“Read Scripture a lot – It challenges the world’s input constantly”
Missing the mark
The Greek word hamartia, which is frequently used in Scripture and is translated “sin,” is a derivative of the word hamartano which means “to miss the mark.” In our efforts to live the Christian life we can get caught in certain cultural traps that cause us to lose focus and “miss the mark.”
The throne diagram, used in the Life in the Spirit Seminars, illustrates the centrality of Christ in the life of the Christian. The diagram is a cross placed on the throne of a person’s heart. The throne is surrounded by the types of things which can occupy one’s life, such as education, family, career, pleasure, any number of which could easily usurp the place of Christ on the throne. This diagram is a way of examining and situating our life’s priorities.
Most of us have been formed by our secular culture to give “conditioned responses.” Sometimes we don’t recognize the underlying value sets, including pressure from society, friends, and relatives, and the internal orientations that condition us for a certain response. We can be culturally driven, culturally responsive. We can be deceived, claiming to be and actually desiring to be Christ-centered, but find ourselves on a path that goes far from the heart of God.
Many things get put in place in us by the culture around us – for example, fear-based living. There is the fear of rejection, fear of disease, fear of kidnapping or terrorism, to name a few. Another is the need for approval, which is connected to the fear of rejection. We want approval from friends and relatives, preferring not to be seen as abnormal. But if we live a Christ-centered Christian life we just won’t look normal.
Some of us are driven by a competitive spirit: a drive to win. Or we can be influenced by the entitlement mentality, believing we “deserve” certain things as individuals and families. On a personal level we can be oriented by greed, orderliness, perfectionism, pleasure, fear, guilt, accomplishment, security, success, education.
The “culture of self”
Many of us are familiar with the comparison, “the culture of death and the culture of life.” I suggest that the culture of death is really subordinate to and a subset of the “culture of self.” We need to see that we’re living in a culture of self whose orientation embraces the culture of death. The kingdom of God, the culture of Christ, embraces life.
There are other subsets, or “isms”. Relativism, narcissism – and hedonism in certain ways – all describe this “culture of self” because they all put “me” at the center of the universe. We can work on fighting all the “isms” but if we don’t deal with the stuff inside of us that tries to put us first, the “culture of self,” all of our fighting is a waste of time. Our real war is in dealing with “me” at the center rather than Christ. “I,” “me,” and “mine” are not the approach of the Kingdom of God. Christ and his kingdom have got to be at the center. If I keep pulling myself into the center, it pushes him out!
A personal conversion to Christ, spiritual growth and formation, being baptized in the Holy Spirit, and ongoing decisions are needed for Christ-centered living, not just for individuals but for groupings as well. From many years of pastoral work with individuals, couples, and families in Christian community, I have learned that it is possible for two Christ-centered people to enter into marriage that itself is not Christ-centered at its core. The same is true for families. It is possible for Christ-centered parents to lead a family lifestyle or culture that does not have Christ at the center.
Marriages need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Our marriages and families need to be converted to Christ. And once we decide to submit them to his lordship, we need to find out how to do that. It requires education and knowledge in order to avoid the secular cultural drift. I am suggesting that not only individuals, but marriages, family, and communities should have an “examination of conscience” – taking a hard look at our behavior, our practices, our priorities, our decision-making as a group, as a marriage, as a family, and as a community.
The congregation that started the WWJD (What would Jesus do?) movement has been a bit misrepresented. The actual approach was more like, “We will do what Jesus would do.” WWDWJWD! That’s the approach we need to take. “I will do” and “we will do” what Jesus would do. The Lord wants Christ-centered individuals, Christ-centered families, Christ-centered communities. And that’s going to require taking some steps.
What We Can Do
- Read Scripture a lot, even if you think you have it memorized. It challenges the world’s input constantly. Get the children to read and memorize it. Get them to be able to answer questions from a Scriptural perspective. In Scripture we should look for antidotes to the world, the flesh, and the devil, but especially the flesh. The world and Satan have less influence over a person whose flesh is broken. Reading Scripture is a genuine defense against the flesh.
- Insist on “everything that is lovely and good” (Philippians 4:8). Think on these things.
- Do a heart check. If your heart is polluted or poisoned, you will have trouble seeing and hearing things that the Lord wants you to see or hear. If your heart is not postured correctly, you won’t be able to respond. If your marriage or family needs to be consecrated or dedicated to the Lord, get a pastor or a pastoral leader to lead a prayer for the family. Communities could even have retreats dedicated to such re-centering.
- Always suspect the “self” when you are making decisions or desiring something. It’s worth suspecting, asking ourselves, “Is this really from the Lord and his will for me or is it fueled by something down inside of me that is apart from what God wills?”
- Pray for protection – from ourselves being blind or selfish, for our spouses, for our children, for our community, that as a people we would not be selfish in our orientation.
- Rekindle fear of the Lord. If you distort or exclude any aspect of God’s nature, you get a distorted view of who God is. An over-emphasis on God’s mercy while under-emphasizing his justice will lead to an unbalanced perspective. Sin has consequences. We need to learn that and to teach it to our children.
“If you live what I have taught you, you are my disciple and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31). Let’s not forget the beginning of the sentence. Jesus is saying, “Live in my Word, live what I have taught you, then the truth will set you free.” It is a promise of freedom and it’s worth celebrating. If we live according to the Lord’s plan, we will see the fruit of the Christian life and the power of the Holy Spirit revealed!
This article is from Essays on Christian Community: Do Covenant Communities Have Something to Contribute to Our Models of Church, Chapter 11, © 2019 by Bob Tedesco, published by Credo House Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. Used with permission.
Top photo credit: Christ preaching, etching by Rembrandt. In the public domain.
Bob Tedesco is the founder of the People of God, a Sword of the Spirit community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA where he served as Senior Coordinator for 26 years. He has been involved in lay ministry for over forty-five years, and has served as Regional President of the North American region in the Sword of the Spirit.