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A Spirituality of Depth and Fruitfulness (Part Four)

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

It is not possible to experience depth and fruitfulness in our Christian lives without daily engagement with God through the Scriptures and prayer.  However, this does not mean that the Christian faith is just about “me and Jesus.”  Jesus’ call to abide in him was originally given to a group of his followers.  Jesus expects us to remain (collectively) in him.  How?  He tells us in verse 12: “12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

This command is a powerfully clarifying one within a society and culture that holds out many definitions of love to us.  Jesus makes it clear that he and his example are what love looks like. 

What does this command lead us into as followers of Jesus?

  1. It leads us into a commitment to a local church. While it’s a popular option to make faith nothing more than a personal matter, a Christian cannot follow Jesus alone. Jesus calls us to love other members of his body.  The local church is the arena of learning with and from each other how to love each other well.  It’s not without its headaches and hardships, but we cannot jettison meaningful commitment to a local group of Christians while also expecting depth and fruitfulness in our Christian walk.
  2. It leads us into greater spiritual maturity. This process of learning to love one another in the same self-giving, sacrificial, courageous, and generous way Jesus modeled takes time. We’ll have to learn patience.  We’ll have to learn to forgive others and bear each other’s immaturities and fault lines.  We’ll have to be prepared to be hurt as we enter into relationships that require vulnerability.  Perhaps most challenging of all, we’ll need to abandon a transactional view of relationships (i.e. “what’s in this for me?”) and adopt a covenantal expression of love (“how can I give and serve without strings attached?”).  Being meaningfully engaged in a local church isn’t easy, but it’s critical for any Christian.  As we obey this command Jesus will honour our commitment and bless us with depth of character and spiritual maturity that can be cultivated in no other way.
  3. It will lead us back into communion with Christ. To love others as Jesus loves us, we’ll need to return to the gospels again and again and discover how to love like Jesus. But more so, we’ll have to return to Jesus in prayer again and again as we come to see all of the ways we fail to love each other well.  We will learn very quickly that one cannot build genuine Christian community without building intimacy with Jesus.

 

Note: This reflection first appeared in the January 26th edition of the Nelson Star News.

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A Spirituality of Depth and Fruitfulness (Part Three)

In John 15 Jesus says,

7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

There is a mysterious, but powerful relationship between reading the Bible and prayer.  Jesus draws attention to the fact that if his words remain in us, our prayers have a power that lead to God’s glory and our lives being fruitfulness for Him.

The Bible is spiritual food.  In Deuteronomy 8:3, God reminds his people that “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  We need to feed on God’s word in order to avoid being spiritually malnourished.  In a similar way, prayer is oxygen to the Christian’s soul.  It is the process of learning to turn theology into experience, and develop a personal relationship with Christ himself.

But how do we do both in a way that is meaningful?  Many Christians want to read their Bible and pray, but many struggle.  I believe this is because we are often told what we should do, but are not instructed in how to do it.

If you are looking for a daily devotional structure that help you engage God through the Bible and prayer, try the following for the next few weeks:

  1. Pick one of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John). Head over to www.biblegateway.com if you don’t have a Bible.
  2. Read one chapter a day. Read the chapter slowly at least twice, but ideally 3 times, each time taking notes of what stands out to you.
  3. But instead of trying to figure out what to say, let the Bible teach you to pray.  Turn each verse (the little numbers at the start of some sentences) into a prayer.  Example: 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples can used to pray, “God, help my life to bear fruit that brings you glory. Help me to live in such a way that it is clear to others that I am a genuine disciple of Jesus.”  By turning each verse into a prayer, you’ll combat the three biggest obstacles most people encounter when they pray: a wandering mind, repetitive prayers, and boredom.

Reading the Bible and praying is the central way in which we abide in Christ.  This ritual, when done with a surrendered, obedient heart, leads to untold riches in our Christian walk.

 

Note: This reflection first appeared in the January 19th edition of the Nelson Star News.

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