What Is True Spirituality?

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What is true spirituality? Is it some other-worldy type living that is disconnected from real life? In other words, does being spiritual result in us becoming more angelic? Or is true spirituality merely learning what it means to be truly human?

Consider the following words from Rodney Clapp and Richard Lovelace…

Christian spirituality is for people, not angels. Christian spirituality is the whole person’s participation and formation in the church–Christ’s body, the Spirit’s public–which exists to entice and call the world back to its Creator, its true purpose, and its only real hope.

Christian spirituality is for people: bodily, social, embedded in time.

-Rodney Clapp in Tortured Wonders

True spirituality is not superhuman religiosity; it is simply true humanity released from bondage to sin and renewed by the Holy Spirit. This is given to us as we grasp by faith the full content of Christ’s redemptive work: freedom from the guilt and power of sin, and newness of life through the indwelling and outpouring of his Spirit

-Richard Lovelace in Dynamics of Spiritual Life

According to Clapp and Lovelace, spirituality is not becoming so heavenly minded that you become no earthly good. Nor is it becoming so attuned to the world we live in that we forget we are citizens of another kingdom (see Phil. 3:20).

True spirituality is learning to be truly human. It is about being redeemed by God to once again, depend upon Him for life, goodness and happiness. And it is doing so in the midst of a world that is broken needing to hear and see what it really means to be human.

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Friendless Millennials In A Digital Age – Whenever someone asks me what the hardest part the transition from college life to real life has been, one answer comes to mind: making friends.

Are We Using The Word “Brokenness” Biblically? – We often hear Christians today talking about “brokenness.” Is it being used correctly? 

How An App Revitalized My Prayer Life I say it without hyperbole: PrayerMate revitalized my prayer life. It has been at least a couple of years since I made the move from organizing my prayers in a book to organizing my prayers in an app, and, at least for now, I don’t ever see myself going back.

A Pastor’s Reflection On Shyness – I can remember very distinctly how as a teenager I was mortified to meet new people. I was, and still am to a certain extent, a shy person. Give me a choice – stand before one thousand people to speak for an hour or lock me in a room with two people I’ve never met before, and I’ll choose the former.

Re-Creating Campus Ministry “Our campus access challenges give this generation of students an opportunity to reinvent campus ministry,” said Greg Jao, InterVarsity’s National Field Director. “Even as we use new tools and techniques, we remind students that effective ministry is ultimately relational. It’s about students inviting other students to follow Jesus.”

The Transforming Power of Small Groups – When we preach the gospel to one another in close-knit community, there is spiritual growth that changes us individually and as a whole. We can also begin to position ourselves with an outward focus and encourage gospel transformation in the communities outside the church walls.

Tim Hawkins – Random Jokes

Another Consequence of Self-Righteousness

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What’s another consequence of self-righteousness? We become judgmental. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together, writes: “Self-justification and judging others go together, as justification by grace and serving others go together.” In other words, when we become self-righteous, that is, trust in our own goodness, we wonder why those who are not as good as us act the way they do.

Self-righteousness produces an attitude of pride instead of humility. It results in a life of condemning others as those who are self-righteous are quick to look at the sin of others before their own. The self-righteous tend to look down on others who have not attained their level of spiritual maturity.

Self-righteousness results in what Tim Keller calls “elder-son syndrome.” In the story of the lost sons in Luke 15, the older son’s heart towards his younger brother is hardened. And when his father forgives his younger brother for leaving home and wasting his portion of the family money, this older son becomes even more angry.

Why such anger? Because his self-righteousness has clouded his vision. His self-righteousness led him to feeling superior to his younger brother, and when one feels superior, it’s hard to forgive.

Do you see the dangers of self-righteousness?  Thinking that we are ok, we become blind to our need for God’s grace and thus, we become ungrateful to God and judgmental towards others. Jesus’ commands to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22:37-38) are broken. And what’s even more detrimental, the self-righteous who break such commands are not even aware of their disobedience.

So what is to be done? Is there a cure for self-righteousness? Of course there is. The writer of Hebrews writes that the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12). God’s word convicts and kills in order to bring healing and life. It exposes self-righteousness in order to give true righteousness from God (2 Cor. 5:21).

But we must be careful, however, not to become self-righteous against self-righteousness. Tim Keller profoundly writes:

It’s simple: we can become self-righteous against those who are self-righteous. Many younger evangelicals today are reacting to their parents’ conservative, buttoned-down, rule-keeping flavor of “older brother religion” with a type of liberal, untucked, rule-breaking flavor of “younger brother irreligion” which screams, ”That’s right, I know I don’t have it all together and you think you do; I know I’m not good and you think you are good. That makes me better than you.” See the irony? In other words, they’re proud that they’re not self-righteous!

As I think about self-righteousness and how none of us are exempt from it, I am reminded of Paul’s struggle with sin as he writes,  For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. This led Paul to see himself as “wretched” and to ask, Who will deliver me from this body of death?  His answer? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:15, 24-25).

Oh how we need saving from self-righteousness! And praise God that we have one!

The Danger Of Self-Righteousness

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What happens when we begin to view ourselves progressing so well in love and good deeds that we slowly lose sight of the need we have of God’s grace? What is the result of a life that begins to be lived not in view of the gospel, but in view of his/her own obedience to God?

Don’t think that I am writing that we should not grow in faith and obedience to Christ. We must and we should. But we must understand that pride awaits us at each point of our spiritual progress. And pride, once it goes unchecked, is prone to give birth to self-righteousness. And self-righteousness, once it takes root in the soul, moves one from the worship of God to the using of God. Just consider the Pharisees for a prime example.

The reason that self-righteousness diminishes worship toward God is because when we become self-righteous, we think we are ok. We don’t see our continually need for Christ. We begin to think that God owes us his favor because we are so good. As a result, singing “Amazing Grace” is not as sweet because we do not see ourselves as wretched, blind, or lost.

It may not be that the grace of God is completely forgotten for the self-righteous, it’s just that they don’t see the need for it as much. “After all”, a self-righteous person may think, “I’m doing pretty well…I haven’t missed a day of praying and reading my Bible in months, I serve my church, and I make sure I tithe each Sunday.”

We must realize the danger of self-righteousness. John Ortberg writes that in Jesus’ day, “the ‘righteous’ were more damaged by their righteousness than the sinners were by their sin.” Why? Because they couldn’t see that they were sick in need of a doctor (Mark 2:17).

Why did the outcasts, sinners, and destitute flock to Jesus? Why did the woman in Luke 7 wash Jesus feet with her tears?  It’s because they all knew that without Jesus, they had no hope. It was Jesus in whom their salvation was to be found and therefore, it was Jesus in whom they would worship.

“When our worship has grown cold,” write Matt Papa,  “it doesn’t mean we need to change the music up, or that we need new styles — it means we are standing in our own righteousness.”

Therefore, we do well to meditate on Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus and understand that without grace, we are dead. We can’t do anything but trust in what Christ has done for us. Our salvation is a gift of mercy, not a result of our works. Therefore, the only thing we have to boast about is God himself.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:1-9).

 

How Great Is Our Salvation?

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Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

-Hebrews 2:1-4

Do we understand how great a salvation we have? Consider the word of Martyn Lloyd Jones:

Do you habitually think of your own salvation as the greatest and most wonderful thing that has ever happened to you? I will ask a yet more serious question: do you give your neighbors the impression that you have found the most magnificent thing in the world?

I have a terrible fear that many people are outside the Christian church because so many of us give them the impression that what we have is something very small, very narrow, very cramped and confined. We have not given them the impression that they are missing the most glorious thing in the entire universe.

Our salvation is no small thing. It is that which angels “long to look” (1 Peter 1:12). Do we think about this daily? Do those around us know how wonderful it is?

We must daily preach the gospel to ourselves and think on the glorious truth of our salvation. For by doing so, we are reminded and therefore transformed by the amazing grace of God.

The Gospel-Wakened Church

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Jared Wilson, in his book Gospel Wakefulness, lists 6 ways in which a gospel-wakened church seeks to live.

1. The gospel-wakened church resolves to love their neighbors.

The gospel-wakened church resolves to live for those outside its walls, to give herself away in love and on missions. She makes Christ’s business to seek and save the lost her business. When awe of Jesus captures a church, her people become missionaries to their own communities and contexts, making this vow: “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” And there is no greater good than Christ, no firmer foundation than him.

2. The gospel-wakened church resolves to look foolish.

A gospel-wakened church is a resolute church that embraces the loss of her reputation for the gain of God’s glory. She is willing to look stupid, irrational, impractical, silly…for the right reasons. She will spend as much or more time and money on others as she does herself; she will send her people into the farthest reaches of the world to die; she will eat and drink with sinners; she will welcome the broken and weary; she will favor the meek and lowly; she will cherish the powerless; she will serve and suffer and savor the sweetness of the good news. 

3. The gospel-wakened church resolves to trust God’s Word.

The gospel-wakened church knows where truth is, she knows where hope is, she knows where wisdom is. She trusts no other words but the Scriptures.

4. The gospel-wakened church resolves to live in Christ-centered harmony.

With Christ’s glory beheld by mutual vision, the gospel-wakened church is harmonized, each distinct voice and gift joined in the unity of the gospel.

5. The gospel-wakened church resolves to be worshipful.

The gospel-wakened church can’t help but worship. Her affections are renewed, her sense of worship is wakened to the one true God above all gods. 

6. The gospel-wakened church resolves to glory in the gospel.

How did Christ welcome us? With grace, despite our sin. With embrace, despite our demerits. With cover, despite our shame. With love, despite our animosity. With sacrifice, despite our unworthiness. That is how Christ welcomed us. The gospel-wakened church welcomes each other in that way, for God’s glory. 

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Loving The Lost: Churches Without The Broken Are Broken Churches Many Christians are “generational believers,” as they have grown up in a Christian home. That is their reality, but there is a bigger reality. Sometimes we can easily forget there’s a hurting world out there. We drive through it on the way to church, or on the way to work. But at the end of the day, we don’t come to terms with the vast brokenness that surrounds us.

10,000 Little Moments And The Minute Particulars – “The character of your life won’t be established in two or three dramatic moments, but in 10,000 little moments.” 

What Is All This “Gospel-Centered” Talk All About? – The label “gospel-centered” is neither here nor there. There’s nothing sacred about it. But the heart of what is being recovered, both in terms of worldview and in terms of growth, is vital for calm and sanity amid the ups and downs of life in a fallen world.

Look and Live – The reason it feels like just another Sunday morning is because the stakes aren’t high enough.

How 727 Megachurches Spend Their Money – Two organizations that know megachurches well have released a new study they describe as “by far the biggest-scale, cross-denominational response anyone has ever collected about church finances.”

Reading The Bible and The Bible Reading You – I’ve been thinking a great deal lately (this topic seems to come up over and over and over again) about how different groups of North American Christians read the Bible.

The Story of God

 

 

In The Beginning…The Gospel

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.        –John 1:1-3

John chose an incredible way to begin his gospel of Jesus Christ. He places Jesus not in the manger, but “in the beginning.” As D. A. Carson writes, “It’s possible that John is making an allusion to his colleague’s work, saying in effect, ‘Mark has told you about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry; I want to show you that the starting point of the gospel can be traced farther back than that, before the beginning of the entire universe.'”

Before creation, Jesus was. Before Abraham, Jesus was. In fact, Jesus himself said, Before Abraham was born, I am (John 8:58). And,  before John the Baptist, Jesus was as John the Baptist’s testimony was, He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me (John 1:15).

There was never a time when Jesus was not. Though we may try to stretch our imagination as far back in time as possible, we will never come to a time when Jesus did not exist.

Jesus, the Word, who was with God in the very beginning, “came into the sphere of time, history, and tangibility,” writes Carson. In other words, “the Son of God was sent into the world to become the Jesus of history, so that the glory and grace of God might be uniquely and perfectly disclosed.” And such glory and grace was made manifest on the cross where Jesus, for our sake [was] made to be sin [though he] knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Let us therefore remember that the gospel starts before creation and recall the words of Paul in Ephesians 1:3-4:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.