The current issues many Christians in the west are wrestling with are the same issues we read about in Genesis. The serpent, trying to get Eve to question what God really said, convinced her that God didn’t really say what she had heard him say, and if he did, he was just keeping her from happiness.
Some of the honest questions people have are a result of being brought up in sects that held/hold to a form of godliness but have no power. A perverted version of Christianity that dwells in the shadows, demanding people fit into a mold (not necessarily God’s mold) and not teaching the practical steps and spiritual principals that must be understood and embraced in order for someone to walk in light. “If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness.”
To find the light, many have turned away from what they know of Christianity and have embraced religions/ideologies that teach practical truths and often get better results when it comes to liberty and peace (alcoholics finally being freed from their addiction, etc.). Why? Because practice is important. Without practice, we cannot improve ourselves. The difference between the gospel and these practices is that the gospel is not limited. The gospel not only frees us from alcoholism or drug addiction or the obsession with health and beauty and money, the gospel frees us from ourselves. Our sad, stinking, selves, as C.S. Lewis put it. The gospel makes us whole. The gospel enables us to become the men and women we are intended to be. Not self absorbed or bound to the lusts of our flesh, but people able to love our neighbors, do good works, be convicted when we’re wrong, and enabled to do right.
Eugene Peterson wrote a book called Practicing Resurrection. The title alone speaks so much. We must practice our faith, not just “believe.”
The gospel teaches us that we cannot be who we were created to be or follow the “rules” God set in place without regeneration/being recreated. In other words, without the help of the living Christ we are powerless to overcome the FULL darkness both inside and outside of ourselves.
Imagine if the gospel we taught was actually attainable? Not some far off, lofty concept that we embrace by “faith” and don’t let impact our lives. Imagine if we taught what Jesus taught. “I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.”
What if our most fulfilling life will come from embracing God’s plan instead of rejecting it, trusting that all he has said he has said for our good and for our ultimate wholeness? What if when we asked God for the grace we need to fight the darkness in us, we actually found it… not just by some emotional experience but through practice?
All this has come to me after watching too many episodes of Grantchester, and being blown away at how well the vicar articulates our current western version of Christianity. A Christianity that teaches us all to adopt an, “anything goes as long as it feels good” mentality, not realizing that rejecting God’s plan always leads to depravity, confusion, and heartache. Embracing God’s plan leads to wholeness.
Don’t believe the lies on either side. Don’t embrace a shoddy, powerless, empty religion that demands you be who you cannot be in your own strength (and that hides its own sin in the shadows) and don’t embrace the one that teaches you that “anything goes.” Both are wrong and both lead you far from the heart of the Father and deep into darkness.
God HAS said. And he’s not keeping us from wholeness, he’s pushing us toward it. But we must be willing to practice our faith (in his strength, not ours). The faith we read about in the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament was not just mental assent. It was fidelity.
Winston Churchill’s words apply so much to this… sharing them again: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”
Is that not a great picture of the a Christian life? We may have success in our fidelity/faith, we may fail, perseverance and the desire to become who God created us is what matters. He who seeks always finds… even if it’s a struggle.