Posted by: Billy Marsh | August 30, 2007

Reflections On True Spirituality: Session 1

Francis Schaeffer

Immediately, after our first meeting, I realized just how powerful reading the book that Schaeffer claimed should have been his first work this semester was going to be. Because so many of the truths are so simple, yet incredibly profound, I wanted to share  some of these insights with you all. Like C. S. Lewis, Schaeffer is one of those writers whose books have a free-flowing feel to them which always seems to produce statements that are so perfectly put, that they can only be quoted; paraphrasing does not do them justice.

If you’ve been keeping up with my recent posts, you should be aware of the fact that I am part of a Francis Schaeffer book club led by Dr. Bertch of The College at Southwestern. This semester we are reading through True Spirituality. Today, we met at 12noon for an hour and dialogued over the “Preface” and chapter one entitled, “The Law and the Law of Love“. Chapters 1-7 makeup section one called, “Freedom Now from the Bonds of Sin“. Each week, subsequent to our meetings, I will try to pick one or two poignant insights from our readings and discussions in and about the book to share with my blog readers so that you can experience just how insightful and influential Schaeffer is for all Christians and the Church.

Today, amongst many other points which could produce many, many posts, I found Schaeffer’s thoughts on “Coveting”, the 10th commandment, quite interesting. For those of you familiar with the writings and theology of John Piper, you may be up to speed with what he would designate as the root of all sin, that is, unbelief or perhaps simply, pride. I learned this revolutionary truth from his book Future Grace. However, Schaeffer uses coveteousness as the basis of all law-breaking. Essentially, what Schaeffer is alluding to is the nature of the object of our desires. Is it God or is it self? Do we desire God or do we covet the things of the world? He says, “Coveting is the negative side of the positive commands [the Ten Commandments] (7).”

Schaeffer anticipates objections and soon addresses the issue of “Are all desires sinful?” to which he adamantly responds, “The Bible makes plain that this is not so-all desire is not sin. . . . desire becomes sin when it fails to include love of God or men (8).” So, he submits two obvious tests for discerning when a desire becomes sinful: (1) Christians are to love God “enough to be contented“; (2) Christians are to love men “enought not to envy“.

He goes on to further explicate these two tests in a brief manner, however, still saying a lot. But one of the most impacting statements in the whole chapter had to do with his exposition concering test #2. Schaeffer’s insight cuts like a knife when he writes,

Natural desires have become coveting against a fellow creature, one of our kind, a fellow man, when we have a mentality that would give us secret satisfaction at his misfortune (Emphasis mine). If a man has something, and he loses it, do we have an inward pleasure (11)?

When I read that passage, I shuddered. I quickly realized just how discontent I am in God and his will for me when I, in a split-second, recalled all of the times, past or present, that this charge was/is true of me and my inmost thoughts. I gleaned from this truth that the depth of one’s covetousness may not even be revealed until the envied person does lose something to which our instinctive response is personal satisfaction of some sort at their mishap. Suddenly, a passage of Scripture such as David’s plea to God in Psalm 139:23-24 becomes much more detrimental for me to continuously pray.

Are you content in God? Are you satisfied in serving and loving your fellow man fully at peace and at rest in the plan for your own life that God has worked out for you? For Schaeffer, being satisfied in God and loving your neighbor are the starting points for living in “true Christian spirituality”.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

~ Psalm 139:23-24 ~

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