c) 2012' name='copyright'/>Michael DeShane Hinton: Spirituality Is First Moral

Friday, May 4, 2012

Spirituality Is First Moral

We should be careful what we attribute to the Holy Spirit.  I have been following closely the big meeting of United Methodists in Tampa, Florida, this week and am alarmed that those promoting sexual sin invoke the Holy Spirit so often.  Scripture says, “Woe to those that call evil good and good evil.”  Spirituality builds on moral purity.  The Spirit is called the “Holy” Spirit for a reason.  Holiness or sanctity is the primary effect that the Spirit has in our lives.  That does not mean holier-than-thou or sanctimonious.  It means integrity.

One of the greatest expositions of the Spirit’s work is found in 2 Corinthians 3 where the Christians are called a letter of Christ written on their hearts.  Then in verses 8 and 9 “dispensation of the Spirit” and “dispensation of righteousness” are parallel terms.

The external law under Moses could not force people into conformity but if the Spirit is alive in us under grace then our desires change and we can, if we wish and work at it, become righteous from the inside out.  This process is the second stage of spiritual formation, once we are sufficiently informed.  Ezekiel said that God would write his law on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:27).  The inner law begins to bring us under the discipline of the Lord.  Thought patterns, as well as desires, change.  Change does not come automatically or by magic but with assistance of the Holy Spirit, who is God at work in us to do his own will, when we cooperate, as Jesus said:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.
I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.
–John 14:15-21, emphases mine

The first act of spiritual formation, therefore, is repentance and one could rightly say that Christianity is to live the life of a penitent, since our moral transformation is the foundation for all that follows.  Jesus will come to us and fill us if we are a cleansed temple.

Lord Jesus, come overturn the money tables in my life that my Father’s house, my own body, bought by your blood, might become a house of prayerful communion with you in the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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