Theme of the Week: Essential Spirituality
Bible Verse: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 11:1-40
We need a model of spiritual life that is biblically and theologically sound and also one that appropriates the wisdom and spiritual insight of Christian tradition. We need to recover our spiritual heritage. For Protestant Christians, this recovery needs to include a fresh awareness of many pre-Reformation spiritual traditions and those traditions found outside the confines of Protestant churches.
The Protestant Reformation was a tremendous revival of biblical piety. But one of the negative effects of rejecting the Roman Catholic hierarchy was a break from many vital spiritual traditions that existed within the Roman communion. Protestant Christians were thus cut off from the spiritual resources of a thousand years of Christian faith. Thankfully, contemporary Protestants are coming to an awareness of a spiritual treasury that includes but is not confined to the Reformation.
Each period in church history was characterized by unique challenges and opportunities. The story of the church’s 2000-year struggle with her own identity and with the societies in which she was established makes fascinating reading. It is possible to identify notable motifs that mirrored the spiritual ideal of distinct eras in the church’s history. These motifs idealized the spiritual life that captured Christian imagination within different eras and spiritual traditions. There are many such motifs, but here I identify six that are particularly relevant to the contemporary church.
Here is a brief listing of some of the important truths about the spiritual life we can gather from reading the masters of the Christian spiritual heritage:
- a mature spiritual life requires both solitude and community, which means that true spirituality of necessity includes private prayer as well as identification with a community of believers within the Church, in some expression or other
- spiritual growth most likely takes place in a context of routine and discipline
- all believers are called to serve God, and they are called within a wide variety of vocations, (a religious calling, or a calling to professional Christian ministry, is not a higher or superior vocation)
- critical to growth in grace are the two character features of gratitude and humility
- spiritual warfare is both an inward and outward battle, of ongoing inner conversion of turning from sin, and an identification with God’s kingdom activity in the world
- spiritual growth and vitality are directly linked to the appropriation of God’s grace, which needs to include the study of Scripture, prayer, the life of the church and a community of believers, and some form of spiritual accountability.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive. But it does serve as a reminder of some of the critical factors that we need to consider.
Gordon T. Smith in Essential Spirituality. Copyright ©1989 by Gordon T. Smith.
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