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Steps towards spiritual growth? Try again

May 08, 2015
Benjamin Spalink

Ten steps towards spiritual growth.  A program of discipleship.  The sinner's prayer. I could go on and on. A model for church growth.

Tell me how to inherit eternal life, the rich young ruler said to Jesus (Mark 10:17). A natural question, really. Isn't that what we want? Instructions!  Steps. A formula to follow. The older I get, the more I encounter the utter failure of programs and steps and models.  The world is so much more complicated, isn't it? Nothing works as it's supposed to. You try the steps and realize the heart of what you're after is still missing. The problem is that in an effort to be helpful, those who seem to be successful are lured into offering us lesser beings an explanation of what worked for them.  We take it literally.  We want it to work for us too, so we write it all down and follow the script.  This is pretty close to the hollow and deceptive philosophy of man that Paul cautioned against in Colossians 2. It's all about "things we do" to get "things we want."

But spiritual growth can't be made into steps or formulas.  Sometimes I ask my wife, just tell me what you need me to do to make you happy. I want her to be happy. It never works. It's demeaning for me to expect her to be happy just because I do certain things for her. Just doing things usually misses teh deeper needs she has to be noticed, respected, listened to, and cherished by me.  Apparently Jesus feels similarly because he shoots down this man's attempt to make his own salvation a matter of doing x, y and z. So if there's no steps, then what do we do?

The answer is both easier and harder at the same time.  Die, says Paul.  Die to your doing. Die to your attempts. Die to your sin. Die to yourself, your desires and your wants.  Die with Jesus.  Then rise with him!  Live a new life.  Rise to new desires and ambitions.  Rise with knowing that in Christ, you already have everything you need. Rise with the Gospel.  Rise with his Kingship.  He is the fullness of God's divinity, and that fullness is in you already (Colossians 2:9-10).  What would it look like for us to stop asking for a model and begin embracing a relationship? What would it look like to stop "trying" and start "dying?"  What would it look like for us to stop striving for what we want and realize the glory of what we already have?

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