by Barry Newton
Sitting in the dimly lit municipal auditorium, I listened to Eugene Peterson describe our materialistically and consumeristically saturated society erupt with a prevalent hunger for spirituality. Searchlights throughout our world seek to illuminate every concealed corner to discover spiritual answers.
This conference claims to cast a light upon The Jesus Way for spiritual renewal. Thumbing through the 250-page workbook, the irony began to be overwhelming. Unstated, yet everywhere evident from page to page, a theme slowly began to emerge in the shadows, eluding the light of being named.
Do you want to grow in spirituality? The answers cascade forth from the conference: Be like Jesus in being relational with others and in persevering in living his way of life. Die to yourself, thus being released to be God’s servant. Devote yourself to prayer. Catch God’s kingdom vision and live it out. Worship God. The list goes on.
Although I heartily agree with these points and many others, I have not yet found any page addressing what Scripture would suggest is a blue-whale-sized missing dimension.
Taken by itself, the workbook is a compilation of practical steps on following Jesus. Yet, where is the observation that by themselves no amount of prayer, worship or “Jesus Way” living either creates or increases spiritual life from deep within us?
Paul corrected a common human-centered perspective of spiritual life when he wrote: “now that you know God — or rather are known by God” (Galatians 4:9).
Spirituality’s starting point involves God recognizing us as his own, thus bestowing spiritual life. There can be no genuine spirituality unless God has first granted it. God bestows spiritual life when in baptism we rely upon Jesus’ death by being buried with Christ and raised with him to spiritual living (Colossians 2:11-13; 3:1f).
In all fairness to the convention, I’ve not read every page of the workbook nor attended every session. Furthermore, such an observation regarding God’s work when we are buried with Christ would be rejected out of hand because the participants are from every corner of Christendom. But how can a convention on spirituality occur without accurately describing the start of spiritual life?
There can be no genuine spirituality unless God first knows us.
by Barry Newton