May 11, 2010
"...be filled with the Spirit...
singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Ephesians 5:18 A number of you may recall that, months ago, we began a journey through the works of Francis Schaeffer beginning with the book True Spirituality. If you are just now joining us on Tuesdays, or if you have not been reading along in True Spirituality, there is still time to catch up to where we are (chapter seven).
I highly recommend that you do.
C.S. Lewis once wisely counseled: "First-hand knowledge [of great authors] is not only more worth acquiring than second-hand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire." (Quoted from his Introduction in Athanasius, On the Incarnation, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press: Crestwood, New York, 1993, p. 3).
But it is not just your delight in acquiring knowledge of a great man that is at stake. No. Schaeffer's message is actually a much-needed remedy for the low condition of joy and authenticity that seems to plague the church in every generation.
He knows whereof he speaks. He was once a joyless Christian himself.
In1971, Schaeffer published True Spirituality to help people experience the reality of Christ in daily life. Not just at the moment of salvation. At first, his book was a series of Bible lessons. He taught them to his family and students who gathered regularly in their home in the Swiss Alps. But before they ever became that set of lessons to others, Schaeffer taught them to his own heart.
Before Schaeffer ever became the famous author and Christian leader that he eventually became and prior to the time that L'Abri began, Francis went through a dark period lasting several months. He was troubled by the disproportion that he saw in himself between the large amount of Bible data he knew and claimed to believe and the lack of genuine spiritual joy in his life.
Over those months as he walked in the mountains, Francis rethought his reasons for being a Christian and, at last…
"…saw again that there were totally sufficient reasons to know that the infinite-personal God does exist and that Christianity is true.
"In going further, I saw something else which made a profound difference in my life. I searched through what the Bible said concerning reality as a Christian. Gradually, I saw that the problem was that with all the teaching I had received after I was a Christian, I had heard little about what the Bible says about the meaning of the finished work of Christ for our present lives.
"Gradually the sun came out and the song came. Interestingly enough, although I had written no poetry for many years, in that time of joy and song I found poetry beginning to flow again—poetry of certainty, an affirmation of life, thanksgiving, and praise. Admittedly, as poetry it is very poor, but it expressed a song in my heart which was wonderful to me." (from True Spirituality, p. 196 in the complete works of francis schaeffer, vol. 3 © 1982 Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois).
Francis saw and believed that the finished work of Christ really is the source of the Christian's daily life. He grew deeply convinced that the Christian life is not just about conversion, but about moment-by-moment living out of the grace of God today, in the present by the power of the Holy Spirit.
What I've written in our weekly devotional faithfully summarizes Schaeffer' message, but I suspect that my writing carries only a fraction of the impact that reading True Spirituality would have upon you. The Holy Spirit has used this book to shed light and elicit faith in the hearts of many for years. And as C.S. Lewis said, there really is something special about reading the greats for yourself. Only then can you experience the transforming progression of Schaeffer's argument, the clarity of his thought, and his wise use of Scripture and illustrations throughout his book.
Knowing something about the life and times of Francis and Edith Schaeffer goes a long way in helping the reader too. For instance, around the time when Schaeffer's teaching ministry began in Switzerland, a very significant and challenging question arose in his mind. Francis had been thinking long and hard about it when it came up in conversation one day with his wife Edith (she later recounted the words on p. 356 of her book, the tapestry). He said…
"I wonder what would happen to most of our churches and Christian work if we woke up tomorrow morning and everything concerning the reality and work of the Holy Spirit, and everything concerning prayer were removed from the Bible?
I don't mean just ignored, but actually cut out—disappeared. I wonder how much difference it would make?"
What difference would it make? Schaeffer noted several things: there would be no reality of knowing God, of prayer, of daily dependence on God or of Christian fruitfulness. It would all be mere self-effort—utterly phony and joyless.
Sound familiar? Let me ask you this: If it suddenly became possible for you to be personally mentored by Dr. Francis Schaeffer, would you take the opportunity? You can. Pick up True Spirituality, then follow with us on the trail of his thought.
Someone who knows you well is called to testify of the presence of spiritual reality in your life. What evidence would they give?
Spend time thinking through the reasons why you became a Christian. Reflect on what it means to have an authentic relationship—not a routine, mechanical one—with the infinite-personal God who is there.