Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Jettisoning the Man-Centered Christian Life

As I reflect over the past 16 years of being a person born anew in Jesus, and as I consider the trajectories and landings of others, I am convinced more and more of the sovereignty of God in the salvation and spiritual maturing of each person.

Whether we, or our children, were raised in a “Christian home” (and the endless definitions of what that constitutes), or whether we never held a Bible in our hands or crossed the threshold of a church, God is sovereign.

And I believe, as I reflect more on this, that one of the stumbling blocks those of us who have come to accept Christ as our Lord and Savior mistakenly set up for others, as well as for ourselves, is that we replace a man-centered secular ideology with a man-centered “Christian” walk.

What I mean is that we engage in Christian activities that revolve around Christ, or point to Christ: whether it be the sorts of sermons we gravitate towards, the youth groups we invest in or the schools we send our kids to.

I think back on all the energy and time I dedicated to my kids showing up at youth group, being in church and even attending a Christian school, and I realize that where all of those endeavors fell short was the fact that we were doing these things because we thought this is what a real Christian does.

I am not ungrateful for the Christian Bible study I attended, the Christian school my children enrolled in, or the Godly pastor I listened to on Christian radio. Those were places God led me and my family when I did not yet even believe in Jesus Christ.

That was how God exposed me to His truth and set me on His path. I am forever grateful.

What I am talking about—and perhaps what I am talking about can only happen after all of the man-centered Christian striving—but what I am now talking about is that, once I began the road of Christ, I walked it as I saw others walking it, not as Christ.

Therefore, the activities I’ve already mentioned, in addition to a growing interest in politics and social issues, un-checked by Christ, bred in me a strong spiritual pride.

It forced an outward regeneration more than an inward one.

Perhaps it was inevitable I go through that in order to get where I am today: in Christ alone and Him in me.

Now that sounds very grand. But in fact, it’s pretty pared down.

Sixteen years in to living with Christ, I’ve finally shed the spiritual striving: the verbal sharing of faith on my terms and timing (not God’s); the being in church because I think it’s what God requires of me (regardless of whether or not church today is even remotely what Jesus had in mind) and the end of following certain pastors and Christian authors like a groupie.

I now understand that I was living for Christ in a me-centered, man-pleasing manner. I wanted to measure up to the outward Christian expectations I witnessed around me, and those verbalized to me from “mature” Christians. I was all about doing my best in the Christian world.

That is why I believe that, although I was truly saved and had begun to mature in Christ, I still lived repeatedly in known sin: such as impatience, defensiveness, unforgiveness and a lack of healing and victory over childhood issues that continued to trip me up.

Yes, I had freedom from alcohol, which was a fantastic launch. God used that struggle to ultimately break me and bring me to the end of myself. But the building of Christ in my life was stunted by, once I was saved, me attempting to build Christ in my life.

It is an inside-out turnaround, now living Christ versus living for Him.

Relationships are healing, trust in God alone is undergirding, Christ is providing compassionate perspective on other people and insight on their struggles, healthier responses to situations are forthcoming, interaction with others is easier and more desired, and emotional and mental maturation is taking shape. It is Christ, not man, who lives and trusts and loves first.

As the “Christian world” recedes, Christ, indeed, looms large.

copyright Barb Harwood 

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

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