Friday, July 23, 2010

Don't Waste Your Life

The phrase "Don't Waste Your Life" has echoed in the reformed circles of the Christian world, mostly because of John Piper's book by the same title. In it Piper calls us to evaluate American individualistic values and compare them to the biblical values. Language betrays us here because the very discussion of values is a very American concept. The Bible speaks of moral virtues in connection to God such as righteousness, faithfulness, godliness, integrity, and honor. The Bible also gives values to persons and not merely ideas or beliefs, the most valuable treasure being the Lord Jesus Christ.

Another prominent theologian and author, David Wells, makes the point (I think poignantly) in Losing Our Virtue that evangelicalism today has lost its voice in the world because it has accepted the cultural modern and postmodern views of identity and success, which in turn determine our values and how we read Scripture. We can have, as we often do early in the Christian life, a set of assumption that are un-biblical (or sub-biblical) that color what believe about God, ourselves, and the world. In Well's view, parts of the church have accepted and not corrected modern and postmodern assumptions, reading into the Scriptures therapeutic and self-fulfilling ideas about value and self, and then seek to apply those ideas to individual selves in the congregation. In short, we have accepted cultural norms about what it means to be human and what human need is, then we look to the Scriptures as the key that unlocks that happy human potential (to the distortion of the Scriptures I might add).
Of Course this slippery slope leads necessarily to the distortion of the most important person, Jesus Christ, who is the apex of Scripture, and leads to idolatry. In this view, God in Christ functions primarily to fulfill us.
Now what am I getting at? What does Piper's and Wells' thought have to do with anything? God wants us to be happy right? Well, half-truths are the things that lies are made out of. What Piper and Wells (among many others) have pointed out is that we need to recover a biblical anthropology (view of man and his need) for believer and unbeliever alike. We have accepted modern and postmodern anthropologies (and necessarily their soteriologies) into the church and then sought to apply the Scriptures as the "fix". Sort of a "cosmic therapy". If fulfillment, in fact true satisfaction, is what people are searching for they will never find it in an idea or in anything created, or in themselves. They will never be happy with themselves because they are not connected to the One in whom their identity lies--in God himself. They are made in the Imago Dei (the image of God). Because they are made in God's image they are moral beings--moral actors in connection and relation to God. Their morality is bound up with his morality. Their character must be a reflection of his character, since they are his image bearers, in order for there to be peace and wholeness within them (Cornelius Plantinga calls this "Shalom").
This is where the lie of the therapeutic and the commercial cultures find their foot-hold in the Church--in promises of peace and "shalom" in self-fulfillment or material wealth, which have no moral boundaries. But Jesus says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matt. 5:6). But we must also understand that our own righteousness is not good enough, for next Jesus tells us that our righteousness must exceed the Scribes and the Pharisees (5:20), then to our detriment, that we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (5:48).
Relying in our obedience to the law as the ground for our salvation, which is ultimately self-worship again, will not do. Who can say I am as perfect as God? Paul reminds us that all have sinned and fallen short of his glory (Romans 3:23). This puts us in between a rock and a hard place to say it lightly. But it also shows the different emphases between cultural (modern and postmodern) anthropology and a biblical anthropology; both of these consequently determining our aim and value in practical life. The culture (and some Christendom) emphasizes the need for man to be fixed and fulfilled to be satisfied and the Bible emphasizes the need for man to be righteous (but also highlights his inability to do so because of sin) to be satisfied.
You see there is one "fix" and it happens to satisfy us and display the very righteousness, mercy, grace, and glory of God himself in Christ Jesus our Lord. It turns the value system of the world on its head and it should necessarily do the same for us. We are in need of righteousness; and not just any righteousness, but God's righteousness. The old, old story, the timeless truth, is that Christ became unrighteousness on our behalf, satisfying on the cross the righteous judgment of God by absorbing his wrath for sin and experiencing estrangement from God in his abandonment (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 3:21-26; Mark 15:34). He died the death that sin leads to, even though he himself was not a sinner (Rom. 6:10). He rose on the third day in power and glory (1 Cor. 15; Rom. 6; Col. 2). He defeated death; he defeated sin. Those who trust in him receive his life, having been baptized into his death and raised with him, in him, to eternal life (Rom. 6; Col.2). We have now become new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:1-10). He has taken the guilt and shame of our sin away along with its power over our lives (Heb. 2:11). We have become righteous in him (2 Cor. 5:21). United to his righteousness. This is the gospel. This is the cure.
If we talk only of the gospel's benefits in therapeutic or material terms are not talking about the gospel because the gospel includes real guilt brought about by real sin that needs to be really dealt with by God in a righteous way. We need a real righteousness; a real hunger and thirst for it leading to a real satisfaction. He has done that graciously in Christ. He has changed the essence of who we are (we have a new Christian anthropology) and consequently what we value to satisfy our souls.
Lecrae pointed this out to me in his song "Don't Waste Y0ur Life", which is why I titled the post the same. Piper's influence (his being Johnathan Edward's...Edward's ultimately being the Bible) has caught the Church, and now the world of Christians Hip-hop--Lyrical theology. Through this medium, the truth searched my heart and exposed it's thought's and intention's--it's values. Sadly, I realized that I was defaulting to my American culture's view of what would satisfy me with a small hunger for righteousness and a looming desire for self-(fill in the blank); a small desire for Christ and large desire to appear fulfilled in the eyes of others; all others, except the One, in whom I am complete, lacking in nothing. In all my searching nothing has ever satisfied but Christ. Paul rightly warns us in Colossians 2:8-10:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
As Lecrae points out, the ultimate aim of life is found in Christ Alone:
Verse 3:
Suffer, yeah do it for Christ
If you trying to figure what to do with your life
If you making money hope you doing it right
Because the money is God’s you better steward it right
Stay focused, if you ain’t got no ride
Your life ain’t wrapped up in what you drive
The clothes you wear, the job you work
the color your skin, naw we Christian first
People living life for a job
Make a lil’ money start living for a car
Get ‘em a house a wife kids and a dog
When they retire they living high on the hog
But guess what, they didn't ever really live at all
To live is Christ, yeah that's Paul I recall
To die is gain so for Christ we give it all
He's the treasure you'll never find in the mall

Your money, your singleness, marriage, talent, and time
They were loaned to you to show the world that Christ is divine
That's why it's Christ in my rhymes
That's why it's Christ all the time
My whole world is built around him He's the life in my lines
I refuse to waste my life
He's too true to chase that ice
Here’s my gifts and time cause I'm constantly trying to be used to praise the Christ
If he's truly raised to life
Then this news should change your life
And by his grace you can put your faith in place that rules your days and nights
Soli Deo Gloria

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