the weblog of Alan Knox

Strength and Prosperity?

Posted by on Oct 26, 2007 in blog links, discipleship | 3 comments

Before I published my previous post about the Amish (see “Learning from the Amish“), I should have read Dave Black’s latest article called “The Astounding Power of Poverty“. In seminars, in person, and on his blog, he is consistently calling followers of Jesus Christ to humility and reliance on the strength of Christ. This article is no exception:

Of particular interest to me is the Adam-Christ contrast in Paul’s “Last Adam” Christology, a recurrent topic in my lectures. I hope my students do not get bored by the repetition of this theme, as it describes a fundamental truth of New Testament Christianity: believing men and women are to minister to each other within a system of flexible relationships with leaders serving, servants leading, and change and progress always coming from “below” and through the consent of the followers. This is why my New Testament course is nicknamed “Becoming New Covenant Christians,” since the New Testament announces the most radical political thought ever to strike the human mind: the astounding power of spiritual poverty…

We see this fundamental theme operating also in Paul’s magnificent writings, where weakness becomes strength, down becomes up, and poverty becomes wealth. Look at the way he develops this concept into a major theologoumenon in his letters. For some reason, possibly because of the false accusations of his opponents, Paul elevates poverty of spirit into a badge of honor and the chief evidence of his apostolic authority. The concept of “high love” in Paul (= servant-leadership) is problematic unless we understand that the apostle accepted the hierarchical notions of his day but radically redefined them. There’s an implied contradiction, of course, in saying that leaders are servants, but the painful paradox is precisely what the New Testament teaches and the early church practiced. This mystery was well explained by the late Corrie ten Boom when she stated, “Look inside and be depressed, look outside and be distressed, and look to Him and be at rest.” This intimate assurance that Christ can be trusted is our security. It resolves the dilemma of our insignificance, our mortality, our futility. Gradually we become aware that God takes unimportant nobodies, fills them with His Presence, and empowers them to live lives of unhypocritical love (Rom. 12:9). Our growing awareness of, and confidence in, the adequacy of Christ constitutes the unshaken rock upon which our faith stands.

This is the point in which I must continue to learn and grow: “the adequacy of Christ constitutes the unshaken rock upon which our faith stands”. If my faith stands on my knowledge or abilities, then it will crumble. If my faith stands on structures and organizations, then it will falter. If my faith stands on the leadership of men and their plans and visions, then it will fall.

If I do not recognize and respond to the adequacy of Christ – the sufficiency of Christ – that Christ is all that I need in all things and all situations and all times – then my faith is resting on something or someone other than Christ. I said “recognize and respond” for a reason. It is easy enough to verbalize the adequacy of Christ; it is quite another thing altogether to live according to the adequacy of Christ.

However, looking back over my life, I can see what happens when I depend upon Christ and what happens when I don’t. I thank God for his faithfulness in those times when I am not abiding in Christ and trusting him fully. I also thank God for those glorious moment when, through his Spirit, I actually rely on Christ and though the world flails against me, I find contentment and satisfaction in the One who is sufficient in all things.

This is where I want to grow. I want to recognize and respond to the adequacy of Christ. Then, I will know what it means to shun pride and embrace humility, to respond to others in brotherly love and hospitality (love of strangers), to build up my brothers and sisters, to demonstrate the love of Christ to those outside his family, to worship, to live abundantly.


3 Comments

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  1. 10-26-2007

    Alan,
    I agree completely. Did you read Dave’s series on the Anabaptists? Though I differ doctrinally with them, there is so much that we can learn from them, as well as the Amish, as to how to make our faith in Christ visible.

  2. 10-26-2007

    Thanks for this post. A fantastic exhortation.

  3. 10-27-2007

    Lora,

    Yes, I remember his series on Anabaptists. I think I commented on all of them here. They were very informative and convicting for me.

    Sarah,

    Thank you for the encouragement.

    -Alan