True spirituality, p.1
True Spirituality, p.1Francis A. Schaeffer
Section I Freedom Now from the Bonds of Sin
Basic Considerations of True Spirituality
1 The Law and the Law of Love
2 The Centrality of Death
3 Through Death to Resurrection
4 In the Spirit's Power
Biblical Unity and True Spirituality
5 The Supernatural Universe
6 Salvation: Past-Future-Present
Moment-by-Moment Practice of True Spirituality
7 The Fruitful Bride
Section II Freedom Now from the Results of the Bonds of Sin
Man's Separation from Himself
8 Freedom from Conscience
9 Freedom in the Thought-life
10 Substantial Healing of Psychological Problems
11 Substantial Healing of the Total Person
Man's Separation from His Fellowman
12 Substantial Healing in Personal Relationships
13 Substantial Healing in the Church
This book is being published after a number of others, but in a certain sense it should have been my first. Without the material in this book there would be no L'Abri. In 1951 and 1952 I faced a spiritual crisis in my own life. I had become a Christian from agnosticism many years before. After that I had become a pastor for ten years in the United States, and then for several years my wife Edith and I had been working in Europe. During this time I felt a strong burden to stand for the historical Christian position, and for the purity of the visible Church. Gradually, however, a problem came to me-the problem of reality. This had two parts: first, it seemed to me that among many of those who held the orthodox position one saw little reality in the things that the Bible so clearly said should be the result of Christianity. Second, it gradually grew on me that my own reality was less than it had been in the early days after I had become a Christian. I realized that in honesty I had to go back and rethink my whole position.
We were living in Champery at that time, and I told Edith that for the sake of honesty I had to go all the way back to my agnosticism and think through the whole matter. I'm sure that this was a difficult time for her and I'm sure that she prayed much for me in those days. I walked in the mountains when it was clear and when it was rainy I walked backward and forward in the hayloft of the old chalet in which we lived. I walked, prayed, and thought through what the Scriptures taught as well as reviewing my own reasons for being a Christian.
As I rethought my reasons for being a Christian I saw again that there were totally sufficient reasons to know that the infinite-personal God does exist and that Christianity is true. In going further, I saw something else which made a profound difference in my life. I searched through what the Bible said concerning reality as a Christian. Gradually I saw that the problem was that with all the teaching I had received after I was a Christian, I had heard little about what the Bible says about the meaning of the finished work of Christ for our present lives. Gradually the sun came out and the song came. Interestingly enough, although I had written no poetry for many years, in that time of joy and song I found poetry beginning to flow again-poetry of certainty, an affirmation of life, thanksgiving, and praise. Admittedly, as poetry it is very poor, but it expressed a song in my heart which was wonderful to me.
This was and is the real basis of L' Abri. Teaching the historic Christian answers and giving honest answers to honest questions are crucial, but it was out of these struggles that the reality came, without which an incisive work like L'Abri would not have been possible. I, and we, can only be thankful.
These principles which I worked out in Champery were first delivered as talks at a Bible camp in an old barn in Dakota. This was in July of 1953. They were worked out on scraps of paper in the pastor's basement. The Lord gave something very special from these messages and I'm still meeting those who as young people had their thinking and their lives changed there. After L'Abri began in 1955 I preached these same messages in Huemoz. Later they were worked out in a more developed and complete form in Pennsylvania, in October and November of 1963. I then gave them again in Huemoz in the late winter and early spring of 1964. This was their final form and the form in which they are recorded on the L'Abri tapes. The Lord has used the tapes in a way that has moved us deeply, not only with those with spiritual problems but for many who had psychological needs as well. We pray that this written form of these studies will be as useful as the tapes have been in many parts of the world.
Freedom Now from the
Bonds of Sin
and the Law of Love 1
The question before us is what the Christian life, true spirituality, really is, and how it may be lived in a twentieth-century setting.
The first point which we must make is that it is impossible even to begin living the Christian life, or to know anything of true spirituality, before one is a Christian. And the only way to become a Christian is neither by trying to live some sort of a Christian life nor by hoping for some sort of religious experience, but rather by accepting Christ as Savior. No matter how complicated, educated, or sophisticated we may be, or how simple we may be, we must all come the same way, insofar as becoming a Christian is concerned. As the kings of the earth and the mighty of the earth are born in exactly the same way physically as the simplest man, so the most intellectual person must become a Christian in exactly the same way as the simplest person. This is true for all men, everywhere, through all space and all time. There are no exceptions. Jesus said a totally exclusive word: "No man cometh unto the Father but by me.
The reason for this is that all men are separated from God because of their true moral guilt. God exists, God has a character, God is a holy God, and when men sin (and we all must acknowledge we have sinned not only by mistake but by intention) they have true moral guilt before the God who exists. That guilt is not just the modern concept of guilt-feelings, a psychological guilty feeling in man. It is a true moral guilt before the infinite-personal, holy God. Only the finished, substitutionary work of Christ upon the cross as the Lamb of God -in history, space, and time-is enough to remove this. Our true guilt, that brazen heaven which stands between us and God, can be removed only upon the basis of the fiinished work of Christ plus nothing on our part. The Bible's whole emphasis is that there must be no humanistic note added at any point in the accepting of the gospel. It is the infinite value of the finished work of Christ, the second person of the Trinity, upon the cross, plus nothing, that is the sole basis for the removal of our guilt. When we thus come, believing God, the Bible says we are declared justified by God; the guilt is gone, and we are returned to fellowship with God-the very thing for which we were created in the first place.
Just as the only basis for the removal of our guilt is the finished work of Christ upon the cross in history, plus nothing, so the only instrument for accepting that finished work of Christ upon the cross is faith. This is not faith in the twentieth century or Kierkegaardian concept of faith as a jump in the dark-not a solution on the basis of faith in faith. It is believing the specific promises of God; no longer turning our backs on them, no longer calling God a liar, but raising the empty hands of faith and accepting that finished work of Christ as it was fulfilled in history upon the cross. The Bible says that at that moment we pass from death to life, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God's dear Son. We become, individually, children of God. We are children of God from that time on. I repeat, there is no way to begin the Christian life except through the door of spiritual birth, any more than there is any other way to begin physical life except through the door of physical birth.
Often, after a person is born again, and asks, "What shall I do next?" he is given a list of things, usually of a limited nature, and primarily negative. Often he is given the idea that if he does not do this series of things (whatever this series of things happens to be in the particular country and location and at the time he happens to live) he will be spiritual. This is not so. The true Christian life, true spirituality, is not merely a negative not-doing of any small list of things. Even if the list began as a very excellent list of things to beware of in that particular historic setting, we still must emphasize that the Christian life, or true spirituality, is more than refraining from a certain external list of taboos in a mechanical way.
Because this is true, there almost always comes into being another group of Christians which rises up and begins to work against such a list of taboos; thus there is a tendency toward a struggle in Christian circles between those who set up a certain list of taboos and those who, feeling there is something wrong with this, say, "Away with all taboos, away with all lists." Both of these groups can be right and both can be wrong, depending on how they approach the matter.
I was impressed by this on one Saturday night at L'Abri, when we were having one of our discussion times. On that particular night everybody present was a Christian, many of them from groups in countries where "lists" had been very much accentuated. They began to talk against the use of taboos, and at first as I listened to them I rather agreed with them, in the direction they were going. But as I listened further to this conversation, and as they spoke against the taboos in their own countries, it became quite clear to me that what they really wanted was merely to be able to do the things which the taboos were against. What they really wanted was a more lax Christian life. But we must see that in giving up such lists, in feeling the limitation of the "list" mentality, we must not do this merely in order to be able to live a looser life: it must be for something deeper. So I think both sides of this discussion can be right and both sides can be wrong. We do not come to true spirituality or the true Christian life merely by keeping a list, but neither do we come to it merely by rejecting the list and then shrugging our shoulders and living a looser life. If we are considering outward things in relation to true spirituality, we are face to face not with some small list, but with the whole Ten Commandments and all of God's other commands. In other words, if I see the list as a screen, and I say this small list is trite, dead, and cheap, and I take hold of the screen and lift it away, then I am not face to face with a looser thing, I am face to face with the whole Ten Commandments and all that is included in them. I am also face to face with what we might call the Law of Love, the fact that I am to love God and I am to love my fellow men.
In the book of Romans, in the 14th chapter, verse 15, we read: "But if thy brother be grieved because of thy food, now walkest thou not in love. Destroy not him with thy food, for whom Christ died." This is the law of God. In a very real sense there is no liberty here. It is an absolute declaration that we are to do this. It is perfectly true that we cannot be saved by doing this; we cannot do this in our own strength; and none of us do this perfectly in this life. Nevertheless, it is an imperative. It is the absolute command of God. The same thing is true in 1 Corinthians 8:12 and 13: "But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Therefore, if food make my brother to offend, I will eat no meat again, while the world standeth, test I make my brother to offend." Therefore, when I take hold of the screen of a trite list and I say this is too superficial, and I push it aside, I must see what I am doing. I am not now confronted with a libertine concept, but I am confronted with the whole Ten Commandments and with the Law of Love. So even if we are dealing only with outward commands, we have not moved into a looser life, we have moved into something much more profound and heart-searching. As a matter of fact, when we are done with our honest wrestling before God, very often we will find that we will be observing at least some of the taboos on these lists. But having gone deeper, we find that we will be observing them for a completely different reason. Curiously enough we often come around in a circle through our liberty, through the study of the deeper teaching, and find we do want to keep these things. But now not for the same reason-that of social pressure. It is no longer merely a matter of holding to an accepted list in order that Christians will think well of us.
However, eventually the Christian life and true spirituality are not to be seen as outward at all, but inward. The climax of the Ten Commandments is the Tenth Commandment in Exodus 20:17: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's." The commandment not to covet is an entirely inward thing. Coveting is never an outward thing, from the very nature of the case. It is an intriguing factor that this is the last command that God gives us in the Ten Commandments and thus the hub of the whole matter. The end of the whole thing is that we arrive at an inward situation and not merely an outward one. Actually we break this last commandment, not to covet, before we break any of the others. Any time that we break one of the other commandments of God, it means that we have already broken this commandment, in coveting. It also means that any time we break one of the others, we break this last commandment as well. So no matter which of the other Ten Commandments you break, you break two: the commandment itself, and this commandment not to covet. This is the hub of the wheel.
In Romans 7:7-9, Paul states very clearly that this was the commandment which gave him a sense of being sinful: "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known coveting except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of coveting. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died."
Now he did not mean he was perfect before; this is clear from what Paul has said. What he is saying here is, "I did not know I was a sinner; I thought I would come out all right, because I was keeping these outward things and was getting along all right in comparison with other people." He would have been measuring himself against the externalized form of the commandments which the Jews had in their tradition. But when he opened the Ten Commandments and read that the last commandment was not to covet, he saw he was a sinner. When did this take place? He does not tell us, but personally I feel that God was working inwardly in him and making him feel this lack even before the experience on the Damascus road-that already he had seen he was a sinner and had been troubled in the light of the Tenth Commandment and then Christ spoke to him.
Coveting is the negative side of the positive commands, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart a
Love is internal, not external. There can be external manifestations, but love itself will always be an internal factor. Coveting is always internal; the external manifestation is a result. We must see that to love God with all the heart, mind, and soul is not to covet against God; and to love man, to love our neighbor as ourselves, is not to covet against man. When I do not love the Lord as I should, I am coveting against the Lord. And when I do not love my neighbor as I should, I am coveting against him.
"Thou shalt not covet" is the internal commandment which shows the man who thinks himself to be moral that he really needs a Savior. The average such "moral" man, who has lived comparing himself to other men and comparing himself to a rather easy list of rules (even if they cause him some pain and difficulty), can feel, like Paul, that he is getting along all right. But suddenly, when he is confronted with the inward command not to covet, he is brought to his knees. It is exactly the same with us as Christians. This is a very central concept if we are to have any understanding or any real practice of the true Christian life or true spirituality. I can take lists that men make and I can seem to keep them, but to do that, my heart does not have to be bowed. But when I come to the inward aspect of the Ten Commandments, when I come to the inward aspect of the Law of Love, if I am listening even in a poor fashion to the direction of the Holy Spirit, I can no longer feel proud. I am brought to my knees. In this life I can never say, "I have arrived; it is finished; look at me-I am holy." When we talk of the Christian life or true spirituality, when we talk about freedom from the bonds of sin, we must be wrestling with the inward problems of not coveting against God and men, of loving God and men, and not merely some set of externals.
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