Current Christian culture can tempt us into checking spiritual boxes to feel ‘good’. Our lives are to reflect confidence in a perfect, loving Savior.
Have you ever met a new acquaintance at a function, and she didn’t take a breath, talking about herself the entire time you were together? For maybe 30 minutes? Do you remember thinking, “Dear God, please help that poor woman find a friend. I am not it! Help me to never be that self-consumed!!!”
Well, sister…in many ways, we all are.
Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts.
Soren Kierkegaard, a Dutch philosopher and theologian, wrote these words between 1843 and 1855, a period when his pen seldom rested. During these years he railed against Christendom, or rather a cultured and respectable Christianity in which one could mentally check off the boxes of prominent religious mores. Thereby satisfying the need to feel spiritually good about oneself. Kierkegaard expounded:
The tragedy of easy Christianity is that existence has ceased to be an adventure and a constant risk in the presence of God but has become a form of morality and a doctrinal system. Its purpose is to simplify the matter of becoming a Christian. This is just paganism, ‘cheap’ Christianity, with neither cost nor pain…It is like war games, in which armies move and there is a great deal of noise, but there is no real risk or pain—
Interestingly, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote something similar in 1937 in The Cost of Discipleship, but he called it cheap grace.
I wonder how different we are today. While socially we have made a major shift away from “cultured and respectable” Christianity. Now the siren call is to be culture-current. Almost every evangelical church has a band and screens with the music, words and Bible verses displayed. The pastor wears jeans…and please, don’t forget the aromatic coffee served in the lobby! (I love coffee!)
Some teach pleasant Bible thoughts to live by; some preach expository sermons through entire books of the Bible. I have visited both types of churches. Regardless, the majority offer a great children’s ministry or they don’t survive long; youth ministry is a plus, too…
Are you asking where I am going with this? I’m just following my heart, my own conviction, really. Bear with me…
What do we think about when we think about our spiritual lives? Or our Christian selves?…or do we think about it at all?
What is my life expressing?
Too often, I think, my own life becomes entangled with what my church culture has told me a Christian is supposed to reflect or reveal as much as Jesus taught. Or perhaps it’s just what I have come to believe myself – or a combination of both or all three!
For instance, I’ve been a Christian for most of my life and I believe I can say that I’m a good, moral person, but to whom am I comparing
Good and Moral?
And what if I am moral? Seriously. Apart from a relationship with Christ, morality, while good for our culture, is conforming to rules of right conduct. Throughout history, there have been many good, moral men who have not been Christian, (think Socrates, Jewish historian Josephus, or someone you know personally).
Is Jesus calling His disciples to be good and moral? A loud chorus quickly agrees that, of course, this isn’t enough! Christians are to be loving, kind, giving – even sacrificial, humble, patient, or…as my granddaughters would say – all the things!
The trouble is, we can’t…we won’t…we aren’t capable; not really, not every moment. Despite our best and most valiant efforts to reflect Christ, we end up expressing whatever dominates our thoughts. For most people, it’s me, myself, and I, (or my kids, my husband, my ministry, my church, my pastor, my weight, my job, my successes, my busy-ness, etc).
While we each desire to reflect the image of God and the Fruit of the Spirit, (Galatians 5:22-23), sadly, too often we instead express – well – US.
Tony Merida, pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC, and speaker for Acts 29 Network stated recently: “When we soak up human praise, we rob others of an encounter with God. We choose to promote our own identity because we don’t want to follow God’s mission for us… Misconstrued identity is the atomic bomb of this generation.”
But why is it the atomic bomb of this generation? Was it not also in Genesis 3 for Adam and Eve or chapter 11 when the people wanted to build a tower to God? Neither narcissism nor distrust in our Father is new.
No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! […] And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:8, 11, NKJV
Reflect as Beloved
I believe much of our constant self-focus has to do with insecurity in our identity as beloved children of the Father. Our ears remain open to the whispers of doubt and lies of the enemy and closed to the truths of our loving Father.
When you lose touch with your chosenness, you expose yourself to the temptation of self-rejection, and that temptation undermines the possibility of ever growing as the Beloved.
-Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved
An intimate knowledge of being chosen and loved brings an unshakable confidence, one which does not need to be fed with narcissism or man’s praise. As the Psalmist declared in Psalm 9:10, when we are intimately acquainted with His name, we will trust Him because we will fully understand that He will not forsake us.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior, I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia
andSeba in your place. Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you…
Isaiah 43:1-4, NKJV
This doesn’t sound like Someone Who is going to abandon me. It sounds like Someone Who will love me until the end of time – and beyond – like Someone who always has my back. It sounds like Someone I want my life to express…and reflect.
I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior.
Isaiah 43:11, NKJV
An intimate knowledge of being chosen and loved brings an unshakable confidence. One which does not need to be fed with narcissism. When we are intimately acquainted with His name, we will fully understand God will not forsake us. Click To Tweet