true spirituality

As believers, we are to walk in an ongoing conviction about unseen things. Not just at the beginning of our salvation, but all throughout. We are to reckon certain things to be true, moment-by-moment, truths about the universe, about God and his promises, about what he has accomplished, about the cross and empty tomb, about how we are to live, what the future looks like, and what is the real value of life here and now. A Christian is one who daily takes God into account, taking him at his word in every circumstance. One book that has been a great help to me, and perhaps the greatest influence on my Christian life over the past forty years, is True Spirituality, by Francis Schaeffer (Tyndale House, 1971, 2001, 2012). Here are a few excerpts...

As Christians we say we live in a supernatural universe and that there is a battle, since the fall of man, and that this battle is in both the seen world and the unseen world. This is what we say we believe; we insist on this against the naturalists and against the anti-supernaturalists. If we really believe this, first, we can be contented and yet fight evil, and second, surely it is God’s right to put us as Christians where he judges best in the battle. (Schaeffer, True Spirituality)

We are surrounded by a world that says no to nothing. When we are surrounded with this sort of mentality, in which everything is judged by binges and by success, then suddenly to be told that in the Christian life there is to be this strong negative aspect of saying no to things and no to self, it must seem hard. And if it does not feel hard to us, we are not really letting it speak to us.

Let us not be confused here. The moment we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, we were justified and our guilt was gone once for all. That is absolute. But if we want to know anything of reality in the Christian life, anything of true spirituality, we must “take up our cross daily.” The principle of saying no to self lies at the heart of my attitude toward the world as it maintains its alien stand in rebellion against the Creator. If I use my intellectual capacities to make myself respectable to the world, as it is in revolution against the one who created it, then I have failed. It is equally true if I use my ignorance for the same purpose. I am to face the cross of Christ in every part of life and with my whole man. The cross of Christ is to be a reality to me not only once for all at my conversion, but all through my life as a Christian. True spirituality does not stop at the negative, but without the negative—in comprehension and practice—we are not ready to go on.

Now let me emphasize: these things happened in history. This is important, especially today, when religious things are constantly being pushed away into a nonhistoric realm of an “other.”

Christ died in history. That is the point we have been making. He died in space, time, and history. If you had been there that day, you could have taken your hand and rubbed it across the rough wood of the cross of Jesus Christ—you could have gotten a splinter in your hand from the cross.

Justification is once for all. At one moment my guilt is declared gone forever, but this is not once for all. This is a moment-by- moment thing—a moment-by-moment being dead to all else and alive to God, a moment-by-moment stepping back by faith into the present world as though we had been raised from the dead. 

This is the biblical view of truth: there are two streams, two strands, a space-time reality—one in the seen, and one in the unseen. With these two lines before us, two equal lines of reality, I would return to the conclusion of our previous chapter. When God tells us to live as though we had died, gone to heaven, seen the truth there, and come back to this world, he is not asking us merely to act on some psychological motivation, but on what really is. That is the second line, the second strand, of reality, that of the unseen, in which we personally will share between the moment of death and our return with resurrected bodies to the seen world at the Second Coming. Thus, I am to live now by faith, rooted in the things which have been, such as Christ’s death and resurrection; what is, such as the second stream of reality in the unseen now; and what will be, such as my coming bodily resurrection and return with Christ.

The Christian life means living in the two halves of reality: the supernatural and the natural parts. I would suggest that it is perfectly possible for a Christian to be so infiltrated by twentieth-century thinking that he lives most of his life as though the supernatural were not there.

If we are to bring forth fruit in the Christian life, or rather, if Christ is to bring forth this fruit through us by the agency of the Holy Spirit, there must be a constant act of faith, of thinking, Upon the basis of your promises I am looking for you to fulfill them, O my Jesus Christ; bring forth your fruit through me into this poor world.

So, we must believe God’s promises at this one moment in which we are. Consequently, in believing God’s promises, we apply them—the present meaning of the work of Christ for the Christian—for and in this one moment. If you only can see that, everything changes. As we believe God for this moment, the Holy Spirit is not quenched. And through his agency, the risen and glorified Christ, as the Bridegroom of the bride, the Vine, brings forth his fruit through us at this moment. This is the practice of active passivity. And it is the only way anybody can live; there is no other way to live but moment by moment.


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