Monday, January 15, 2007

How do we live Spiritually in a Material world?

How do we live Spiritually in a Material world? Although the word “spiritual” is currently being used in many strange and plastic ways; and although we are severely impacted by a materialistic way of life, we must pursue the Bible’s teaching. Peter addresses this subject in the beginning of 1 Peter 2.

First, Let’s think through the issues in Trinitarian fashion (1. Spirit; 2. Father; 3. Son). Along the way, we will grab hold of some of the images involved (1a, 2a, 3a). Finally, I will suggest some practical expressions of spiritual living (1b, 2b, 3b).

1. To live spiritually must surely have to do with the Spirit. We are being built into a spiritual house as a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrificies (1 Peter 2:5). What this means is that, in our relation with others (as priests have relation with others) we must be chiefly concerned, not with the material element of their existence, but with the immaterial; not with the temporal expression of their existence, but with the eternal. The eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14 ) would have us correspond with the souls of men and women.

1a. Jesus, in his earthly ministry, faced a decidedly unspiritual blindness. The religious leaders were fully cognizant of his humanity. But they could not see his divinity. And they hated him. Our inability to see people only from a fleshly point of view is similar. We are holding them in unholy disregard.

1b. Led by the Spirit, we are called to “love one another earnestly” (1 Peter 1:22). We are to love the souls of men and women, not because of their bodies or their appearance or their image, and not even in spite of what we see with our eyes of flesh. Rather, we are to love them regardless of their appearance.

2. The Father is the Giver of Life. He creates out of nothing. He consistently does the unlikely, and surprises with the impossible. As children of the Father, we do not plan his surprises, but we can expect to be surprised.

2a. Now what should we expect from a stone (1 Peter 2:4,5)? Well, if we consider only the stone, then we should expect very little. Stones don’t do much, which is why they make good boundary markers. But if we consider God who can make the stones cry out in praise of the Son (Luke 19:40 ), or if we look at stones as divinely appointed wombs from which children of Abraham may emerge (Luke 3:8), then we begin to look at dead entities with a sense of expectancy.

2b. Do I have the kind of faith in God that expects him to radically re-engineer the dead ends of life? My faith was not given so that I could tell God what to do, but it is given so that I might grasp what God can do. He can rescue a marriage from the rocks. He can raise a church from the dead. A key question is: Do I want him to? Lazarus’ sister objected, “Behold, he stinketh.” Sometimes it is easier for us to be done with dead entities. God doing the unlikely can end up being uncomfortable.

3. We come to Jesus (1 Peter 2:4), but it seems as though we often have little influence over others in getting them properly lined up with the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6). We know that we ourselves did not do the heavy lifting in securing our own relationship with him, so it would seem that there is little that we can do for others - Except that we act and serve “in Jesus’ name.”

3a. Matthew 10 mentions the “cup of cold water” offered to little ones. Quickly consumed. Easily spilled. Often forgotten. What good does it do? What about the salvation of our neighbors, or the return of our kids to the fold. We pray, in Jesus’ name.

3b. Sowing seed can be a wasteful activity. In the parable of the seed and soils, much is lost. I feel that way. Words are cheap, sometimes useless. They’ve heard it all before. They are accustomed to tuning out. Sometimes we wonder why we should bother. But we are to serve in little ways and we pray with hope that the redemptive activity of Jesus will be extended to the lives of the people to whom we serve and for whom we pray. And because of this hope, we do not give up. We continue on, in Jesus’ name.

So to be Spiritual – what does it mean? It means to be involved with the Spirit in love, with the Father in faith, and with the Son in hope. It means that we see people for their souls, that we dare to believe that God can and will again do what only God can do. It means that redemption still changes lives today, using weak and clumsy instruments to achieve his ends. This is at least a little bit of what it means to be spiritual in a material world.

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