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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Achieving Spirituality

Spirituality is not necessarily an achievement.  It is a perspective that leads to what it teaches in those that believe it.  Now, it is very difficult to achieve what one does not understand.  One cannot understand any set of propositions that form a perspective unless he is willing to believe it.  As Jesus said, “If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” (John 7:17 ESV)

The spiritual perspective of the New Testament depends on Greek philosophical dualism, which Jesus adopted, adapted, and perfected “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4-5) for the purposes of enlightening his followers (John 1:4-5).  The greatest hindrance to believing that historical and theological fact is a false loyalty, especially in evangelical circles, to the supposed Hebrew background of Jesus – a background that he himself thoroughly rejected (John 8:58-59).  That false loyalty is fueled in recent decades by the seven-age dispensational pre-millennialism of the Late, Great Planet Earth and Left Behind series.  Millennialism is, in addition to being false, a distraction from the primary purpose of the Church, which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  We are not commanded to make disciples of the nation-state of Israel.  We are commanded to make Christians by teaching people to observe all that Jesus said, which we find in the New Testament.  On almost every page of the New Testament we find the suppositions of Greek philosophical dualism, especially in the moral dualism of carnal vs. spiritual living.

But before defining carnal vs. spiritual living it is necessary to remove this major stumbling block of perception.  Therefore, let us accept that the New Testament rejection of all things Jewish is so complete that we find this extremely derogatory passage concerning Jerusalem:

Their dead bodies [that of the Two Witnesses] will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.  (Revelation 11:8 ESV)

The ESV is usually an excellent translation but in the passage above the word “symbolically” should actually be translated “spiritually,” further supporting the claim of a Greek dualistic perspective.

The second greatest hindrance to achieving the spiritual perspective is institutional, denominational Churches.  Again, we are dealing with false loyalties.  And again, we must turn to Scripture for correction so that the door might be opened for true New Testament faith to shine through.  The most obvious is what Paul wrote to the carnal Corinthians:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  (1 Corinthians 1:10-13 ESV)

Peter likewise rejected his own denomination, Judaism, in order to follow Jesus, whose sacrifice supersedes and replaces those of the temple:

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  (1 Peter 1:17-19 ESV, emphasis mine)

The third greatest hindrance to achieving the spiritual perspective is our attachment to the world and worldly goods.  Carnal indulgence and excess not only erodes faith in God but dulls our senses concerning spiritual things.  The radical requirements of Christian discipleship simply do not make sense to us if we maintain, again, a false loyalty to our own Christian cultural conservatism.  Yes, historically and theologically we might rightly fight for life vs. the culture of death, capitalism over socialism, for freedom as opposed to big government oppression, and for traditional family values over libertine chaos in society.  We have a divine right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of property-based happiness.  But the mature Christian, having adopted the spiritual perspective of the New Testament, knows that he is called to die to sin and self, the world, and his own life for Jesus’ sake, realizing that he cannot serve God and mammon; so, he holds all things lightly:

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-33 ESV)

Likewise Paul says, “With food and clothing we shall be content” (I Timothy 6:8).  Such verses make sense only from a perspective that says flesh and spirit are fundamentally opposed to each other (Galatians 5:16-17) and that our goal in life is to escape this world and this body to the happiness of eternity (II Corinthians 5:1-10), of which we have a taste by the Spirit for “the kingdom of God is not food or drink but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

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