Spiritual Growth, commanded, compelled, or?

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day… and please discuss!

“You need interior life and doctrinal formation. Be demanding on yourself! As a Christian man or woman, you have to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, for you are obliged to give good example with holy shamelessness. The charity of Christ should compel you. Feeling and knowing yourself to be another Christ from the moment you told him that you would follow him, you must not separate yourself from your equals—your relatives, friends and colleagues—any more than you would separate salt from the food it is seasoning. Your interior life and your formation include the piety and the principles a child of God must have, to give flavour to everything by his active presence there. Ask the Lord that you may always be that good seasoning in the lives of others.” (1)

Over the centuries, one of the great issues for the church is how to encourage spiritual growth in the people of God.  How to get encourage them to live lives filled with prayer and worship and both meditation on God’s word, and the indepth study of it.   There is no doubt to the benefit of such interaction with God and His word, yet how do we do it?  Add to this the theological discussion about the proper use of God’s law and gospel, and the issue gets further complicated.  We have been told – and can make the case for from scripture, that we aren’t supposed us Law (rules with threats of active or passive punishment/reward) to motivate behavior within the church, but rather – receiving the incredible grace of God should result in our actions changing – as God works the change in us.

This is true not only for private spiritual disciplines like prayer, meditation, devotional study, and being involved in gatherings with other believers, but also things like evangelism, serving the needy…

The above quote is walking on the fence – primarily because of how people read the word “obliged”.  If obliged is read as to mean you are blessed if you do, damned if you do not, then it becomes law.  THe problem with using the law to motivate the behavior that should be natural to a Christian is that compliance is achieved through fear or greed – the positive or negative reward is why the act is being done.  (Some would say – at least its being done – and the ends justify the means.)  That form of compliance is often short-lived as well – for the reward diminishes over time, and what was once done with enthusiasm and excitement fades.  (This btw is why I believe when the end result of becoming a Christian is the “reward of heaven”, people will soon lose interest – becoming a Christian is about Who we are in heaven with, and Who walks with us here)

But if obliged is something different – an inner compelling to love as a reaction to love, if Christ’s charity to us, to humanity is so overwhelming as it is, then we are compelled the same way a piece of wood is swept away by a river’s current – and the discipline is something internal, natural, the norm, not the goal.   The spiritual growth simply becomes part of us, as we are swept along in Christ – the disciplines become part of who we are, rather than what we do.

Yet that still begs the question – how do we introduce these things to the new believer, how do we encourage and train, guide and pastor people, and indeed fellow pastors, in such beneficial and grace filled things. And how do we encourage it in our “mature” believers, those who have done without for so long, yet see themselves as “faithful”.  How do we encourage and teach this to those who see no great need for indepth prayer and meditation?

How do we cause them to fall into the river of Christ’s charity and become swept into a life, lived fully in relationship, interacting with God, not just on Sunday morning (or the occaisonal Sunday Morning..) but as part of their life…

For that matter – how do leaders find the motivation to let Christ sweep us away..?

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1722-1730). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God’s saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on November 30, 2012, in Devotions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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