An Advent Lesson: The Desperate Need for Spiritual Growth
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 Write down for the coming generation what the LORD has done, so that people not yet born will praise him. Psalm 102:18 (TEV)
1 That is why we must hold on all the more firmly to the truths we have heard, so that we will not be carried away. 2 The message given to our ancestors by the angels was shown to be true, and those who did not follow it or obey it received the punishment they deserved. 3 How, then, shall we escape if we pay no attention to such a great salvation? The Lord himself first announced this salvation, and those who heard him proved to us that it is true. Hebrews 2:1-3 (TEV)
16 I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18 so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (TEV)
136 Therefore we also hold that the keeping of the law should begin in us and increase more and more. But we mean to include both elements, namely, the inward spiritual impulses and the outward good works. Our opponents slanderously claim that we do not require good works, whereas we not only require them but show how they can be done.
450 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)
The Psalm that starts off this devotion has been ingraining itself into my brain for the last few days.
We’ve been given this great treasure, the gospel that we have been entrusted with, this promise of salvation, this revelation of the love of God.
Not heeding the warning in Hebrew, we neglect it. Sometimes we avoid it, we don’t spend time reading it, we think that the church service on Sunday is enough, even though that 10-45 minutes sermon barely scratches the surface. It is one of our greatest treasures, as it reveals that which should mean the absolute most in our lives, the love God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has for us.
Maybe we neglect it because we are to busy with theology, too busy doing ministry, to busy being evangelists (or at least pretending we are on-line) We as pastors study it, but sometimes all it is, is studying it. We don’t become part of it, and therefore our people do not as well.
The keeping/treasuring of the law that Melancthon speaks of, results in spiritual growth. Growth in both the desire deep in our hearts and it becomes visible in our actions. St Josemaria describes the same things as interior life and doctrinal formation. Of knowing we are with Christ, that in our baptism, that relationship that unity is there. It may sound odd to be “another Christ”, but that is what we are, called into a relationship and sent into the world, appointed and yes anointed bearers of the Holy Spirit.
But missions, or our apostolates cannot happen without the relationship with God, without the time treasuring the height, depth, width and breadth of His love for us. Without growing deeply, not by academic study or memorization for its own sake., but by learning by exploration of His love, walking with Him, losing ourselves in the relationship so that our ministry is our lives.
This isn’t a Lutheran thing, or a Catholic thing. I could add quotes from Wesley, from Spurgeon, from Lewis, from pentecostals and charismatics and baptists. I included them because of recent conversations.
We need to grow, and the way we do it, is not by exercising the body or mind, but the heart. By learning of God’s promises and faithfulness, of experiencing His love. That very love causes a hunger, a desire, and an appreciation for the very means of grace.
this is what it means to be a disciple – and it is what we need to be doing as His body.
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 126). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1722-1730). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.