Christian Life, True Spirituality, Part 4

From the discussion Christian Life, True Spirituality Parts 1-3, two things are immediately involved here,if we are to see this in the
Christian fr
amework rather than in a non-Christian one.

The first is that as Christians we say we live in a personal universe, in the sense that it was created by a personal God. Now that we have accepted Christ as our Savior,God the Father is our Father. When we say we live in a personal universe and God the Father is our Father, to the extent that we have less than a trusting attitude we are denying what we say we believe. We say that, as Christians, we have by choice taken the place of creatures before the Creator, but as we show a lack of trust, we are exhibiting that at that moment, in practice, we have not really so chosen.

The second thing we must comprehend in order to understand a contented heart in the Christian framework, rather than in a non-Christian one, is illustrated by Camus’s dilemma in The Plague. As Christians we say we live in a supernatural universe and that there is a battle, since the fall of man, and that this battle is in both the seen world and the unseen world. This is what we say we believe; we insist on this against the naturalists and against the anti-supernaturalists. If we really believe this, first, we can be contented and yet fight evil, and second, surely it is God’s right to put us as Christians where he judges best in the battle.

In a Christian understanding of contentment, we must see contentment in relation to these things. To summarize, there is a personal God. He is my Father since I have accepted Christ as my Savior. Then surely when I lack trust, I amdenying what I say I believe. At the same time, I say there is a battle in the universe, and God is God. Then, if I lack trust, what I am really doing is denying in practice that he has a right, as my God, to use me where he wants in the spiritual battle that exists in the seen and the unseen world. The trust and contentment must be in the Christian framework, but in the proper framework the contentment is deeply important. If the contentment goes and the giving of thanks goes, we are not loving God as we should, and proper desire has become coveting against God.

This inward area is the first place of loss of true spirituality. The outward is always just a result of it.

The second test as to when proper desire becomes coveting is that we should love men enough not to envy, and this is not only envy for money; it is for everything. It can, for instance, be envy of his spiritual gifts. There is a simple test for this. Natural desires have become coveting against a fellow creature, one of our kind, a fellow man, when we have a mentality that would give us secret satisfaction at his misfortune. If a man has something, and he loses it, do we have an inward pleasure? A secret satisfaction at his loss? Do not speak too quickly and say it is never so, because you will make yourself a liar. We must all admit that even when we get on in our Christian life, even in these areas where we say we are longing for the church of Jesus Christ to be more alive in our generation, often we have this awful secret satisfaction at the loss of other men, even at the loss of brothers in Christ. Now if this mentality is upon me, in any way, then my natural desires have become coveting. I am inwardly coveting, and I am not loving men as I should. Inward coveting,lack of love toward men and women, soon tends to spill over into the external world. It cannot be kept in the internal world completely.

This occurs in various degrees. When I have a wrong regret that others have what I do not possess, and this regret is allowed to grow, very quickly it comes to make me dislike the person himself. Surely we all have felt this. As the Holy Spirit makes us increasingly honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that often we have a dislike of a person because we have had wrong desire toward something of his. More than this, if I would be happy if he were to lose something, the next step in the external world is moving either subtly or more openly to cause him to have the loss, either in lying about him, stealing from him, or whatever it may be.

In 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 we are told that our longing in love should be to seek for the other man’s good and not just my own: “All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.” And the same is true in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful”. When we read these things and understand that failure in these areas is really coveting, a lack of love, every one of us must be upon his knees as Paul was upon his knees when he saw the commandment not to covet; it destroys any superficial view of the Christian life.

These are the areas of true spirituality. These are the areas of true Christian living. They are not basically external; they are internal, they are deep; they go down into the areas of our lives we like to hide from ourselves. The inward area is the first place of loss of true Christian life, of true spirituality, and the outward sinful act is the result. If we can only get hold of this—that the internal is the basic, the external is always merely the result, it will be a tremendous starting place.
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1 Response May 19, 2012

amen