January 5, 2010
Restoring Authentic Joy
"Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit."
Today marks the first Tuesday of the new decade and the first of many Tuesday visits yet to come with Dr. Francis Schaeffer. Decades ago, Schaeffer walked with his students in the rarefied air of the Swiss Alps and applied Christian theology to all of life. While the alpine option with him is no longer available to us, we follow his trail of thought by way of his writings.
Edith Schaeffer wrote of her husband in the book L'Abri that he was a man who wanted his life and work to be "a living demonstration of the existence of God," which it most notably was. But prior to the time of his most fruitful ministry years in post WW II Europe, Francis went through a period of severe crisis in which he felt he had to honestly address the lack of genuine spiritual joy in his life. What came out of that crisis is the content of his book, True Spirituality.
Assuming that you share Dr. Schaeffer's interest in having a life characterized by authentic joy, let us consider together some of the initial points in True Spirituality (chap. 1) as we embark on the first steps of our journey with Schaeffer through his complete works.
At the onset of chapter one, Dr. Schaeffer begins True Spirituality with a necessary discussion of first things so as to be clear about what it means to be a Christian:
1) We were created for fellowship with God, but there is a barrier in that God has a character. He is a holy God. We are sinners by nature and by choice.
2) We cannot breeze past these facts. Before we can become Christ followers, we must acknowledge our alienation from God and that we have real guilt deserving death and hell, not just guilty feelings requiring a therapeutic faith solution.
3) Only the finished work of Christ upon the cross as the Lamb of God—in history, space and time—is enough to remove our true moral guilt so that we can be brought into fellowship with God.
4) We must not attempt to add anything on our part to the finished work of Christ.
5) The only instrument for accepting that finished work of Christ upon the cross is faith alone.
a. Faith is not a leap in the dark—trying to believe in something that you doubt is true.
b. Rather, faith is…
· believing the specific promises of God,
· no longer turning your back on them,
· no longer calling God a liar by suppressing the testimony of Scripture, attested by history
· but raising the empty hands of faith
· and accepting that finished work of Christ as it was fulfilled in history upon the cross.
This is sufficient food for thought for today. But not just for today. Schaeffer's recap of the gospel—how we can be right with God in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone—provides that which is absolutely essential not only to the initial discovery of joy, but the ongoing recovery of it every day. The gospel is utterly foundational to authentic Christian living and it must be personally rehearsed again and again in all of its dimensions.
One gospel resource that resonates with Schaeffer's recap here is a book called a gospel primer for christians by Milton Vincent. It is amazingly helpful for reviewing the deep truths of the gospel every day. For instance, this past Sunday, I shared the following excerpt with our congregation at the close of the service:
The gospel reminds me first that what I actually deserve from God is a full cup churning with the torments of His wrath (Revelation 14:10). This cup would be mine to drink if I were given what I deserve each day (Psalms 75:8). With this understanding in mind, I see that to be handed a completely empty cup from God would be cause enough for infinite gratitude. If there were merely the tiniest drop of blessing contained in that otherwise empty cup, I should be blown away by the unbelievable kindness of God toward me.
That God has, in fact, given me a cup (Psalms 23:5) that is full of "every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3), and this without the slightest admixture of wrath leaves me truly dumbfounded with inexpressible joy… Life's blessings, however small, always appear exceedingly precious when viewed against the backdrop of the wrath I deserve.
(pp. 47-48 a gospel primer for christians, Milton Vincent)
Intersecting Faith & Life:
How blown away are you by the blessings of God in your life?
What is the reading on your authentic joy meter?
How central to your life is the habit of daily rehearsing the gospel?