Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationships, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning. That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God's new world, which he has thrown open before us.
For the pagan, death comes after life; for the Christian, life comes after death.
I have come to the conclusion that for we who live in the Western world, the major challenge to the viability of Christianity is not Buddhism, with all its philosophical appeal to the Western mind, nor is it Islam, with all the challenge that it poses to Western culture. It is not the New Age that poses such a threat...All these are challenges, no doubt, but I have come to believe that the major threat to the viability of our faith is that of consumerism. This is a far more heinous and insidious challenge to the gospel, because in so many ways it infects each and every one of us.
I have little doubt that in consumerism we are now dealing with a very significant religious phenomenon. If the role of religion is to offer a sense of identity, purpose, meaning and community, then it can be said that consumerism fulfills all these criteria...Much of that which goes by the name advertising is an explicit offer of a sense of identity, meaning, purpose and community...Buy this and you will be changed...Marketers have now co-opted the language and symbolism of all the major religions in order to sell the product because they know that religion offers the ultimate object of desire and that people will do just about anything to get it. If through advertising marketers can just link their products to this great unfulfilled void, they will sell.
By the time we got to the mid-twentieth century, [the economy, the state, and science] had all but completely replaced the church in our culture...These are the places where the vast majority of people find their direction and meaning. And as we engage the twenty-first century, the most dominant force of all three - the one that pervades our lives totally - is that of the global economy and the market.
In this cultural situation everything, even personal identity and religious meaning, becomes a commodity that we can now trade in, depending on the latest fads, and by consuming the latest products. In this light it's easy to see how 'church shopping,' ecstatic worship experiences and even Christian spirituality can come to reflect the consumerization of faith...This is our situation, but it is also our own personal condition - and it must be dealt with if we are going to be effective in the twenty-first century in the West.
We all agree that we should examine ourselves, but we also agree that introspection and morbidity are bad. But what is the difference between examining ourselves and becoming introspective? I suggest that we cross the line from self-examination to introspection when, in a sense, we do nothing but examine ourselves, and when such self-examination becomes the main and chief end in our life. We are meant to examine ourselves periodically, but if we are always doing it, always, as it were, putting our soul on a plate and dissecting it, that is introspection. And if we are always talking to people about ourselves and our problems and troubles, and if we are forever going to them with that frown upon our face and saying: I am in great difficulty--it probably means that we are all the time centred upon ourselves. That is introspection, and that in turns leads to the condition known as morbidity....The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man's treatment [the psalmist, in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul?' he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: 'Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you'. Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have but little experience.
The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: 'Why art thou cast down'--what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: 'Hope thou in God'--instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: 'I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God'.