My dear friend, mentor, teacher, and co-worker in the mission field we call life on earth has recently challenged me to focus on Spiritual Formation as a topic of great concern. Greg Wiens pointed me to a few books in particular: The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith1 and Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ2. While it’s not a new field of study, the significance of the “journey” cannot be overstated. To begin with, we need to recognize we’re on a journey that we’re all growing in our faith (or not).
I refer to this awakening as Step Zero. While it sounds simple, I’m afraid it’s much more difficult than I can express in just a few words. We all suffer from some level of spiritual blindness. As I begin to peel back the layers and understand more about this topic, I can’t help but see things differently. To begin with, my own vision is skewed and distorted in ways I have yet to consider. While there’s no quick and easy fix for this dilemma, part of the answer begins with the humble confession: I’m spiritually blind!
This morning I wrote a post for HOPE Missions that addresses this subject briefly. I’d be honored if you took a moment to look at that post and pray for those who serve the least, the lost, and the lonely with humble hearts and open hands every single week. Here’s the post:
Part of the solution is to serve others: serving is healing. When we serve others, we take on the nature of Jesus Christ.
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! Philippians 2:6-8
Don’t Do This Alone – Koinonia
One of the keys to moving from blindness to seeing clearly is to find someone to venture on the journey with. This might be your spouse or a good friend, but don’t limit yourself to the possibility that other like-minded Christ-followers will challenge and inspire you. This is true, Koinonia.
Part of what I get to do these days is lead a Bible study focused on the Gospel of John. As we read one passage at a time, it never ceases to amaze me how the people are surprised at Jesus’ teaching. But what really catches my eye is that the disciples, those closest to Jesus, were just as confused. They didn’t get it while he was teaching. I find this to be quite comforting. If they didn’t immediately get the meaning of the message when Jesus taught, there’s a good chance that I won’t get it right the first time either! Yet one more reason to find someone to study with.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8
The Church Scattered
Ah, but you raise your hand and object, “there’s a pandemic, we can’t gather!” No, my friend, that is not the case. I believe the present pandemic is a gift from God to scatter his people to advance the kingdom. I’ll save that thought for another post, but don’t look for excuses not to venture out. I love what Jeremiah had to say to those exiled centuries ago:
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:13-14
The present pandemic feels like an exile to Babylon. It seems like we’ve been scattered and torn apart. For many, this is probably true. Their world revolved around a routine that required little thinking or planning — just show up, sit down, and listen to the preacher. While that’s a good habit, it’s far from going forth and making disciples of all nations (see Matthew 28:19-20).
Here’s my pointed exhortation: we’re blind.
And here’s the opportunity:
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
It all begins with Step Zero.
As we studied John 7 this week, the NIV Application Commentary pointed out that at certain points during the Festival of Tabernacles, the people would sing Psalms 113-118 as they worshiped God. When I first saw that, I missed the opportunity. I was blind. Then it occurred to me: read Psalms 113-118 as if I were worshiping along with them. What a concept! Take a look at the link. Many parts of these songs remind us that God is so good to us. He will lead us through the present difficulties if and when we lean on him.
Thanks to Greg, I have some way to navigate through my spiritual blindness on the heels of Dallas Willard, Eugene Peterson, Janet Hagberg, Robert Guelich, and others who have dedicated their lives to teaching and writing. It doesn’t have to be mysterious, but I know it will not be easy. That’s good.
My challenge to you is to awake from your blindness, change your glasses, get a new prescription, and lean on Christ with others who are like-minded. My prayer is you will find this difficult and awkward at times, but more rewarding than any could possibly imagine.
Not to us, Lord, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness. Psalm 115:1
1 Hagberg, Janet O.; Guelich, Robert A., The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith, Sheffield Publishing Company, © 2005, 1995.
2 Dallas Willard, Eugene H. Peterson, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ, NavPress, © 2002, 2012.