Thursday, 2 March 2017

Beyond "Spirituality"

"I am the truth" 
Jesus (John 14:6).

Ever tried traveling in a vehicle with a troubling fault?
It doesn't even have to be that serious to be life threatening.

Some years ago, my late wife and I were heading back home in some pretty extreme conditions - thick mist and fog with that thin saturating rain - when the motor on the front windscreen wiper gave out. In a few seconds, it was impossible to see where we were going.

We can, hopefully, see the peril in everyday situations like this before they cause us any serious troubles, but similar perils appear to be something we can often be almost blind to when it comes to the condition and inclination of our own souls.

One of the key and essential truths that the Bible reveals about us all is that we all have a nature that determines that we will always veer towards darkness rather than light (Romans 1:19 onwards), to sin rather than to what is good (Romans 3:9-20), and thereby confirm that we are in a totally ruined condition, so how do you think we'll get on when it comes to loosing or choosing our religion? Interesting that Paul tells us in the first Romans passage I've mentioned here that this is the first place we can see the fault line that then allows us to go on to make all manner of other personally desired 'allowances'. This makes a lot of sense. if we have a 'god' (even if it's just our self-determination) which affirms our own core beliefs, then everything else (ethics, morals, cultural values and the like) will quickly fall-in behind that over-arching 'voice' as well.

All this matters a great deal when we come to consider current approaches and aspirations in what's voiced as 'nice' (having the right vibe) amidst the often zen-like popular harmonic that passes as valuable or acceptable 'spiritual' insight.

Collective 'belief making', principally through what's often posted in venues likes social media, blogs and other such venues has become a popular pastime. What is striking is to unpack what is going on as a result of this and similar modifying today. A US report of a few years ago came up with some interesting results. Here's a snippet:

Though the U.S. is an overwhelmingly Christian country, significant minorities profess belief in a variety of Eastern or New Age beliefs. For instance, 24% of the public overall and 22% of Christians say they believe in reincarnation — that people will be reborn in this world again and again. And similar numbers (25% of the public overall, 23% of Christians) believe in astrology. Nearly three-in-ten Americans say they have felt in touch with someone who has already died, almost one-in-five say they have seen or been in the presence of ghosts, and 15% have consulted a fortuneteller or a psychic. Nearly half of the public (49%) says they have had a religious or mystical experience, defined as a “moment of sudden religious insight or awakening.” This is similar to a survey conducted in 2006 but much higher than in surveys conducted in 1976 and 1994 and more than twice as high as a 1962 Gallup survey (22%). In fact, this year’s survey finds that religious and mystical experiences are more common today among those who are unaffiliated with any particular religion (30%) than they were in the 1960s among the public as whole (22%).

Of course, none of this is really that new - religion of all shapes and stripes (as long as they are 'nice') has always been in vogue (recall for a moment Paul's visit to Mars hill, and the comfortable fit between philosophy and numerous manifestations of worship). What is a little surprising here is how many professing Christians are making a great deal of accommodation for all manner of 'useful' ideas that are, in effect, contrary to the core message of the faith itself. This 'pick and mix' has certainly been evidenced many times before - Saul, for example, in the Old Testament, thought it might be OK to consult a medium when things got tricky for him. Solomon, after marrying countless wives and gaining a harem,  decided it was fine to play around with their beliefs as well, but these, and many other examples show us that the consequences are horrendous because such dabbling drives us right back to the human soul trifling with forces that have already imprisoned us.
With such dire consequences in mind, here are a few things to consider about the value of what's being shared as 'nice' in your neck of the woods...

The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that there is only one person and one place in all of heaven and earth, time and space, where you and I can be made free from our sin and severance from God - that is in the person of Jesus Christ and in His death and resurrection for us (Romans 3:21-26), so ask yourself this - when it comes to what I'm engaging with or promoting here, is it really pointing me and others to the Gospel of 'Jesus Christ and Him Crucified', or is it pointing somewhere else?

If what's going on is really talking about the nature of Christ and His redemption, then it's going to help us needy folk and do some good. If it's inviting us to head off down some other avenue of piety or enlightenment, then it's going to be a cul de sac, bending us back in upon ourselves, and that's going to bring the greatest pain of all.

The remedy to sin and death isn't easy - easter so starkly shows us that. The crucifixion was to deal with our ingrained condition - our sin. It was marked with a bruising of soul for our sorrows and iniquities. The true and lasting solution to our distance from the garden will come in the day of the new creation, when all the benefits of Christ's sacrifice are fully evidenced forever in a redeemed and renewed cosmos (Romans 8: 22 & 23). Until then, we are still bound by pain and corruption, and still know how venomous sin and death can be. The comfort is not in us. It is in Him who tasted death for us all that, finally, by His stripes, and only them, we may be healed (Isaiah 53: 3-12).

It so easy for us to 'channel' and proceed to mine the spirit of the age, but there is a far richer, deeper seam which God, in Christ, is wanting for us to discover and treasure.

As we approach another Easter, let's consider that.

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