c) 2012' name='copyright'/>Michael DeShane Hinton: April 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

Spirituality and Jesus

The Apostle Paul wrote in the context of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:45) that Jesus “became a life-giving spirit.”  Elsewhere Paul wrote about the nature of the new covenant in Christ, saying that it is not a written code but "in the Spirit" and concludes:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. –2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Spiritual formation is defined in the passage immediately above.  It is to be changed into his likeness.  The goal is to become like Jesus in his spirituality.  John wrote (1 John 4:17), “as he is so are we in this world.”

In order to achieve this goal one can use two sets of theory, one of time and one of purpose or task, that correspond to one another as a kind of PERT chart.  PERT means progress effectiveness reporting technique.  The beginning of one’s walk with Christ can be used for purposes of in-formation.  New converts that undergo instruction have been called catechumens.  They were not baptized until they were sufficiently informed of the basic doctrines of the Church.

The middle part of one’s life in Christ can be devoted to trans-formation, or the change referred to above.  Frankly, the change that the New Testament envisions in the middle part is form sinner to saint, through a process of sanctification, or becoming holy, cleansing your life from sin.

The profound change that God is looking for in his people is the hard part of being a Christian because it involves suffering.  Suffering is required because it frees the spiritual aspects of our being from the weaknesses, desires, demands, and bondage of the flesh, our bodies.  Jesus became a life-giving spirit because his earthly body died on the cross.  Some argue that, no, he had a body when he was raised.  Thomas saw his wounds and saw him.  He spoke to Mary Magdalene in the garden and ate breakfast with Peter and John.  But what kind of body can go through walls and appear behind locked doors?  The resurrection of Christ has introduced a great mystery into the world so that Paul speaks of it as a “spiritual body” with a different “kind of glory” than we now understand (1Corinthians 15:44 and 40-41).  Our glory is to be like Jesus in his spirituality in this world.  John wrote (1 John 3:2), “Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

That brings us to the last stage of life as a Christian, the end, when con-formity results.  This is not a rigid, legalistic, guilt-ridden existence.  It is conformity to one that is free, for remember, the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.

Nonetheless it is important, for purposes of in-formation, to set out the goal, though it may seem far, far away at any given moment:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. –Romans 8:29

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. –Romans 12:1-2

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." –1 Peter 1:14-16

A word about the PERT chart analogy: there are two words in Greek that refer to time, chronos and kairos.  Chronos refers to specific measures of time.  A watch is called a chronograph, for instance, and is a highly engineered mechanical device that corresponds to the rotation of the planet by an arbitrary human convention of dividing the day into hours and minutes and seconds.  Calendars measure that kind of time, too, with beginning and ending dates of the same.  While not completely divorced from chronological time kairos refers to more indistinct time periods, like seasons or, as used here, stages of growth.  One might even call kairos emotional time because it is more associated with how we feel about things, even how God feels about things, because we can speak of seasons of blessing or times of refreshing, or perhaps a time of judgment!  It is important that if we adopt a personal goal of spiritual formation that we have those in our lives with some discernment about how we are doing.

Friday, April 20, 2012

True Spirituality

Spirituality begins with a perspective on the nature of the world.  It is called dualism.  It is a Western worldview that depends on belief in a supernatural God.  It stands in contrast to monism, which is Eastern, and says the whole universe is one integrated and interconnected reality.  The two views are diametrically opposed to one another and cannot be reconciled because 1 does not equal 2.

“Spiritual” has become a popular word in religious self-description today and people actually misuse it to describe an Eastern supposed serenity that comes from recognizing no essential distinctions between objects or experiences.  They mean moral and cultural relativism, and refusing to say someone is “wrong."  In monism, there is no right vs. wrong because it all depends on “personal truth,” as it is sometimes called, for which one must allow absolute tolerance.  John Lennon’s IMAGINE expresses this sentiment the best, I think:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today.

It’s a beautiful song and we can wish such things, even imagine them to escape reality for a few minutes, but true spirituality means, firstly, to recognize categorical distinctions between good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, truth vs. falsehood, heaven vs. earth, righteousness vs. sin, spiritual vs. carnal, eternal vs. temporal, et al.

Spiritual means, secondly, to choose those thoughts, words, feelings, and actions that correspond to that constellation of doctrines and virtues related to the supernatural God, whom Jesus described as “spirit.”

Friday, April 13, 2012

Dedicated to Spiritual Formation

Jesus said to the woman at the well, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."

The foundation of spiritual formation is a fundamental understanding about the nature of God. The goal of spiritual formation is to become more like God. So, it is reasonable to ask what God is like, or listen when his Son is telling us. Jesus is quite clear about it with one that was interested. He and the woman at the well had a religious debate about where God is authentically worshipped. Without betraying his own people, the Jews, Jesus announced to her a different time had come when days, places, and holy objects would no longer matter. Those things do not matter to a spirit. The implication is, therefore, that it should not matter to us.

I am dedicating this blog to spiritual formation. Spiritual formation depends on knowledge and perspective like this one introduced at the outset, that God is spirit. I suspect that other equally simple propositions will occupy us for a while.

God is love.

God is light.

Our God is a consuming fire.

Each of these simple sentences is like one that is especially profound, “Jesus is Lord.”