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Following Jesus Out of Cynicism, Part 2

11 February, 2010

b picI recently posted some things from Paul Miller’s very helpful book on prayer, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, particularly regarding cynicism or defeated weariness in our Christian faith and life, and how to follow Jesus away from cynicism and to God in trusting prayer. He speaks of 6 cures Jesus provides for our cynicism: 1) Being warm but wary; 2) Learning to hope again; and 3) Cultivating a childlike spirit. Here are the last three, with some juicy excerpts to savor:A Praying Life cover image

4. Cultivating a thankful spirit

Thankfulness isn’t a matter of forcing yourself to see the happy side of life. That would be like returning to naive optimism. Thanking God restores the natural order of our dependence on God. It enables us to see life as it really is…. To become thankful is to be drawn into the fellowship of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, into their enjoyment of one another, of life, and of people. Cynicism looks reality in the face, calls it phony, and prides itself on its insight as it pulls back. Thanksgiving looks reality in the face and rejoices at God’s care. It replaces a bitter spirit with a generous one. In the face of Adam and Eve’s evil, God takes up needle and thread and patiently sews fine leather clothing for them (see Genesis 3:21). He covers their divided, hiding selves with love. The same God permits his Son to be stripped naked so we could be clothed. God is not cynical in the face of evil. He loves.

5. Cultivating repentance

Cynics imagine they are disinterested observers on a quest for authenticity. They assume they are humble because they offer nothing. In fact, they feel deeply superior because they think they see through everything…. While purporting to “see through” others’ facades, cynics lack purity of heart. A significant source of cynicism is the fracture between my heart and my behavior. It goes something like this: My heart gets out of tune with God, but life goes on. So I continue to perform and say Christian things, but they are just words. I talk about Jesus without the presence of Jesus. There is a disconnect between what I present and who I am. My words sound phony, so others’ words sound phony, too. In short, my empty religious performance leads me to think that everyone is phony….

All sin involves a splitting of the personality — what James calls being “double-minded” (4:8). If we become proud, we have an inflated sense of self that has lost touch with who we really are. If a husband watches porn online and then warmly greets his wife, he has created two people — one public and one hidden…. Repentance brings the split personality together and thus restores integrity to life. the real self is made public. When the proud person is humbled, his elevated self is united with the true self. In contrast, cynicism focuses on the other person’s split personality and need to repent. It lacks the humility that comes from first taking the beam out of its own eye…

By cultivating a lifestyle of repentance, the pure in heart develop integrity, and their own fractures are healed. By beginning with their own impurity, they avoid the critical, negative stance of cynicism. The good news is that by following Jesus we don’t have to be captured by the spirit of the age. We don’t have to be defined by our culture….

6. Developing an eye for Jesus

Cynicism looks in the wrong direction. It looks for the cracks in Christianity instead of looking for the presence of Jesus. It is an orientation of the heart…. A principal source of cynicism comes from looking up at Christian leaders who have gotten Jesus’ kingdom mixed up with their own…. Jesus never used his power to show off. He used his power for love. So he wasn’t immediately noticeable. Humility makes you disappear, which is why we avoid it….

Instead of focusing on other people’s lack of integrity, on their split personalites, we need to focus on how Jesus is reshaping the church to be more like himself. We need to view the body of Christ with grace…. [Paul, in his letters,] looks at the church through rose-colored glasses, tinted with the blood of his Savior. Obviously, Christians are not better than non-Christians. In fact, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 that the raw material of believers is worse than that of unbelievers. The Corinthians themselves prove that! Christians aren’t superior, but our Savior is. He makes the difference….

  1. 12 February, 2010 4:16 am

    Ouch. sounds like he is talking about me.

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