Jesus took issue with the Pharisees and Scribes because they had become whitewashed tombs. (Matthew 23:27). This means that they were sick with sin on the inside and were only doing external things that hid their sin but did not address it. They were dead inside but performing rituals as if that would bring them alive. Their rituals had no meaning, and as Solomon would say, they were only striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 1:14).
We do the same things today, but in slightly different ways. Just as the Pharisees were making long prayers as a show of piety for the sake of those who would hear them, (Matthew 6:5), people say things today that sound pious but aren’t. These sayings are just as dead as a whitewashed tomb, and are only striving after wind.
However, these sayings sound legitimate on their surface. It is sometimes hard to tell what truly is Christian and what merely sounds Christian. Charles Spurgeon wisely said, “Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.” So what is right and what is almost right (AKA ‘wrong’) about these sayings?
Some of these mottos are:
- “Let go and let God”
- “I don’t use commentaries because they’re men’s wisdom. I only use God’s Word when I study.“
- We can’t know for certain what the bible means, I’m not that smart”
- “Pray big because we have a big God.”
- “He’s so heavenly minded he’s no earthly good“
In what will be a multi-part series, let’s look at the first one.
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#1. “Let go and let God.” In this pious-sounding saying, the person is trying to indicate that they submit to the sovereignty of God by letting everything go and allowing Him to roll circumstances over us as He will. However if we unpack that a bit we’ll see actually that ‘Let go and let God’ actually contradicts the bible. Here are two sources which speak to the subject, GotQuestions, and Ligonier Ministries.
GotQuestions: Are We Supposed to Let go and Let God?:
“Let go and let God” is a phrase that cropped up some years ago and still enjoys some popularity today. Actually, the Bible never tells us to “let go and let God.” In fact, there are so many commandments about what we are to do that it completely contradicts the way most people interpret “let go and let God.” The popular idea of “letting go” is to adopt a sort of spiritual inertia wherein we do nothing, say nothing, feel nothing, and simply live allowing circumstances to roll over us however they may.
The Christian life, however, is a spiritual battle which the Bible exhorts us to prepare for and wage diligently. “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12); “Endure hardship…like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3); “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11). Letting go in the sense of sitting back and watching events unfold however they may is not biblical.
Having said that, though, we have to understand that the things we are to do, we do by the power of God and not on our own steam. The truth is that working at “letting go” is just as much as an effort-filled work as anything else we try to do for God and not nearly as easy to do as some things.
So true! If it was that easy to ‘let go’ our sin, we would have done it! If it was that easy to ‘let go’ our worry, we’d be all set! If it was that simple as to let go our our will, we wouldn’t need God! “Letting go” is just as difficult as hanging on. Submit, yes. But even that is a daily struggle we’re told to perform as we pick up our cross (Matthew 16:24) and to pray daily for the will and help to submit. (Matthew 6:9-13).
Please go to the essay linked above to read the rest of the GotQuestions piece, which looks at the Christian life and see just exactly what we are to do.
Andrew Naselli at Ligonier Ministries explains, “Why “Let Go and Let God” Is a Bad Idea“. He says, in looking at the origin of this two-tiered theology from the 1875 Keswick theology movement, that letting go and letting God promotes in part,
–Perfectionism: It portrays a shallow and incomplete view of sin in the Christian life.
–Quietism: It tends to emphasize passivity, not activity.
–Pelagianism: It tends to portray the Christian’s free will as autonomously starting and stopping sanctification.
–Methodology: It tends to use superficial formulas for instantaneous sanctification.
–Impossibility: It tends to result in disillusionment and frustration for the “have-nots.”
–Spin: It tends to misinterpret personal experiences.
You can tell that Keswick theology has influenced people when you hear a Christian “testimony” like this: “I was saved when I was eight years old, and I surrendered to Christ when I was seventeen.”
By “saved,” they mean that Jesus became their Savior and that they became a Christian. By “surrendered,” they mean that they gave full control of their lives to Jesus as their Master, yielded to do whatever He wanted them to do, and “dedicated” themselves through surrender and faith. That two-tiered view of the Christian life is let-go-and-let-God theology.
I am aware that the motto ‘Let go and let God’ is a heavily used precept in Step 3 of the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery plan. AA has helped millions recover from their addiction to alcohol, and in this sense, AA is helpful. But don’t mistake AA’s Christianese for legitimate biblical principles. The language may sound pious but it collapses under scrutiny. Here is more information:
John MacArthur spoke to the ‘let go and let God’ phrase in his sermon on Ephesians 6, The Believer’s Armor.”
Do we just say, oh amen, and now I’m just going to surrender to that? I’m going to let go and let God, turn it all over to Jesus, do nothing? No, because you come to verse 5 immediately, and verse 5 says, “And beside this,” beside this, “you give all diligence,” get at it man, get with it, be diligent, be disciplined, “to add to your God given faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; And to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, patience; and to patience, godliness; And to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”
In other words, you get on the job. And beloved it is not as simple as walking an aisle and making an act of surrender. That is part of it in your life, there must be a, a commitment to the Lordship of Christ, there must be an acknowledging of His power and resource in your life, but it doesn’t end there- it begins there. In Romans 6 there is a yielding of yourselves, yes, there is a yielding of yourselves in Romans 6. But there is also a mortifying or a killing of the deeds of the flesh, So it isn’t all as simple as that and that’s why we make no hesitation for proclaiming the truths of Ephesians 6.
The fact remains, let go and let God does not align well with biblical standards of behavior for a Christian.
As Jim Vander Spek asked, “The problem with making “Let God” the focus is that it pushes the burden back on Him. If things don’t work out, will you blame Him?“
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