Thursday, July 20, 2017

Setting Standards of Excellence for Christian Discipleship

The very idea of setting standards of excellence for Christian discipleship may sound odd or even wicked. Certainly any attempt to do so is fraught with difficulties. Still, for us as Christians and churches, to continue wallowing in our current Olympian relativism, when not actually celebrating it, leaves Jesus with little meaningful witness in our lives or world. Today Jesus is calling us to do better.
He is calling us today, as usual, through the words of the Bible (by far his favorite book); specifically, through the apostle Paul’s exhortation to “live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27, New Revised Standard Version, here and following). Plainly, we may live our lives in a manner unworthy of the gospel. That’s where we are now but not where Jesus plans to leave us.
Our global society and culture are intensely Olympian. They both embody and demand devotion to the six Olympian gods: (1) Jupiter, god of politics; (2) Mars, god of war; (3) Vulcan, god of technology; (4) Venus, goddess of sex; (5) Pluto, god of money; and (6) Bacchus, god of consumption.
Furthermore, as human beings, we each have a wholly Olympian personality. It is formed in the image of these gods by the Olympian society and culture in which we find ourselves.
Our society, culture, and personality, being wholly Olympian, are wholly conventional. They are based on the wholly conventional path of power which is based on falsehood, leads through indifference, and ends in death.
There is, however, another, better way. In victorious opposition to the Olympian gods, we have Jesus Christ. In contrast to their wholly conventional path of power, we have Christ’s wholly noble path of freedom which is based on his truth, leads through love, and ends in life.
This wholly noble way of freedom is the way of the Kingdom of God both in Heaven and on Earth. On Earth, Jesus calls and enables his body, the Church, to represent his noble way. In contrast to our intensely Olympian society and culture, Jesus intends his Church to be his alternative, contrasting, distinctly noble society and culture here on earth.
Before Christ, every human being had only a thoroughly Olympian personality. Through his crucifixion and resurrection, however, Jesus Christ gave every human being a thoroughly Christian personality as well. That’s the good news he’s calling us to live a life worthy of today.
This won’t be easy. As Paul also said, “Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me,…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
Jesus calls and enables us to be faithful witnesses by strengthening our Christian personality as we follow him on the narrow path of freedom. While following him on that path will be good and important, it will be nothing to boast about. That wouldn’t be noble. It is only by God’s daily renewed grace that we can do so. It is the Holy Spirit alone who daily sustains our Christian personality, and a Christ-centered Church, in the face of implacable opposition from Olympian gods, society, culture, and our own Olympian personality. But this is what Jesus is now calling us to will and to do today, and tomorrow, for our good and his glory.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.