Over the course of her career, Madonna has demonstrated an incredible commitment to reinvention, keeping herself relevant under the critical eye that accompanies the culture of constant change in the world of music and art.
A number of years ago, she did an interview with Vogue Magazine and spoke candidly about her painstaking commitment to reinvention. In this interview, she very transparently gave the world a glimpse into her soul:
"My drive in life comes from a fear of being mediocre. That is always pushing me. I push past one spell of it and discover myself as a special human being, but then I feel I am still mediocre and uninteresting unless I do something else. Because even though I have become somebody, I still have to prove that I am somebody. My struggle has never ended and I guess it never will."
When I first read that, I was humbled by the transparency of her struggle and, as a recovering performance junkie, I completely relate.
For years I believed the Christian faith was a commitment to spiritual excellence before God that would ensure a hashtag-blessed life in the here and now.
In my early years as a preacher, I both embraced and taught that Christians could reinvent themselves by "sowing" enough Christian activity. Like Madonna, I wanted to be anything but mediocre and like her, I found that once I got on the identity treadmill called performance, I couldn't get off.
Interestingly, in conversations over the last few years with Christians from across Canada who come from traditional churches, I found that while they would reject the liberal teaching I had once embraced to reinvent myself and create identity, they had their own ways of trying to create it. They didn't define the victorious Christian life by how healthy, wealthy or busy they were, they defined themselves by how doctrinally committed, theologically accurate and pious they were.
In the end, neither of us were resting peacefully in an identity defined by a cross.
As it turns out, getting our identity through our own reinvention efforts - whether fueled by liberalism or legalism - are two sides of the same exhausting coin.
In both instances, we find ourselves like the Material Girl: endlessly reinventing ourselves through our performance to earn acceptance with God and man.
The good news of Christian faith is that we are invited to rest in what the gospel is for us and in doing so, the peace and identity we long for flows from what the gospel does in us.
When Jesus instituted the church, the reason for the gathering was shockingly simple. He instructed us to eat bread & drink wine to remember what He did for us until He returns.
That. Was. It.
Therefore, in our gathering, as we remember the gift of the Father and receive the finished work of the Son, the Spirit applies the gospel and does the reinvention.
As the Spirit does this sanctifying work, we stop doing things for leverage. Instead, from freedom in the gospel and a heart at rest before God, we do good work from love.
If what I’m doing for you is driven by a religious requirement to become a better me, then I’m not loving you - I’m leveraging you.
The gospel frees us from leveraging others to create identity and invites us to love others because we're settled a new identity. To be "in Christ" is a restful place where we are liberated from being defined by who we are and instead, we find ourselves at peace before God and in this world because of Whose we are. This truth, over time, is massaged into our hearts by the Spirit of God, who delivers peace to our souls by eradicating the pressure of being defined by either our success or our failure.
On Sunday, we gather in beautiful simplicity. We remember the Father's love and rest in the Son's substitution. As we do, His Spirit strengthens, heals, sanctifies and produces good work in us.
Yes, His grace is that good.