Home > Ministry > Two visions of the Christian life – part 2

Two visions of the Christian life – part 2

Last time we looked at the first part of the table outlining two vastly different visions of the Christian life (see previous post).

For many Christians, the battle they are fighting is between selfishness on the one hand, and Christianity on the other.

And in the face of worldly selfishness that elevates my own desires and my own interests, it’s probably natural that Christianity is cast in terms of its antithesis: suppression ofmy own desires, and in its place doing God’s things.

 

And I think, for some Christians, this is how we end up with a Christianity driven by duty and obedience. Instead of selfishly doing our own thing, we should dutifully submit ourselves to doing the things God wants us to do. Because after all, God is God, right? we should let him call the shots, right?

The problem is that this puts the focus on outward obedience and conformance – and not on the inner affections of the heart. Yes, we may be performing the actions of church attendance and prayer – but our hearts may actually be very far away from God. We may have the outward form of Christianity, and even be ‘into ministry’! But the inner reality of what we truly love – and fear – is not centred on the glory of God.

 

For those of us from Confucian backgrounds however, there is something else… Our culture also strongly predisposes us towards a Christianity of duty and obedience in a way that is unknown to those from Western cultures. I’ve written more on that here!

In the Gospels, there was in fact a group of people who excelled at outward obedience. They were faultless in their conformance. However when Jesus came across them, this is what he says to them:

7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

8 ” `These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ “

Matthew 15:7-9 (NIV)

Here is more of that table. As before, read down one column, and then the down the other. And as you do so, ask yourself: what is the focus of this vision of the Christian life?

Christianity driven by duty and obedience Christianity captivated by the glory of God
How we lead others Christian leadership is about telling people what they should do, and what they should avoid. We lead others by being filled with a love for God – and others see, and are attracted.
How we sing Songs are only directed to one another as means to instruct and steel one another in our obedience of God. Songs may also be sung to God as worshipful prayers that express our love and awe of God.
What we want for our children Obedient, well-behaved children who go to church. The focus is on external conformance. Children who love God more than they even love us. The focus is on internal affection for God.
What makes for a successful life A person who serves tirelessly as a church leader or deacon, and brings lots of people to church. Because we are created to serve God. A person who loves and fears God, and proclaims him so that others might do the same. Because we are created to glorify God.
How we explain the gospel We begin from God’s right in creation, and go to the problem of rebellion. The Christian life is coming under his rule again. We being with us being created for the glory of God, and go to how we have spurned God’s glory. The Christian life is loving, and being jealous of his glory.
How we think of forgiveness It comes painfully – if ever – because our focus is really on our rights. It comes naturally, for people who are immersed in the gospel and know how profoundly God has forgiven them.

[ PS: stay tuned for more of the table... ]

Categories: Ministry
  1. Unknown
    5 November 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Thanks Andrew!My foolish but outwardly stoic heart needs to be constantly reminded of this.By the way, Johnson & Carey recorded your second two SALT talks (but unfortunately not the first). They\’re available online at:http://www.bhcbc.org.au/english/downloads/Unfortunately, being recorded off laptops, the sound quality is not great.Thanks again!Derek

  2. Scott
    6 November 2009 at 11:39 am

    Perhaps \’duty and obedience\’ could be viewed in complementary balance with the right column, rather than its polemical antithesis, because a lot of the things here, such as singing to edify others, sin as rebellion and conversion as coming under God\’s rule, are Biblical teachings which we should uphold.

  3. Scott
    6 November 2009 at 11:40 am

    Overall this is helpful, and I\’m already thinking of ways to incorporate this into my next week\’s sermon. Thanks mate.

  4. Andrew
    6 November 2009 at 4:43 pm

    The best way to think about the two columns is \’outward form\’ and \’inward reality\’. And so I don\’t intend to deny everything in the left hand column – but instead to make the point that on the whole, the right gives purpose and shape for the behaviours in the left. And that sometimes what we see is the practices from the left hand column, with no inward reality (from the right hand column)…Just like in Matthew 15. Jesus affirms that, yes, the Pharisees do in fact honour God with their lips – that behaviour is right. However their hearts are far from him. But hearts that are close to him will in fact also lead on to lips that honour God.

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