Friday, April 7, 2017

The Good Life

I keep thinking about this piece of a paragraph from a current read - "Love Your God With All Your Mind" by J. P. Moreland:
"According to the modern view, the good life is the satisfaction of any pleasure or desire that someone freely and autonomously chooses for himself or herself. The successful person is the individual who has a life of pleasure and can obtain enough consumer goods to satisfy his or her desires. Freedom is the right to do what I want, not the power to do what I by nature ought to. Community gives way to individualism with the result that narcissism - an inordinate sense of self-love and self-centered involvement - is an accurate description of many people's lives."
This could seem at a glance to be another sadly accurate commentary upon the pitiful contemporary culture in the West - I've heard stuff like this so many times. But in this clear, objective description, I was unsettled to realize how much I saw of myself. I tend to think that I, as a Christian, am a separated observer of the follies of my surrounding culture - that I may have plenty of my own follies, but they are not those of the prevailing mucky-muck. I don't watch their shows, read their books, or worship their celebrities. I like old shows, read old books, and maintain a sincere fondness for G. K. Chesterton and Charles Spurgeon. But these are surface things, really. As much as I detest to admit it, I am a product of my culture. I am redeemed and sanctified in Christ, but I am not immune to the modern world's influence, anymore than a fish in a tank of water dyed pink. Don't I think of the good life kind of in the way he describes - sometimes? Sometimes I do think of life at its best when I have money to spend on something I want and time to do what I want. Time for me, stuff for me. Even if it isn't watching the latest chick flick on a brand new big screen TV, or some other culturally common ideal that I sort of despise, the underlying mindset can be the same.

All this makes me realize how many layers deep sanctification has to go as I grow in Christlikeness. Small choices like opting for clean entertainment instead of immoral TV shows, or choosing sensible clothing over trendy fashions are choices that any conservative individual can make, but they do not automatically make us separate from the mindset of the world - that is, seeking time for me, stuff for me, pleasure for me. True Christlike transformation leads me to desire and enjoy the freedom "to do what I by nature ought to do". Not just switching out the kind of stuff I crave, but switching out the cravings for stuff, to a craving to see God glorified in my loving service to others. Not just spending time on myself in wholesome ways, but spending time pursuing the kingdom of God and the knowledge of God. If I haven't repented in awhile, I'm probably getting comfortable with sin of some sort. Or to put it another way, if it's easy, it's probably not sanctification. Long distaste for blatant worldliness can make it easy to put off surface evils. But a habit of pleasing one's self as first resort is decidedly harder to break, as well as truly necessary for growth in conformity to Jesus. Only by pressing nearer to him who laid down his life and came not to do His own will but the will of His Father can I see a true deliverance from conformity to this world. That is Jesus' mission - to put away sin in His people and make them a new creation.

What then is the good life, if not the stuff and desires of this world filling my bucket?
It is Jesus being formed in me, seeing Him make me what I was originally designed to do. Virtue, holiness, love, service, worship and a continued pursuit of knowing Him who died that I might live.

1 comment:

A Quiet Life said...

"Not just switching out the kind of stuff I crave, but switching out the cravings for stuff." Yes!