Saturday, June 12, 2010

Of Churches and Christians, Garages and Cars

It's understandable how certain false doctrines are embraced; they relieve us of the painful process of searching our souls.

For example, we often hear people testify that if we work hard and do our very, very best, Christ will "make up the difference." How many times have we heard, "You did your best and Christ will make up the rest?" Well, what if our best is just not very good at all, as King Benjamin tells us? Hugh Nibley said none of us are very brave or wise or pure. So, who are we to judge our own works in any degree as good or great? Where is any Christ-like humility in that? What we're supposed to be doing is striving to serve God and giving Him all the glory. Did I say all? Yes, all.

Whereas the scriptures say that we mustn't lean on our own understanding, that the Lord is our shepherd, that we must trust in him, that HE is THE light, THE life, and THE ONLY way, we often hear the idea that we should trust mostly in the arm of the flesh (ourselves and other humans) for our salvation, that the Savior can be treated as a sort of safety net, just in case we missed something. The truth is, Christ is the bridge itself, and the only bridge, not a mere safety net should we happen to lose our footing. And the reality is we all lose our footing; whether this happens in little ways or big ways, often or infrequently, doesn't matter. A question worth contemplating is, how would this safety-net/just-in-case view lead one to Christ, to humble oneself before God, to become truly religious/like Christ? The answer is, there is not much chance it will. We're nowhere near the bridge so why would we even need a net? We're walking on an earthbound path of our own making, which path leads to increasing vanity and pride.

It is as if we are saying,"I am doing so well that I don't need a Savior. Well, maybe I need him some, especially when I need comfort." Perhaps we think more often of Christ as a compassionate friend who is there to empathize with us when life is difficult rather than as a Redeemer who is there offering to intercede with the Father to save us from our sins, small and large, if we'll only seek to know what our shortcomings are and humble ourselves before him.

As C. S. Lewis said, the question is not, What are we to make of Christ? but, What is Christ to make of us? He wants to make us different and new, noble spiritual beings. We cannot make new soul-deep creatures of ourselves; only Christ can do that. Only he can make us fit for God's presence. It is his example of utter selflessness, of giving the Father all the glory, of purity of heart, that we must follow, and his redeeming grace that we must humbly and joyfully and gratefully receive if we are to become new creatures.

There's another strange false doctrine going around that perhaps grew from the one above. Some believe that with every good deed we do we undo a portion of the suffering of Christ. In other words, we have the power to make ourselves exempt or immune from the fall, from Christ's suffering, and from his saving grace. Of course this cannot be so. Man is fallen. The Atonement has been accomplished. What's done is done, and Christ is the only way. If we choose to believe such heresies we are living in a dreamworld, presuming to be our own savior and judge, even our own god. Such a person comes to church and serves in callings, but is actually rejecting the Lord. What would we honestly call such a church? The Church of Oneself? It certainly isn't the Church of Jesus Christ.

We like what somebody said in church last week, "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car."