Friday, April 11, 2014

losing the self

"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?"  (Luke 9:24-25 ESV)

Here are some of my highlights from the closing chapter of God in the Whirlwind, by David Wells...

There is a center in our lives, and in both cases from this center comes an energy, a drive, to see life from the viewpoint of our center and to do certain things...
This truth is fundamental to Christian faith. Either we are “enslaved to sin” (Rom. 6:6) or, through Christ, we are “slaves to righteousness” (Rom. 6:19). We are either “slaves to impurity and to lawlessness” (Rom. 6:19), or, as Paul said of himself, “a servant of Christ Jesus” (Rom. 1:1). It is the one or the other. Everyone is enslaved to something. Our choice is simply to whom or to what.
This servitude of sin originally worked itself out by constricting or “contracting” the human vision. Edwards spoke about how the original greatness of the human soul became small in its sin. What had once been its large vision of God, before the fall, shrank into the smallness of a warped self. It becomes, as Edwards said, contracted “to the very small dimensions of selfishness . . . and man retired within himself.”
...the thread that links the older modernist culture and our current postmodern culture is the autonomous self. This is the self, the person in his or her inner being, who is unrestrained by the past, by any authority, or social convention, or community, or any truth as something other than his or her own private opinion. They are not restrained by any God external to themselves. This is what our culture is validating all the time. 
To be enslaved by Christ is not a new bondage. It is a new freedom! To unbelievers, this may seem puzzling.
...the old, so-called “freedom” of the self, as we have seen, is actually the very opposite. It is a captivity to that self with all of its compulsions and appetites. The freedom we have in Christ is a freedom from the captivity to our old imperious and autonomous self.
Once, we mistakenly saw our own captivity as freedom. Equally mistakenly, we also saw serving Christ as loss. But the truth turned out to be exactly the opposite of what we had once thought.
In Luke’s account, the unbeliever “forfeits himself” (Luke 9:25). So great is the value of our life, our soul, that in any trade it would be worth more than the entire world with all of its treasure. That is their relative value. It is control over this great and precious thing, this life of ours, that we “lose” at the foot of Christ’s cross. On its face, this goes against every calculation of self-interest. But these calculations are false. Here in Jesus’s words, they are dismissed. This “loss” is actually “gain,” even as our “freedom” to be ourselves was, in fact, our slavery to ourselves. By contrast, to be a servant of Christ is to be free for him, through the gospel, because it is to be free from ourselves. That is the gain.
Christian faith is about transforming the way we calculate importance.
In the kingdom of God, greatness is the exact opposite of what it is in the world.
-- David Wells, from God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World (Crossway Books, 2014)

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