In light of nonbiblical approaches to nurturing the spiritual life, such as centering or contemplative prayer, it does Christians everywhere well to understand true concepts of biblical spirituality. But as my Sabbath School teacher is fond of saying, “What does look like?” In this case, if I experience true biblical spirituality, how does it manifest itself within my life? Does it merely have vertical dimensions (how I understand and grow in Christ)? Or does it also have horizontal dimensions (how I relate to others)? I suggest four effects that grow out of true biblical spirituality—especially as it relates to ministers of the gospel:
1. Love for the God of the Word. As important as it is to study the Bible on a daily basis, a clear danger exists that one can turn Bible study into a form of salvation by works— another item on a to-do list that has to be accomplished. Furthermore, studying Scriptures without fully submitting to the guidance of the Holy Spirit can also lead to a person merely confirming his or her presuppositions about a given topic or idea.
Reading the Word does indeed reveal information about God; but reading it does not necessarily lead one to fall in love with Jesus—although it should. While rarely, if ever, discussed, the possibility exists that one can love the Word of God without loving the God of the Word. Paul speaks of the possibility of spiritual loss because individuals fail to “love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10). 1 Biblical spirituality compels me to love the God of the Word with my whole heart.
2. Total surrender to God’s will. If the love of self lay at the foundation of Adam’s first sin, then it is understandable why selfishness is our greatest internal foe. We, as pastors and preachers, face similar temptations—for example, comparing the size of our congregation(s) to those of others, or focusing on our titles or academic degrees. As a church member of mine from years ago said, “Grow where you’re planted!”
During Jesus’ last night on earth before His arrest and crucifixion, He poured out His heart’s desire to His Father in prayer; yet He closed His prayer by saying “‘Yet not my will, but yours be done’” (Luke 22:42). He willingly surrendered His way, His life, to God’s ultimate plan for Him. Biblical spirituality motivates me to not seek the path of least resistance but rather, to tread the path that God chooses for me to travel—regardless of how it might seem to inconvenience me.
3. Treatment of others as we wish to be treated. From childhood I was taught the golden rule of Matthew 7:12. This meant that I had to put myself in the other person’s position and ask myself how I would want the outcome of a given situation to turn out. Doing so requires selfsacrifice. It also requires that I open my eyes to see others—that their needs may well be greater and more pressing than my own. It requires that I not focus on myself and my professional interests—my career aspirations, as it were.
Jesus established the model of true servanthood in dealing with His disciples, articulated with these words: “ ‘The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ ” (Matt. 20:28). Biblical spirituality requires me to live the words of Paul: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).
4. Obedience. This comprehensive concept covers everything from complete fidelity to God’s will, born out of love for Him (John 14:15), to going out with the goal of making disciples worldwide. The first word of Matthew 28:19 in the Greek New Testament is an aorist passive participle best translated as “When you have gone.” In other words, there are some who wish to focus on the Acts 6 model that emphasizes the pastoral necessity of spending time in prayer and the ministry of the Word. But they can fail to properly accentuate the Jesus model of the Gospels—a Pastor who spent time with the people who were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). Biblical spirituality drives me to follow Christ’s method alone, which gives true success, and that involves mingling with the lost, desiring the best for them, and winning their confidence before bidding them to follow Jesus. 2
As we begin 2013, my prayer is that my personal and professional lives align with the will of God—as I see within so many pastors I have had the honor of meeting and knowing over the years. I desire true biblical spirituality. May that be the hope and prayer for all ministers of the gospel.
1 All Bible references are from the New International Version.
2 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1942), 143