The Bible contains blessed instruction and spiritual nourishment for the thirsting, passionate disciple of God.
It is when we stray in our application and obedience that we grow complacent, proud, frustrated, irritable, overwhelmed, depressed, and ultimately unfaithful.
The Good News of the Bible is not about us; rather, it is for us.
We must rightfully be inclined to share and serve others (starting with those in our very household). We cannot maintain ourselves as the center of our universe. The Lord must be magnified. He is our comfort, our refuge and our focus.
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We needn’t be annihilated, but we better find our strength and our wisdom in the living word. When we don’t, it’s bound to all go terribly wrong.
Here’s just a few examples of how so (If you see yourself in any of these profiles, acknowledge it, and flee from the “Christian ME”):
The Paralyzed Christian – Those who are so wrapped up in their sins and offenses that they cannot even bring themselves to the throne of grace and see the loving, merciful arms of the savior who is ready and willing to fill hearts and carry burdens. They reside within the pale of spiritual law and carnal despair and cannot find the place of forgiveness. It lies outside themselves. It is where they must dwell.
The Legalistic Christian – These are the sin sniffers, the rule makers and the finger-pointers. They are quick to cast the first stone. They are the Pharisees. They hide their own fragile insecurities behind an air of superiority. Jesus is their carnal shield and their license to wound but He will never be their Savior.
The Mystical Christian – They are those who speak of lofty experience. They await the spirit to move them. They are waiting on a sign. They are on deck but they never arrive, nor do they accept their own obligation and responsibility. They are so busy ‘letting go,’ ‘handing over the reigns,’ and ‘waiting on the Lord’ for a directive that they’ve rendered themselves unfruitful.
They have buried their talents and hid their light under a bushel. They’re sitting in the sanctuary waiting for the call but they’ve yet to take any faithful risks. They are not owning their faith nor are they living it out. They are using God as a crutch because standing firm in living faith and obedience while confronting the tough circumstance would require too much devotion and accountability.
It would require them to take what they know (and so undeservingly received) and take on the world. They are cowards for Christ. It’s easier to sit back and just let God do it. The inconvenient reality for them is that He already has, and now He expects them to go out and live it. They are to share the good word and glorify God for the redemption (and tragically, the condemnation) of sinners everywhere.
The Working Christian – They have a miraculous story to tell and live the rest of their lives living up to that one radical conversion experience. Their home is the workhouse. They are ultimately their own slave and their own master.
Every sin is a bitter disappointment while every act of faith is a greater confirmation. Life is a series of catastrophic missteps and fulfilled expectations but in the end they are merely going it alone. They are relying on their own strength. Their insecurities are woefully misplaced. Tragically, they dwell in a prison of their own design.
The Barely Christian – They are the Christian musician, the Christian publisher, the Christian builder, and the Christian plumber. Christ is their calling card and their marketing ploy. He is their key selling point.
They are corporate and political Christians. They worship social justice, holy wars, and golden rules. They are pragmatic and peace loving religious humanists. Their Christianity comes at no cost. It’s merely a no sacrifice required form of spirituality that they are living. Christianity is their cover. They are cultural Christians but tragically instead of transforming the culture to Christ they embrace all that the world has to offer them.
They are globally conformed and compromised. They’re merely peddling a secular agenda. They market and sell Christianity – a cheap imitation thereof. They are Christian out of convenience, yet they are hardly so.
They are shallow professors. They are mere pretenders tainting the faith. In the worst case, Christianity is the flag they wave to trigger, expand and ignite a military industrial complex. Ultimately, their masks will come off; in fact, their true identity is already showing.
The Narcissistic Christian – They are the date setters. They’ve uncovered hidden revelation and have broken from the faithful denomination. They refuse to be taught yet they hold the key to unlocked mysteries. They have the inside track. Those who’ve come before lack the illumination they bring.
They are the Harold Campings, the Ellen G. Whites and the Benny Hinns. They hold the faithful insight. They are anointed and self appointed. The power of healing lies in their spiritually-gifted, supernaturally-charged hands.
They are the religious charlatans.They have been designated by God to deliver a timely message. They have Jesus on speed dial. The current day reveals a hidden truth and they’ve been sent by God to decode it. We are no longer wandering in the dark but will they???
And so the traps and snares abound for those who forget where true life is found!
Again, we must flee such ME’s…You know where to go!
Peace and loving service is to be had in the revealed word of God, the fellowship of believers, humble prayer, confession of sin and participation in the holy sacraments of faith (i.e. the Lord’s Supper). May we be restored and sanctified by the living word and may the world be our mission field.
My Thanks to Dr. Phillip Cary for the faithful insight and inspiration. Dr. Cary was gracious enough to offer a few further insights which provided me the further opportunity to expand on my thoughts a bit.
Dr. Phillip Cary: Thanks for this, AJ. It’s not hard to find ourselves in these little portraits. Lots to repent of, here. I think my favorite part of the piece is when you say that the Good News is not about us but for us. That means there is indeed a genuinely Christian me, as when we say, “Christ died for me.”
And there’s the first person plural version, as when we say in the creed: “For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven. . . For us also he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. . . ” That is what faith says about me, bringing me into the story about Christ, and it is what makes all the difference, thank God.
AJ: Good thoughts…I probably overstated. I maybe should have titled: ‘The Self-obsessed Christian ME,’ but the Gospel is for US, so we are a major part, for sure. I guess my main point is ‘Are we living out the 2 greatest commandments?’ If we put ourselves (or only see ourselves) before God and neighbor (as I so often do) we are poor Christians; it is not hopeless but we should be aware (and see past ourselves). Dr. Cary, you have given us some great insights on how to do it. Between your CD’s and your fantastic book on Anxious Christians, I have an excellent blueprint!
P.S. I subscribe to your Luther-based times of law and gospel perspective, which keeps us grounded (so we don’t get too discouraged), and of course to look outside ourselves and remain in the Word for spiritual life and blessed instruction that we may share and be a blessing to others, while glorifying God. Thanks!
Dr. Phillip Cary: Thanks, AJ. I do hope I’ve been helpful. As you say, we all fall into these versions of the Christian me, and that certainly gives us something to flee! What I’ve been trying to do, especially in the Anxious Christians book, is to point the finger, not at types of Christians (which will only make them feel more anxious and thus get them focused once more on ME), but rather at theologies that drive people into a corner where they become “me Christians” precisely because they’re trying to live out a bad theology and apply it to our lives.
The most helpful thing, I’m thinking, is to be freed from the bad theology which is driving us into that corner. And what that freedom feels like, most fundamentally, is hearing a kind word from God giving us Christ, the Beloved. Grace and peace to you!
AJ: Yes! Whether prosperity gospel or certain forms of Calvinism (i.e. further reformation) …. The wrong ‘me’ is often taught and learned. And must be unlearned. That’s another point I was trying to make without actually stating it.
I was in a Puritan church that never truly preached gospel but only law. Many of my examples were speaking to that but much of modern evangelism does harm in similar, but distinct unbiblical ways. Either way the theology or even the application is the main culprit. If we are one of these ‘me’s’ we were either directly or indirectly taught to be so. It’s often learned…
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.