Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

February 26, 2005

Thoughts on "Life-Changing"

"Life-changing." What a presumptuous word. How many times have I heard otherwise sensible Christians say, after they'd just finished reading the latest Christian bestseller, "This book has changed my life." I want to answer, "But how do you know?" Don't you need to wait a day or two, a week or two, a decade or two, before you can really look back and say with certitude, yes, that book really did change my life.

Christian publishing caters incessantly to this tendency in us, this inclination to spiritual fads, this incessant grasping for novelty. Christian merchandising assaults us with the same rank hyperbole so endemic to the mainstream culture. We no longer even consider it lying, because we've been inoculated with this particular brand of truth-stretching since childhood. Over-exposure has dulled our capacity for discernment. I wonder how many people, good and sincere people, who claimed their lives were forever changed by "The Prayer of Jabez," are still praying that prayer today. Relatively few, I suppose. They've moved on to being "wild at heart," or "purpose-driven," or whatever.

I don't mean to be harsh. I don't even mean to criticize those books, but to criticize the mindset that seems so eager to accept the self-promoting promises on their covers. We are grasping for a new revelation, for an over-night transformation, as if we're supposed to experience our own personal Pentecost every month or so -- and the marketing people at Zondervan and Baker and CBD, etc., know this all too well. Meanwhile, we go round and round on the carousel, grasping at each new shiny "spiritual" prize, yes, only to find that the supposed gold ring is just shoddy gimcrack. Our only choice is to go round again, hoping for another chance at what we hope might be, this time, the real thing.

Theolphilus at notes from the front line speaks powerfully to this issue (Hat-tip: Milton Stanley). And Phil at Another Man's Meat blogs on the very same matter. Money quote:

Evangelist Iverna Tompkins described a series of meetings she was speaking at somewhere in the southeastern United States. The meetings had gone well, or so it seemed. She’'d focused on the benefits that Jesus would bring to anyone who would embrace Him. “He’'ll heal your body, he’'ll take care of your finances, he'll fix your broken marriage.” I believe those are true statements. So did Iverna. But on a one day break from the meetings she had an “encounter.” Along with some friends she visited a historical site, some old slave markets in the city. She listened intently as a guide described the obscene language and transactions that once took place there. Human beings were sold into a life of bondage. Those who sold them would describe for prospective buyers the merits of a purchase. “Here'’s Joe...He’'s strong. He’'ll chop your wood... He'’ll pick your cotton…..Look at ‘'im...Look at these beautiful white teeth, the strong muscle...Does anybody here want to buy Joe?” Iverna recounted how as she listened she was transported and saw herself holding Jesus by a chain and proclaiming, “Here’'s Jesus...He's strong... Look at ‘'im...He'’ll heal your body, he'’ll fix your broken marriage, he’'ll take care of your finances...Anybody here wanna’ buy Jesus of Nazareth?”


Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Great stuff, Bob. I wrote about your post on my blog (and, now that I think about it, about the cross, too). Peace.

10:30 PM  
Blogger John Schroeder said...

It is very easy to offer someone some self-help advice. It is very hard to ask someone to come to a God that wants to tear off their skin. That; however, is our call. I have done a whole post on this related topic, with quotes from you, here

11:41 AM  

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