Month: November 2016

The Intruder in Your House

He crept in some time ago. Don’t know when or how but he’s certainly there now. In fact, he’s been there long enough that you’ve grown comfortable with him. If the truth be told, you kind of like him. He makes you feel good about yourself compared to others. He always seems to see things your way. He is a clear, logical thinker, able to show the superiority of his positions over those of lesser intelligence. His words and thoughts are so familiar, at times, they sound just like yours. His voice even resembles yours. He’s quite an intelligent, winsome man, and you don’t know who, but he reminds you of someone you admire. Yet, this intruder in your house needs to go. He doesn’t just need to move out, he needs to be killed. If he has all these wonderful qualities, “why”, you say, “would I say he needs to die?”

You see, there’s another man in your house — you may have forgotten him! He didn’t creep in, but came through the front door to live with you years ago now. You can remember when he first arrived. You used to enjoy His company so much. He made you feel things you hadn’t felt in a long time. Your felt love, belonging, acceptance, forgiveness, joy.  At the same time, you began to see things in yourself that were inconsistent, things you wanted to change. You used to stay up all night talking to Him about everything, especially the things you couldn’t talk to anybody else about.

But lately, you are intrigued by what this intruder has to say. It’s quite simple at this point. You need to choose between the two of them. To maintain your friendship with your old friend, this intruder and his influences must be killed. I suppose you could just move him to a back room, but you are sure you would be drawn to him there, tempted to visit him again. There’s that something appealing about him. No! He needs to die. “But this seems so severe, so radical!” Why am I so adamant in calling for the death of this intruder? What you may not know is the whole story:

Your friend – you know the one that sits in the corner of your living room waiting for you to visit with him – has some marks on his hands. When you first met him you were amazed by those marks on his hands. You were amazed by a lot of things then. But now, his ideas don’t seem as sophisticated as the intruders. His words just aren’t as deep or profound as the stranger’s. The marks — you haven’t stopped lately to notice them. Where did he get those wounds? They look pretty severe. In one sense, the intruder in your house, he nailed those spikes into his hands. He didn’t like what your friend was saying. It greatly offended him! The things your friend told the intruder were insane. So, you see, it was quite simple, He just had to go. He needed to be gotten rid of!

What you may not recognize is that this intruder constantly speaks contrary to your old friend. He is always challenging his ideas. He cannot stand his presence and is actively seeking to move him out of the house. To make matters worse, you’ve recently started to take this intruder out with you and introduced him to your friends. Sure enough, his ideas were just as appealing to them as they were to you and he is obtaining quite a following, while your old friend and his ways are pushed aside. This intruder must be stopped! He must be dealt with! Why has he become your friend? Don’t you remember what he did to your old friend? He will destroy you if you allow him to remain as he has been in your home.

But killing him? Yes, kill him. It seems so severe! Do you remember now what your old friend told you about this intruder? He warned you about him:

Beware of his leaven, it will fill your life. Don’t be like him. Don’t give like him. Don’t pray like him. Don’t treat others who are less fortunate like he does.  Don’t react to those who suffer like he does. Don’t get caught up in his self-deception and deceit.  Stay away from him and his corrupting influences!

This heart is an intruder that your Lord, your faithful Friend, wants you to recognize and systematically and methodically eliminate from your life! You’ll have to be willing to see him for who he is not just in others but also in you. May God give you eyes to see and ears to hear His word of loving correction as He seeks to protect you from this Christless tendency in your hearts!

Who is this intruder? He is the Pharisee.  This is the religious spirit that substitutes for the Spirit of Christ. He makes you feel superior to others that aren’t as religious. He reminds you of your elite status as an insider. He reminds you that your attendance, giving and service in the church make you better than other people.  He blinds you to your own shortcomings and makes it easy to see the faults in others. He reduces your empathy for those who suffer and promises you that you can avoid suffering yourself. He’s sure that God is lucky to have you in His family.  You bring so much to the table.

Extrinsic v. Intrinsic Christianity

Several years ago now, the psychologist Gordon Allport stumbled upon an idea. He was originally trying to understand how people of faith could also be capable of prejudice. His initial findings showed that religious people were actually more prejudiced than non-religious people. As a person of faith himself, this result troubled Allport.

I’ve recently had several key encounters with people who profess faith that have left me scratching my head. It seems like there are two Christianities. These two are very different and cannot be reconciled.

Allport called these two different faiths extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic faith is focused on ROI and what the follower gets out of the deal. It is essentially a self-focused approach to religion as a way to get ahead. This is a religion of comfort and social connections. Intrinsic faith is very different. It is not focused on getting, but giving. One follows sincerely held beliefs because it is an inherently right thing to do. It is essentially a selfless approach to religion as a means of becoming fully human, a meaning-endowing framework.

Notice the contrast between these two types of Christianity in the table below:

Extrinsic Christianity (Churchianity) Intrinsic Christianity
What’s in it for ME? What do I get out of this? Essentially a self-centered approach to religion. What is required of me? What is the right thing to do? What is the meaning of life?
Jesus who gives me personal victory and success The Suffering Servant and Man of Sorrows who models a life of servanthood
Not interesting in dying to self Dying with Jesus, taking up our cross
Does not feel deep empathy for others pain. Invalidates pain with truisms and Christian platitudes. Feels deep empathy for pain of others
Uses religion for personal gain as a MEANS to the end Spirituality is the END in itself, not a means to anything else
Capable of bigotry and prejudice, finds it easy to judge others who are different Sees all people in an accepting way
Lack of self-awareness leading to pride Self-awareness leading to humility
Does enough to get over the line, meet minimum requirement for entry (being “saved”) Does what is right, not just minimum, working out salvation through course of life
Churchgoing is very important. Those who don’t “go to church” should be judged. Christianity is a lifestyle. There are many different ways of connecting to other believers including institutional churches and other just as valid means.
Tends to identify with successful, charismatic “leaders” and other “victorious” Christians Identifies with Jesus and those He ministered to (the broken and hurting)
Not lost, don’t need to find myself Lose yourself to find yourself

It seems clear that a large part of the confusion some may feel is connected to this dichotomy. Both kinds of religion call themselves Christianity. The innate difference between the two, however, could not be greater. By the way, non-Christians who remain disinterested in Christianity are mostly repelled by the extrinsic brand. As Gandhi said, “I don’t have problem with Jesus, just His followers.” It was likely the extrinsic Christians in Gandhi’s world that he was referring to.

The takeaway should be obvious. Looking at these two different types of Christianity, which are you?