Towards A Definition…
In order to share thoughts about spirituality, I believe a definition is in order. I am submitting an abbreviated definition that I believe will help me as I touch on this situation:
Christian spirituality begins with our redemption in Christ. We are baptized into Christ—we die to sin and the “old man,” and we are made alive to God as a new creation. True spirituality, then, is not a human self-help program or a means of justifying ourselves. It begins with a divine call, rebirth, and conversion wherein we admit we are helpless to help ourselves in our bondage to sin and enmity with God.
With this foundation clearly in mind, Christian spirituality has to do primarily with sanctification. It requires divine grace (first and always) and deliberate human cooperation. It is neither a passive quietism nor a triumphalist activism (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology).
There is a great hunger today for spirituality. People want a spirituality that works—a relevant faith that provides answers and draws them closer to God. This should be sought out by Christ in his Word and in dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
We need a development of Christians desiring a heart-felt faith to become familiar with the Word, and solid doctrinal basis which should come from a grasp of the essentials of the historic Christian faith. And perhaps owning a book (text) on systematic theology. While it may not be for everyone, there are some on the learning level of those who haven’t been in seminary. There are resources for the people in the pew and the man in the pulpit. Because there is a need for a spirituality to give us more than “watery eyes and a warm heart.”
I believe if we are to grow to maturity, equipped for the work of service, it will be as a result of biblical teaching from gifted leaders given to the church for that purpose (see Ephesians 4:11-16), as well as people in the pew desiring something authentic, other than the New York Times Best seller flavor of the month. We need leaders with a mind and a heart for God and for the people they lead, but we also need a people that hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Believers need to get back to the Scriptures not just for intellectual knowledge but also for heartfelt change, whether or not they have some type of experience. I don’t think we need to shy away from the word experience; I certainly don’t mean being “wild-eyed and weird.” Neither am I advocating an emotionalism. Our experience should be subordinate to the Word of God.
The Bible must be our supreme authority. Yes, there should be an extensive use of the Bible among us.
There is much talk today the spiritual disciplines. And that list of disciplines varies, depending on who you talk to. But here’s a look at some of the particulars:
Scripture: Reading and Study
Prayer: Prayer based on the word and will of God
Worship: In spirit and truth not dramas or programs
Scripture Meditation: Thinking about the word of God
Evangelism: Reaching people God would have us to reach, with the gospel
Serving: Others in humility
Stewardship of Time and Money: Time, talents, and treasure
I believe these are Scriptural. I’m not sure about journaling, but everything else can be recovered from scripture. Our problem is the people who get caught up in the Richard Foster type eastern mysticism. What I believe we should do, however, is to stay away from certain authors who don’t lead the Christian toward a biblical spirituality but in reality are leading people back to Roman Catholic monks and Christian mysticism.
So I would advocate the spiritual disciplines this way: spiritual vitality that cannot be found apart from a solid understanding of the truth of God’s. And not today’s so-called Christian best sellers. It’s amazing that there’s an abundance of talk regarding the spiritual disciplines and spirituality but there is little or no mention of holiness, sin, theology, or staying away from practices that are similar to Eastern mysticism. Without contradicting myself, it might be best to shy away from the current trend of those using the term “spiritual disciplines,” but rather we should consider not going to some modern author that leads us away.
Perhaps we need to rediscover those in our traditions—if you are a Lutheran, the Book of Concord and Franz Pieper’s Christian Dogmatics. And the people in the PCA, the Westminster Standards and the Book of Church Orders. For Baptist brethren, The 1689 Confession and James Petigru Boyce, and the Abstract Of Systematic Theology. And you independents folk out there, maybe a smorgasbord of all of the above. These are not dogmatic recommendations, but I believe if we shy away from the mystical and get tethered to the doctrinal, it will keep us from error.
I love the writings of our contemporary authors, from R.C. Sproul Sr., John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, D.A. Carson, Mark Dever, and Thabiti Anyabwile. Subject matters on the church, prayer, theological issues, current issues, and so forth.
Some Spiritual Balance
I believe that theology would help give us some balance. The proper balance for theology is to result in doxology, and doxology to lead to holy, passionate living for Jesus Christ. I believe that would move us toward a biblical spirituality. Hence, the true spiritual discipline.