Gary Walter is president of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
As we enter April, we are in the season of Lent, leading up to Easter near the end of this month. Many churches in the Covenant use the days of Lent to reflect with a depth of gratitude on the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus in prelude to the joy of Easter.
As a cue to one’s self to remember the theme of Jesus’s sacrifice, some people “give up something for Lent.” I have friends giving up everything from chocolate to driving.
Best understood, their chosen self-discipline is not an end in itself, but rather becomes a spiritual discipline for reflecting on the depth of Jesus’s love. But self-discipline as spiritual discipline is not exactly a message that plays well to our culture. We prefer an indulgent God who, coincidently, is quite fine with our own personal indulgences.
Covenant pastor Art Greco of Marin Covenant Church in San Rafael, California (which happens to be the church where as a high-school student I became a Christ follower), has written a new book that turns that attitude on its head. Its provocative title is God Kills. By that he means God gives us powerful tools that kill what otherwise stifles and strangles our souls.
Those tools are a series of seven biblical virtues—self-disciplines—that are too readily falling from our vocabulary, and therefore from our consciousness, and therefore from our lives. As a result, we live more shriveled, more parched, more deadened than what God would otherwise have for us.
How are you doing in each of the following? Humility, which Art defines as the willingness to be insignificant in order to be effective.
Humility is what we have when we realize that efficacy trumps applause; when seeing an objective accomplished is of greater value than being singled out as the one responsible for having accomplished it.
Teachability is the second virtue: the willingness to be persuaded by a better argument. Sometimes stubbornness creates our own brick wall. As John Wooden once said, “It’s what you know after you know it all that counts.”
Celibacy is next, a concept Art broadens beyond (but including) sexual boundaries. It is essentially a willing denial of one thing to say yes to something else. It is the principle of dying to self, a conscious choice on behalf of a greater good.
Courage is the willingness to make sure that fear never dictates actions. Courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s the conviction that fear doesn’t get to call the shots. It faces the dangerous, difficult, or painful instead of withdrawing from it.
Faith is the fifth attribute, the willingness to live with the consequences of a godly choice. Virtually every example of a person of faith in Scripture endures hardship when making their choice to follow God. Faith does what is right, trusting God regardless of the aftermath.
Yieldedness is the willingness to allow God to set your personal agenda. Much of that agenda takes care of itself as we simply let the values of God become our values in our current circumstances. But yielding at times means there are intersections in life where we best merge into a new direction where God leads.
Loyalty is the final virtue. It is the willingness to live as though yesterday is watching and tomorrow has a vote. It means to live a life worthy of those who have lived their lives for you, and brings those values forward. Loyalty doesn’t necessarily perpetuate the past, but takes the best of the past to invest in the future. It looks both ways, past and future, before crossing the street. Art’s book is rich with biblical examples for each of these seven. Each propels us toward being more alive — by killing things that deaden the soul. Someone once said that character is what you are while reputation is merely what others think you are. These virtues will help you be the person of character you are capable of becoming.
God Kills is available through CovBooks.com.