. I already had it, but I was trying to earn something from Him.

It changed everything! It changed how I related to people. It changed how I minister to people. It changed how I relate to God. It changed my spiritual disciplines. It changed everything, because suddenly what I was doing was more of a response to the gifts I’ve been given by God: His grace and His Holy Spirit and righteousness and all of that. 

It really did just sink in and like a fountain that just overflows, you can’t stop it. So, yes, it seems counterintuitive, but the gospel really is true, and it really is powerful, and it really does work. It changes us. Grace changes us!

Leslie: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to be blown away by grace. This program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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