Sunday, December 4, 2011

Two ways of avoiding Jesus

Quote from Tim Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism:

Sin and evil are self-centeredness and pride that lead to oppression against others, but there are two forms of this. One form is being very bad and breaking all the rules, and the other form is being very good and keeping all the rules and becoming self-righteous. There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord. The first is by saying, "I am going to live my life the way I want." The second is described by Flannery O'Connor, who wrote about one of her characters, Hazel Motes, that "he knew that the best way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin." If you are avoiding sin and living morally so that God will have to bless and save you, then ironically, you may be looking to Jesus as a teacher, model, and helper but you are avoiding him as Savior. You are trusting in your own goodness rather than in Jesus for your standing with God. You are trying to save yourself by following Jesus. . . . It is possible to avoid Jesus as Savior as much by keeping all the Biblical rules as by breaking them. Both religion (in which you build your identity on your moral achievements) and irreligion (in which you build your identity on some other secular pursuit or relationship) are, ultimately, spiritually identical courses to take. Both are "sin." (Chapter 11 "Religion and the Gospel", p. 183)

Keller ends this section by saying that the first kind of self-salvation project (building your identity on moral achievements) results in lots of good moral behavior, but ultimately leaves people deeply frustrated and unhappy. I'll be honest. I'd rather live next door to a religious moralist than a rule-breaking libertine, but both types of people are living lives in opposition to the gospel of Jesus, who said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

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