Saturday, July 17, 2010

True Spirituality - Substantial Healing In The Church

True Spirituality - Substantial Healing In The Church
Comments on Francis Schaeffer's Book True Spirituality
A Book Study By Dan Guinn

Chapter 13 - In this, our final chapter we cannot emphasize enough that the Church is not immune to the results of the bonds of sin. While we acknowledge the work of the Church in time and space, through the supernatural aid of the Holy Spirit, we must never elevate the Church to the status of infallibility. The Church is made up of people, and people are imperfect. The great hymn written by Samuel J. Stone, The Church’s One Foundation speaks so well to this.

While we affirm the first verse...

“The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.”

...we must also be mindful of the fourth:

“Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!”

The Church is in battle and is distressed on every side with schism, heresies and all manner of brokenness and sin in her very midst. We must not deny this. While the fourth verse might lead us to believe that the only hope of the Church is to endure, this is not the message of the hymn’s author. We should also read verse six.

“Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won,
With all her sons and daughters
Who, by the Master’s hand
Led through the deathly waters,
Repose in Eden land.”

While Schaeffer does not mention this hymn in True Spirituality, this song is in harmony with his message. He intends for us to know that the Church can have substantial healing in this life. It can embrace the strengths; it’s union with the Triune God and each other. Even through distress, human failure, and imperfection we can apply the gospel to the Church and achieve substantial victory. The Church must acknowledge it’s supernatural union with the Triune God, as well as the mystical union that binds us to both God and fellow believer. We must continue to grasp the Master’s hand through deathly waters, to find repose (rest) in him now as citizens of the new Eden; The kingdom of the ever-living God.

A True Resurrection

Dr. Schaeffer begins the chapter first with the resurrection of Christ. He does so in order to combat the position of some in liberalism which take the phrase used in scripture, “the body of Christ” and mis-characterize it as the real meaning of any talk of resurrection in the New Testament. Simply put, according to these persons when Jesus indicated He would rise from the dead he really only meant that he would build his church. A lot of this comes from a blatant misuse of John 2:19 - “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’”), and an ignorance of the rest of scripture. Their interpretation is founded on the intent to “de-mythologize” the text, but in actuality this is simply unbelief. If Holy Scripture is now lowered to the state of “mythology” in their eyes, then there is really nothing different from it and other text. What prevents us from abandoning it altogether, or replacing it with something else of our liking?

To Schaeffer’s point, the Church cannot hope to have real healing without a proper view of the resurrection of Christ. A de-spiritualized concept of resurrection is a very poor substitute for a risen savior. If Christ is not raised then we are still in our sin. If Christ is raised then we ought to live to exhibit a risen savior to the world.

The Body Of Christ Resurrected

On a personal level we need to realize our role in the body of Christ. We are each different and endowed with different gifts to give toward the growth of His kingdom.

“4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Romans 12:4-5

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 1 Cor 12:12-14

“As His body, the Church should exhibit him to the world, until he returns. Just as our bodies are our means of communication to the external world, so the Church as the body of Christ should be Christ’s means of communication to the external world. We think our thoughts and then we convey our thoughts to the external world through our bodies; our physical body is the point of communication with the external world and this is the way we affect the the world.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 164

One might wonder why Schaeffer labors at this explanation, taking time to give such a specific illustration of the way that our bodies are like the body of Christ and then how we are connected to the external world. However, what Schaeffer hopes for us to grasp is the “organic” aspect as well as the spiritual aspect. We were created in the image of God, yet corrupted by sin. We are being re-created in the image of Christ. Thus now, we ought to “naturally” (organically) and honestly exhibit this change through our bodies before the watching world. Together as the Church, we are the point of communication between God and His creation. We exhibit the communication of re-creation in this life.

“So the Church, as the body of Christ, is called to be the means whereby He may be exhibited and whereby He acts in the external world until He comes again. Since the fall of man there have been two humanities, and not just one. There are those who are still in revolution against God, and there are those who by God’s grace have returned to Him on the basis of Christ’s work. The Church should be the reality and the exhibition of this distinction, in each generation.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 164

The Called Out
Dr. Schaeffer reminds us that the word for Church, in the Greek is Ecclesia, which means “that which is called out”. But what are we called out from and why? Dr. Schaeffer explains:

“In our generation in the arts, in music, in philosophy, in drama, everywhere you turn, man is coming to see that man is less that he knows he should be. Our generation sees this, but the problem is not new in our time. Ever since the fall rebellious man has been this way. And the Church is called out of this humanity, in order to be humanity before a lost humanity.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 166

What Schaeffer is stating here is significant. We are a walking apologetic! A life lived in true spirituality is a defence of the faith by it’s mere existence. A life changed testifies of the truth of the gospel and it’s power to awaken mankind to new life.

Our Source of Unity

There are groups today that teach unity at all cost. It is surprising that so many would sacrifice principle in order to join people together in organizational unity. Looking at things from the outside, this might seem like a worthwhile cause. Yet inside, people are still sinful people at the end of the day, without principle and a Christ-centered union, there will be further infighting and all sorts of error propagated. At the end of the day, this is not true unity, but merely a facade of human invention. What separates a “non-doctrinal” church without beliefs from a mere social gathering?

Now let’s be clear, it is not that we are to reject others who do not believe as we do, but rather it is that we are to stand and teach the principles entrusted to the Church. Wherefore we cannot form a “non-doctrinal” church for the purpose of unity, as the Church must be the Church. We have the curious role of both opening our doors to the world and showing them love as well as standing for the Truth.

“The unity of the Church is basically the unity of the Head controlling each of the parts. If I as an individual, or if groups of Christians, are not under the leadership of the Head, the Church of Jesus Christ will be functioning like hands that cannot find each other; the whole thing will be broken and a ‘spastic’ situation will exist in which the Church functions in a most disjointed way” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 166

Sitting In The Right Chair Together
Dr. Schaeffer ask us to recall the “two chairs” illustration. If we are, by the power of the Holy Spirit, sitting in the right chair, then we have victory. When others are doing this as well, we have victory together.

“Remember the ‘two chairs.’ As I am living individually in the supernatural, moment-by-moment there will be individual results, and an individual exhibition. But equally, as we are living as a corporate body in the light of the supernatural, there will be corporate results and an exhibition. It is not only that the individual should so think and live, but the whole group as a group should be attuned to living consciously, moment-by-moment, in the reality of the supernatural. Then there is exhibition; then there is the result there should be.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 166, 167, 168

A Balanced Exhibition
Schaeffer is well known for teaching the concept of the balance of truth and love in our discussion with the watching world. Here he extends that concept though slightly different language. The proper balance must be struck between the “legal aspect” (truth) and the personal aspect (love) of our exhibition of God to our generation.

“The proper legal aspects of the Church will deal first with doctrine, because otherwise the body is telling lies about its head. The Church is not a body that thinks up ideas; the Church is a declarative statement of what God has revealed concerning himself in Scripture. So the legal aspects are fixed by God himself. The Church should represent the supernaturally restored human race in reality...” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 167

“Only God is infinite and finite man cannot exhibit that. But as we are made in his image, individually and together we are called upon to exhibit the fact that he is personal. This we can do; it is our calling.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 168

We must stand firm however, on the premise of mankind’s need for redemption in our exhibition rather than merely put forward a blind inclusivism:

“As orthodox Christians we reject the present emphasis that destroys the distinction between saved men and lost men.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 164

As quoted earlier:

“Since the fall of man there have been two humanities, and not just one. There are those who are still in revolution against God, and there are those who by God’s grace have returned to Him on the basis of Christ’s work. The Church should be the reality and the exhibition of this distinction, in each generation.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 164

The Conscious Church
Schaeffer further emphasises the need for the Church to be ever conscious and vigilant to be who it is called to be. By doing so the Church can have substantial victory in this life.

“What should the Church consciously be then? The Church consciously (and my emphasis is very strongly on the word consciously) should be that which encourages its members in the true Christian life, in true spirituality—in that which we have set forth in this book. It should encourage them in freedom in the present life from the bonds of sin, and in freedom in this present life from the results of the bonds of sin. It should encourage substantial healing in their separation from themselves and a substantial healing in their separation from their fellowmen, especially fellow Christians.

No matter how legally right a church is, if it does not provide an environment conducive to these things, it is not what it should be. First the Church should teach the truth and secondly the Church should teach a practice of the existence of God, and a practice of the reality of and the exhibition of God’s character and holiness and love. The Church cannot merely teach these things in words; we must see the practice of these things in the Church as a corporate body.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 169

A Church of Faith
Dr. Schaeffer ponders the question, “Can faith be taught?” His answer is, “Yes, faith can be taught, but only through exhibition.” (Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 169, 170). The value of living out faith before others is substantial in the Church’s calling. Not only to it’s members but to the watching world. It cannot be that only the holy people are those who are in her pulpit or else the Church has failed.

“The church or other Christian group that does not function as a unit of faith can never be a school of faith. There is only one way to be a school of faith and that is consciously to function by faith.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 170

“...the Church’s or Christian group’s methods are as important as its message. It is to deal consciously with the reality of the supernatural. Anything that exhibits unfaith is a mistake, or may even be a corporate sin.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 171

Dr. Schaeffer further pushes us to the natural end of thinking in unfaith:

“If I [we] woke up tomorrow morning and found that all that the Bible teaches concerning prayer and the Holy Spirit were removed (not as a liberal would remove it, by misinterpretation, but really removed) what difference would it make in practice from the way we are functioning today?” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 171

Consider this question, what would your practice be like? What would your Christianity look like? Would it look like the Christianity of the Bible?

“The tragic fact is that in much of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ—the evangelical Church—there would be no difference whatsoever. We function as though the supernatural is not there.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 171

The Church Led By The Holy Spirit
Schaeffer ask us to remember the promises in scripture to the Church regarding the Holy Spirit. These are absolutes in our faith and not to be taken lightly.

  1. “you shall receive power” (Acts. 1:8).
  2. The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).
  3. Christ will be with us, through the agency of the Holy Spirit our comforter (John 14:16-18).
  • He will be with us; “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you.”
Since we have the power, aid, and fruits of the Holy Spirit working in us what should the world see when they are watching?

“There are things that the world should see when they look upon the Church—something that they cannot possibly explain away. The Church should be committed to the practical reality of these things, not merely assenting to them.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 172

“Organizational and financial matters should not be allowed to get in the way if the personal and group leading of the Holy Spirit.”

Yet the challenge to being led by the Holy Spirit is when our faith is challenged.

“Throughout Church history , one is aware that the danger always comes at a time of emergency. An emergency arises which causes us to cut off the exhibition of faith, and discount the possibility of God guiding through financial matters. There always seems to be a legitimate reason for reaching out and touching the ark.[1]” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 173

“There is to be a moment-by-moment supernatural reality, for the group as well as the individual.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 173

Schaeffer again brings us back to warnings that hint of the mechanical and non-personal. We cannot live moment-by-moment in the Spirit as a church and simply operate as an impersonal business.

“How many times do we find that in doing the business of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is a rapid opening prayer, a rapid closing prayer after half the people have left, but in between there is no difference between doing the Lord’s business and the business of some well organized business enterprise.?” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 173

Through Total War in Prayer
There are consequences in living this way as a Church, although there is glorious healing in this life, there are obstacles to this faith.

“This [the Church living by faith] places the Church in supernatural battle, extending into the heavenlies, and not just a natural battle...a real battle of the Church in total war, including the unseed war in the unseen portion of reality. This makes the Church the Church and short of this, the Church is less than the Church.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 174

Knowing that we are the Church, building the kingdom of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, in moment-by-moment in faith is significant. Yet knowing that we are in a battle, a total war, yet we are not alone, though we may be under seige, should greatly impact the nature of prayer in our lives.

“Prayer now becomes something more than merely an abstract religious, devotional act.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 174

Knowing Our Loyalties
At this point Dr. Schaeffer takes a moment to clarify the important of loyalties. When we see the Church not properly exhibiting Christ as it should, we need to remember the order in which our loyalties rest.

1. Loyalty to the person of the living God.
2. Loyalty to the principles in revealed Christianity.
3. Loyalty to organizations.
4. Loyalty to human leadership.

He ends by pointing our that when we love Christ properly, then the natural result is to love all those in Christ. This sort of charity goes a long way toward advancing the Church as a whole.

In True Community
Defining The Environment Of This Community

We should aspire to meet together and help each other.

“God commands that we should assemble ourselves together, until Jesus comes (Hebrews 10:25). We are commanded not only to meet together, but to help each other (verse 24). Christianity is an individual thing, but it is not only an individual thing. There is to be true community, offering true spiritual and material help to each other.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 176

Our relationship should be practical and organic in relation to each other.

“You will remember that we have previously seen that true spirituality has meaning in all the practical relationships of life; husband-wife, parent-child, employer-employee. These things must be taught in the church as an aspect of the conscious side of sanctification, to be understood and then acted upon by choice. The environment of the local church or other Christian group must be conducive for these things to grow. ” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 178

It should be moment-by-moment in instruction and example.

“There must be moment-by-moment teaching, there must be moment-by-moment example, of the present meaning of the work of Christ, and a conscious choice of the individual and the group to lay hold of these things. There must be faith, moment by moment, in God’s promises, to lay hold on these things—first in instruction, and then in example.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 178

It should not be based on doctrine alone but on God as a person.

“This is not a matter of just hanging everything on doctrines about the infinite and personal God, but upon him as a person—because he is there, and he knows the local group by name, and the individuals in the group my name.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 178

Into the Total Culture
“And having come this far, true spirituality—the Christian life—flows on into the total culture.” Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 180

Dr. Schaeffer ends on a note that is quite telling. It tells us where these thoughts lead. It tells us the basis upon which all of the rest of his work was based. It tells us the nature of the work of L’Abri and it’s calling before the Church and the watching world.

This notion might seem romantic to some, and yet simplistic to others. However, his point is clear; when the Church lives as the Church, it naturally touches the world around it. It cares about people and it cares about the consequences of ideas. It laments over broken lives, separated from God and themselves. It is passionate about the re-creation of mankind and the renewal of the soul. It touches every area of life. If the individual man lives the gospel, his whole world is transformed, if the church lives the gospel the entire world and total culture is transformed. It is a simple equation, with unbelievable impact for us, our lives, and the watching world. “And having come this far, true spirituality—” Truthfully, Changes Everything!

[1]See 2 Sam. 16:6,7 for information on the story of Uzza, who disobeyed God and touched the ark of the covenant and died. Interestingly enough, some liberal theologians now teach that the Ark of the Covenant was electrically charged.

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