Apr 11, 2008

It's a Bit Alarming . . .

There is something on the tip of my tongue, rolling around in my brain, of which, I just can't quite get a grasp. Something lurking just over my shoulder. . . something about influence versus power. One of D.L. Moody's great sermons about temptation briefly touches on influence versus power, he passionately warns Christians about confusing the two or choosing influence over power.

He says, "Ahab had influence; Elijah had power. . . Nebuchadnezzar had influence; Daniel had power . . . " His argument is that you have to be separated from the world to have power and he anticipated that your answer would be that you lose influence if you are separated from the world.

All of this is preceded by his statement that "men are willing to be Christians now if it doesn't cost them anything, if there is no self-denial."

Doesn't that sound familiar? Doesn't that sound like the church of today? I don't often hear sermons of self-denial, it's not in vogue to be separate from the world. And when I do hear them, my reaction is "No, Dude, we rely on grace; let's smile and hear about grace, something I can hang my hat on when I'm feeling so low!" But, suppose... maybe... self-denial is something to hang my hat on when I feel bad about myself? But that's based on self, too, what I accomplish or don't accomplish and let me tell you, been there, done that, don't want that again.

The mere thought of separation from the world brings up Luke 15 where Christ's hanging with the sinners was brought into question. In light of Luke 15, separation from the world doesn't mean avoiding non-Christians and just chilling with Christian brothers and sisters. Yet separation is vital to power, vital to the filling of the Spirit, which seems to be lacking in today's church, so what does it mean? Something about keeping your heart and soul clean, motives pure, avoiding temptation rather than treating it lightly?

The part I'm struggling with is the literal, human side of it. Self-denial. Of what spiritual gain is the practice of self-denial? I can't quite get a grasp on it, but I think it's significant, huge. I think it is overlooked right now in our generation.

There's a link between self-denial, resisting temptation, separation and filling with the Holy Spirit. I just haven't gotten it yet. Maybe that's the point of spiritual disciplines? You just practice them even if they don't make sense because they have an underlying value. Or because eventually, you'll "get it". We don't practice spiritual disciplines anymore -- the Sabbath as a holy day, not a holiday..... praying on our knees.... fasting....
I'm a big follower of Philip Yancey and G.K. Chesterton, both of whom lean heavily towards grace. Then there's D.L. Moody, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon. Yeowsie.

So... that's what's on my mind today. I'd love to hear from you.

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