Opening passage for consideration and contemplation:
“But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace AND knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Refer to entire 2 Peter 3 for fuller context.)
At the outset let me say that this may play like a broken record, but in our world of instantaneous gratification, we look for the quick fix, the easy convenient way to do things. We even prefer an Alka Seltzer spirituality in which “relief is just a swallow away”, a pill away, a teaching away, or a workshop away. We like the idea of hearing about God’s grace, but may not like to hear that the apostolic admonition also directs us to grow in the knowledge of God.
At each encounter with Jesus, He asked either “Who do you seek?” or “What do you want?” (See John 1:38, 18:4-7)
We do well to ask ourselves these questions if we are “seekers” on a spiritual path. What am I really after here – the long haul or the short slide? Is the real petition, “God, please just make the unpleasantries go away, and oh yes, bless my mess,” (as in, Jesus, I believe in the hereafter, but here’s what I’m really here after!) Or “Lord, please bring me to an ever fuller knowledge in You in uncompromising truth and holiness. Let’s get to the root of all my conflicts and eradicate them”? (See Matthew 3:10)
The other day I saw a documentary in which a “team” went worldwide – going into the highways and byways giving hugs, telling people God loves them, praying for them for healing, and casting out evil spirits. Certainly that seems OK. The jaded side of me, however, asks, Who bankrolled this? There are some well known talking heads making commentaries between scenes.
It impressed me for a couple of days, but then I began to ask, what happens to these souls once a “spiritual baby” has been made? Is this anything more than a spiritual one night stand, where new baby Christians are abandoned to their own ideas and devices? One has to wonder. Who is willing to disciple the little ones? Where are the fathers and mothers in “Israel”?
(See this additional article http://www.gospel.org.nz/index.php/articles/faith-messages/16-001-where-are-the-fathers-and-the-mothers)
Jesus puts it this way: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) And, “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)
He doesn’t say to just provide a spiritual Alka Seltzer, in the form of “God loves you. Can I pray with you?”, for the immediate headache and then walk away, as effective in the moment as that may be.
No, there’s more at stake here – a complete transformation is God’s intention, as St. Paul states it, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you.” (Galatians 4:19) “As a result we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 4: 14,15)
However, with the quick fix approach, the symptomatic pain keeps returning, building in frequency and intensity. It is the outermost symptom of its deeply seated spiritual cause, an internal conflict, a dis-ease. That’s where the real work has to be done! The spiritual one night stand will not alleviate that on any permanent basis. Only the lifelong commitment to being discipled, and the long haul of commitment to discipling on the part of mature “fathers and mothers”, can eradicate the deeply rooted etiology, through complete surrender to the Holy Spirit. Alka Seltzer spirituality will not fix this. It will take lifelong commitment to “spiritual chemotherapy” and the best that “spiritual integrative modalities” can offer, relentlessly combined!
As we consider this, may we reckon with Jesus’ words (Luke 14:25-35) concerning what discipleship really means and whether we’re willing to count the cost. Neither discipling nor being discipled is a spiritual one night stand. It’s the long haul willingness to take responsibility for the spiritual children God has put into your life. No small task. Not for the faint of heart.