April 20, 2010
Remembering the Source of Authentic Joy
"Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit."
Edith Schaeffer wrote of her husband in the book, l'abri, that Dr. Francis Schaeffer was a man who deeply wanted his life and work to be "a living demonstration of the existence of God." In retrospect, his was a life that may have been far from perfect (admittedly so), but he was—warts and all, by God's grace—an authentic, Christian man. Prior to the time of his most fruitful ministry years teaching in a rustic, Swiss chalet in post WW II Europe, Dr. Schaeffer went through a long period of severe crisis in which he felt he had to honestly address the lack of genuine 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 desire to live a life of joy and not plastic smiles, ponder with me some of the foundational lessons he relates in True Spirituality.
1) We were created for fellowship with God, but there is a barrier: God has a character. He is a holy God.
2) We are sinners by nature and by choice.
3) 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 that seem to require a therapeutic faith solution.
4) 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.
5) We must not attempt to add anything on our part to the finished work of Christ in His death and resurrection.
6) The only way that the finished work of Christ can be personally applied to a sinner is by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God 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.
Schaeffer's recap of the gospel 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. At the same time, we must remember that it is not the system of truth itself that removes our guilt and restores joy. Christ does that by His Spirit in the souls of those who trust Him. Yes, He is unseen, but there are many unseen things that we believe in everyday.
One Scripture-soaked, gospel resource that I've been reading recently 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. Take this, for example, from pages 47-48:
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.
Intersecting Faith & Life: