I find it very disturbing how prone we are to becoming absorbed in our own spiritual selves. While it may look and sound spiritual, what often passes as spirituality is the expression of our disordered hearts. Every since Genesis, all sin is about getting what we want for ourselves. You see this expressed in our sex lives, our use of money, and our misuse of food among other things. Interestingly, we immediately recognize this hateful nature of evil in others, whether in our child, a friend or our spouse, but often miss the beam in our own eye. Our unruly desires can get us lost in a blinding fog and the darkness of unbelief. Particularly, it is hard to see how self-serving our spirituality has become. The potential for deceit in our spiritual lives is more potent as we strive spiritually to find meaning specifically for ourselves.
So many teachers and writers are feeding this inner monster. John Eldredge’s new book, Walking With God, sounds so inviting. The ad for the book appeal to us: “Wouldn’t it be amazing to hear God speaking directly to you; to know His counsel and encouragement today?” The ad goes on to say that the book “. . . shows you what it’s like to have a ‘conversational intimacy’ with the Father. You can experience a spiritual life more rich and exhilarating than you’ve ever known.” According to Eldredge, God has speak to him through the eyes of hawk looking him in the eye, and that those eyes were telling him that God looking down on you. Tim Challies states in his excellent review, “As a guide to hearing from God, it has little value. What the author teaches is fraught with peril.” Challies goes on to say, “Walking With God offers confusion rather than clarity. Take a pass on this one.” I totally agree!
What we need is intense spiritual reality. First, we desperately need to stop seeking a spirituality for our individual selves, or for our fulfillment alone. Second, we must understand what it means to be spiritually real. We don’t need a new revelation from God that we think is going to keep us happy, safe and in the center of His will. The guidance of the Lord runs throughout the Bible with repeated commands, instructions, admonitions, exhortations, rebukes and encouragements. Remember this: When you have a plan, even a plan for your spiritual life, relational life, or career, you are not in control. God is sovereign even when things don’t turn out right. God has a plan; God is in control. Within the broad framework of God’s spoken word we have the freedom to live our lives for the glory of God. Being spiritually real is not about looking into the eyes of a hawk, studying the shape of a cloud to see Jesus’ face, or imagining that you are dancing with Jesus with His hand on the small of your back guiding you through the dance. All that may sound inviting to anyone who wants spirituality that satisfies self. However, biblical spirituality starts with God at the center and continues with Him at the focus of attention for His glory. When that becomes our priority we will be drawn to the idea of “. . . stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior . . .” (2 Peter 3:1-3). Study the scriptures and be constantly reminded of how you are to live. I have just begun to read through the epistles with the purpose of looking for all the actions we are to take. In 1 & 2 Timothy, 1-3 John, Jude, and Ephesians I have found over one hundred directives, some of which were repeated throughout these seven books of the Bible. How many of them do you know? You will find directives like: “toil and strive” (1 Tim. 2:10); “guard the good deposit” (2 Tim. 1:14); “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning . . .” (1 John 3:9); “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life”(Jude 21); and “. . . walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called . . .” (Eph. 4:1).
To be spiritually real we must find in Christ’s death a penetrating practicality and the immensity of His love. We must cry out for the Spirit of God to take away the infirmities of our obstinately disobedient desires; to destroy our hateful lusts for sex, money, control, and personal fulfillment. We must see the wondrous Truth that in the Cross, ‘It is finished.’ There reality lies: redemption has been achieved; satisfaction of God’s wrath is complete, all guilt is gone, our sins are forgiven, hell is demolished, the Promise Land is open, and Christ is my Lord and Savior. Therefore, having been “. . . raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3). It’s not about being in recovery, it’s all about “Putting to death therefore, what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity,, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Col. 3:5, 6). Then “. . . walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work . . .” (Col. 1:10) by putting on the “new self” (Col. 3:10), and putting on “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love . . .” (Col. 3:12-14.).
Let us pray that the lessons of scripture be deeply written upon our hearts as we walk, abhorring sin, fleeing sin, loving Christ and others; and that no device or empty words deceive us and lead us “. . . astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (see 2 Cor. 11:2-4).
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