From the previous post, Timothy Keller’s thoughts on ‘The Consequences of Sin’ . . . .

The devastating loss of shalom through sin is described in Genesis 3. We are told that as soon as we determine to serve ourselves instead of God—as soon as we abandoned living for and enjoying God as our highest good—the entire created world became broken. Human beings are so integral to the fabric of things that when human beings turned from God the entire warp and woof of the world unraveled. Disease, genetic disorders, famine, natural disasters, aging, and death itself are as much the result of sin as are oppression, war, crime, and violence. We have lost God’s shalom—physically, spiritually, socially, psychologically, culturally. Things now fall apart. In Romans 8, Paul says that the entire world is now “in bondage to decay” and “subject to futility” and will not be put right until we are put right. Now continuing. . . .

At some point in most lives, we are confronted with the fact that we are not persons we know we should be. Almost always our response is to “turn over a new leaf” and try harder to live according to our principles. That ultimately will only lead us into a spiritual dead end.

In C.S. Lewis‘s essay “Is Christianity Hard or Easy?” he depicts normal human striving:

The ordinary idea which we all have is that . . . we have a natural self with various desires and interests . . . and we know something called “mortality” or “decent behavior” has a claim on the self. . . . We are all hoping that when all the demands of mortality and society have been met, the poor natural self will still have some chance, some time, to get on with its own life and do what it likes. In fact we are very like the honest man paying his taxes. He pays them, but he does hope that there will be enough left over for him to live on. 

The Christian way is different—both harder and easier. Christ says, “Give me ALL. I don’t want just this much of your time and this much of your money and this much of your work—so that your natural self can have the rest. I want you. Not your things. I have come not to torture your natural self . . . I will give you a new self instead. Hand over the whole natural self—ALL the desires, not just the ones you think wicked but the ones you think innocent—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead.” 

Here Lewis works from Kierkegaard’s definition of sin. Sin is not simply doing bad things, it is putting good things in the place of God. So the only solution is not simply to change our behavior, but to orient and center the entire heart and life on God.

The almost impossibly hard thing is to hand over your whole self to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is remain what we call “ourselves”—our personal happiness centered on pleasure or ambition—and hoping, despite this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you cannot do. If I am a grass field—all the cutting will keep the grass less but won’t produce wheat. If I want wheat . . . I must be plowed up and re-sown. 

Does that scare you? Does it sound stifling? Remember this—if you don’t live for Jesus you will live for something else. If you live for career and you don’t do well it may punish you all of your life, and you will feel like a failure. If you live for your children and they don’t turn out all right you could be absolutely in torment because you feel worthless as a person.

If Jesus is your center and Lord and you fail him, he will forgive you. Your career can’t die for your sins. You might say, “If I were a Christian I’d be going around pursued by guilt all the time!” But we all are being pursued by guilt because we must have an identity and there must be some standard to live up to by which we get that identity. Whatever you base your life on—you have to live up to that. Jesus is the one Lord you can live for—who breathed his last breath for you. Does that sound oppressive?

You may say, “I see that Christianity might be just the thing for people who have had collapses in their lives. But what if I don’t fail in my career and what if I have a great family?” As Augustine said, if there is a God who created you, then the deepest chambers of your soul simply cannot be filled by anything less. That is how great the human soul is. If Jesus is the Creator-Lord, then by definition nothing can satisfy you like he can, even if you are successful. Even the most successful careers and families cannot give the significance, security, and affirmation the author of glory and love can.

Everybody has to live for something. Whatever that something is becomes “Lord of your life,” whether you think of it that way or not. Jesus is the only Lord who . . . will fulfill you completely. . .~Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (Penguin Books: 2008, 2018) p. 177-79.

(Posts with a preamble asterisk * are for a more general audience and not specific to teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

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