Easter - 2018

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Are you thirsty or just gettin' by?

 The formation of one's spiritual self is not taken seriously in our post-modern lives. I can admit, it has just been recently that I have become more intentional in my spiritual formation. That is to state that my spiritual formation has relied on my daily devotional life, the sermon series at church or through the popular book I was currently reading. It is easy to assume that having a devotional life, regular church studies, and religious readings are the typical habit of the majority, yet it is more the truth to state that the typical American believer does not practice just one of the three elements.
Most clergy very rarely read books or have a study time beyond what is expected in sermon or class presentations. It is a sad commentary, but the truth is that the post-modern American church is lazy and has lost it's first love for Jesus. The average American believer lacks a Christ-like faith that is demonstrated in daily life. There is a virus among the western church that has infected believers to compromise grace and truth so as to be politically correct and avoid conflict.

Holt explains in his chapter on spiritual formation that it is not enough to read or study in order to develop a spiritual life but that it must be lived in our daily actions. These actions are to be seen and lived in order for disciplines of faith to be nurtured, grown and to be developed. Holt states how the, “Bible generally views a person as a unity of body, soul, mind, heart, and spirit.” The elements of body, soul, mind, and heart are not given an opportunity to be separated. Thus, it is important that any spiritual formation take an intentional and balanced approach. There is not any room for complacency or for lack of discipline. 
Holt reveals a great truth with the statement, “the complex ethical problems facing Christians today force us to listen carefully to the specialist who remind us of the context and the specifics of the Christian tradition that under girds us in making concert decisions.” Spiritual formation is reliant on the facts that ethics, integrity, dedication, and spirituality belong together. It is the fruit in which we lived that define our being in Christ. Thus, the believer who tries to refrain from discipline or development in Christ is a saved creature, yet lacks the essence of abundant life. It is in this mediocre stage of development where most of the American church lives today. 
Holt assesses that the modern church is very good in appreciation of God's goodness and in praise. Out culture thrives on entertainment. The modern church worship service is filled with entertainment. Normal standards includes a sermon that is easy to listen to, the music has to be upbeat and pleasant to the ear, and the technology must keep up with television standards. This high bar for corporate worship has often diminished our reality of the hardship and commitment that are a necessity in spiritual formation. Holt finds the hope for the future with these words, “Christian appreciation for the work for God needs to be matched in our day by taking responsibility for lifestyle and economics in order to preserve the creation from human destruction.” This statement needs to be taken to heart by every believer in the western church for a closer walk with God. 
The combination of grace and truth is the remedy which Jesus demonstrated for spiritual formation. The task at hand is to apply the combination in our daily living. This is accomplished as diversely as there are diverse amount of people on the planet. The hardship is the desire to make it a reality. The pool of information available to people is large and is a crutch that most of us lean on. We trust the sermon will be on target and assume the latest book will be theologically sound. We rely on others to take us to a place of formation while we neglect the work at hand. 
Another part of this combination of grace and truth is one where we tend to lean one direction or another. The modern believer will desire to be politically correct and lean heavily on grace while neglecting the truth. Another option to the modern believer is to desire to know God absolute while leaning heavily on the truth thus neglecting the demonstration of grace. This out of balance character is not spiritual formation as Jesus demonstrated. Jesus was dedicated to the truth that he was the only way, the only truth, and the only life. Jesus was also dedicated to the demonstration of grace to sinners at every opportunity. For example, the woman who was caught in adultery was guilty. Jesus tells the crowd to condemn her if they have no sin, consequently they leave in disgrace while Jesus tells the woman to go and sin no more. This is a perfect example of a balance of grace and truth.

Holt concludes with a plea that, “we must also feel empathy, a shared experience that allows the story of the past to live in us.” In reflection, I agree. Our past defines our essence in life through the experience. Thus, we can learn to demonstrate grace because of the grace that has been demonstrated on our behalf. We can also learn to live the truth of righteousness by the experiences of truth that are learned in reading, study and meditation. I agree with Holt's description of empathy as life that is demonstrated through the practice and development of the spiritual disciplines with in daily life. 
Therefore, I believe that the antibiotic for fighting the virus of mediocrity within our faith is to be discovered in cultivating our spiritual formation. This is accomplished in our study, commitment to daily development of reflection, and action revealed through the spiritual disciplines. I believe the result is as Holt states, “as a follower of Jesus, we must pay attention, act responsibly, and love without limits.” It is then that we will truly know the God we love.

Traveling this journey with you is amazing. You know I love ya, Don
Bradley P. Holt. Thirsty for God. (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2005)

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