“The important thing after being born again spiritually is to live.”
That’s a quote from someone who, forty years ago, was a cornerstone for Christian thought in America. Originally a pastor in St. Louis, he and his wife later moved to Switzerland and established a ministry known as L’Abri. His two most successful books were The Christian Manifesto and another titled How Should We Then Live? Written by Francis Schaeffer, they are terrific apologetics of the Christian Faith. In the late 1970’s, if you did not own a copy of his Christian Manifesto you were suspiciously looked at as unfaithful. (Just kidding.) Being rather scholarly, Schaeffer’s writings are not everyone’s cup of tea, but given a cool, rainy day and lots of time to kill, I’d at least encourage starting one of his books. Even if you don’t get all the way through it, before you notice, you’ll find yourself ‘thinking’ much more than usual.
Francis believed that “modern man’s problem is not getting to the stars, it is the loss of his humanity.” In his books, you get to reading along and come up on the next sentence and think to yourself, “I can’t take another heavy thought right now!” They just seem to come like waves on the beach, one right after another. But when that happens you just lay the book down and wait for another rainy day to try and force more intellect into your brain.
You might look at another book by Schaeffer: True Spirituality. I bought a copy the other day on the Internet for only 75 cents. It’s fairly small and doesn’t take quite as long to put your self through. And, it’s not too scholarly, at least not enough to make you want to wash your head off to cool it down from all the brainwork.
According to Schaeffer, “True Christian life, true spirituality, does not mean just that we have been born again. It must begin there, but it means much more than that. It does not mean only that we are going to be in heaven. It does mean that, but it means much more than that. The true Christian life, true spirituality in the present life, means more than being justified and knowing that I am going to heaven… Our desire must be for a deeper life…it is positive; positive inward reality, and then positive in outward results. It is not just that we are to be dead to certain things, but we are to love God, we are to be alive to Him, in this present moment in history…anything less than this is trifling with God – trifling with Him who created the world, and trifling also the Him who died on the cross.” I hope we all think the Christian life should be more than just getting born again and waiting around 80 years to die. It should be more interesting and entertaining than that. I hope you have a Hope for something profound in between the born again and the dying.
Here’s more: “The Christian life never ends on a negative. There is a negative because man is a rebel. But it does not end there, it always goes on to the positive.” Schaeffer believed that true spirituality always ended on the plus side. “Although the negative should not be over looked in Scripture and our life experience, inevitably life always leads to a positive when based on our Faith in Christ. It is always: death, burial and (praise God) resurrection. In Scripture, we are presented much that starts out as negative and ends on the positive. Scripture patterned often like Galatians 2:20, ‘I am crucified with Christ (negative in its content)… YET! not I but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by Faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ ” Correction in the Bible can be quite negative, but it always sweeps over into the positive. (Might look to Romans 6:4 and Galatians 5:15. They are patterned in the same way.)
For Schaeffer, “The reality of living by Faith, as though we were already dead, of living by Faith in open communion with God, and then stepping back into the external world as though we already were raised from the dead, this is not once and for all, it is a matter of moment-by-moment faith, and living moment-by-moment. This morning’s Faith will never do for this noon. The Faith of this noon will never do for supper time…To believe Him, not just when I accepted Christ as Savior, but every moment, one moment at a time: this is the Christian life, and this is true spirituality.”
The result of much of Francis Schaeffer’s thought brings us to the conclusion that God’s grace is sufficient for us. That specific understanding yields a knowledge that God loves us, and that knowledge cast out our fear of God: “Fear falls to the ground when we see before whom we are standing. We are standing in a living relationship with a living God who loves us, and has shown His love for us to such an extent that Jesus died on the cross. Fear falls, and we have the courage to give ourselves for His use without being afraid when we see we are not giving ourselves into the teeth of an impersonal situation, or of a world that hates us, or an inhuman world of men. (Rather) We are offering ourselves before the God who loves us, and He is not a monster, but our heavenly Father.”
“The inward area (our spiritual heart) is the first place of loss in the Christian life, of true spirituality, and the outward sinful act is the result.” Reading Schaeffer’s books are challenges to the Christian intellect and inner thoughts of man, rather than to the outward expression of man’s rebellion. For Schaeffer, it is the heart of man that is evil long before that man manifests the outward expression of the rebellion. (Matthew 15: 16-20) Solomon expressed that in the wisdom of Proverbs 23:7, ‘as a man thinks within himself, so he is.’ It’s the wisdom of God that encourages us not to perfect the flesh in order to be spiritual, but rather to work on the heart, love God and man in order to change the outside expression of a man. (Gal 3:3) The problem with the creature is that his heart is evil first, and the symptom of that is expressed in his outward expression. It is the heart of man that will need to be ‘converted’ before man’s walk can ever be.
Francis Schaeffer is a challenge to us. Nospiritual candy here. I get to reading along and think to myself, “Oh, no, not another thought that I have to try and remember. It’s too much.” The parts that I think I need to try and remember just come too fast. My brain feels like it could burst if I packed in one more idea. But, it’s possible to read if you pick a cool, rainy day. Just take a small portion at a time. Chew on it, but eat slowly. If you’re looking for a good brain ‘workout’ without getting sore, give it a try.
I’m going to leave you with one last little thought from Schaeffer, “…the universe is not what our generation says it is.” Actually, he believes each generation misses the mark on its definition of the universe. He thought that was true of every generation. Each pulls away from the Creator to do business with the created. Each generation tries to solve its problems by rebelling against God, and therefore interprets the universe in its favor, missing the whole purpose and opportunity of the universe and its Creator. Think about that on a rainy day.