Russell and Duenes

Is It Just a Modification of What the World is Doing?

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Over the summer I did a study with a couple guys from church in the book of Micah, and now we’re in the book of Philippians, and I don’t know how to put this, but each time we discuss the Scriptures, I get this nagging sense that there’s a way that the Christian faith is supposed to be lived, and we’re not living it (“We” meaning, not just us three). Much of this sense stems from a picture I have in my mind’s eye of a group of Christians living out their faith together. I can see Christians connected by geography, meeting together for prayer and encouragement more than just once a week for “worship,” whose lives are oriented around exhorting each other, and tangibly caring for each other in practical and embodied ways (meaning, not just through cyberspace) and who strategically and intentionally find ways, through common effort, to tangibly serve and bless others in and for the name of Christ and His kingdom. I see these people sharing their possessions, strategically thinking about their possessions so as to maximize their impact for the blessing and encouragement of others in Christ. Perhaps it’s just a mirage in my mind.

And then I look at my own Christian life. Each weekday I get up early, hurriedly get myself ready to go to school and work, and then I’m off to class, and then to work, and then back to class, and then back to work, and then home to eat dinner with my family, play a bit with my boys, read them some stories and the Bible, pray and sing with them some, and then back to studying until bedtime. Exhaustion and a feeling that there’s never enough hours in the day. This routine can be, and usually is, done without any vital connection to any other Christians in my context. Every other week I go to a men’s meeting at church, which provides a nice place to get together with other Christian men. And then there’s church on Sundays, where we chat with the two families we know at our church, and then every other week I have this Bible study that gives me this nagging feeling. Oh, and I lead a little devotional at the Christian Legal Society meeting each Thursday at lunch. But it’s all so atomistic and individualistic, and it all seems to have no chance of producing much by way of spiritual growth in my life, or of truly fostering the formation of vital Christian fellowship that will be characterized by the advancement of God’s kingdom purposes in the world. We tread over well-worn Christian ideas, but they seem to just vanish into the ether.

The Christian life I have in my mind’s eye just never seems possible. We’re busy, others are busy, needs at home take precedence, and the general flow of the world squeezes me into a vice-grip, such that I feel that I cannot get out of “the way things work.” It just seems to me that true Christian faith is not some slight, or even serious “modification” of what the world is doing. It’s something almost wholly other. This, of course, doesn’t mean that we don’t eat, clothe ourselves, pay our bills, head to work, drive our cars here and there, and many other mundane things. I have to think underground Christians in China do these things as well. But I somehow can’t imagine that the underground Christian in China’s spiritual life is fashioned in the same way as mine. When I read the New Testament, I get the sense that these men and women were being guided by a different compass, based on assumptions foreign to “the way things are.” Somehow, having been apprehended by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, whole groups of them, they seemed to have the idea that they were now part of a new community, with new purposes for rising out of bed each day, and a sense that this new life that Jesus had called them to could not be lived simply by “reading their Bibles more” and “trying to find quiet times.” It makes me think of Chesterton’s aphorism: “The Christian faith has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”

I need something more, something bigger. God has to be bigger. His purposes and His call of His people’s lives together has to be more compelling than this. And in the pages of Scripture, it is! I suppose this feeling came to me afresh, for I’ve had it before, from a sermon by Thomas Chalmers, entitled “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” In it he is expositing 1 John 2:15-17…”Love not the world, neither the things in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Chalmers says that “we shall never be able to arrest any of [the world’s] leading pursuits by a naked demonstration of their vanity.” Christians are good at showing the shabbiness of the world, as am I. We hold up the world to exposure, and think that this will compel us to pursue Christ together with reckless abandon. But it’s not so. Chalmers says, “It is not enough, then, that we dissipate the charm, by a moral, and eloquent, and affecting exposure of [the world’s] illusiveness. We must address to the eye of [man’s] mind another object, with a charm powerful enough to dispossess the first of its influences, and to engage him in some other prosecution as full of interest, and hope, and congenial activity, as the former.” I suppose we need whole communities to come under the power of this divine charm and influence. But how does that happen? And when it does happen, what shape and contours does it have? What would we all be doing if we came under a more powerful influence of the Holy Spirit?

I may say more on this, but I at least wanted to set down my initial thoughts, and I would welcome any comments which might aid in further reflection.



Written by Michael Duenes

October 22, 2012 at 8:37 am

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

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