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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Marks of a Spiritual



Note: The RRMinistry is a twin blog to the YouTube site by the same name. My prolonged technical struggles on the video side are nearly over. . . Finally, SUCCESS!! These posts are not offered as manuscripts of the videos. The blog allows those with more extended comments the space to do so. Thank you. Walk in the Spirit. Gil.

Soundbites and implications

There is, for some people, no meaning in life. Just live and die. End of story. Others seek to understand and articulate in simple, clear terms beyond a superficial level those things which hold meaning for them.

There's an unfortunate fallout behind such a simple and clear cut approach. The fallout is that understanding and meaning are summed up in soundbites: I'm not religious. I am spiritual. It's an mistaken implication which places spiritual over religious. One would be no less mistaken to place religiosity over spirituality. Competitive ranking and one-upmanship are the way of the world. It does not take much listening to people's efforts to express themselves beyond soundbites before their lack of understanding becomes apparent. Perhaps even worse than trite soundbites is the extremely convoluted language surrounding the talk about spirituality. Many buy into it whether in the form of superficial soundbites or the extremely convoluted because, _ it's spiritual.

Spirituality on the Internet

A brief sampling of some offerings on spiritual/spirituality found on the Internet:

just be honest, listen to your inner self, be good, listen to your gut, listen to your heart, do what feels good, do what makes you feel good inside, be yourself, everyone is spiritual, everything is spiritual, you are already spiritual, you are god, be in tune with your energy, rocks are spiritual, trees are spiritual, animals are spiritual, get in tune with the universe; a list without end.

Can anyone who feeds on this walk away with a appreciable understanding they have been filled with anything substantive in their quest for spirituality or to be a spiritual?

How is a spiritual to be identified? What does it mean to be spiritual? The question, Who is a spiritual, emerged in the apostle Paul's admonition to the Christians in Galatia, you who are spiritual restore the one who has fallen in sin.

Commonly accepted proofs of spirituality

The answer to the question, "Who is spiritual/What is spirituality?" turns our attention to Jesus. If ever there were a spiritual in word and deed (curiously, he never made claims of being spiritual) it is Jesus. It is significant his entire life and ministry are a living model of a spiritual; one without vagueness, pretense, display or the bizarre acts some uphold as proof of the call of heaven. His spirituality was evident and lived out in the midst of everyday people not as something to impress others as a mountaintop recluse. Compare this with popular proofs some teach or embrace as spirituality so readily. I encourage you to Google YouTube video for spirituality for a sampling.

These accepted proofs of spirituality include prayer, singing, listening to Christian radio, fasting, being present in the fellowship of the saints, notable clothing and adornments such as pure white garments, crucifixes, aromatics, chants, pilgrimages, soft speech and more.

Understand, this is neither a condemnation or rejection of any of these. A spiritual may very well engage or possess some or all of these, but to pass these off and accept these as what makes one spiritual, _ in outward appearance and behavior, falls short of what Jesus modeled for his disciples. Certainly, writing, such as this article about spirituality, is proof neither of spirituality nor that one is a spiritual person. Jesus modeled what being spiritual and possessing spirituality as a pretext that, you too can be can be spiritual.

Jesus and Paul on being spiritual

There's an important value between Paul's call to those who are spiritual (and would-be spiritual) with what Jesus modeled. The importance of this is vital because today many have been influenced, or lured, by the self-proclaimed spiritual individuals who cast Paul aside as an irrelevant religious (as in, not spiritual) in favor of Jesus, the spiritual. At the heart of Paul's message is that there is more than declaring oneself spiritual or being spiritual: It is what the individual, the spiritual, does for another. There's no better example of doing for another than to actively engage in the restoration of their faith and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Discussions and claims of being spiritual, of possessing spirituality and what constitutes these matters of the Spirit are more often an abandonment either to emotional highs or an austere appearance and demeanor. It is left solely to the individual to craft his or her own spirituality; _ for themselves. The mere use of the word in their speech is, in some people's minds, proof of their spirituality.

Jesus subjected himself to the scrutiny of his disciples. He modeled and demonstrated repeatedly certain marks of a spiritual for his disciples. I refer you to the gospel according to John chapter 8 as just one example and which will be the focus of this article. The scene involves a woman caught in the act of adultery (the man is never mentioned). The religious leaders have engaged in a carnal spectacle of bringing her before Jesus.

Marks of a spiritual

Jesus modeled the marks of a spiritual. Those same marks were exhibited by the apostle Paul. These marks, or characteristics, are for all disciples to learn and live daily. These are just three marks. They are not offered as thorough or a complete study of spirituality as modeled by Jesus. Where the Holy Spirit dwells and fills the heart of the believer, these marks begin as a thought process 1) Wisdom to discern, to a decision process 2) Confidence to judge, to the action process 3) Authority to speak.

1. Wisdom to discern (a thought process)

Jesus knew what was in the hearts of men. They were relentless in their efforts to trap him. The woman cast before him was a carnal spectacle for them. Perhaps some looked on her with disgust, others with lust, others perhaps with shame and pain for her. These emotions are not readily apparent but the reaction of her accusers to Jesus' invitation for those without sin to cast the first stone would suggest that they were what Jesus saw in their own hearts: hypocrites.

Those who dragged the woman to throw her before Jesus had no more regard for upholding the law than to see the woman restored; a clear display of men without the marks of a spiritual. How does one acquire the wisdom to assess the dangerous condition of a brother or sister in Christ playing with temptation? It is acquired through personal observation, listening and conversing with them, what others confide about them to you, or even, gossip. Gossip may or may not be true necessarily, certainly not to engage in, not to be repeated, but to be noted. These are resources and means for acquiring an accurate assessment of the individual beyond mere superficial appearances.

Discernment is getting below the surface and it is the wisdom from above of which James speaks which shapes the spiritual person's' thoughts:

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

Once the situation has been discerned wisely the danger or destruction of sin in a brother or sister's life it is still merely a thought hidden in the innermost heart. If it remains there it could well turn out to be our own hurt because we neglected so great a responsibility towards one in need. Too often fear is the reason the wisdom to discern remains an inaction, a mere thought.

2. Confidence to judge (a decision process)

There may be no greater misunderstanding, as much from believers as non-believers, than as concerns making a judgment and the fear associated with it. The idea of judging strikes an ugly, discordant note in discussions on this topic and is often promptly discarded. Most of all it is seen as not being spiritual. However, the text raises the question: Did Jesus judge the woman? Invariably, the quick response is, no. After all, did not Jesus say, Judge not lest you be judged? Indeed, Jesus did say that but a closer look of the Matthew 7 passage reveals his admonition to the disciples is to not be quick or hasty in their judgments.

There's another misunderstanding of scripture by disciples and one driven by the world's own misunderstanding of scripture, primarily. It's the lament, or the hand washing of all responsibility in the work of restoration, by those who cry, none of us are perfect. We all sin. Furthermore, they add, I'm not Jesus or the apostle Paul. True. However, disciples are called to be like Jesus and less like self in the work of restoring the fallen. It is about the one being restored.

Jesus judges a sinner

The confidence with which Jesus responds to the woman, neither do I condemn you implies He judged her. She is guilty of sin and deserving of condemnation. Her accusers failed to condemn her not so much because of their own sin (the law of Moses made no provision for anyone excluding themselves from stoning the accused because of their own sin) but because of the primary evil intentions of their heart towards Jesus. Jesus didn't condemn her because of the grace and love which he lavished on her.

What many overlook in their fear and aversion of judging is there is a judgment unto condemnation and a judgment unto salvation as concerns the restoration of a brother or sister who has fallen.

Certainly, there will be a judgment day of condemnation, but the concern in the text is the restoration, a judgment unto salvation, of this woman or a saint in Christ who has fallen.

Paul judged a sinner

When Paul learned of the Christians in Corinth (I Corinthians 5) boasting about one their own living an immoral life Paul did not hesitate to make a judgment on the matter. Although absent from their midst he judged the man and urged them to put him out of the church, that is, to break fellowship with him and have nothing to do with him. He did not give the church license to malign or otherwise vent their own personal emotions on the wayward brother. The church did as Paul instructed, the man repented and was restored (II Corinthians 2). Paul effectively modeled for them the marks of a spiritual not with vague words but through simple, direct words and actions.

Jesus, and Paul, judged these matters with the same confidence common among all believers in the Lord who rejoice in the love and grace of God. This is the confidence that comes from having been set free from fear and its crippling misery.

In this love has been made perfect among us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, even so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love. (I John 4:17,18)

The disciple who, with confidence judges his brother or sister so as to rescue or restore them, may do so without fear of punishment. Yet, though that disciple acts with full integrity and honesty that will not exempt him/her or immunize him/her against a verbal assault from the one to whom they minister. Think of it as a test of your integrity and the sincerity of your motives behind your confidence to judge; your decision to follow-through on your thoughts.

3. Authority to speak (an action process)

The authority to speak is founded in scripture and not a church official or an individual in a position of authority. The words Jesus spoke are scripture and are spirit and life.

It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing.
The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life. (John 6:63)

Scalpel or hatchet?

The rescue or restoration of those in danger or who have fallen in sin is not a work to be handled with opinions and good thoughts. Definitely, it is not the work of a novice in the faith. This is not to say we can not have opinions and thoughts of our own. The scriptures in the hands of a spiritual in restoring the fallen is as a scalpel in the hands of a heart surgeon. Opinions or scripture mishandled is like a hatchet in the hands of a fool. Which would you prefer in the hands of your heart surgeon: a scalpel or a hatchet?

The authority with which Jesus spoke to the woman, Go and sin no more is no less than as he has entrusted his disciples to do. Speaking with authority is not grandstanding to display one's own perceived spiritual prowess. The task of restoration is an awesome one. It is a time to speak with humility the authority of the word of God. It is a time to glorify God. It is a time for heaven to rejoice at the restoration of one who had fallen. Peter's words fit the work of the spiritual restoration of a fallen disciple.

If anyone speaks, let it be as it were the very words of God. If anyone serves, let it be as of the strength which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (I Peter 4:11)

Authority makes some people uneasy. It's an uneasiness some prefer to put aside by speaking their feelings and opinions rather than the voice of authority. What they soon discover is the inadequacy of those feelings and opinions to live by or to minister to one who has fallen precisely because he followed his own feelings and opinions rather than to obey authority. Truly, this is the final test of the individual's thoughts, decision and action concerning the work of restoring the believer who has fallen in sin. Actions may be louder than words, but actions accompanied by words of authority are clear, healing and restorative for those fallen in sin. This is the work of a the one who is spiritual. His spirituality is not for him to claim nor a badge to be displayed proudly. It is his humble service to those in need.

You who are spiritual who are ever growing in wisdom to discern, confidence to judge and authority to speak restore your brother or sister who have fallen in sin.

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