On Being Christian

the catastrophe of following Jesus

This was the final week of the spiritual formation lecture series, taught by professors from Biola University’s Institute for Spiritual Formation. I’ve been posting my notes here for anyone who’s interested. Last night’s lecture was titled “The Catastrophe of Following Jesus,” which seems to suggest rebranding the “New Believer’s Class” as more of a “Buyer Beware.”

Because as any mature believer will tell you, rather than ensuring a rosy, successful life, following Christ is more often followed by trial and tribulation. And there’s a reason for that.

God saves us while we’re still in sin. While we’re immediately made right before God because of Christ, the process of sanctification – becoming like Christ – takes time. In 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul says that infants in Christ need milk, not solid food, because they’re “not yet ready for it.” We still harbor other idols in our hearts, which may come to light in seasons of God’s blessing: 1) these times tend to make us think we can make it on our own (self-sufficiency), 2) they tend to make us think we deserved them (self-righteousness), 3) they tend to make us think God exists for our sakes (self-centeredness) – God as a genie.

The truth is, pain and loss are much more effective in changing us. Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow him, but remember a person carrying a cross has only one destination – death. Catastrophe helps us die to self. It provides an opportunity to face our personal weakness and acknowledge that we need help, and opens us more deeply to the fullness of God, “right-sizing” our own estimation of our selves.

“…it often begins when we face our weakness and realize how much we take our favorable circumstances for granted. When loss deprives us of those circumstances, our anger, depression and ingratitude expose the true state of our souls, showing us how small we really are.”
~ Gerald Sittser, A Grace Disguised

Embracing our weakness must become a regular discipline of sorts. Teresa of Avila suggested we “Seek the God of the consolations rather than the consolations of God.” So, like the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15, pray, “Lord, help me,” or like Job, “Teach me what I do not see.”

“Man tries to overcome his weakness; God is satisfied to use weakness for his own special purposes. Too many Christians become disheartened over their infirmities, thinking that if only if they were stronger in themselves they could accomplish more for God. But this point of view… is another fallacy. God’s means of working, rightly understood, is not by making us stronger, but by making us weaker and weaker until the divine power alone is clearly manifested.”
~ David Alan Black

The series –
Week 1: Is there more to the Christian Life?
Week 2: Stop being good
Week 3: A relational model of spiritual growth
Week 4: Is there more to the Christian life 2
Week 5: Spiritual Dryness