March 16, 2010
Christian Existentialism… The Good Kind
""Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple…"
Luke 14:27 NASB
As chapter two of True Spirituality comes to close, Francis Schaeffer highlights a crucial dimension of the gospel's first fruit (dying to self). It is that dying to self must be a continual reality. Schaeffer likens the proper mindset here to that of a philosophical existentialist…
The existentialist is right when he puts his emphasis on the reality of the moment-by-moment situation. He is wrong in many things, but he is right here.
Christ called His followers to continuously carry their own cross.
He puts the command not in an abstract but in an intensely practical setting, in verse 26 relating it to His followers' fathers, mothers, wives, children, brothers, sisters, and their own lives.
He sets it among the realities of daily life. This is where we must die.
Christ is talking about what our hearts prefer; what we desire most. And we naturally prefer our own way. ol' blue eyes set our deeply ingrained theme song to music when he sang, "I did it my way." How can we possibly overcome our instinct to want our own desires fulfilled? It seems to be an impossible command.
Even if we know Proverbs 14:12 "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death," such knowledge by itself is not enough to subdue a sinful, stubborn will. When the heart wants something, it can charge ahead in a mad quest to get its way without a single thought about consequences. (Oh… you've noticed too?)
Related to Schaeffer's topic, I came across this blog post yesterday by a christian writer in which he reviewed no less than seven counterfeit gospels that feed pride and permit self to thrive unchallenged while giving others the false impression of being a true disciple. Because we are so prone to preserve ourselves, we can easily gravitate toward these false gospels. Their appeal is so insidiously strong because they allow us to deceive others (i.e. deceive ourselves that we're the one in control) and dodge Christ's benevolent command to die to self…
Formalism. "I participate in the regular meetings and ministries of the church, so I feel like my life is under control. I'm always in church, but it really has little impact on my heart or on how I live. I may become judgmental and impatient with those who do not have the same commitment as I do."
Legalism. "I live by the rules—rules I create for myself and rules I create for others. I feel good if I can keep my own rules, and I become arrogant and full of contempt when others don't meet the standards I set for them. There is no joy in my life because there is no grace to be celebrated."
Mysticism. "I am engaged in the incessant pursuit of an emotional experience with God. I live for the moments when I feel close to him, and I often struggle with discouragement when I don't feel that way. I may change churches often, too, looking for one that will give me what I'm looking for."
Activism. "I recognize the missional nature of Christianity and am passionately involved in fixing this broken world. But at the end of the day, my life is more of a defense of what's right than a joyful pursuit of Christ."
Biblicism. "I know my Bible inside and out, but I do not let it master me. I have reduced the gospel to a mastery of biblical content and theology, so I am intolerant and critical of those with lesser knowledge."
Therapism. "I talk a lot about the hurting people in our congregation, and how Christ is the only answer for their hurt. Yet even without realizing it, I have made Christ more Therapist than Savior. I view hurt as a greater problem than sin—and I subtly shift my greatest need from my moral failure to my unmet needs."
Social-ism. "The deep fellowship and friendships I find at church have become their own idol. The body of Christ has replaced Christ himself, and the gospel is reduced to a network of fulfilling Christian relationships."
[From Paul Tripp and Tim Lane's how people change (New Growth Press, 2008)]:
In the end, only God's grace can subdue the heart and turn its desires God-ward. And such grace comes only through the true gospel of Christ. When God brings me around to embrace by faith that it was my moral failure that caused the sinless Son of God to suffer and die and, because of that, God does not treat me as my sins deserve, I see then that anything in life can be received with thankfulness (thankfulness being the effect of His grace… "charis" = "gift, gratitude").
Only God can enable us by His James 4:6 to continually ring the death knell to "my way" because He continually satisfies us with the fact that "there is therefore now [here and now] no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).
Intersecting Faith & Life:
Do you see your own need for God's grace every moment so that you can yield your desires up to Him?
Perhaps you've been wronged and you have a legitimate desire to see matters set right. Are you yielding even this desire to God so that it does not become all-consuming and controlling to the point that you would sin to see your desire satisfied?
To whom does He give grace? (cf. James 4:6)
my heart is filled with thankfulness (Stuart Townend, Keith Getty)