Friday, December 23, 2011

Christless Christianity (Excerpts)

"Christ is a source of empowerment, but is he widely regarded
among us today as the source of redemption for the powerless?
He helps the morally sensitive to become better, but does he save
the ungodly—including Christians? He heals broken lives, but
does he raise those who are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph.
2:1 NKJV)? Does Christ come merely to improve our existence
in Adam or to end it, sweeping us into his new creation? Is
Christianity all about spiritual and moral makeovers or about
death and resurrection—radical judgment and radical grace? Is
the Word of God a resource for what we have already decided
we want and need, or is it God’s living and active criticism of
our religion, morality, and pious experience? In other words, is
the Bible God’s story, centering on Christ’s redeeming work,
that rewrites our stories, or is it something we use to make our
stories a little more exciting and interesting? (pg. 24)

Religion, spirituality, and moral earnestness—what Paul called
“the appearance of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim.
3:5)—can continue to thrive in our environment precisely because
they avoid the scandal of Christ. Nobody will raise a fuss if you
find Jesus helpful for your personal well-being and relationships,
or even if you think he was the greatest person in history—a
model worthy of devotion and emulation. But start talking about
the real crisis—where our best efforts are filthy rags and Jesus
came to bear the condemnation of helpless sinners who place
their confidence in him rather than in themselves—and people
begin shifting in their seats, even in churches." (pg. 26)

"Discipleship, spiritual disciplines, life transformation,
culture-transformation, relationships, marriage and family,
stress, the spiritual gifts, financial gifts, radical experiences
of conversion, end-times curiosities that seem to have less to
do with Christ’s bodily return than with matching verses to
newspaper headlines, and accounts of overcoming significant
obstacles through the power of faith. This is the steady diet
we’re getting today, and it is bound to burn us out because it’s all
about us and our work rather than about Christ and his work.
Even important biblical exhortations and commands become
dislocated from their indicative, gospel habitat. Instead of the
gospel giving us new thoughts, experiences, and a motivation
for grateful obedience, we lodge the power of God in our own
piety and programs." (pgs. 26-27)

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