The Story that is My Life

My life as it has been and as it continues to unfold is a story. One story made up of many stories. One complex, yet simple story. One sometimes messy, but so beautiful story. One story that I wonder if it might be interesting to be told.

This blog is my attempt to put part, or parts, of that story into words, pictures, or whatever form my mind can wrap itself around or create from within myself to express what it is like to be the one inside Cindy's Story. This is an exploration on my part and on yours in reading, and seeing, and maybe even hearing. It is not necessarily chronological. It might not always make sense, but it is my expression. It is me.

You are invited to see how my story unfolds.....

Friday, June 10, 2016

Christian Spirituality: Can We Attain It?

We hear the term spiritual, or spirituality being thrown around these days.  It is easy to get confused about what that really means to us as Christians.  The following is a paper I wrote in Bible college on what true spirituality really is.

Christian Spirituality: Can We Attain It?

by Cynthia Boersma
February 14, 1997

Is our physical existence in this natural world all that life has to offer?  Are we left alone in life's reality, or is it true that there is something more, something that is referred to as "spirituality?"  Now today, when we mention this word, it is sure to bring some raised eyebrows and questioning glances.  And it is no wonder.  A definition of the word is rarely given, and yet in these days it seems to be a goal of many people in all walks of life.

Before understanding the truth of spirituality, lets take a look at what the world has to say about it.  Ruth E. Van Reken, in the magazine Today's Christian Woman, gives examples of a number of flawed beliefs the world has about spirituality and the search for truth.  Each individual, the world says, has a right to his own "truth," which is possible to find by listening to your inner feelings and instincts.  These are your guide.  We are encouraged to love ourselves first, pursuing self-fulfillment above all else.  Expressing yourself and using creativity is looked at as very spiritual.  Do not venture to suggest that another man's "truth" is wrong though, for in the end, all spiritual quests are thought to lead to God.  (53)  

Carl F. H. Henry in his study on spirituality suggests that, "experientially oriented religion readily confuses spirituality with the actualization of divinity supposedly lurking in one's own being and like." (Packer 9)  

Can this be?  Is spirituality open to any man's interpretation?  

No, truth is not left for each person to decide on his own, or the end result would be no truth at all.

"The life-sustaining nurture of humanity in its created intention is supernatural and comes from God's realm, not humanity's." (Packer 10)

This struggle toward wholeness that everyone has will not be fulfilled through human measures, but only in Christ. (Hosmer 49)

Yes, there is absolute truth.  It is God's truth, found in His word, the Bible.  It has been told that in order for a bank teller to be able to recognize counterfeit money, he does not study the counterfeit bill.  He never even touches one, but only handles the real thing.  In his study and handling of the real bill; the touch, look, smell, and everything else about it becomes so familiar that the moment he comes across a false bill, he knows it.  He may not be able to tell exactly what is wrong, but he will know that the bill is not the real thing.  So we must be in our with our spirituality.  We must know true spirituality as God designed it and revealed to us through His Word, for then we will not be led astray.  Charles Ryrie states that:
The practical importance of this is simply that all experiences for the spiritual life must be tested by biblical truth, and if any experience, no matter how real it may have been fails to pass that test, it must be discarded. (Ryrie 9)
Let us be sanctified by the truth of God's Word as He desires. (John 17:17)

Where would the Bible have us begin on this journey of spirituality?  

...At Jesus Christ.
For God gives the Spirit without limit.  The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hand.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him. (John 3:34-36)
First, we must realize that we are sinners who need a Savior, and then turn our lives over to Him.  Our spiritual nature is dead in sin until we are born again by the Spirit of God who gives us spiritual birth through faith in Jesus Christ. (Van Reken 53)  

"The moment we receive the Lord as Savior, God sets us apart for Himself, instantaneously, certainly and forever." (Ryrie 64)
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13,14)
Once we have made the decision to believe in Christ, God promises us the Holy Spirit.  "We know that we live in Him and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit." (1 John 4:13)  

We have assurance that His Spirit will never leave us.  Rachel Hosmer and Alan Jones in their book Living in the Spirit, give the definition of spirituality as:
Human life in its fullness, lived in an ever-deepening and loving surrender to the Spirit of Christ, that Holy Spirit promised, poured out, and always flowing from the heart of the eternal reality that we call the Father. (Hosmer 50)
The major role in spirituality is played by the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:18)

The contrast between being filled with wine and filled with the Spirit is obvious, but there is something in common that allows Paul to make the contrast.  A person can be under the influence and controlled by wine or by the Spirit.  The wine symbolizes the world, while the Holy Spirit is of God.  To be under the influence of wine is to be in a state that is not natural.  So it is with the Holy Spirit.  Under His influence, we are in a state that is not natural to our sinful nature, but supernatural and of God.  Therefore, it is not by our power that we strive for spirituality, but by the power of the Holy Spirit controlling us.

Though we have the Holy Spirit, spirituality is not instantly attained upon salvation.  It is a process of dedication.  Charles C. Ryrie states that, "Dedication concerns the subjection of my life to Jesus Christ as long as I live." (81)  

This involves time.  We are to continually present ourselves to God as willing servants.  "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship." (Romans 12:1)  

We do not choose to stay united or to separate from Christ; but we may choose whether or not to enjoy the benefits of the union. (Ryrie 58)  The time that is required for a Christian to mature will not be the same for everyone.  We all know the person who has been a Christian for years , but is no further along in their walk with Christ than the person who only recently believed.  Yet, spirituality is not staying a baby Christian.  Paul admonished the baby believers in Corinth, saying:
Brother, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly, mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready. (I Corinthians 3:1,2)  
Paul wanted them to grow up, to be able to handle the solid food.  The same is true in our spirituality. Charles C. Ryrie defines spirituality as, "A grownup yet growing relation to the Holy Spirit." (Ryrie 13)

The question may arise:  How can I grow in relation to the Holy Spirit if I'm not even sure what the Spirit does or how I am controlled by the Spirit?  Well, let's see what the authority has to say.
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by Him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. (Romans 8:15,16)
There is never a need to doubt.  God is our Father, we are His children, and we have the Spirit testifying to that truth.  No person can take that away.
"No eye has seen no ear has heard, no mind has conceived that God has prepared for those who love Him" but God has revealed it to us by His spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God that we may understand what God has freely given us.  This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. (I Corinthians 2: 9-10, 12-13)
The Spirit helps us to understand the deep things of God.  Before we believed in Jesus Christ and were given the Spirit we could not understand these things.  They were as foolishness to us, but now we have our own teacher who opens our eyes to the wonderful truths God has given us.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.  (Romans 8:26,27)
What a comfort this is in our times of need.  The Spirit knows our hearts and minds even better than we do.  He knows what we are to pray for, and He expresses that to God in the deepest way, always in light of God's ultimate will.

The process of spirituality begins with God and His Spirit, and then continues with our reaction.  True spirituality will become evident in many areas of a Christian's life as described in Charles C. Ryrie's book Balancing The Christian Life.  First, it will be evident in our character.  We will begin to display the character of Christ as we follow after Him.  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22)

"These phenomena are to flow from the believer's life as a spontaneous expression of the Spirit's presence and activity." (Packer 11)

It is said that a person becomes like those that he spends time with.  Jesus is the ultimate example of spirituality. 
In His unbroken and unreserved dedication to the will of the Father, in the active fullness of the Holy Spirit in His life, and in His constant awareness that the things of this world have even at their highest only a transitory and preparatory importance, He remains the model of Christian Obedience throughout the ages. (Packer 12)
In spending time with Jesus, we will take on aspects of His character more and more each day, as His Spirit works through us.

Second, spirituality will be evident in our knowledge.  As we study God's Word, the Holy Spirit will open our eyes to the truths in new ways.  We will move beyond only the milk of the Word, and be able to handle the meat.

Another area spirituality will be evident in our lives is in our attitudes.  Following the command to be filled with the Spirit, Paul conveys that we will be, "Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:20)

Our lives will be characterized by an attitude of thankfulness to God in all things, no matter what our circumstances may be.  Verse 21 continues, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."

Not only will we be continually thankful, but also live in unity with one another.  This is one area that will make us as Christians stand out from the crowd.  If people notice our unselfish love for each other, they will want to know what we have that they don't, but too often today, this is far from the situation we have created.  We quarrel over seemingly important issues or only consider ourselves in a situation.  Many people remain lost because of this poor testimony.

The last area that spirituality will become evident is in our conduct.  Not only will we attain a greater knowledge of God and His truth, but we will apply a mature use of the knowledge  It is one thing to know what we should do; it is another to do it.  
This is genuine and wholesome spirituality.  The concept is that of a mature and maturing relationship to the Holy Sprit which will be demonstrated in one's personal life, family life, and church life.  This is biblical spirituality. (Ryrie 24)
In and weaving its way through all of these aspects is prayer.  In prayer, we communicate with God, we learn of His ways, our attitudes are laid open and refines, and so much more.  We cannot get to know a person very well if we never talk to them.  The same is true with God.

Spirituality.  In the full sense of the word it seems impossible to achieve.  If this life is all there is, then spirituality is an impossibility; but this life is not the end.  There is an eternity more.
Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (II Corinthians 4:16,17)
True spirituality will bring forth a heavenly minded response.
The eternal realms, not one's own resources, constitute the real supply line for genuine spirituality.  Heaven conspires with the longing heart to ready us for ultimate homecoming.  Spirituality springs from a focusing of faith and hope on the invisible, eternal glories of the triune God in His heaven, and such focusing always makes its distinctive mark on us as we run our course here on earth. (Packer 13,14)
Jesus will return, and when He does our hope will be complete.  His Spirit is our seal.  We will reside with Him forever.  Let's make every moment now count for God's eternal glory.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)

Works Cited

Hosmer, Rachel and Jones, Alan.  Living in the Spirit.  New York.  The Seabury Press. 1979.
Packer, J.I. and Wilkinson, Loren.  Alive to God.  Downers Grove, IL.  InterVarsity Press.  1992
Ryrie, Charles C.  Balancing the Christian Life.  Chicago, IL.  Moody. 1994.
Van Reken, Ruth E.  "The Truth About Spirituality."  Today's Christian Woman.  18.6 (Nov/Dec 1996) p 50-54
NIV Study Bible.  Grand Rapids, MI.  Zondervan Bible Publishers.  1985.