Can we (Christians in America) say that our DIY culture has NOT affected the way we view spirituality and spiritual growth?
We are a nation of dreamers and doers, of second-chances and "try harder". Of "go get 'em" and the "American Dream". We encourage our children and friends to reach for the stars and tell them that nothing is beyond their ability to achieve if they want it bad enough. We are capitalists. We like bigger and better. We use insane amounts of time and money learning how to increase our bottom line and improve... ourselves, our social status, our business, our housing, our retirement plan. The list goes on and on.
For the most part, this is all fine and dandy. There's a lot to be said for the basic moral qualities of perserverance, hard work and positive thinking. The problem arises when we allow the "5 Step Plan" mentality of improving our finances to impact the way we view our spiritual growth.
Are you a list-maker? Have you ever written something on a list just so you could cross it off?
Are you over-achiever? "Hey, look at this
Are you improvement-addict? Do you have a growing pile of purchased clothing items (ahem, Goodwill), that "just need ________"?
Again I ask, haven't these traits seeped into the way we view our spiritual journey?
We want a clear outline for success.
We want immediate results.
We strive to be better and do better.
It's not that these articles are incorrect. In fact, many of the items they list are based on scripture. The point is that when we create a "How-To" list of items or a "5 Step Plan", we naturally focus on that list rather than the One on whom that list was created. A list is exactly that, a list. Its power to transform is only as strong as our ability to follow it.
We end up focusing on the principles and our ability to maintain them rather than the Inspiration and the very Source from which these principles get their strength. And I don't know about you, but this only sets me up for failure. It breeds discontent, discouragement and general depression. It has been known to make me self-righteous, hypocritical, proud and unloving. Much like the Children of Israel (and centuries of Christians) who quite possibly interpreted God's law to Moses as commandments rather than promises. Think about that for a second... what if the Ten Commandments are actually God's promises to us? Powerful thought, to say the least. The Children of Israel are a perfect example of what happens when I try to follow any law or set of principles on my own, no matter how NT-oriented.
In our sincere desire to grow in righteousness, we gravitate towards the same tendencies as the Pharisees. We busy ourselves with works "for the Lord" to the point that we either forget who he is or we fashion him into something very different from who he is. In our solution-oriented, self-sufficient society, we default to the How-To. Because who doesn't love a list of instructions that, when followed to a T, result in a guaranteed outcome? How many of us are going to defend ourselves on Judgement Day with some whiney verbiage about how we followed the instructions?
I believe that Jesus fulfilled the Law. And not only the letter of the Law, but the heart-principles the Law intended to establish. My only hope of success is in his finished work. He lived it both in heart and in action and since he now lives in me, there is no more striving. There is no more list-making and principle-following. He brought a completely new and different way. One that defies all logic and contradicts every earthly, fleshly system, yet cannot fail because it has already won!
All good is both inspired by him and carried out by him. It's not me! And there is no limit to the power he has to sanctify and purify me. Because the 5 Step Plan is complete in him, I have the privilege of simply leaning into him each day and getting to know him better. I believe with all my heart, soul, strength, mind that is the very best and only way to live my life in service to him.
ps. If you know me very well, you know that I have been beating this particular drum for several years. I'm sorry if you are tired of the beat, but I can't help myself. It's where I'm at. It's a topic that reaches to the depths who I am and messes me up in such a way that only God can put it all back together. And I think that's precisely the point. So I won't presume that this message echos as deeply with every single one of you and that's ok. Just find something that does and let it break you so deeply that you are hopeless without the Father.