Here is a doctor-patient conversation you just might never hear in North America:
Doctor: “Well, your tests results are in.”
Patient: “Go ahead, doc. Give it to me straight. I can handle it.”
Doctor: “Okay. Your immune responses are dreadfully sluggish and your body is not producing sufficient t-cells.”
Patient: “Sounds serious. What does it mean?”
Doctor: “Medically, it means you’re sleep deprived. This is why you’re sick so frequently. Spiritually, however, you could be suffering from vain ambition. Maybe you're addicted to late night television, or doing more in a day than your Creator intended, or you are so full anxiety you can't sleep. Whatever it is, you better go talk to the Lord Jesus. This won't go away with a pill.”
Now of course it’s only that last volley of sentences from the Doc that make this conversation unlikely. Right up to that point we’re hearing pretty familiar stuff: testing, diagnosis, consultation. Then everything gets weird. The medical doctor becomes a spiritual doctor, a shepherd of the soul, if you will, tinkering in regions far beyond the immune system.
Can we handle a doctor who gives it to us this straight, who makes such a wholistic diagnosis?
We are not accustomed to doctors making spiritual amendments to our physical constitution. On the contrary, ours is an age that will fiercely resist any acknowledgement of spiritual sickness. It is an age intoxicated by secularism, that deadly mood that nudges us and whispers, “Don’t bring God into this.”
Whether I’m hurting from a bad attitude, a busy schedule, or a host of embittering anxieties, secular propaganda assures me that these hurts can’t possibly relate to how God and I are getting along. God has nothing to say about such things, they say. So I’m offered secular comforts: “You’re not suffering from greed, you’re just talented.” “You’re not suffering from selfishness, you just have a lot to do.” “You’re not suffering from anger, you just have to work with idiots.”
Secular propaganda dismisses me from the pain of a searching self-judgment. It presupposes no idolatry is operative in my heart thus no repentance is required of me and no grace is available to me. Thus prevailing daily secularism keeps me from the only true cure of what ails me.
Then there’s Jesus. Jesus never had a secular thought in his life. He comes from the Father and only speaks what the Father commands (John 12:49). Whenever and wherever you catch up with Him, He’s unshakably preoccupied with God. He brings God into everything, finding our talk of secularism an oddly sophisticated way of ignoring our blindness. And because He does bring God into everything, we always find Him diagnosing the human condition in unfamiliar terms.
For example, Jesus says some people will never become so rooted as to bear fruit in his Kingdom because “the worries of this life”, “the deceitfulness of wealth”, and “the desire for other things” end up choking their soul to death (Mark 4:18-19). Jesus gives it to us straight: worry is a menace; greed lies through its teeth; and a discontent heart drives us from God. The advantage of His straight talk - even though it’s hard medicine to swallow - is that Jesus diagnoses in order to heal. His are always the healing and healthy words of eternal life (John 6:68) - if we have ears to hear them.
Are you listening? Secularism is speaking, with a babble that kindly leaves your soul unperturbed and your life unhealed.
Are you listening? Jesus is speaking, speaking from His Word and it is always so disrupting, refreshing, penetrating, cleansing, clarifying and true that it heals in the soul's deepest chasms. The grace and truth He speaks is so healthy you just might even stay up late for it, on purpose. "My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on your word" (Psalm 119:148).