We live in a culture where it’s cool to be “spiritual” but uncool to push towards a definition of what spirituality means. A few friends have pushed back on my fumbling attempts of sharing the Gospel with statements such as: “What works for you is good for you, what works for me is good for me … let’s not mix those up or worry about truth with a capital T.”
They are spiritual, but uninterested in Jesus.
Today I don’t want to write about helping “them” understand Christian spirituality, though that’s important. Instead I want “us” to understand Christian spirituality so that we actually have something real and different to live and to share.
The always helpful Wikipedia defines “spirituality” as “…the concept of an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.”"
For a follower of Jesus (aka “Christian”) our deepest value is based on Jesus. Our ultimates include His existence, ministry, death, resurrection, rule and return. As C.S. Lewis points out in The Great Divorce the stuff of heaven is more real than our world today.
So the overall goal of Christian spirituality is becoming like Jesus. It is a process of training, shaping, and being shaped in every area of our lives by the Spirit into the image of Christ.
This happens in day-to-day life, not just during “religious” or “spiritual” experiences. Dallas Willard writes:
Spirituality in human beings is not an extra or “superior” mode of existence. It’s not a hidden stream of separate reality, a separate life running parallel to our bodily existence. It does not consist of special “inward” acts even though it has an inner aspect. It is, rather, a relationship of our embodied selves to God that has the natural and irrepressible effect of making us alive to the Kingdom of God—here and now in the material world.
Robert Meye defines “spirituality” as:
…the grateful and heartfelt “Yes to God,” the response of the child of God to the call of God in the Spirit. Expressed both in act and attitude, the believer lives in obedience to and imitation of Jesus Christ, the true Son of God, and walks in the disciplined and maturing pattern of love’s obedience to God.
Yes to God when fighting with your spouse. Yes to God when struggling with a temptation (whether those are little temptations like a second serving of ice cream, or big temptations like leaving the spouse you are fighting with). Yes to God in all things, at all times, in all situations. Yes to His Word. Yes to His leadership. Yes to the cross He asks you to bear. Yes to the joys at His right hand. Yes to God.
How do you do this? It’s a life spent pushing God-ward in success and failure. Here are a few “non-negotiables” that have helped me:
- Stay grounded in a personal, costly relationship with Jesus
- Remember that you have a new identity in Jesus is guided by God’s Word
- Seek daily (or as often as you can remember) to be empowered by the Holy Spirit
- Don’t get caught up in the minor ups and downs of life … this is a whole-life process
- Stay connected to a real community of faith … you can’t do this alone!
- Look for opportunities to show Gospel-sort-of-love in our everyday world, to everyday people.
How would you define spirituality?
What practices or habits help you?