Recently I found myself met by a statement that went something like this:
Western Christianity has in some cases become watered down to a self-help or medication for the emptiness inside. We have substituted missional living and even building up Christian community for an inward-looking truncated version of the Gospel.
This struck me.
This has been quite true in my own life. Many a time, my conversations with God have looked more like a shopping list of requests than an enjoyable dialogue.
Modern, Western culture has become obsessed with medicating the emptiness which it feels inside. Sex, drugs, movies, alcohol, religion (i.e. empty rule following), and indefinable spiritualities, are all some of the obvious examples of escapism we might point to for evidence.
Not to say that all of these things are negative (movies or sex for example) but, used in this way and out of appropriate context, they are quite destructive.
I would put forward to you that a Christian’s spirituality, which is inward looking or which seeks only self-betterment, is another, yet, more undetectable means which we use to dull the pang of emptiness we feel inside.
I would go so far as to say that this isolated, selfish form of spirituality, though it means well, actually cannot fill the empty void within. I say this because it simply misses a huge chunk of what it means to live as a follower of Christ. It is less, how can I know Christ more and make Him known? and more, what can I get from Christ?
What I am not trying to say here is:
God isn’t interested in our brokenness or our becoming more holy.
On the contrary!
‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’ Galatians chapter 5 verse 1
God is more committed to our freedom than we are. Moreover, I believe that it is right to pursue breakthrough in our lives and to mature in our faith etc. The message I seek to portray is that, personal development is not the sole purpose of relationship with God, nor the foundationally driving factor.
Follow his lead
In his book ‘Dwell,’ Barry Jones states that we are to have a “spirituality deeply informed by the logic of the incarnation.” What this means is, to have true spirituality, to be truly Christ-like, we must follow the lead of Jesus regarding every part of our lives.
We must, therefore, understand the why, of the incarnation. My understanding of the incarnation, summarised for the sake of this article, is that Jesus’ life was intended as a blueprint for the life of the believer, and ultimately, as God’s redemptive plan to reconcile God and His creation.
Jesus lived in a beautiful harmony; Fully immersed in intimate relationship with the Father and fully pursuing and accomplishing His father’s mission – to save the lost.
Understanding why Jesus came and how He lived, we too can grow into a “spirituality deeply informed by the logic of the incarnation.”
Jones’ book ‘Dwell,’ which has largely been the inspiration for this article, challenges me; how then should I live?
It is an important question.
As a Western society, called out many times for our tendency to look in, how should we live?
I would urge modern believers to stray from a self-help kind of mentality. If our centre of focus is ourselves, then we will become exclusive and forfeit the mission of God. We, in an attempt to pursues holiness, will cut off unbelievers. Furthermore, we cut off Christian community, befriending only those who serve a purpose in us attaining our “best selves.”
We see neither of these behaviours in the life of Jesus. Jesus understood that His relationship with the Father didn’t end there; His relationship with the Father was to spill out over onto others around Him. Jesus’ ministry, and so too ours, should enrich our relationship with God, producing challenges that push us closer to Him.
Similarly, our private relationship with Jesus should be the foundation of our ministry.
Relationship with God and missional living cannot be made exclusive, they are undividable, enhancing and developing one another.
Lucy Miles can often be found singing or dancing her way through any one particular moment. Such joyous expression is brought forth from her love of the Lord, learning and people. She currently lives in Switzerland and is enrolled in a Ministry and Leadership Development School with Youth with a Mission (YWAM) in Switzerland and is excited to see where life will take her.