Sunday, May 23, 2010

Existentialism

There are, in today's church, many existentialists. They may not know it, indeed, may not even know what existentialism is, but the fruit of their lives bears witness. In short, existentialism, the way I understand it, says, "If it works, it is good". Conversely, "If it doesn't work, do something else". Sounds like good, solid, pragmatic philosophy. And in a way, that is what existentialism is. But there is a caution that must be raised.

When Jesus was tempted in the desert, he was offered existential satisfaction of the lust of the flesh (make the stones bread), the lust of the eyes (all the kingdoms of this world) and the pride of life (show them how powerful you are). These were very devious temptations, for Father God provides bread for us, He will put us in positions of authority and will bless us materially. But for Jesus, there was only one desire, to please Father, and He did so by continually honoring the Word. Yes, Satan, it is true that I can command these stones to become bread, but I have food that you know not of, that of the Word of my Father. Yes, it is true that angels are set about me lest I stumble, but I will not put my Father into a position where He must save me to exalt myself before men. Finally, it is true that all the kingdoms of this world will be mine one day, but I will not worship anything, or anyone, but my Father.

So we have today's existentialists faced with the same temptations. They attempt to use spirit power to meet carnal needs. Those who manipulate them make millions off of their self-help books, tapes, "seed money" donations and other such temptations. The subtlety of these temptations is that there are indeed spiritual principles that teach that if you give, you receive more in return in money, power, and position. So their teaching is hard to refute. Their existentialism works for them, and they are convinced it works for anyone who obeys this teaching. But may I suggest that where they fail is in lack of submission of "all these things (Mat 6:33)" unto the Father? Their hearts, though outwardly pointed to God, in reality are far from Him, no matter how much their lips confess otherwise. In other words, they are out for the bread that perishes (John 6) and not for that which truly satisfies (Isaiah 55).

This crowd was around in Jesus' day, too. They ate bread, and wanted more. John tells us that Jesus did not entrust himself to them, for He knew what they were about. He knew when the going got rough, they would check out. He cried out,

"I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." John 6:51

Well, that was too much for the carnally minded followers. Jesus was laying out the cost of discipleship, taking up ones cross, dying to self, that they might gain Christ. But they would have none of this. They all checked out, save the 12. They also were offended at Jesus' teaching, but like Peter said, "Well, to whom shall we go, Lord? You alone have the WORDS of eternal life!" And having begun to feast on His Words, the disciples knew they weren't going back.

Existentialism is not all about deception, though. When things really are not working, all the saints from Job to David to Elijah to Paul have had to ask the question, "Where is God when life doesn't make sense?". That existential question will either drive us to our knees in humility, or cause us to walk in bitterness. God is not offended by our honest existential questions. When it comes down to it, we all have our Gethsemane gardens, where the cross is presented before us, and it makes no sense whatsoever. How we deal with the difficulty presented before us is our decision to make. Will we accept our cross, by faith, knowing of God's good character, trusting Him that if nothing works out existentially, we will still follow (nevertheless, not my will, but Thine)? Or will we "Kick against the goads" in rebellion? May we be granted the revelation of God's Name, saints! Therein lies the key to our victory. Since we know God is good, and everything He does is good, we ask not for deliverance FROM the cross, but THROUGH the cross. Externally we waste away (II COR 4:16) but internally we are being renewed day by day. We demand nothing. We deserve nothing. In everything giving thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us, we abide in His Word. And the peace of God, transcending all human understanding, keeps our hearts and minds (Phillipians 4:7). Amen and Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Brother--you've hit it on the head here. Wow, I am blessed by this truth. The existential element to my evangelical upbringing has caused me to try and then abandon different methods of 'getting God to fulfill His promises'. This is about becoming Jesus in the world, and as you reminded us, Jesus denied Himself the lusts of the flesh, eyes and pride of life. He would rather go without bread than test His Father. We go through the cross, we don't tunnel under it, or climb over it, or go around it! The Spirit is speaking to many of us, and I'm so glad...

    ReplyDelete