When churches preach against selfishness, they assume that a Christian will be ashamed and then do selfless things.
That is the theory.
But there is a fatal flaw in this thinking.
The Christian cannot overcome his “self”. Only the Lord is able to accomplish this.
Only by yielding ourselves to His working within us are we able to do anything that is good. And keep from doing anything that is bad.
What We Allow to “Inform” Us
Most of Christianity has a strange relationship with modern psychology.
This means that we allow the philosophy of the world to dictate our understanding of the scriptures. Especially as it relates to the behavior of the believer.
This goes along with the teaching among Evangelicals today that we need to let popular science or modern culture “inform” the gospel. In other words, to inform our understanding and interpretation of the word of God.
This is seen when Christians try to combine behavior-modification techniques with spiritual disciplines to produce spiritual fruit.
Both of these practices are unbiblical. And yet you will find this hybrid philosophy taught everywhere in churches.
As if no one bothers to question if we should apply the elements of the world to our spiritual lives in order to accomplish God’s work.
We see this as more and more pastors apply “coaching” techniques to their congregations. Which is especially effective with young leaders. Who find it appealing to rally around a leader who is on fire for a cause. Who leads them to accomplish great things for the Lord.
It’s popular now to motivate young leaders to do “the hard things”. As if we are working to further a political or social movement.
Which, by the way, is exactly what is happening in many Evangelical churches today. Even though many leaders angrily deny it.
But is this really how God produces eternal fruit?
By the devoted strivings of Christians?
What the Bible Tells Us About the Self
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.” (II Corinthians 10:1-7)
“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Galatians 5:16-19)
“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:2-8)
Christians tend to give only lip service to the above verses. Believing that they can do good stuff by their deeply-devoted efforts to overcome their “Christian flesh”.
But at the end of the day, whatever is accomplished this way, has nothing to do with the way God works. Except that we might feel better about ourselves for awhile.
A High View of Something Else
Ultimately, however, this simply reveals how desperately we need to get back to the scriptures.
To dump all the activity, which has seduced us all, and get back to pursuing the Lord Himself.
The church simply has too high an opinion of itself today. And our leaders do as well.
They speak of devotion to Christ and devotion to His word. They speak of having a high view of scripture. Yet, their actions and focus reveals a high view of something else.
There is very little thought given today about the whole counsel of God. About comparing scripture with scripture. About studying to show ourselves to be acceptable to God. And rightly dividing the word of truth.
Instead, we just want to get people working on mission-related stuff. To get them off their rear ends and into active service for the Lord. To get everyone working on mission together.
Tragically, most churches simply do not see that they, themselves, are the ones most in need of missionary help. They are the ones who must give deeper thought to the Lord’s word and to His truth.
To do this most basic of all things, rather than being missionaries, they need to go back to the basics of the word. To the fundamentals of the faith, that they so often dismiss.
To stop placing confidence in the “righteousness” of their own good intentions and in their supposed mastery of spiritual truth.
May we place our hope and confidence solely in the Lord Himself, in the Christ who dwells within us.
Image by Andre Mouton from Pixabay
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