This is far and away the best chapter in the book to this point. Bell differentiates between the motivation of guilt vs. the motivation of knowing who we are and operating out of that knowledge. If you want to get people to memorize more verses, pray more, and check more checkboxes all you have to do is give people a little dose of guilt. If you want it to mean something and draw someone closer to God, remind them of who they are and how those things flow out of that identity.
This is an identity issue that must be addressed in our Bible classes, sermons, and conversations. We tell people if they want to be transformed they will study harder, pray more intensely, fast, and serve others. They do all those things and wonder why they are no closer to God than when they started. It doesn’t start with me and what I can do it starts with God – what he can do, has done and will do in the future. Because God has made us new we respond through prayer, study, obedience, etc…not because those things make us any closer to him, although they can and often do, but because that is who we are.
“I heard a teacher say that if people were taught more about who they are, they wouldn’t have to be told what to do. It would come naturally. When we see religious communities spending most of their time trying to convince people not to sin, we are seeing a community that has missed the point. The point isn’t sin management. The point is who we are now.” (V.E. 144).
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Because God has renewed all things we are faced with a choice. Do we trust that and claim that as our own or do we continue to chase our own confused view of what is really real? Bell concludes with some solid application of what it means to claim the renewal that God has already provided for the world, that is ultimately called heaven and what life is like if we live in rebellion, which is known as hell. Have we chosen heaven or hell in what we have lived out in our day to day lives? Do our actions identify us as people who know we are God’s or as people who claim an identity apart from God?