Posts Tagged ‘ spiritual ’

Talk to yourself.

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in this psalm] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.’
… This self of ours… has got to be handled. Do not listen to him; turn on him; speak to him; condemn him; upbraid him; exhort him; encourage him; remind him of what you know, instead of listening placidly to him and allowing him to drag you down and depress you. For that is what he will always do if you allow him to be in control. The devil takes hold of self and uses it in order to depress us. We must stand up as this man did and say, “Why art thou cast down? Why are thou disquieted within me? Stop being so! Hope though in God, for I shall yet praise Him…” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression p. 20, 21

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Question: is the Christian religion a failed religion?

I am reading Brian McLarens book „everything must change“ now. To find out his opinion on what needs to change in the church. Also to not be dependent on somebody else’s opinion on this book. As he writes in the first chapter: „…you can Google my name and find websites and blogs from fundamentalist groups who consider me the son of Satan or on the wrong side of both the „culture war“ and „truth war“.

Now I personally wonder, why he doesn’t clearly give his standpoint on the „hot-button issues“ as he calls them (My guess is that this shows his frustration, that there are more important questions that are not being asked.) . In my eyes, there would be more evangelical Christians listening to him, if he would just – at least in a short sentence – put these things straight. Now a friend of mine had the chance to talk to Brian personally recently. So if you might have wondered: he did say that homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle and that salvation comes alone through faith in the propitiary death of Christ on the cross (he said that literally). Maybe that helps some people to listen in on his message to the church.

I think that he got too popular to pass off what he says on the basis of some well-intentioned criticism. Because maybe, after all, he has something to say that we might benefit from…so what is this book about?

To sum it up, the book deals with two questions. One: what are the world’s biggest problems, and two: how would (or does) Jesus adress these problems, or which solution does he give for them. These are good questions to ask, and they haven’t been asked enough among evangelical Christians. Can one be a Christian, and not care about issues as poverty and social injustice? Doesn’t God show – especially in the OT – that he does care about it? Do we (the church) then have a responsibility towards these things? Or is our mission confined to the spiritual realm?  Before anyone judges Brian Mclaren for asking these questions, I would be very interested to hear some of their answers!

In  this category, I want to just quote some of the things from „everything must change“ and comment on it. I don’t want to do deep analysis, but pick some things that might be of interest. After all, my desire is to promote thinking, learning and growing for myself and all who will read it.

In part 1, chapter 5, MacLaren writes: „More and more reflective Christian leaders are beginning to realize that for the millions of young adults who dropped out of their churches in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the Christian religion appears to be a failed religion. And for a reason not unlike the one expressed by the young healthcare worker from Khayelitsha: it has specialized in dealing with „spiritual needs“ to the exlusion of physical and social needs. [comment: That statement would be hard to prove/disprove. Is that really the reason why many young people leave the church? I doubt it – especially here in Germany.] It has specialized in people’s destination in the afterlife but has failed to adress significant social injustices in this life. It has focused on „me“ and „my soul“ and „my spiritual life“ and „my eternal destiny“, but it has failed to address the dominant societal and global realities of their lifetime: systemic injustice, systemic poverty, systemic ecological crisis, systemic dysfunctions of many kinds.“

Some statements: First, I agree that it would be wrong to disconnect the spiritual from the physical and social. Biblical Christianity does definitely know nothing of that kind of mindset. Second, the point that it is not only about ’spiritual‘ things, but that it is about ‚me and myself‘ is a very good one. Maybe someone has asked you this question before: if someone desires to be saved from sin, death and hell to a blessed life with God and eternal bliss in heaven – is that not very selfish? So the observation is very good. Someone said that one of the principles that young converts need to be taught is: „nothing that is selfish is Christian“. And it is true – the Jesus of the Bible will bring us salvation from selfishness and set us free to seek the welfare of others more than our own. The constant focus on self – even it is spiritual needs – is wrong and sinful.

As long as a Christian, or a church, just focuses on himself/itself, he is in a state of spiritual immaturity as were the Corinthian Christians, who were in need of Paul’s exhortation to seek the benefit of others, which is the essence of true love.

Thirdly, is he right when he says that the church failed to address the issues mentioned above? I disagree! The Bible emphasizes the spiritual realm (man’s relationship with God) as the basis of the physical realm (man’s relationship with man). So when I adress a spiritual issue in someones life, I am addressing his physical life as well. His spirituality is supposed to touch every area of his life. So all evangelizing and all teaching and disciple-making that equipped people to be faithful spouses, honest politicians, fair employers has been successful in dealing with systematic injustice etc. Because any evil system will be attacked through the Gospel message which will in turn destroy that system as individuals who make up that system and keep it running let the spiritual message penetrage their hearts.

Question: Is everything spiritual?

Last night I watched ‚everything is spiritual‘ from Rob Bell together with my wife. In this DVD-message, Rob Bell talks about the creation account and what part we as human beings play in that account. Besides sharing some mysteries from the world of physics in order to cause us to marvel at the Maker, he comes to this conclusion:

a) Man is the only part of creation that was created 100 % spiritual (as God and the angels) and 100 % physical (as animals, plants and all matter).

b) Thus, since every human is both spiritual and physical, it all comes down to having your eyes opened to who you are and which realms/realities/dimensions you should think/believe/think in.

To make it short: while a) is true, b) is not a correct conclusion. The simple fact he overlooked was the fall of man! The Bible makes it clear that, while we were created originally as Rob Bell describes it, we fell from this kind of life, which is the reason people do not experience the spiritual dimension of life. If it was just as Rob Bell put it, the death of Christ wouldn’t be necessary.

Paul teaches pretty clearly, that we are born (spiritually) dead, and Jesus points to the necessity of being born from above, or, again. He said that we have to be born again, by the Spirit, in order to SEE the kingdom of God, that is, the spiritual reality/dimension. So my conclusion: this teaching gives a very good introduction…to Genesis 1 and 2. But to stop there is to not cross the line between Judaism and Christianity.

Question: Is uncertainty spiritual?

I read something else which I feel balances what I wrote before. It is from P. T. Forsyth’s book „The person and place of Jesus Christ“, Lecture 1: Lay Religion.

„The root of all theology is real religion; of all Christian theology, and even apologetic, it is Christian religion, it is saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is justifying faith, in the sense of faith in a forgiving God through the cross of Jesus Christ. But this religion cannot be stated without theology. If theology can be shewn to be irrelevant to a living and evangelical faith, then the Chruch can afford to treat it with some indifference, and to leave its pursuit, lie philosophy, to the Universities. But the Christian religion is theological or nothing. We are but vaguely and partially right in saying that Christ is the Gospel. Years ago to say that was the needful word; but it is now outgrown and inadequate.“

A question I ask myself at this point: Is it enough to say that Christ is the Gospel at this point in time? In my culture? The first edition of this book came out in 1909.

„The Gospel is a certain interpretation of Christ which is given in the New Testament, a mystic interpretation of a historic fact. It is the loving, redeeming grace of a holy God in Christ and His salvation alone. Theology, it is true, does not deal with thoughts but with facts. That is the great note of modern theology. But the Christian fact is not an historic fact or figure simply; it is a superhistoric fact living on in the new experience which it creates. The fact on which Christian theology works is the Christ of faith and not of history only, of inspiration and not of mere record, of experience and not of memory. It is the Christ of the Church’s saving, justifying faith.

A Christianity without such faith is not Christianity. Spiritual sensibility is not Christianity, nor is any degree of refined unction. A spirituality without positive, and even dogmatic, content is not Christianity; no are gropings when stated as dogmas; nor is a faith in the broad general truths of religion. Christian faith must surely dogmatise about the goodness of God in Christ, at the least. A conversion which is but a wave of spiritual experience is not the passage from death to life. Religion can only be made more real by a deepened sense of the reality of the salvation. An access of religion which does not mean, first or last, a deeper repentance and more personal faith in Christ’s salvation may be sincere enough, and it is certainly better than worldliness and unconcern; but it is not believing unto life. It is not New Testament Christianity. And, tender as we should be to it as a stage, we must be very explicit when it is offered as a goal. Gentle as we may be to it as a search, we must be quite plain with those who proclaim it as the great finds.“

A clear warning and call to only accept uncertainty about who Christ is and what he’s done for us as a stage but never as a goal. That would fly in the face of all who are trying now to promote even uncertainty about Christ’s nature as a higher form of spirituality. It is not. Even though the disciples started out that way, Christ was constantly teaching them and revealing himself to them – all his revelations centered on himself as a person.

I understand that this teaching might be a reaction to the over-emphasize on the new birth as a „at-one-certain-point-experience“. Now while of course a birth by itself is a one-time-event and not a process, there is a whole process leading up to that point (pregnancy) and another process starting at that point (growth).

So is uncertainty spiritual? No. But if this uncertainty leads you to seek, knock, and ask, it can be helpful in leading to a deeper understanding, a deeper trust and a closer walk with Jesus. There is some things which we can never know in an intellectual sense. But that doesn’t mean that we should look up to a state of ignorance as something noble. Blessed are those who don’t see (intellectually), but yet believe.

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