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Do you ever walk through the House of Mirrors when you go to the Royal Show? It's the place that is meant to make you laugh as you see the fat, thin, short, tall, distorted version of you. But facing up to a 'distorted version of you' is something that most of are not really fond of at all. 

 

In their recent book, Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood, David Setran and Chris Kiesling use the term 'moralistic therapeutic deism' to describe how lots of young adults view their faith. Moralistic because spiritual growth is about continuing to behave 'nicely'; therapeutic because it's about me feeling good about myself; deism because God is 'out there' to be called on in times of trouble. Their argument is that if you view your faith like that, it's a recipe for going backwards in following Jesus.

 

As I reflect upon our Australian church scene, I don't want to throw Setran and Kiesling's description as a blanket over everyone. But different parts of what they describe might pinpoint gaps amongst us. Maybe some believers have a strong sense of the presence of God but behaviour is more morals than grace driven; maybe others strongly understand the great doctrine of being saved by grace through faith, but in day-to-day practice God, is not that personal. As you use Setran & Kiesling's term perhaps you might make your own assessment of our strengths and weaknesses.

 

One key issue that resonates with me is the need to move beyond seeing God as my personal therapist. And this ties directly to how we deal with sin. Because sin, rightly and truly acknowledge will make us feel bad about ourselves. Guilty. Failures. Morally ugly. And we don't like that. We want to feel good about ourselves. Our culture says we should feel good about ourselves. And the Christian version of this says, God should make us feel good about ourselves. God is my therapist.

 

But this does not produce spiritual growth. It does not change us to be like Jesus.

 

Charles Simeon was pastor of Holy Trinity, Cambridge for 54 years (he started young!). One of the keys to his longevity in ministry was his commitment to humble himself before God. Simeon said, I have continually had such a sense of my own sinfulness as would sink me into utter despair, if I had not an assured view of the sufficiency and willingness of Christ to save me to the uttermost.

 

Simeon did not shy away from his sin because it made him feel bad about himself. Rather he sought to expose the darkness of his heart so that he would appreciate more and more the wonders of God's mercy and grace in Christ.

 

In his new book on prayer, Tim Keller makes the point that, if we want to really be transformed to be like Christ it will involve approaching God in humility. Our personal 'house of mirrors' will sometimes feel like a 'house of horrors' as our sin is exposed. But God does not leave us at that point. We are his loved children and so he is committed to transforming us by the renewing of our minds and hearts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    David Wright, Practical Ministry Leccturer & Dean of Students