Spiritual Rx - One Size Fits All or Walking in the Spirit?
From T.A. Sparks / Life in the Spirit - Chapter 6:
"Sometimes it will mean that they will have to leave a great deal that is of a secondary character; perhaps forsake many things, even religious things, the accepted things, to walk with the Lord. There may be a price attached to it; misunderstanding, and loneliness, and much besides; but if you are so open to the Lord that nothing else matters, and you mean to walk with God whatever the cost, no matter what people say you ought to do as (in their thought) a part of a great Christian order or religious machine, you will come into all God's secret thought as naturally as a flower opens to the sun, and you will be making discoveries and finding that there is a vast realm of meaning and possibility and capacity and power that you never dreamed of."
This dovetailed amazingly with contemplations centered around Romans 14 this morning, as regards the participation in observance of days (or not) or abstaining from foods, conscience, and relating to one another in love so as to not cause stumbling.
Some branches of institutional Christendom tend to view themselves as the one size fits all prescriptive cure to all spiritual ills, placed upon its members from the outside. However, what may be a "spiritual Rx" for one may not work for another.
As Paul reminds us, "He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God... So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this - not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way..."
Can we infer from this that in the 1st century there was a great deal more freedom to walk in the Spirit, than is now seen - with every denomination being a particular sort of religious groupthink?
Might it be that the great religious machine of external observances and practices has its place, somewhat like the shell of the egg around a developing baby chick? But eventually there comes a day when the shell is no longer required, and it has served its purpose. At some point one moves out of these constraints, and into the space of freedom to be led by the Spirit of God, paradoxically with "a price attached to it; misunderstanding, and loneliness, and much besides..." That kind of spiritual freedom for which Christ has set us free comes at the cost of misunderstandings, to say the least.
The shell of institutional religion cannot forever demand that its contents remain the same. It was given for its particular purpose. Where we run into clashing - even to the point of bloodshed at times - is when we refuse to acknowledge that "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Thoughts inspired by:
T. Austin-Sparks from: Life in the Spirit - Chapter 6
It has been a long time since posting to this particular page, Into The Stillness, but it seems to be the right place for it to go.
This comes of being confronted with a very good diagnosis of the spiritual conundrum of the objective versus the subjective paradigms, addressed in this segment from T. A. Sparks on Christ in Heaven and Christ Within. See link. And I will post the entire comments from the link as well, following the link, itallicized.
"Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)
We feel the importance of saying a word with regard to Christ in heaven and Christ within the believer, that is, what is objective and what is subjective. It is tremendously important that we should keep a proper balance of truth. A very great deal of our trouble is because of there being an unbalanced emphasis upon some aspect of truth. It is good to know the truth, and it is good to rejoice in it, but it is just possible that even truth may get us into trouble. There are many perils lying in the direction of truth, even spiritual truth; and there are not a few of the Lord's people who have fallen into those perils. It is not that they suffer from want of light, but they are suffering very much because they have not got their light properly adjusted and balanced. Thus it becomes very necessary for us to get things in their right perspective and proportion. Preponderance on any one side will always lead to spiritual injury, and very often to disaster. The history of many instrumentalities which have been raised up and used by the Lord is eventually the sad story of a loss of power and effectiveness because of striking an unbalanced emphasis, of putting some side of truth in a place out of proportion to that which is complementary to it....
If we over-emphasize the subjective we take something from the glory of Christ. If we over-emphasize the objective we take something from God's purpose. It is a matter of the work of God in Christ, and the purpose of God in Christ: and these two things must both have their place. May the Lord give us understanding, so that we come into a place of rest and are delivered from the perils which lurk in the vicinity of every Divine blessing.
A greatly needed word for the times! I don't say that out of criticism but only realizing how much I struggle with this, given the journey I've been on, as well as the background where I grew up being so extremely objective and emphasizing the doctrinaire and almost frowning on any life changing spiritual experience.
There always seems to be a struggle within, due to the lack of understanding so eloquently put forth by Mr. Sparks. There's the camp that insists upon being in a brick and mortar church building, juxtaposed to an equally vehement opposition to "belonging" to a denomination and/or attending a church - the ones who insist that "We don't go to church; we are the church." The former insists upon right doctrine, the latter on spiritual experiences (in my experience and opinion). Either extreme seems lopsided, but it is very, very difficult to find a body of believers where there is a balance, where there is not this polarization. This may be why so many choose the "none" option, which is in a sense, a new group who decides to head for the desert, so to speak.
But what does this do to Christ's prayer in John 17, "that they may be one"?
And there is also the extreme of "tradition" versus "scripture." As if one should almost refute the other or throw Scripture under the bus. However at this point in the journey, it's clear that in so many areas of the most ancient traditions, there seems to be an abysmal lack of knowledge of or respect for the Holy Scriptures - which shows in their beliefs and practices. Yet those of us who insist on "Sola Scriptura" as the final authority are labeled as those who are shallow thinkers and / or worshippers of what they call a "paper pope." This is a shocking duality that seems to be further dividing the church, if it may even be called that anymore. But Jesus prayed in His final prayer, "Sanctify them in Thy truth; Thy word is Truth." Not sanctify them in tradition! And did He not also quote the Scripture to the very devil who tempted Him 40 days at the beginning of His ministry? As well as to the Pharisees, who, He said nullified the Word of God by their traditions?
Certainly the elephant in the room is that Scripture is full of subjective experience. "Signs". Yet Jesus also said that it is an evil generation that seeks signs. Makes one wonder. Especially when one signs on the dotted line of some church membership papers, one wonders what will unfold from that decision!
This is a treacherous place to be when one is seeking the balance between the objective and the subjective. Neither polarized camp seems to have any answers. Everybody says, "We have the Bible as our authority." But then so does every cult that cherry picks its beliefs from that holy book.
Yet Jesus tells us that men would know we're His disciples by the love we have toward one another, a love like His!
If we are truly "in Christ" should this not result in some sort of ongoing and noticeable experience, with a growth in the manifestation of His love, since it is not merely an objective reality that is spoken of? Anything else seems to be either unbelief or lack of the experience, so that one does not actually know if he or she is born again, which is an obvious reality to anyone who has had this experience.
There's the warning that we're not to be lukewarm but either cold or hot. And we may be judged according to that, by those who emphasize either the objective or the subjective. However, what if it's not a matter of lukewarmness, but rather being zealous to find one's balance in this treacherous spiritual lanscape, and to find likeminded souls, who truly desire companionship with the living Christ and seek His manifestation within and among themselves together?
Thoughts, discussion, kind comments, prayer requests?
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"I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly." Psalm 85:8.
Often it’s as if there is a swarm of religious hornets in my mind. The only thing that kills them is stillness, solitude, prayerfully contemplating God’s Word.
I think this has to do with unraveling from the snarl of a lifetime of “Martha programming” to the simplicity of a Mary of Bethany way of being. There came a time when inwardly a line was drawn where “active involvement” in many ways, especially where organized religion is concerned, needed to come to a screeching halt. It's not over.
Most adherents of Institutional religion do not comprehend this. The expectation is machine like active status from cradle to grave. But in my own case it is as if a rewiring and reset is the call of the Holy Spirit. I suspect that may be the case for many of us, if we will receive this word of peace. We may need to listen and go with that - not allow ourselves to be guilt tripped by the Martha mind.
I was reminded that, in the film 2001 A Space Odyssey, the controlling computer HAL had to be dismantled lest he run to ruin the whole mission. He did everything he could to stop his demise. HAL is like the Martha programming in us. It tries to stay in control. It is the inner hornet’s nest! Buzz, buzz, buzz!
So for awhile until the deprogramming is finished, we tend to try one thing or another without really understanding why we feel so obligated to keep on a track that is no longer how we are to be about the Father’s business!
My desire is to no longer be dominated by that but for the Holy Spirit to dismantle it and “rewire” me entirely. The process must be cooperated with. That synergy is only facilitated
by faith - which hears the Lord’s directive to cease striving and be still. And we surrender ourself quietly to His work.
It comes down to not caring who thinks what about it. This kind of “renunciation” of flesh busyness is the only thing that allows the Work to be completed. It is a surrender, a cessation of striving. Otherwise confusion and inner turmoil result impeding His Work and a renewed sense of direction once it is accomplished, and there is an interior go ahead to proceed with His direction.
There comes a point when participating in institutional religion can seriously disturb this process which is akin to giving birth. “Martha” says, "Get up and get busy and do something that we define as useful." Meanwhile you KNOW inwardly that the process of inner deconstruction and then reconstruction and restoration must, as when giving birth, have full attention!
This is where I find myself these days on the Crossroad. I don’t think it’s an intersection many have come to or understand in "Churchianity." I am not saying that makes me better than anyone else. However, it's important for us all to allow one another the space needed to facilitate the Holy Spirit's work within our lives.
comes a time when we may hear the Lord say, as He invites us to sit at His feet, "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." Luke 10:42.
Thanks be to God for working His good will within us individually, according to our needs.