By Alexander Samuels
I would like to introduce to you a new friend of mine, Alexander Samuels, whose posts will appear from time to time here at Carolina Christian Conservative. Samuels is a knowledgeable Christian philosopher, lay theologian, educator, writer and constitutional conservative. I'm hoping he will stop by and share his words of wisdom with us often.—Mickey
When you go to church, what are you looking for? Are you looking for a . . . warm fuzzy experience that will make you feel good enough to face another week? Do you hope that the pastor's words will motivate you to a new spiritual high? Do you sigh when you feel the sermon is getting too deep and requires too much personal assessment of your true relationship with God? Most of us are satisfied if we believe that God loves us. We feel that somehow, if this is true, everything will be all right. This casual attitude toward our personal Christian experience, however, leaves our lives to fall far short of the true joy of living in Christ. An excerpt from a sermon originally titled "True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils," by Jonathan Edwards, in 1752, explains this concept very well:
A sense of the beauty of Christ is the beginning of true saving faith in the life of a true convert. This is quite different from any vague feeling that Christ loves him or died for him. These sort of fuzzy feelings can cause a sort of love and joy, because the person feels a gratitude for escaping the punishment of their sin. In actual fact, these feelings are based on self-love, and not on a love for Christ at all. It is a sad thing that so many people are deluded by this false faith. On the other hand, a glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ causes in the heart a supreme genuine love for God. This is because the divine light shows the excellent loveliness of God's nature. A love based on this is far, far above anything coming from self-love, which demons can have as well as men. The true love of God which comes from this sight of His beauty causes a spiritual and holy joy in the soul; a joy in God, and exulting in Him. There is no rejoicing in ourselves, but rather in God alone.
The sight of the beauty of divine things will cause true desires after the things of God. These desires are different from the longings of demons, which happen because the demons know their doom awaits them, and they wish it could somehow be otherwise. The desires that come from this sight of Christ's beauty are natural free desires, like a baby desiring milk. Because these desires are so different from their counterfeits, they help to distinguish genuine experiences of God's grace from the false.
This is the difference we see manifested in the life of the person who really wants to live for Christ and the life of the person who wants to live for Christ and whatever Christ can do to meet his personal needs. It is who comes first, Christ or my needs? Unfortunately, many churches are compromising with the secular world and providing teaching and sermons that are designed to tickle the ears of their hearers. Our desire has become to offer a non-offensive Gospel so that our membership numbers will be impressive.