02 April 2008

Christian Maintenance

Fifteen years ago I picked up a musty copy of "Your God is Too Small" by J.B. Phillips at a Library book sale. Phillips was an Anglican known for his paraphrase of the New Testament. He also wrote a book called "New Testament Chritianity" which is available online. When he's not misguided (or mildly heretical) Phillips has some amazing insights. Spoken like a true Augustinian, yes? Anyhoo, I'm paraphrasing him (how ironic) except the direct quotes which are in italic.
In order to live a life of New Testament quality, we shall find it necessary to work out some kind of practi­cal plan to keep us alive and sensitive to the Spirit of the living God, which will keep us supplied day by day with the necessary spiritual reinforcement, and which will help us to grow and develop as sons and daughters of God. It is unfortunately only too easy to slip back into conformity with our immediate surroundings, and to lose sight of the supra‑human way of living, except per­haps as a wistful memory. This does not in the least mean that real Christian living is a kind of spiritual tight‑rope walk, a fantastic and unnatural progress which can only be maintained by intense concentration. On the con­trary, the Christian way of living is real living, and it carries all the satisfaction and exhilaration which living in reality can bring. It is quite simply because we are surrounded by unreal and false values, by a pattern of living divorced from and unconscious of spiritual reali­ties, that we have to take time and trouble to maintain supra‑natural life, even though that life is in the truest sense the natural one. Experience shows that Christians whose lives are illuminated by the new quality of living, only maintain that inner radiance by taking certain practical steps. Now, naturally these will vary in indi­vidual cases, and there are people who either by tem­perament or through long years of practice can absorb God through the pores of their being, so to speak, as naturally and easily as most of us can breathe. But for the majority of us who are walking "by faith and not by sight" there are some essentials for the maintenance of real Christian living.

1. Quiet. We must secure quiet or the noise and pressure of modem life will quickly smother our longing to live life of the new quality. During the period of quiet is to open our lives to God--to perfect understanding, wisdom, and love. Worship and intercession are also good during this time.

2. Christian Fellowship. "A very large part of our Christian maintenance will consist of joining in with the fellow­ship of the Church, in its prayer and worship, in its work and service. Many people who profess to be Christians are very irregular worshippers. I do not think they can possibly realise how they weaken the cause of the Church, and in addition starve themselves of Christian fellowship. Many people appear to be convinced that they can lead good lives without committing themselves to Church attendance or the fellowship of the Church."

3. Regular Bible Reading.

4. Christian Reading. Those who never read a Christian book "are very ignorant both of the history and of the implications of their Faith... the Church could be infinitely more powerful as God's in­strument for the establishment of His Kingdom if its members were better informed in their minds as well as more devoted in their hearts."

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