A JOURNEY OF EXCELLENCE
James Houston says that there are at least 6 aspects to the nature of Christian Spirituality.
1. It is not ascetic. In other words, you do not have to become a hermit or a monk and withdraw from the world to be close to God. Our spirituality must take place in the real world that we live in. That means there are no good excuses for not having a close relationship to God.
2. The biblical revelation of God as personal leaves no place for the deductions of human wisdom. In other words, we must get our information from the Bible. We cannot use our wisdom and intuition as a source
The Bible teaches that God is personal and that He enters into a relationship with us. He initiates that relationship and He maintains it. It becomes our privilege to live in a person to person relationship with God. Such relationships can be found in the Old Testament as well as the New. And it are not based on secret knowledge but upon the common knowledge we all find in the Bible.
3. Christian spirituality is Christocentric, that is, Christ centered. Paul describes our Christian life as a life in Christ. We are in Christ and we are being conformed to him, putting on the mind of Christ, knowing Him and being known by Him.
4. Christianity Spirituality is life in the Trinity. The Christian lives as a son or daughter of God. We know God as Father. We realize our sonship or daughership in Jesus by his saving work of redemption and the forgiveness of sin. We have this relationship actualized by the gift of the Holy Spirit who enables the believer to cry Abba Father (Romans 8:15). For us, worship means to be in fellowship with the Father in the Son through the Holy Spirit.
5. Christian spirituality is the outworking of the grace of God in the soul of man. It begins with our conversion and extends until that day we go to be with Him. The goal of spirituality is our maturity in Christ.
6. Christian spirituality produces fellowship and communion of the saints and deepens our walk with each other. The reality of our spirituality is tested by our public worship. Just as our relationship to God is deepened, so is our relationship to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, sv. â€œSpiritualityâ€, J. Houston, pp. 1046-1047)
Christian spirituality will produce people with a servantâ€™s heart and godly living. There is the inward relation of man to God and the outward relationship of man to man. Spirituality, instead of producing sublime mystics who seem to float above the rest of us, produces mature people with common sense and great love and action toward their fellow man.
Philippians has more deep, positive emotion than any of Paulâ€™s other writings. He expresses great joy in knowing his readers and in knowing his sufferings while he is in prison. Paul gives thanks for the church at Philippi and rejoices in knowing them and knowing that they too share in his suffering. Paulâ€™s spirituality turns suffering into something positive. They understand his suffering. And they share and participate with him in the Gospel with integrity and with honor and with joy.
It is not often that Paul expresses the way he feels about something. But, he expresses his joy in regard to them because he has them in his heart. What a deep, joyful expression this is! They are like treasure hidden in his heart and he remembers them constantly. They, like Paul, have given themselves to the defense and confirmation of the Gospel. They support him both financially and spiritually. They are fellow partakers of the grace of God! The result is that he longs to be with them with the deep affection of Christ Jesus. This word for â€œaffectionâ€ is the word for bowels or inward parts. It expresses the deepest, most meaningful emotions of the human soul.
Paul prays for them and has confidence in them that they will remain blameless before Christ and that they will produce righteous fruit. How can he have this kind of confidence in mere men and women? The answer is found in verse 6, â€œFor I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.â€ He is confident because it is the work of Christ. Jesus is the source of our Christian life. He is the source of our spirituality. Not only did He call us to Himself, he sustains us and feeds us and cultivate us so that He may lead us to perfection.
Paul prays that their love will increase in real knowledge and discernment. He does not ask that love by itself be increased. But, that love and knowledge grow together. Love and knowledge balance each other. If we love God will want to know more about him. But if we know more, we will also be able to discern that which is from God and that was is not. I was in a meeting this week and the subject turned briefly to responding to the guys with signs on the interstate. I was asked do I give to them. I said no, those guys are professional beggars and giving to them only enables them to live like that. They donâ€™t want to work they want you money. I hope that is love accompanied by discernment. Sometimes loves says no.
The goal of this love that abounds in knowledge and discernment is so that we may approve of that which is excellent. There is a hierarchy of information here. Love that grows in knowledge and discernment leads to our ability to approve, that is to seek and live and promote what is excellent. Love causes us to do what we do with excellence. Mediocrity should not be a part of the Christian lifestyle. We offer our best to God and to each other.
But, even living a life of excellence has a purpose. We seek a life of excellence so that we may be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ. Each day for the Christian, should be one of joyful excellence as he or she moves toward that day when Christ returns. It is not a threat that you better get going. It is a reminder that our pursuit of Christ is a joyful act. Like children on the way to see their favorite movie, they may dress and talk like their favorite character. We move toward heaven in love that is abounding, in knowledge and discernment. We seek to live in excellence with joy imitating our Lord, thinking like him, putting on the mind of Christ, his attitudes, his love, his desires as we journey with anticipation of seeing him face to face.
So, we are never finished. We are a work in progress. God is not through with any of us yet. We may notice God building and renovating, tearing away old rot and replacing with the what is mature and right before God.
Paul expresses a deep spirituality that draws us in and causes us to walk in excellence because we are conscience that we are Godâ€™s children we are a people who strive after Christlikeness, knowing all the while that it is God who is at work in us and will do so until the very end.