Chapter 13

 

True Spirituality and Christian Worldview

 
Moral character is assessed not by what a man knows, but by what he loves. -St. Augustine
  • “We suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him,” Paul writes (Rom. 8:17). Western Christians like to jump ahead to the second half of the verse, to the assurance that we will share in His glory. But spiritual growth doesn’t work that way. Genuine sanctification begins with suffering and dying with Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ,” Paul writes. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Notice the order again: Only when we have faced trials so severe that we are crucified spiritually to this world can Christ truly give us His resurrection life. Ultimately, this experience is the goal of developing a Christian worldview–not just studying and debating ideas, but dying and rising again in union with Christ. Without this inner spiritual reality, everything we have said about worldviews can become little more than a mental exercise. Even worldview studies can become a seedbed for pride instead of a process of submitting our minds to the Lordship of Christ.
  • The first step in conforming our intellect to God’s truth is to die to our vanity, pride, and craving for respect from colleagues and the public. We must let go of the worldly motivations that drive us, praying to be motivated solely by a genuine desire to submit our minds to God’s Word–and then to use that knowledge in service to others.
  • The church is meant to be the “plausibility structure” for the gospel. When people see a supernatural dimension of love, power, and goodness in the way Christians live and treat one another, then our message of biblical truth becomes plausible.
  • While it is true that Christianity offers the best cognitive system for explaining the world, it is never just a system. Knowing the truth has meaning only as a first step to living the truth day by day. And how do we drive our beliefs down into the reality of daily experience? By dying to ourselves, that we may live for God.
  • We should never give up out conviction that the objective truths of Christ’s death and resurrection are the basis for our justification. But the next step is to take Christ as the ongoing model for our lives. As the medieval spiritual writers put it, we are called to practice “the imitation of Christ.” Not in a moralistic sense of trying to mold our behavior by certain ethical precepts, but rather in a mystical sense that our own suffering becomes a participation in Christ’s suffering. Only after sharing in Christ’s death is there a promise of sharing in His resurrection power.
  • Moment by moment, we must learn to say no to sin and worldly motivations. In a world of moral relativism, where everything is reduced to personal choice, simply saying no is in itself a very hard teaching. If it does not seem hard, then we are probably accommodating to the world without realizing it.
  • In a culture that measures everything in terms of size, success, and influence, we have to say no to these worldly values as well. In a culture of material affluence, we have to say no to coveting a better house, a sleeker car, a more upscale neighborhood, a more impressive ministry. In a culture that judges people by reputation and achievements, we have to resist the lure of living for professional recognition and advancement. Not that these things are wrong in themselves. But when they fill our hearts and define our motivations, then they become barriers to our relationship with God–which means they become sin for us.
  • If someone is truly in the wrong, then the loving response is not to give in but to confront the person. It is not an act of love to allow someone to sin against you with impunity. Sin is a cancer within the other person’s soul, and genuine love must be strong and courageous in bringing that sin to the light, where it can be diagnosed and dealt with. 
  • Christians sometimes think it a matter of piety to deny the evil done to them–to cover it up, say it wasn’t so bad, wear a smile in public. But Joseph did not shrink from calling his brothers’ actions evil, and neither should we. In this world, we too will be rejected by people with sinful motives, and for the sake of truth we should call it what it is. But we can also turn it to good by realizing that suffering gives us a chance to enter spiritually upon the journey that Jesus mapped out for us: rejected, slain (spiritually), and, finally, raised.
  • Whether the suffering is physical or psychological, the way God brings us to see what we are really basing our life upon is to take it away. When we lose our health or family or work or reputation, and our lives come crashing down and we feel lost and empty–that’s when we realize how much our sense of purpose and identity was actually bound up in those things. That’s why we have to be willing to let Him take them away.
  • For whenever we give in to long-term, ingrained patterns of sin, we give Satan a foothold in our inner self–and become spiritually enslaved to him. If some area of our lives is not fully submitted in obedience to God, then in practice we are under the control of Satan in that area–giving him the allegiance that belongs to God alone.
  • How do we know whether we are producing life or death? By whether our lives exhibit the beauty of God’s character. When people see the way you live, are they drawn closer to God or are they alienated from God? When they observe the way you treat others, do they find the gospel more credible or less credible? That is the standard by which we should measure our actions. Christians are called to be “life-producing machines,” demonstrating by our actions and character that God exists. We may preach a God of love, we may even have opportunities to reach thousands through our ministries and church programs, but if nonbelievers do not observe visible love within those ministries and churches and Christian organizations, then we undermine the credibility of our message.
  • Having a Christian worldview is not just about answering intellectual questions. It also means following biblical principles in the personal and practical spheres of life. Christians can be infected by secular worldviews not only in their beliefs but also in their practices.
  • We sometimes act in ways that seem irrational to those sitting in the naturalist’s chair, who see only the physical world. It means we do what is right even at great cost, because we are convinced that what we gain in the unseen realm is far greater than what we lose from a worldly perspective.
  • Many believers act as though becoming a Christian were a matter of faith, but being a Christian afterward were a matter of their own drive and willpower. They are striving to be “perfected by the flesh.” Working in the flesh, they may well produce impressive results in the visible world. But if that work is done in the flesh, then no matter how successful it appears, it does little to build God’s kingdom.
  • “The Christian life really begins when we understand by hard experience that ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5)” -an old spiritual classic.
  • At some point, the realization crashes in on us that life is not what we had hoped for, and we ask Is this all there is? We realize that in a fallen world, even the good things cannot fully satisfy our deepest hungers, and everything we have loved and lived for turns to sawdust and slips through our fingers.
  • Only after dying to everything we have ever lived for do we genuinely come to believe, as a practical reality, that “apart from Me you can do nothing.” And only then can God really pour his life and power into our work.
  • “The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism,” Schaeffer writes–or even hot-button social issues like evolution, abortion, radical feminism, or homosexual rights. The primary threat to the church is the “tendency to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than the Spirit.” Many church leaders crave a “big name,” he continues: They “stand on the backs of others” in order to achieve power, influence, and reputation–instead of exhibiting the humility of the Master who washed his disciples’ feet. No wonder outsiders see little in the church that cannot be explained by ordinary sociological forces and principles of business management. And no wonder they find our message unconvincing.
  • Imagine that you were to wake up tomorrow morning, Schaeffer says, and that by some magic, everything the Bible teaches about prayer and the empowering of the Holy Spirit was gone–it was erased from history and had never been said. Would that make any difference in practice in the way we run our Christian organizations? The tragic fact, Schaeffer says, is that in many Christian organizations, “there would be no difference whatsoever.” We function day by day sitting in the naturalist’s chair, as though the supernatural were not real.
 

 
  • The same contradictory pattern often emerges in the way Christian churches and organizations function–in their management of the workplace itself, treatment of employees, and leadership style. Many groups are Christian in what they profess, but not in the way they operate. Consider, for example, ministries that demand excessively long hours on the job. This common practice produces a line of destructive domino effects: it breaks up marriages, erodes family life, and eliminates outside sources of renewal, like involvement in a local church. Cut off from the external emotional resources, a person often becomes overdependent on relationships at work and thus vulnerable to control and manipulation.
  • There are many positive counter-examples. A study found that the most effective leaders are those who regard workers as part of their mission, not merely as a means to larger goals. Instead of asking, What can this person do for my ministry? they ask, What can I do tho help this person develop spiritually and professionally? In the top organizations, employees consistently described their leaders in terms like humble, approachable, caring, and godly. At Phoenix Seminary, President Darryl DelHousaye is known for asking his staff, “How can I help you? How can I bless you? How can I help you succeed?” The best organizations regard the nurturing of their own employees as a spiritual mandate.
  • Servant leadership is not an abstract ideal; it is completely practical and workable. Having a Christian worldview means being utterly convinced that biblical principles are not only true but also work better in the grit and grime of the real world.
  • Successful leaders “are not charismatic, nor are they celebrities.” They are not “hard charging” leaders who feel they have to whip up employees to perform. Instead they are humble, modest, even self-effacing people, who share decision making with their staff.
  • When a Christian organization violates ethical principles in order to get results, it cannot expect God to use those results. We cannot “structure sin into our method of doing business,” and then expect God to bless it.
  • The operative principle is that each member in the Body of Christ has been given unique gifts–and the Body as a whole functions best when each is recognized, honored, and allowed to flourish. A Christian organization should aim to cultivate each worker’s gifts, not stifle them or build up leaders at the expense of others. As Schaeffer put it, “with God there are no little people”–which means we cannot treat anyone as mere means to other goals.
  • “When I come to visit your church someday, I will not ask people about what a great preacher or leader you are,” Barrs says. “Rather I will talk to the secretaries, the office staff, the janitors and cleaners and ask them what it is like to work with you. That will tell me far more about the kind of ministry taking place in the church, and whether you are the kind of leader that Christ desires for His Church.” To use biblical language, God charges shepherds (whether in the pulpit or in other forms of leadership) to feed the sheep, not to fleece them. He thunders against the leaders of ancient Israel: “You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, and slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep” (Ezek. 34:3). Bad shepherds are those who exploit other people’s gifts and talents to meet their own needs and advance their own agendas, instead of asking what is good for the sheep themselves.
  • What we create belongs to us. Taking responsibility for our own work–accepting both the credit and the blame, the benefits and the losses–is a crucial element in human dignity. Our work is one of the most important ways we express our inner self and character in external form-it is a principal “fruit” by which others can know who we really are. That is why it is a profoundly dehumanizing to separate a person from the “fruit” of his work.
  • What is a servant leader? It is someone, who, in Senske’s words, refuses to use people as a means to an end–who always asks, “Am I building people up, or am I building myself up and merely using those around me?” A servant leader creates an atmosphere of “transparency” in which all relevant information is shared openly, so that everyone has an opportunity to make responsible decisions. Finally, a servant leader lets go of command-and-control methods, and creates a culture that allows everyone to grow into leaders, stretching their own God-given talents.
  • Every Christian needs to be equally convinced that biblical principles are true not only in some abstract sense but in the reality of our work, business, and personal lives. If we become aware that a ministry or business is violating biblical principles, we need to stop being enablers and start calling people to accountability–even if it means paying a price. We must never forget that going along with unbiblical principles is not only wrong, it is unloving. Acquiescing in an unjust situation typically stems not from love, but from fear of possible negative repercussions. If we aspire to a godly, holy love for others, we must be willing to take the risk and practice loving confrontation. There is too much at stake to be complacent. If you and I do not have the courage to confront worldly and sinful practices in our own ranks, what makes us think we will have the courage to stand against powerful secular leaders?
  • A recent Zogby/Forbes ASAP poll asked respondents, What would you like most to be known for? A full half of respondents checked off an unexpected answer: They said they would like a reputation for “being authentic” In a world of spin and hype, the postmodern generation is searching desperately for something real and authentic. They will not take Christians seriously unless our churches and parachurch organizations demonstrate an authentic way of life–unless they are communities that exhibit the character of God in their relationships and mode of living.
  • In the days of the early church, the thing that most impressed their neighbors in the Roman Empire was the community of love they witnessed among believers. “Behold how they love one another,” it was said. In every age, the most persuasive evidence for the gospel is not words or arguments but a living demonstration of God’s character through Christians’ love for one another, expressed in both their words and their actions. The gospel is not meant to be “a disembodied message,” Newbigin writes. It is meant to be fleshed out in “a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it”–who exhibit in their relationships the beauty of God’s character.
  • The spiritual reality of rejected, slain, raised lies at the heart of everything in the Christian life, including the work of developing a Christian mind. Only as we cooperate with God in dying to sin and self are we open to receiving “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). May God give us the grace to be worldview missionaries, building lives and communities that give an authentic witness of His existence before a watching world.
This post contains quoted and paraphrased passages of Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.