Sunday, June 29, 2008

Oh self, why?

The past two weeks have been enlightening for me. As a counselor at a two week music camp--one week for junior high, one week for senior high--I was thrown into a group of people far different from the largely Christian group I am blessed to be with most of the time. My fellow counselors were mainly college upperclassmen or older, and although not exclusively, most were interested in music and music education. All were amiable, easy to work with, and generally pleasant people. However, they also were committed to secularism, held contrasting views to mine, and the standard jokes were sexual and crude in nature. Christianity was definitely not a priority, even among those who claimed nominal Catholicism/Protestantism.

I do not intend to make this a confession, or to detail all my faults. However, I was bothered profoundly throughout the week by aspects of my behavior throughout the week, and I want to highlight those tendencies many people may relate to, as shown by my recent salient experiences. Even as I write this, the gospel uplifts me, and I know that Jesus' work on my behalf covers my failures, and through him, I'll continue on my halting way toward sanctification.

Foremost of what I noticed is how little Christianity pervades my conversations with nonbelievers. I'm not talking about beating nonbelievers over the head with my Christianity, but I was dismayed at how little my conversations were influenced by what I claim as the center of my existence. The influence of the gospel in my life ought to be striking and notable. How can I talk about my past without mentioning God's provision for me? How can I talk about my future without mentioning my trust in God? How can I respond to any sort of deep questioning without that response being permeated by that which is deepest in me? Is it possible to wrench from every answer the substance that makes me who I am?

As demonstrated by these last two weeks, it certainly seems possible. This raises the niggling question: do I believe whole-heartedly what I confess at church? Or, stripped of an encouraging environment, is my faith proved to be tepid and ineffective? I guess, primarily, the question is how strongly I actually believe what I say I do. For example, I say that without Christ a soul is doomed forever, but when given opportunities to speak with these needy souls, I readily shelve Christianity as a second-tier topic. Because I'm afraid of controversy, I take steps to avoid discussions of the meaning of life, of virtue, of meaningful things--instead favoring the weather, music, and various other delightfully pointless topics.

About these things my conscience bothers me. As options for my future arise, I have pondered both seminary and missions. In these areas, the gospel is central to all one does, and the focus of all one's activities, and the last two weeks showed me how easy it is to lose sight of goal. I trust that this experience was appropriately timed and will accomplish God's purposes, bringing about a preparation for the tasks God eventually will give me. In the meantime, through pondering my sadly empty conversations, a wonderful song entitled "Help my unbelief" has attained a new poignancy for me. I pray that He will help mine. May I believe strongly and deeply what I confess so that its influence extends to all I do, coloring my conversations, prompting my actions.

Let us remember that, as Christians, we are not to fit into the culture around us. We are a counter-culture, the Kingdom of God, and the love of Christ ought to transform our attitudes so that we stand out. We have the truth, and should let reality be known. Being different, being known as a Christian, and standing for the gospel are necessary parts of the Christian life.

Onward Christian soldiers go.

PS-The church is a vital part of a vibrant faith.

3 comments:

___________________________ said...

Not surprising. The basis of most thinking is secular. What does "practical" mean other than secular appeal? After all, it is usually not contextualized, but just means whether or not something is good for secular purposes.

Ha! It really isn't surprising. The real truth is that the gospel is usually less of "the basis of our being" and more of "what is cool in our crowd" or even "my little security blanket". Heck, there is not much of a difference between Christians and non-Christians, and there isn't much of a difference between people and homo economicus other than the fact that the former are dumber.

A counter-culture? I agree that ideal Christianity ought to be a counter-culture with revolutionary values. But Christians end up being known for radical judgment and not radical love.

That "PS" seems rather odd and disconnected.

Tyler said...

Anthony, it is not even funny how "right with you" I am. That is exactly my experience in the last few months. I'll be praying for you, and trust you would hear my request for prayers for me.

Whoever it was that commented first, I would encourage you to not count everyone professing to be a Christian as someone who truly has a regenerated heart with the indwelling Spirit of God. Moreover, I would encourage you to guard against mistaking Christians trying to gently show people the truth of their sinful nature, for Christians who are judging other people. Instead of judging others, they've judged themselves and found themselves unworthy of God but for Christ's mercy, and want to share the joy of their peace with others. This just doesn't come without revealing the truth about sin, though. Peace!

-Tyler <><

Anonymous said...

Although I'm 61 and spent most of my life in the military,I don't think there's a Christian around who hasn't fallen to this temptation or sin and more than just once too.
You can read Paul's same struggle in Romans 7, and if any Christian Pharisee tells you how wicked you are or that you have to "try harder" or "avoid the world" they're just Job's counselers.
Remember that the Gospel is what Jesus did FOR US.The mighty indicative always comes before the imperatives in the Epistles. The fact that this even drew you to humble yourself is proof enough that the right road always becomes clearer the more we veer off of it. That's not to say that we should look to veer off the way so that we can grow in our walk.
Romans 6:1,2 clearly show that's not the way to grow in God's grace, but to the extent that any of this depends on you will measure how much you will have to struggle with unbelief. The more I find out that the mighty sovereign God who raised me from the dead did so knowing I would continue to sin in this lifetime has always been the counter force that causes us to wonder why He would continue to do so. We cannot begin to grasp the depth of the love of the One who knew us before the universe came into being. But it sure does give one a hope and a wonder that no one can take away.
You will find with time that these occurances will happen less and less, but beware; satan will hit you where you feel you are at your strongest. Why? Because we take our attention away from where we feel strong and concentrate it on our weaknesses. Yet it is at this very point that we must refer back to the dialog that the Apostle Paul had with Jesus. Be sure to go over 2 Cor 12:1-10.We have a day to look forward to when sin will no longer have any control over us at all.That day comes after we take our last breath. Journey on fellow Pilgrim,journey on.

Steve <><