Who is at the center of your universe? God? You? Your kids? Your Spouse? Your Values? HIS Values? It’s an important question for followers of Jesus, especially today. I live in a very secular, very humanistic culture. And, I would guess that you do, too. I see it all around me: people who have decided humanity is the highest good. As a short definition for secular humanism, I would offer this: a belief structure that embraces social justice, human reasoning, ethics, and philosophy for the shaping of a value system while simultaneously rejecting anything spiritual or faith flavored UNLESS said belief stems from a sense of self-fulfillment or self satisfaction. Such a system would, then, value human choice, tolerance, and logic in the pursuit of self-fulfillment. And, self-fulfillment is the bottom line.
Before you go wagging your finger at such an obviously non-Christian way of living, ask yourself what drives you day in and day out. For example: if I were to sell all of my possessions, give the money to the poor, and live the rest of my life in the service of the least of these, it would appear to be a very Christ-centered life. It very well could be. But why do I choose that life? Do I choose it ultimately because it’s fulfilling to me? Is it my value being played out? Or have I embraced something Christ has asked of me in the pursuit of obedience to Him? That’s the issue. As if reading my mind, The Nomad Podcast posted this quote from Carl Medearis this morning:
“As Christians, we’re faced with a problem difficult to see because it’s so obvious. We’re aware of Jesus, but we are obsessed with Christianity. We’re stuck on its requirements and we’re defined by its doctrines, caught in an endless struggle to find out where we fit, if we’ve “arrived” yet, and if we’re doing it right…In this state, we’re not living in the grace of Jesus. We’re trying to maintain our membership.”
Modern western Christianity seems to be moving toward, at least in part, an attempted synergistic mixing of Christian principles and secular humanism. We follow those teachings that bring us the greatest fulfillment or that broker acceptance from those we value, avoid most things that require deep faith or great sacrifice, thus elevating ourselves or the group to the position of god. This is a very complex and serious thing to me. We have found a way to secularly humanize Christianity with the pursuit of what feels right to us, often embracing logic, social justice, and self-fulfillment with no thought to God’s desire for us or faith while at the same time having the appearance of Christianity. Still having trouble wrapping your brain around what I’m saying? When people come together to study the Bible, they circle up, read a verse, and then ask, “What does this verse mean to you?” Fourteen answers and perspectives later, we’ve taken a text and filtered it through us to derive its meaning. And no one dare say, “This verse couldn’t mean that…” or you’re intolerant, dogmatic, and narrow minded. I agree that there is room for interpretation of the Bible, but not to the extent it’s normally taken. The flex should come in what that simple truth looks like as it’s put into practice in our lives. In my 20+ years of being a Youth Pastor, I saw it countless times. I would ask, “What does this verse say?” And 20 answers later there’s been an honest attempt at deeply spiritual things, philosophical things, application-type things, only to have to say, “Look at the verse. The answer is there.” Typically, we’ve run God’s Word through the filter of “me” in order to find its meaning.
Anyway, I digress. I really simply wanted to pose the question today, “Why do you and I do what we do?” Here’s a couple of quotes to meditate on today:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24) “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27) “My food…is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)
If I do all the right things, but only because I find them fulfilling and derive great satisfaction from them, have I really embraced what Christ is all about? Honestly, only if I can say that love for and obedience to Christ, no matter the cost, are my bottom line.