A few years ago I read the life-changing book, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted,” by John Ortberg (not to be confused with “Your Best Life Now,” by Joel Olsteen…yikes, very different!). This book has challenged me in many ways. One morning it led Dustin and me into a long discussion, which normally happens when we sit by each other doing our Bible Studies (normally we have our Jesus time in separate rooms so we can focus)! So, this morning, I wanted to share with you the freedom and truth I learned.
The Distortion of Spirituality
Ortberg explains, “The misunderstanding of true spirituality has caused immense damage to the human race. Tragically, it is possible to think we are becoming more spiritual when in fact we are only becoming more smug and judgmental.” Some questions to ask ourselves are:
1. Am I spiritually “inauthentic”?
Do we spend more time trying to convince people we are spiritual than we do being spiritual (loving God and loving others) because we are conformed by Christ?
2. Am I becoming judgmental or exclusive or proud?
“Pride is a potential problem for anyone who takes spiritual growth seriously. As soon as we start to pursue virtue, we begin to wonder why others aren’t as virtuous as we are.” Are you critically comparing yourself with other Christians and rating them “as if they were Olympic contestants and someone appointed [you] judge?”
3. Am I becoming more approachable, or less?
“Jesus was the most approachable person they had ever seen. The religious leaders had a kind of differentness that pushed people away. Jesus had a kind of differentness that drew people to him. True spirituality is that way.”
4. Am I growing weary of pursuing spiritual growth?
“The pursuit of righteousness is always an exhausting pursuit when it seeks a distorted goal.”
“’[Wrongly pursing disciplines is] Both intimidating and unchallenging at the same time.’ This is why people inside the church so often get weary. Observing boundary markers, conforming to a religious subculture, is simply not a compelling enough vision to captivate the human spirit. It was not intended to be.”
5. Am I measuring my spiritual life in superficial ways?
Ortberg said, “If someone asked me how my spiritual life was going, my first thought would be how I was doing at having a quiet time—praying and reading the Bible each day. If I had done them for several consecutive days, I was likely to say my spiritual life was going well. If not, I was likely to feel guilty and downcast. So prayer and Bible study became the gauge of my spiritual condition. Practices such as [these] are important—not because they prove how spiritual we are—but because God can use them to lead us into life (fully flourishing in Christ).”
What we should be gauging our spiritual condition on is by asking, “Am I growing in love for God and people?”
The Need for Training in Our Spiritual Life
Trying hard to have a good spiritual life with the Lord will only accomplish so much. If you are serious…you will have to enter into a life of training.
2 Timothy 4:7-10—Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10 (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.
What Spiritual Disciplines are Not:
1. Not a Barometer of Spirituality—the true indicator of spiritual well-being is not on the basis on certain disciplines, but growth in the ability to love God and people.
2. Not Necessarily Unpleasant.
“Many of us got the impression somewhere that for an activity to count as a spiritual discipline, it must be something we would rather not do. Many of us need to discover “disciplines” such as celebration that will regularly produce in us rivers of wonder and gratitude.”
3. Not a Way to Earn Favor With God
“Spiritual disciplines are not about trying to be good enough to merit God’s forgiveness and goodwill. They are not ways to get extra credit, or to demonstrate to God how deeply we are committed to him. In particular, spiritual disciplines don’t oppose or exist in tension with grace. They are simply a means of appropriating or growing toward the life that God graciously offers.”
What makes a disciplined person??
“A disciplined person is not simply someone who exercised many disciplines; is not a highly systematic, rigidly scheduled, chart-making, gold-star-loving early riser. (Yikes, that me a lot). The Pharisees were rigid and organized, but they did not have true discipleship.”
“A disciplined follower of Jesus—a disciple—is not someone who has mastered the disciplines and never misses a daily regimen of spiritual exercises. It is someone who discerns when laughter, gentleness, silence, healing words, or correction by use of the Word, and offers it promptly, effectively, and lovingly.”
Bottom line, we must love our God more and ourselves less. We must strive to be like Jesus because, “Life counts—all of it. All of life is worship. Every moment is potentially an opportunity to be guided by God into his way of living. Every moment is a challenge to learn from Jesus how to live in the kingdom of God.”
Have a filled with God’s Love kind-of-day…let His love inspire you to love Him and others more!