July 27, 2009
Early in my time as a local church pastor I endeavored to take up a project called a spiritual inventory. I decided I wanted to develop a tool that would help the people of my congregation measure their spiritual progress. I gave up in frustration at one point, and today I look back on the effort as sheer folly. This doesn't mean that I think wanting to grow is a bad thing, but I think I had little understanding of what I needed to grow into and what exactly would spur that growth on. Yesterday in my sermon I recommended to my people to stick to the Christian basics: prayer, worship, community, giving, etc. Eugene Peterson has written lots of good stuff both on how we screw up "spirituality" and how to grow. All of this is fine, but I think our cultural context frames it in the wrong way. God moves first, he always does. Most of the best and hardest things you learn (and even accomplish) won't be planned or expected by you. Your sanctification will come at such a steep price that if God had offered you the choice ahead of time you would have refused. You belong to him, not the other way around, and he won't let you forget it.
thanks for this! i've been reflecting on this for the past week. actively participating in church and in various ministry gives me so much fulfillment. yet i am wary of evaluating my relationship with the Lord based on accomplishment in church. i listened to a past message by tim keller on the fruit of the Spirit. and wha you said re God's redemptive act includes all the broken parts gives me so much encouragement. i think the key is keeping in step with the Spirit, being sensitive especially the "pruning" process. love your show, Under the Radar. alvin
Maybe the best way we can see how much we're growing is by observing how much we die to self. When we measure activity or knowledge it seems that we are saying "what have I done?" I know it sounds trite to say we should be asking, "what has God done through us?"; but that is what it's all about. The problem I have with some of the Spiritual Formation material is that it can become "me" centered; things I 'do'.I'm currently reading the little book, "Let Go" by the 17th century Archbishop of Cambrai, France -- Francois Fenelon. It's about dying to self. It's very good, but what a challenge for we who are so immersed in our "me" culture. As I think about how I can die to self, even that puffs me up.
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