Looking back, ahead, and to Christ

Well, it was on this date some 20 years ago that I professed before the church my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to forgive me of my sins and take me as His own, body and soul, in life and in death.

A faithful Christian upbringing of church attendance twice on Sunday and Wednesday night "catechism" classes contributed mightily to this coming to faith, as well as Vacation Bible School with Uncle Tim and his flannel-graphs of Bible stories, applying the gospel of grace to children ages 3-13. I have known I am a sinner and Jesus is a Savior all my days. But each day I increasingly learn to my horror how great a sinner I am, and to my relief and gratitude how great a Savior Jesus is.

After that profession of faith, great religious fervency followed, praying and reading my Bible diligently. Then a falling away into love of peer acceptance, and trying to be cool in high school. Skipping Sunday School to watch Star Trek. Political ideology also came to the fore: first socialism, then Rush Limbaugh and libertarian convictions. Disillusionment with the messianic hopes many conservatives place in the free market led me back to the Lord Christ. (Reading Idols for Destruction by Schlossberg, later, helped.) A concern for His church as I experienced it, foundering as it was in liberalism and sentimentalism (Christianity and Liberalism, by J Gresham Machen). My wife's experience with youth group in the church in which I was raised only confirmed this. (A Critique of Modern Youth Ministry, by Chris Schlect.) I became concerned that my "gift of discernment" would just make me a prideful, cranky, reactionary, hide-bound traditionalist. Reading Holiness by JC Ryle helped keep me on track, I think. I didn't want to react against slackness in the church and become a legalist (I saw that in plenty splinter denominations), but I saw around me and in myself a lack of desire or zeal for real holiness. I began to see my way forward more clearly in reading Reforming Marriage by Doug Wilson, where holiness is one's spiritual aroma in relationship with others, not deep thoughts, a presentation of piety to others, somber airs and church services, or long pious faces. Holiness is disciplining yourself and your family to enter the joy of the Lord. This discipline is given by grace, when asked for desperately and humbly, knowing there is no where else to turn.

And we have no where else to turn.

Movies, books, sports, sex, alcohol, facebook, houses, work, reputation - all kinds of things, good bad or indifferent, are out there to turn to, instead of Christ. These things are good in their place and to be received with thanksgiving. But they are distractions or detours that damn us, if we let them diminish and delete our devotion to the Lord Christ, His Spirit, and His Father.

My strongest temptations remain pursuing some ideology instead of Christ. Reformed theological trends, past and present. Upholding family and church authority. Male leadership in both places. Small government. All good things, but they consume me more than zeal for God's house, and His name. I try to correct error more than I try to love and magnify the Lord. I get frustrated with my children, because I'm frustrated with my own sin and weakness, because I don't find free forgiveness at the cross of Christ. Instead, I try to do it on my own. (Parenting reveals one's faith or lack of it more than anything, except trials and suffering generally, of which parenting is often a subset.) I get bogged down in paralyzing self-pity and fear in the face of criticism and conflict. I should expect opposition from within and without, and count it all joy as it tests and strengthens my dependence upon and faith in Jesus.

God forgive me. Refine me as I seek to follow You, and as I feebly try to point my family and church to You.

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