Developing Yourself Spiritually
|I always encourage you to have a closeted spiritual relationship with
God. That is stated well in the song lyrics, “Oh for a closer walk with Thee.” Or it may be I am seeking
you to encourage you to have any spiritual relationship with God if you don’t have any. Even a church
member can go to church and still not have any or much of any nourishing spiritual relationship with God.
This is just as you can go to a fine eating place, but that doesn’t mean you get a balanced, nourishing meal.
I like to slip into good cafeterias to get a meal, then see what all the ones passing down the line take. I notice a large number get nothing but meat, starches and sugar. They choose an unbalanced diet. They pass by all the good vegetables, salads and fresh fruits. I watch and think, heart attack, here we come.
You can go to nice restaurant, but that doesn’t mean you are getting the right meal you should have. You can go to a nice church, but that doesn’t mean you have a good spiritual relationship with God. It’s not the fault of the owner, the manager, or the service that you aren’t eating right in the restaurant. It’s not the fault of the church, the preacher or the people there, you don’t have the right relationship with God.
To reverse the old spiritual song, “It’s you, it’s you, it’s you, Oh, Lord, standing in the need of prayer.” It is up to you to take the responsibility for yourself there. Nobody can eat for you. People can pray for you, but you have to take up the cross yourself. If, for example, you need a diet, you will have to cross that lonesome Diet Valley by yourself. Pray for grace to change. Pray as you are doing it. You’ve got to “pray in” change. It is up to you to develop that through a “rock relationship” with God.
If you don’t have the right type of relationship with God, you have a duty to develop it. Don’t just throw it all off onto God. Believe me, a “rock relationship” with God is there in you. That rock relationship will strengthen you. Look at it this way: There are all sorts of wonderful photographic negatives in your personality. Many can be developed. God knows this.
You must see the developed vision or photo of a “negative” through faith. It’s your responsibility to make real what you have seen by faith. Take the responsibility to develop it through steady work and regular prayer. But the negatives of the vision to come are the things you must put in the right solution to bring them out!.
The right solution usually includes a good attitude, prayer, and steady application at it. This means taking responsibility for yourself and others you love under God. That means faith in God, the correct environment, a strong amount of perseverance. Pray and think and discuss how to create the right solution to develop the negatives of the visions you have. I often think of the Apostle in this, adjusting I Corinthians 13:12 to read, “now we see the undeveloped shapes of our good hopes in Christ, darkly immersed and still unclear, but if we keep them in the right solution, if we keep them mysteriously in God, later we shall see them clearly. They will emerge and we shall see the results of the faith that developed the picture and the grace that took the picture face to face.”
I would also recall to your minds Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” You may accomplish much if you accept the challenge of faith. lt is not so much our Christian faith that is being challenged today by “worldly people devoid of the Spirit,” (Jude 1:19) but that we of the faith are not accepting the challenges already in the faith.
To prove our faith to ourselves, if we are insecure and need it; or to show what God can do and thereby to glorify God before others; or because there are mentally sick people in our society who “revile whatever they do not understand” (Jude ! :10), we should accept the challenges not to the faith but in the faith. One of the challenges of the faith is to develop yourself spiritually. That means developing a “rock relationship” with God. If you seek it, you will find it: “he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:07)
I realize there is some confusion over the term “spiritual.” I overheard a Catholic priest of very fine character say, when asked how his spiritual relationship with God was, reply, “Very good, thank you, at mass this morning I made Christ and ate Him.” This priest was a fine person. I would have done a lot for him but not anything. His reply set me thinking. That is not what I mean by a “spiritual relationship.”
Our Protestant views are not that literal. We maintain Christ is present SPIRITUALLY at the Lord’s Table or Holy Communion. We do not see Him as being present LITERALLY as the Anglo-Catholics and the Roman Catholics do. There is no “magic” performed by me. I am not a priest who can ring a bell, say a prayer, and magically have a piece of bread become literally the body of Jesus Christ. That, I thank God for. I do not resent it but I would not recommend it. I would not endorse this as a spiritual relationship.
Actually, I think it rather manipulative to maintain a priest can make God, then if you as a church member do not do as the church says, cut you off from God. I don’t believe the priest can make God or cut off anyone from God by withholding it or not making anymore God. Nobody can make God. I tell you for your own good, nobody can cut you off from God. Nothing, says the Apostle, can cut you off from God.
When I heard the priest say this, I demurred. It is entirely possible for me to see how the regular eating of Christ could be used as a substitute for a spiritual relationship. I don’t see how this builds up a spiritual dialogue between you and God that develops any spiritual character. I see the substitution of the literal presence, the doctrine of transubstantiation, for the spiritual presence as rather confusing and misleading. We won’t even go into idolatrous.
But we must always remember, it is not unanimity of intellectual agreement, but unanimity of love that holds the Christian churches together. Organizational unity would simply be the creation of a spiritual monopoly with a one way linear logic creed. The monopoly would do more harm than good. Our human condition demands many creeds, many expressions. We do not have to hate or dislike each other about them. Why be so childish?
The Christian Church has been a scandal in the past not because it divided into different organizations or developed a rainbow of creeds, but because the different churches and creeds got ugly with each other and used violence. In arguing about what was spiritually best, they allowed the literal worst in them to come out. Such is the irony of man. They lost their transcendence and fell into violence.
We must always remember agreement does not make brothers. Instead I believe it tends to make conformity, uniformity and conventional thinking. It is acceptance, tolerance and love that make brothers and sisters. I suggest it is much higher and better to think of the creeds of the Christian Church as a spreading of a peacock’s tail. When spread the colors are like a canopy of jewels. When the peacock, my symbol of Christ, spreads its tail we see the mysterious beauty of God as the peacock, symbol of Christ, spreads out the his tail with many creeds and many different and beautiful expressions. Why fight with each other over which is the prettiest feather? We must include all, because while Christ is one, the expressions of Him are many.
However, you might believe creedal expression is the most important thing in your salvation and determines if you enter Heaven, as some of our primitive minded forefathers crudely did. Then, if you believe that, I suggest you consider you are wrong. I can understand why people fought over creeds when they thought Heaven depended on believing creeds to the last ounce. But it is so spiritually backward to say creeds determine your salvation. No, a thousand times, no. Creeds may enlighten you on the way to salvation. But if these complicated creeds were the way to salvation, no slow witted person could be saved. Yet salvation is meant for every person, those of low intellectual ability as well as those of higher ability.
Salvation does not come through having an intelligence complex enough to understand a creed. It is simpler. It comes by grace through your relationship with God. The relationship between you and God is best when it has the trust, love, openness to God, and the innocence of little children. In children who as parents know are certainly not perfect, we find the truest faith relationship: the trust, the love, the admiration, the loyalty, the obedience. Jesus said in Matthew 19:14 : “ Suffer little children .... to come unto me: for of such is the Kingdom ofHeaven.”
Therefore seek to develop a spiritual relationship with God that you may find grace. By grace you recognize love, and by His grace, your sight is magnified until you see much grace around you. There is grace all around us but ordinarily we do not see it well. So how will you recognize your salvation? You will see more grace everywhere at times, and you will find your sightings of it magnified, so you will think: How I have been blind! There is so much grace in the world, I know from the Bible as well as my relationship with Jesus, there is enough grace for me. I am saved, and I am taking those under my care with me to Heaven. I know it through grace, and I feel it in my heart. Now fellow Christians, “I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.” (Romans 15:32)
Now is a good time to come to Christ: to confess Him or confirm Him as your personal Savior, and to begin a spiritual relationship with Him if you have not one. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.