With Unveiled Faces: Experience Intimacy with God Through Spiritual Disciplines

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Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone. Jesus and the early Christians practiced solitude. Just before Jesus began His ministry, He spent a full forty days and nights in the solitude of the desert.

He emerged in power. Even though He had only a few years to accomplish His earthly work, Jesus arranged His life so that He could slip away from His followers sometimes to be alone. Many of the earliest Christians took solitude so seriously they went into the desert to devote their full time to prayer and study. These desert fathers or desert hermits made great contributions to our understanding of Christianity.

They considered time alone with God so critical that they gave their whole lives to it. Most Christians today dismiss these desert fathers as wacky extremists. But our excess today is in the opposite direction—spending too much time with others and not enough time with God. After all, God Himself both embodies community in the Trinity and is solitary in His separateness from us.

The person who cannot stand to be alone is a danger to a group. Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned us of this in his wonderful book Life Together: If you want to try this discipline, the first step is to conceive of a place where you might go—a hermitage. Do you remember a hideout you had as a child? Now find one as an adult. If I were going to fast from people contact for several hours, where could I go to find solitude? Time alone has some benefits, but time alone with God is better. Work at turning your alone time into God time. He is more likely to unfold His words to you over time.

At the most, expect only one clear impression each time you slip away with God. You may not notice the effect of solitude immediately. The effect may not come for days or even weeks.

Spiritual Disciplines: Solitude

It may not come at all on the first time you try it. Give this discipline time to change you. You might follow up this reading by treating your daily commute differently. Or plan a walk by yourself this week. Or after supper one night, go sit on the porch for an hour or two, or close the door to your bedroom for a half hour in the morning and lie awake, alone with God. All of the disciplines are not for all the people all of the time. If you discover that the discipline of solitude is a powerful means of spiritual formation in your life, try it for a longer period: Solitude Allows Us to Reflect 2.

Solitude Strengthens Us for the Tasks Ahead. Talk about fear of being alone and how this plays out in our lives. We fill our lives with noise and distractions. We hate being alone. We look for things to constantly entertain us. We seek experiences to keep us constantly occupied. We need to be ok though, with being alone with God. It was a critical element of Jesus ministry. He sought solitude with God, to keep him centred in Him. At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness,.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places.

Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. When morning came, he called his disciples to him. When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.

Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone,. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. When evening came, he was [still] there alone. Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee.

Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. It is not a matter of ought but a matter of being compelled from love. Jesus demonstrates what he commands, and the prerequisite to all that Jesus commands is having the kind of life that, in increasing measures, spontaneously generates what he commands. Love marks the relationship of the Godhead Matthew 3: It marks the relationship between God and disciples John And love marks the relationships among disciples John Such love, belief, and hope enable the spiritually transformed disciple to live the kingdom life.

A disciple is marked by this love. This is the key state of the disciple that ushers him into right relationship with God, neighbor, and the world. Love is satisfied by being as close to its object of attention as possible by abiding in the very bosom of God. That is, Jesus loves; thereby one is enabled to love; this love further enables deepening love, and so on in deepening measures of love. Love is a continuing and ever increasing act. The promises of love are vast. This life expresses itself in love for God and man: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Paulist Press, , p. Jesus did not finish his work and then leave the church alone John God the Spirit is deeply interested in the individuals who comprise the local church as well as the church corporate. The church is the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. As they were then, the attributes of this life are now considerable and only found in a vital relationship with the church and the God of Life John 3: Speaking of this vital relationship, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy encouraged the Church in Thessalonica to walk in a way that was worthy of God.

You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea 1 Thessalonians 2: The Apostle Peter boldly names the source and foundation of such a life and 82 Ibid.

The disciples enjoy this life; and moreover, this life joins them as members of the same body, Christ Romans The body of Christ, or relationship within his body as community, is not an occasion for spiritual growth; it is a means of spiritual growth. Trusting in Jesus brings one into right relationship with him and all that his life contains and conveys. This right relationship draws the disciple into right relationship with the visible church in which building up and transformation takes place Romans It is the provision to remedy sin and to live a spiritually transformed and overcoming present life.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. All humans receive some form of spiritual formation. However, the formation is not always the same. The kind of formation that occurs is, in part, determined by the faith system that drives the formation or changes. The faith system need not be deistic for this formation to occur. The faith and beliefs one holds forms the individual no matter the validity or worthiness of the faith or beliefs. Transformation is used here to distinguish the changes that take place in a Christian versus changes that take place in those outside of the Christian faith or belief system.

There are major differences between the claims of Christianity for transformation and the claims of formation by other faith systems. Spiritual transformation is the spiritual change that takes place in a disciple as a result of the applied grace of God. It is an unmerited conditioning of a disciple in increasing measures to more closely mirror the image and likeness of God. Although ascent to or union with God may be the goal in spiritual transformation, any supposed activity or transformation is never a completed act in itself. Nor is it a place that is only enjoyed once some supposed level is reached up a ladder or by passage into the right room in a metaphorical castle.

That is, to experience, commune with, and enjoy the presence of God is not to be delayed to the end of a series of lifetime trials and disciplines. It is not unlike the beginning enjoyment of a newly married couple. They legally enjoy all the benefits and privileges of marriage. But there should be an ever-increasing depth of enjoyment in love, intimacy, knowledge, and all of the attributes of marriage. To borrow from inaugurated eschatology,85 spiritual transformation is a now and not-yet reality.

Foster and James Bryan Smith, eds. HarperCollins Publishers, , pp. Transformation is, by nature, a process that promises a full measure of what is available now. Your own human self, your personality, your body, is being reclaimed, so that instead of being simply part of the old creation, a place of sorrow and injustice and ultimately the shame of death itself, you can be both part of the new creation in advance and someone through whom it begins to happen here and now.

The Spirit is the strange, personal presence of the living God himself, leading, guiding, warning, rebuking, grieving over our failings, and celebrating our small steps toward true inheritance. The chrysalis becomes increasingly transparent until the hidden transformation is complete and a beautiful butterfly emerges. The detail corollary of this process to Christian spiritual transformation is clear but debatable as to its details. Any analogy pushed too far breaks down. It is a life filled with rejection, death, and resurrection. In increasing measures, the disciple experiences these three in reflection of an enriched and maturing communion with Christ.

The disciple is rejected, slain, and raised in Christ. Paul represents this process when he speaks of himself as raised in newness of life to live by the life of Christ Galatians 2: By the life of Christ, as conveyed by the Spirit, the disciple experiences a rejection from the world regarding which he is increasingly disabused Acts Furthermore, Paul was clear that the disciple has a different spirit and is increasingly out of harmony with the world Romans 8: He died to the allurements of the world Hebrews 2: Finally, the resurrection-life of Christ, on display by his bodily coming forth from the tomb, raises the disciple with him into newness of life Romans 6: Tyndale House Publishing, Inc.

This is the born-again life. It is the spiritual life in which disciples are transformed into the same image of the Lord Jesus Christ. He imparts this holy nature for you through himself. He imparts this holy nature to you as you live in union and fellowship with him. He did not suffer, die, raise again to enable you to produce a new nature by your own effort! If you could do that, Christ lived, died and rose again in vain! According to Paul, it is the seed of the transformed life destined for full maturity and expression of its co-heir, Christ Romans 9: This life, indwelt and empowered by the Spirit of God, brings all that Christ is to the believer.

It is the Spirit-filled and transformed life. Spirit-Baptism Roger Stronstad argues that charismata are more than a nice add-on. For him these are not optional or non-essential for an effective Christian walk and work. One might wonder, what of them is required. Hendrickson Publishers, , p. They are for equipping the disciple for service, in perpetuity, during the church age.

If Spirit-baptism and its attendant charismata are to be part of the answer for the pressing needs of the age, its experience must not only have relevance for empowered evangelism and other demonstrations of charismatic power, but Spirit- baptism and the Pentecostal-Charismatic experience must extend to a transformational life. This life in the Spirit empowers for both service and the transformed life. It is the life by which Paul urges his listeners to walk Galatians 5: Nowhere does Paul describe life in the Spirit as one of constant struggle with the flesh.

It is the transformed life when it manifests as fruit and not only as gifts.

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Sign gifts are important, but they must not be on display at the expense of, or in place of, the fruit of the Spirit. Such a display is grotesque. Power without the fruit of the Spirit leads to abuse, pride, and fall. Palma, The Holy Spirit: Gospel Publishing House, , p. Said differently, in this process there is a supposed indwelling work of the Holy Spirit toward transformation of the believer, particularly those living a Spirit-filled life.

It is the application of the Spirit of God, of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ to the disciple. They are evidences of the spiritually transformed life. Sheffield Academic Press, , p. Augustine was clearly able to both taste personal spiritual experience and to maintain the union of experience with theology.

His experience cannot be disjointed from his theology without doing grave damage to his masterwork. Experiences are not to be sought as though they were the ends but for their potential to unite the seeker with God. To affirm God in this knowledge ends in reflecting God. It is spiritual transformation. Augustine was expert in finding service for these experiences in a theological explanation.

However, Augustine is not suggesting some nebulous, nirvanic experience of the seeker melding into an unknown and impersonal god-energy to be found within the devotee. Augustine does not abandon personal intellectual life. Christian Science and Eastern thinking and philosophical idealism are counterfeits rather than total lies. These philosophies are totally wrong in their system and in their direction, but they are not stupid. The reason they trap man is not that they say nothing, but that they are perversions, they are counterfeits.

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Although we do not produce an extension of our essence, there is a revelation of ourselves, just as God did not create by an extension of his essence, but what he has created is a revelation of himself. Concerning man there is a body, and there is a real, external world. But the thoughts are first, and they are central. So this is where true spirituality in Christian life rests: It is a measure of Christian experience. He was an educational theorist and polemicist. Augustine spoke about the necessary role of Christ and the community expressed by the church as foundational to any possibility of ascending to ecstatic experiences of God.

Communal nurturing is essential to this goal. God desires intimate relationship with his creatures more intensely than they. Yet God is not simply wrapped up in an intimate relationship with his children. He is vitally interested and involved in their spiritual transformation and maturing. The loving mother is like the grace of God, for, as soon as the soul is regenerated by its new warmth and favour for the service of God, He treats it in the same way; He makes it to find spiritual milk, sweet and delectable, in all things of God, without any labour of its own, and also great pleasure in spiritual exercises, for here God is giving to it the breast of His tender love, even as to a tender child.

Community is at a number of levels and inclusive, both horizontally and vertically. It is community between disciples and the society in which they live, and it is community among disciples horizontally. Community is between God and his disciples vertically , and it is among the members of the Godhead horizontally. God as community is foundational to all that is community. By insisting that God is three-personed—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; God- in-community—we are given an understanding of God that is emphatically personal. The only way he reveals himself or works among us is personally.

God is personal under the personal designations of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and never in any other way. Never impersonally as a Force of Influence. Never impersonally as Ideas or Cause. The three persons of God, the Trinity, are persons in relationship. Neither he nor the disciples are separate entities, in a group of unrelated things, collectively called community. The relationship is not like a typical human community that is populated with separate persons and families, that is, persons or families that are without interaction or concern for those in the house next door or down the street.

The community and resulting personal relationship, between God and his disciples and the disciples with one another, is one of mutual care and love that has transformational results for the disciple and his community. In this community God is pleased to reveal his Son in his chosen vessels Galatians 1: This organic interaction results in spiritual transformation for the disciple. Spiritual transformation is the spiritual result, in a disciple, of the communal and personal relationship with God and other disciples transacted in the world.

It is a result of the gracious presence of God. Spiritual transformation is an unmerited favor and enabling for the disciple to more closely mirror the image of God in increasing measures. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified 1 Corinthians 9: As has already been discussed, everyone receives some form of spiritual formation. The following compares several faith-models against Christianity and the different formations they foster.

Formation is dependant upon and proves the source from which the respective lives are formed. The formation of a disciple is dependant upon a faith-model and its practices. Disciples of any faith, philosophy, or endeavor are expected to follow the dictates and practices prescribed by their respective dedications. Whether an individual decides who or what to follow, or is drawn in by environmental factors or inattention, everyone follows someone or something. Everyone becomes a disciple of a philosophy of life that is expressed by the tenets he speaks and especially lives.

This, admittedly, may be an eclectic collection of beliefs, parts of a number of philosophies or religions, or even a structure of agnosticism or atheism. All are born into a milieu, and all are standing on the shoulders of those who came before. Comparisons A small sampling of major alternatives to Christianity will suffice to demonstrate the conjecture that formation is a matter of faith-models. Although the comparison is limited by the nature of this thesis, the examples serve as illustration of some well-known expressions.

Muslims, Hindus, and agnostics are briefly examined, while, Judaism is addressed as foundational to Christianity throughout this thesis. Islam was established in the seventh century. It is a relatively simplistic and self-righteous religion, with strong hegemonous reflexes. Works are central to Islamic faith. They are prescribed by five pillars: Not only is he impersonal, but he also emphasized judgment to the exclusion of love, and he motivates people by fear rather than by grace.

So then, in addition to Muslim legalistic, unloving, and misogynistic propensities, its practitioners are formed by fear of a far, judgmental, and unloving God. For the Muslim redemption and any formation is a matter of righteous works. It is complex beyond paradigmic descriptions. Shifting and eclectic tendencies make it a difficult religion to characterize. Reincarnation and Karma imprison the devotee to eons of rebirth in an effort to work out karmic issues.

The goal is eventual union with the Hindu God, Brahma. An individual may be pantheistic, polytheistic, monotheistic, agnostic, or even atheistic and still be considered a Hindu. The Upanishads B. Brahma is impersonal beyond reach, infinite, omnipotent, and self-existent. Even so, the fatalistic mindset is still present. Each Hindu believes in some variant of an evolutionary process that eventuates in a Brahmic union. And so, the Hindu is formed by a belief in a transcendent and impersonal God. Brahma is a God that can only be reached through a whole host of incarnations filled with acts of righteousness to overcome bad karma and to earn a right of union with Brahma.

The Hindu is formed as fatalistic, works motivated, and in the world without God. The Hindu life is an eclectic formation. The various types of agnosticism, including, Deists that claim agnosticism, are not considered here. Although thinking agnostics try to remain neutral, their beliefs often lead to extreme criticism and sarcasm as a formation of the mind. It is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain neutrality. Usually one falls into the camp of believers in an ill-defined god or becomes atheistic.

Those who are successful to remain non-committal eventually form a mindset of doubt regarding most anything that cannot be subjected to empirical proofs. Spiritual Practices Spiritual practices, derived from both biblical and non-biblical sources, have been employed since the desire to placate and know God. Divinization here means to be as much like God in his communicable attributes as determined appropriate by him. The Crossroad Publishing Company, , pp. In spite of the promise, however, God is the superior and necessary agent in any enterprise undertaken to encounter him.

Reliance on him is required. Although the disciple may be adept at a given spiritual discipline or even many disciplines, it is God that enlivens the action. He is the primary person in the ever- growing relationship. At the core he is both means and goal. The sense of Presence is as if two beings were joined in one single configuration, and the center of gravity is not in us but in the Other.

As two bodies, closely attached together and whirling in the air, are predominantly determined by the heavier body, so does the Presence carry within it a sense of our lives being large part guided, dynamically moved from beyond our usual selves. Harper Collins, , p. In seeing God, a relationship with him is implied.

Spiritual disciplines focus on this lofty goal. Mysticism Christian mysticism will be considered the pursuit of communion and identification with the ineffable, of union with the ultimate universal truth, of reality, and especially of God. These conditions are secured by direct experience facilitated by special practices and disciplines, intuition, and insight. The Christian mystic is desirous of enlightenment. He endeavors to avail himself of this illumination, and, more profoundly, union, through such disciplines as prayer, meditation, fasting, and Guyon, Experience The Depths, p.

There are implications for the modern church presented by Christian mysticism. Mysticism has been a subject of suspicion and contention within the Christian church for millennia. The claims of mystical communities, their polemicists, and the elitist aura of them both often served to fuel a sometimes very contentious debate. Although the imperial church c. Some argue that Christianity itself was a mystical sect and aberration of Judaism. It is now broadly accepted, however, that Jewish, Hellenistic, and Latin influences are mainly responsible for the fashioning of the Christian church.

Revell Company, , p. Starting with the biblical record until the present era, there are many and deep historical precedents of practical spiritual theologies utilizing spiritual disciplines. These expressions include the controversial Emergent Church that strives to primarily serve the postmodern and un- churched. These are people who are more interested in being the Church than in going to church. They are more eager to produce fruit for the kingdom of God than to become comfortable in the Christian subculture.

They are focused on the seven spiritual passions that facilitate their growth as genuine people of God and citizens of the kingdom. Prayers, sacraments, glossolia, fasting, silence, community, union, meditation, and contemplation are but a few of the practices prescribed to assist the traveler on spiritual voyage. History of Western Christian Mysticism, vol. Internet; accessed 21 November Especially within Western cultures, many are attracted to spirituality and are not careful for its sources and inevitable accidents.

To this, many Christian practices have been added or re- introduced, along with modern disciplines such as psychotherapy, creating a cafeteria of choices that most believers will not rightly discern or make wise choices regarding. Many of those leaders openly blend traditional and new elements to form a spiritual syncretism. And some insist on a narrow-minded and inwardly focused tradition that does not allow for any intrusion and labels any as liberalism or redaction.

If it is possible to have a semblance of common Christian spiritual practices, then it begins with open dialogue. Most likely this is laying out a fleece that will not be visited by the gods of the present church movements. Besides, it can be argued, in light of various cultural expressions, that it is not desirable to have a single approach to the practices of Christian spiritual disciplines.

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In either case, testified by the biblical record, the issue must be addressed as a communal model. Christians were not intended to be solo seekers reaching for God who reveals himself as a community known as the Trinity. The book of Genesis records God in community 1: They are simply ways and means to communion with God. They are means by which to receive his grace.

Communion with God results in spiritual transformation into the same image as God. Some believe there are twelve basic disciplines. Foster and Emilie Griffin, Spiritual Classics: Once the traveler arrives at the city, the road is left behind. God desires an intimate relationship with his disciples. King David employed the disciplines of prayer and confession to first restore his relationship and communion with God.

Although David had committed grievous crimes against many of his subjects, especially Bathsheba and her husband Uriah, he centered on his sin before God: Vertical relationship with God must first be restored before the horizontal relationship with man can be effectively repaired. The ways and means of this communion, or relationship, may be debated and variously employed or even discounted; however, what is common among the various Christian spiritual expressions is an effort to avail oneself of the graces of God.

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More pointed, there is a longing to become like the first born from the dead Revelation 1: All who aspire for this grace are hoping for transformation, sanctification, even divinization as ends of the spiritual journey. Spiritual disciplines may serve to submit one before the very presence of God, but this experience of God finds its legitimacy in glorification and enjoyment of God as stated in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Any other experiences, no matter the source or claim, are distractions, or worse, false, delusions, or deceptions.

This interaction with God is the experience of life. As continued by Timothy, in these same passages, God is glorified in the expression of these attributes. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen 1 Timothy 6: However, the disciple soon becomes aware that there are hindrances to this encounter, Philip Schaff, ed. Baker Books, , p. Having removed the hindrances by confession of sins, communion with God is made possible. This experience of God, once enjoyed, is greatly coveted. Notwithstanding an understandable desire to remain in the sometimes- euphoric presence of God, God sovereignly appears to withdraw.

In reality only sensual experience is withheld. God is always present. This apparent withdrawal actually serves to make possible a deeper relationship with God, and thereby, a clearer and less encumbered presence of God. The inattentive bystander rarely notes any of it. This is the call of God and the privilege of the normal Christian life. It is deprived from a disciple only by his negligence to avail himself. The normal Willard, Hearing God, p. The Church The usual church model, whether Protestant, Orthodox, or Catholic, does not seem to support spiritual transformation as a priority; although, this is nothing less than making disciples Matthew Parachurch ministries exist to represent this need and to provide guidance for further spiritual transformation.

The various shoots of this support may be expressed as outside programs, guest speakers, or conferences. These are all allegedly designed and conducted for the benefit of the local church. However, as they are introduced, the offerings are from peripheral entities rather than an organic outgrowth of the life of the local church. It is not proposed here that parachurch ministries be removed. It is suggested, however, that the local church needs to begin to answer the call from within the community in which it is to disciple.

The normative outgrowth of discipleship is spiritual transformation. A local effort would result in a number of effects, not least being spiritual transformation of the disciple and spiritual leadership within the church community. God is glorified, people are saved and sanctified, the church is built up and edified, the kingdom of God is furthered, and the kingdom of the world is assaulted thereby. It seems that much is dependent upon spiritual transformation as aided by disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are concerned with our lifestyle or our practice of faith and faithful living. A spiritual rule of life is often cited as a necessary construct for a disciplined life in which to house the practices of spiritual disciplines.

The image sets in place rigid and immovable rungs that must be negotiated to a relationship with God. Any such rigidity introduces impediments to the action of the living Spirit of God. That is why a strong sacredotal system must always be wrong. We can never deal with God in a mechanical sense, and we should not deal with him on merely legal basis, though there are these proper legal relationships.

Our relationship with God after we have become a Christian must always be centrally a person- to-person relationship. Yet, they have an intrinsic allure. There is a natural tendency for the practitioner to become enamored with these practices. Any traveler on this road must take special care to guard against this cul-de-sac. Why then, insist that he must stay on the road when he has actually reached his goal? A rule of life does not provide immunity.

Disciples must first deal with personal sins. Access to God is opened and facilitated, in part, by these, especially by believing that God communicates with his disciples today. This trial comes even for those who are mature in Christ and have richly enjoyed his presence. This dryness may last for a long period. However, seeking God with the assistance of spiritual disciplines should continue. God is available regardless of feelings. Beginning with Prayer Prayer is basic.

Prayer is basic because it provides the primary language for everything that takes place on the way of Jesus. If we go to a shopping mall in North America, we speak English to get what we want. If we go to a restaurant in France, we speak French to order a meal. If we travel in Greece, we speak Greek to find our way to the Acropolis.

And if we decide to become Christians and follow Jesus, we pray. We pray because it is the only language we have for speaking to the God revealed in Jesus. It is also the only language we have for listening to the commands and blessings and guidance that God and we humans are most personal, most characteristically our unique selves, in our language. When language has to do with God and us, us and God, we call it prayer. There are various forms of prayer, some of which cause contention as to the acceptance and goodness of the particular form.

But the Christian community, on the whole, accepts prayer in its basic form without argument. At all times the Christian church has seen and experienced prayer as the most intimate form of communion between God and humanity. Christians live in the steadfast faith that God has given prayer as a way to his heart and they are truly convinced that God attentively listens to each individual.

The spirituality of payer is located between the extremes of crying out to God and Peterson, The Jesus Way, p. Westminster John Knox Press, , p. Hesychastic prayers are found as early as the fourth century being used by such church Fathers as Saint John Chrysostom. One well-used version of this hermitic prayer reads, "O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Prayer approaches and results in communion with God. The disciple prays and approaches God with a petition, intercession, thanksgiving, or supplication Philippians 4: It is, moreover, a sharing in the graces, deeds, and destinations of those prayed for. There is a participation in the life of the object of prayer. Indeed, when prayer becomes only a devotional exercise, it is no longer biblical prayer. There is a real, spiritual connection. That is, a disciple assists his own transformation by the prayers for his fellow disciples.

This is a mysterious reality but a reality nonetheless. Praying is an act of love and obedience to God. It is an ascetic division of mysticism still practiced by the Orthodox Church. It looks to develop divine silence, stillness, and inner prayer. When our reply to God is most direct of all, it is called adoration. Adoration is the spontaneous yearning of the heart to worship, honor, magnify, and bless God.

Fasting is a main discipline of the church in the pursuit of purification and communion with God. It is a means to bring into subjugation the passions of the flesh. By it, the disciple seeks to co-labor with God Isaiah These two, prayer and fasting, along with giving to the poor Deuteronomy A spiritual guide is also useful. The disciple may use a guide to facilitate spiritual activities in such areas as disciplines, the sacramental baptism, communion, confession , and communal life. This guide can be found in many traditions in various expressions and by various names.

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The spiritual guide, father, or director, is doctor, counselor, intercessor, mediator, and sponsor rolled into one. One desires that which is seen to be these. The simple and mundane activities of life teach this. Is that Person so holding your heart—are you so delighting in Him—that your whole inner life consists in hearing Him, in watching daily at His gates, and waiting at the posts of His doors? The grand secret of spiritual freshness and soul-prosperity is to have Christ so before the heart that we are attracted to Himself, with intense longing to know Him better.

Now, beloved, let us challenge our hearts as to this! Are we on the alert to improve our acquaintance with Christ? The great defect of modern Christianity is that there is so little affection for Christ.

Many hear what is called a clear gospel, and trusting the Person and work of Christ they get the assurance of the Scriptures that they will never perish, and this seems to satisfy them and they settle down upon it and go to sleep. There is not the earnest longing after Himself—the watching daily at His gates.

Did it ever occur to you that Christ values your affections? Coates; available from http: Internet; accessed 16 April If what has been discussed thus far is real and not a fancy of theology or the gyrations of the mind of the author and his sources, then there must be evidence of the effects of spiritual transformation. If God calls his disciples to live spiritual lives that are not possible apart from him, and if he provides for what he calls, then there should be some way of demonstrating the effects of this call and provision.

This evidence is seen in disciples living the Kingdom life. What is being called for is not something to be done only between God and man. The call changes lives. It even changes the life of the culture and world in which the disciple lives. Community was established as a foundational reality during creation.

The Triune God exists in community. And he brought forth his creation in community Genesis 1: God created people to live in community. In particular, God desires his disciples to live in communal fellowship. The spiritual life is a communal life that is an expression of the Kingdom. Regarding this community, Jesus said that the world would know his disciples by their love for one another John Our Christian life cannot properly exist apart from the body. Becoming a better Christian is not a matter of individual personal development.

It is growing in the body with the other members of it. Private prayers are important, but even in the most private enclosure we are always praying as a member of the body of Christ in communion with other members. Believers are saved into community. The body of Christ is the community of saved believers in communion with the Trinity. This community of fellowship, including Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and believers, is wherein salvation ushers new converts.

It is where spiritual transformation takes place. We can be in solitude precisely because we are already members of the transcendent community. Solitude and community are interdependent. Time alone with God, solitude, and private prayer balance and prepare the disciple for community. Community without solitude becomes a collective of dependency, and solitude without community becomes reclusive and unaccountable.

These are reflections of the spiritual gifts and fruit that are given by God and expressed by the individual in the church and in the world. The tradition and its beliefs, of which one is part, lead to spiritual expression that is colored by that tradition. Societal norms, culture, church government, and theology, represented by Christian denominations, are particularly powerful influences in this.

As stated earlier, divinization by Orthodoxy means to be as much like God in his communicable attributes as determined appropriate by him. Saint Gregory Palamas was credited in the fourteenth century with what many say is a scandalous theology. The Orthodox approach to spirituality is directed at intimacy with God leading to divinization.

What is more, the term spiritual transformation may appear to fall short of the Orthodox view of the goal of divinization. Major controversy attends any statement about a divinized man. The concept of divinization opens a discussion in which a great deal of care must be exercised or risk the label of heretic. Sinful and dead in trespasses Ephesians 2: It was not easily accepted that Jesus was fully man and fully God at the same time and for eternity.

The Zondervan Corporation, , pp. McGinn speaks of the significance: Making Moses the ideal mystic, the divinized man, marks an important moment in the history of mystical traditions, for both Jews and Christians, if only because it links the generalized and often abstract subjective apophaticism of the Hellenic tradition with the personal life story that could, at least in part, be imitated—the account in Exodus of how Moses ascended to meet God in the cloud and darkness that hung upon Sinai.

Orthodoxy focuses upon the need for adequate and empowered worship from those looking to join God in full communion. It claims that without divinization as the goal in mind, the seeker might become distracted by inadequate means. Orthodox teachers typically divide spirituality into three parts or phases, variously named. Purification, illumination, and union are adopted by this thesis to address these three. Each is ongoing, increasing, and deepening. Certainly, some level of union may bring about recognition of a need for deeper purification leading to further illumination.

A Guide to Christian Approaches and Practices, eds. Moon and David G. Benner Downers Grove, Ill: The interplay increases, blurs, and drives closer to the goal of divinization. The spirituality of the Orthodox Church centers on the healing of the soul, the restoration and fulfillment of the image and likeness of God in the human person. In the process the person grows into a relationship with God which is ultimately so intimate that it can only be described as union.

The initial dealing with sin is followed by a recognized need to mortify the tenacious flesh and its passions. Prayer and confession are the central practices for this goal. Noteworthy is the clarification by Saint Seraphim of Sarov c. They are merely means. The goal is to gain the Holy Spirit of God. This is where the Jesus Prayer is utilized. It is to pray without ceasing 1 Thessalonians 5: In part, the aim of illumination is to see God in nature and all things and inversely to see all things in God.

Union is the final phase of the Orthodox movement toward divinization. In this phase words and consciously directed prayer fall away. The union transcends manipulation; it rests in prayer. Although these individual acts have deep importance, the Orthodox Church is first a community for which sacraments is central.

Spiritual transformation is nurtured Ibid. In fact, its ascetic practices and piety inform its liturgical calendar. The Books of Common Prayer serve a central place in Episcopalian spirituality. The spiritual director and spiritual traveler are expected to use the various approaches found within these well known publications. Guidance for most occasions is found in their pages. Sacraments, Daily Office, the Psalter, Pastoral Offices, Offices, prayers, thanksgivings, catechisms, and historical documents containing creeds and articles of the church are all housed there.

Catholic, Anglican, and Episcopalian traditions share spiritual practices and historical church directors, mystics, and saints of the broad traditions. However, note that the High Church Anglican follows closely Catholic approaches to spirituality, emphasizing an incarnational model. The Low Church model non-Anglican or less Ibid. More directly, the Low Church emphasizes atonement. It is focused on daily spiritual life. The ordered life is the picture of what transformation looks like. The disciple must look there for examples of spirituality. Contrariwise, the traditional Catholic, Anglican, and Episcopalian approaches are generally inwardly focused.

Their goals and measures of spiritual success are to reflect Christ-likeness or transformation into the image of Christ. As already stated, they have a rich and ancient tradition in the philosophies and practices of their saints, mystics, and desert fathers and mothers. A large sampling of this wisdom from the desert fathers and mothers is preserved in the Wisdom of The Desert written before the end of the fourth century. Catholic spirituality is closely connected to the church, its sacraments, teachings, and guidelines.

This is based upon a trust that the Trinity is working in the church and in the believer. Extensive reference is made to the Bible and its examples for spiritual direction. Catholic, Anglican, and Episcopalian directors often point to such Scripture as the following: Jesus directs Nicodemus that he must be born again John 3: Non-conventional influences and practices have established firm footing in the Episcopal Church. Psychotherapy has particularly found a place. With an open door, Eastern and Asian practices have also found a welcome within Episcopalian spirituality.

Episcopalian spiritual eclecticism includes Taoism, Islamic Sufism, Yoga, Orthodox hesychasticism, breath prayer, and Kabbalah. It is an open system that suggests not every traveler needs to travel the same road as the other Temple Jr. Its various practices may selectively be applied to an individual as prescribed by a spiritual director. After early attempts at Protestant reconciliation with the Catholics, there grew an increasing suspicion of all things that hinted of Catholicism. This thesis takes a brief look at Protestant spirituality as represented in three groups.

Reformed, Wesleyan-Holiness, and Pentecostal- Charismatic. One can only speculate about the reasons for the lack of consistent language for spiritual practices. However, it is not because there is no interest in spiritual growth. A fault may be the early tendencies outside of the Reformation, especially among Catholics, for authoritarian spiritual directors to claim an exclusive access to God and all things spiritual.

These directors stood between the seeker and God. This leaning on reductionism endangered enjoyment of a fullness of the gospel. Spirituality in the Reformed tradition springs from deep gratitude to God for his redemptive work bestowed on the elect who were lost in total depravity. Exploring Biblical Spirituality, ed. This is a matter of the Trinity. Access is through Christ by the Holy Spirit to the Father. It follows that the spirituality of the Reformers was based in Scripture. It was not the function of a spiritual elite to alone enjoy Scripture and stand in the place of the believer.

For them spirituality emerges from the Bible in its revelation of Christ. This makes for a Christ-centered spirituality in which the follower puts full trust in Christ as revealed in the Scripture for all things including spiritual growth. Since man is saved by grace, it should be expected that spiritual transformation would come by the same means of grace. For the Reformed Church, Christ can only draw his redeemed into communion through disciplines and sacraments if these practices are supported by Scripture. Sin is the only hindrance to this process.

Although the common practices and vocabulary found in other traditions are only recently starting to find their way into the Reformed Churches, there is growing incidence. He became certain of his encounter with the immanent God and a salvation driven by his great love. The experienced love, to which he testified, brought assurance that would drive his theology.

This expectation is a coveted experience affecting what transformation looks like in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. However, it must be emphasized that there are three judges to any supposed experience. Scripture, the church, and reason are to judge the experience.

Wesleyans strive to avoid the spiritual abuses that, to them, seem to attend the spiritual director of other traditions; and therefore, a fellow traveler, a soul-friend, is often added to the mix. There are clear distinctions in areas not addressed here that if they were would necessitate separate treatment. The Pentecostal-Charismatic movement has a relatively recent history.

Pentecostal expression was founded in independent churches in the early s and tends to be conservative, followed by the less privileged of the world, especially now in developing countries. Charismatics find their beginnings in mainlines churches in the late s and early s, and they are relatively more free, open in their worship, and generally more affluent than Pentecostals. Care should be exercised with these generalizations to not oversimplify differences.

Even so, this thesis sets aside inapplicable differences for a spirituality that is common. Pentecostals-Charismatics find their spiritual expression and development more in corporate worship than individual pursuit. Exclusively living this experience and seeking refreshings too often dominates and mutes present blessings and spiritual transformation. Not grieving, but yielding to, the Spirit draws a believer into positive spiritual experiences with the Spirit of God.

Forceful leaders, bold prophets, and animated evangelists deliver a word, prophecies, and strong testimonies. Visiting evangelists, especially, receive attention for their delivery of excitement, renewal, and healing. This whole corporate process serves as a form of spiritual direction.

Additionally, spiritual deliverance from spiritual dark forces, oppressions, and generational sins are all manifestations of the results of these workers. Regardless of this potential disconnect between the spiritual and maturity, Pentecostals-Charismatics have developed empathy for the hurting and a deep social conscience that is often expressed toward the outcast, the ill, and disenfranchised. Sanctification is thought to be a process occurring over time by some groups e. This kind of serving within their close communities is encouraged and key to access and opportunity to facilitating spiritual transformation.

An inclusive community, in which it is safe to give testimonies by those having dealt with crises and tragedy, better enables this. Anyone professing a position of director or guide is to provide guidance on the way of peace regarding these issues. He is to help the disciple discern subjective or non- supportable experiences from the genuine work of the Spirit. Jesus offered participation in and cooperation with the kingdom. He offers this same privilege to his willing followers today. The kingdom is where God rules; it is where his will is heeded and accomplished.

This principle is mirrored in human Ibid. That is, a person has a kingdom to the extent that his will is done within some defined sphere. There is no one without an exercise over some small or large measure of effective will. God speaks to every individual through what happens to them moment by moment. He never gives us a second moment without taking away the first. And he never grants us that second moment without holding the third one in his hand, leaving us completely uncertain as to whether we will have it.

Time is given to us to prepare for eternity. Eternity will not be long enough for us to ever stop regretting it if on the earth we have wasted time. The disciple is obliged to seek God for care, guidance, and grace to live the kingdom life. They are intended to facilitate spiritual transformation that results in an enhanced relationship with God and thereby further a desire to be with God and do Ibid. A well-known example of this practice of discipline in the kingdom life is prayer. It is not only an exercise in time, but it is an expression of the kingdom life as lived in the eternal.

Anything that has the mark of the mechanical upon it is a mistake. For the fact is that the Christian Life, true spirituality, can never have a mechanical solution. The largest common practice was a state of disciplined prayer without Kelly, A Testament Of Devotion, p. This was a devotion intended to bring the devotee into intimate communion and union with God. They and many others speak of an evident need for a reapplication or regaining of the early mystical practices. Various kinds of occultic spirituality are increasing.

Yet a brief evaluation of those claiming Christ exposes a want of evidence of any general or large examples of encounter with God and subsequent kingdom living Matthew The living described in the Sermon on The Mount should result from an encounter with the living God. Such a living should be the proof of this extraordinary and privileged encounter. Yet this testimony is hard to find in any large measure in this dark and dieing world. The light and salt of the Christian witness is too often absent from the affairs of this world.

Rather, they are usurped by the abusive and godless powers of another kingdom. Da Capo Press, , pp. The discipling church practices the presence of God and lives from the very being of the God it experiences. Such a church, peopled with these kinds of disciples, is equipped to make disciples in turn and not simply converts left to their prior godless means. Williams speaks to a profound, but too often neglected, point within the body of Christ. It is selfless, even sacrificial to facilitate an opportunity for others to encounter the life-giving presence of God.

He is speaking of discipling. What if the real criteria for a properly functioning common life, for social existence in its fullness, had to do with this business of connecting each other with life-giving reality, with the possibility of reconciliation or wholeness? It is the right and good thing to do. It is to become equipped to love God and neighbor. New Seeds, , p. Loving God and neighbor is to fulfill the law. If you are a Christian, you are in Christ, and Christ himself is in you.

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With Unveiled Faces: Experience Intimacy with God Through Spiritual Disciplines With Unveiled Faces: Experience Intimacy with God Through Spiritual Disciplines
With Unveiled Faces: Experience Intimacy with God Through Spiritual Disciplines With Unveiled Faces: Experience Intimacy with God Through Spiritual Disciplines
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