This is a synthesis of my observations emanating from the contemplation of numerous texts over the past 12 months.
The Foundation of Faith:
Scriptures to be considered: 1 Corinthians 15; 2 Peter 1:1-4; Romans 8:1-11
The Death and Resurrection of Christ is the foundation of the Christian Religion. The task of the Disciple is not to develop new foundations for the Christian Religion but to dive deeper into the foundation of the Death and Resurrection of Christ. (See Wilken, Ortlund, Hull, and Clement of Alexandria)
Scripture then takes priority in our developing a deeper personal and communal union with Christ. For the Scriptures are not merely a collection of books, but as the Father’s treated them, are an Icon which draws us to the Face of God through their fundamental nature as being born from the lungs of God, essentially breathed by God for the life of the Church (See Wilken, R. Kent Hughes, Bridges, and Erikson). Holiness then must principally be understood as the effective separation of the self from the world, essentially becoming one who, through Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit according to the ordaining of God, is no longer of the world but is of Christ and is now in the world and not of it (See Bridges, Wilken, Hull, and Haidt). Ritual then, is the co-laboring of the disciple with the Holy Spirit both individually and communally to further holiness in pursuit of the perfected expression of Christ according to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the Sovereign plan of God coming to fruition. (See Erikson, Wilken, Ernz, Bridges, Estep and Kim)
All this then is founded upon the death of Christ which reconciles and restores sinful man to union with His Creator and redeems him not just to neutrality but to peaceable relations with God where the disciple’s inner emotional life is so transformed that One walks in the life of the resurrection even as the flesh and heart of the believer are daily crucified on the cross in union with the suffering of Christ.
The Growth of Faith:
Scriptures to be considered: 2 Peter 1:5-7
Faith matures in multiple avenues, with this reality I hold no disagreement, but in the interest of driving a point home regarding the troubling aspects of our approach to Spiritual Maturity, I will focus on the maturity of faith attained through consistent engagement in ritual comprised of the heart posture of true worship and the study and reading of God’s Word (See Tozer, Spurgeon, Hughes, and Hull). Christian Ritual can be seen in the life of every faithful and mature believer both now in the post-modern period and looking back through history to the life of Jesus and even further back into the lives of the Old Testament (See Erikson, Wilken, Clement of Alexandria, Spurgeon, and Hughes). Specifically, ritual exposure to the Holy Scriptures in the pursuit of Holiness breathes life into the Disciple, who identifies with Paul in the proclamation that “I have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). Exposure to the Scripture must be both devotional, intellectual, and ultimately worshipful for it to be ritual in the Christian sense.
The Devotional reading of the Scriptures ought to carry us into the convicting and uplifting presence of the Risen Lord through the carrying presence of the Holy Spirit. The Intellectual reading of the Scriptures ought to bring clarity and depth to our understanding of the Knowledge of God according to the Illumination of the Holy Spirit both in its meaning and significance for our lives. The Worshipful reading of the Scriptures ought to humble our hearts and bring us to a posture of prayer and praise as our hearts cry out to the Lord we have come before through the devotional reading of Scripture. These characteristics of the Christian Ritual of Reading Scripture are exemplified in many of the works produced by various persons in the church over the eons. When we read scripture this way we are pursuing Holiness, that blessed condition of the Christian Life where our beings are no longer of the world but are of Christ and are merely in the world as lights directing people to the True Light and Life found in Christ (See Erikson, Wilken, Estep and Kim, Hull, Ortlund, Clement of Alexandria, Tozer, and Bridges).
The Spread of Faith:
Scriptures to be Considered: 2 Peter 1:8-9; 1 Corinthians 14; Matthew 28: 19-20
Obedience to the Great Commission is established by the presence of true faith and grows in relation to the maturity a believer has in Christ. One of the great pieces of evidence of the presence of Faith is the burning heart for fulfilling the great commission, likewise, maturity is evidenced by a desire to edify the Church.
Taking both these statements into consideration alongside the literature referenced throughout the preceding sections it is perhaps most plausible to state that the Spread and Furthering of Faith come through the maturing of Christian Believers who show a burning desire to fulfill the great commission so that their passion may also serve to edify the Church. To borrow a recent statement from my own Spiritual Mentor, Phil Carlson, “If our churches lack members with intense faithfulness and passion… it says more about our discipleship practices and the gospel we preach than it does about the failings of the members themselves.”
We must do better to not only co-labor with the Holy Spirit in fanning the flames of passion for the great commission but also in the maturing of ourselves and fellow believers in the whole of the Christian life so that the Church may be edified as a whole body rather than a body comprised of weak and strong members.
- The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, Robert Wilken
- Participating in Worship, Craig Erikson
- Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges
- The Righteous Mind, Johnathan Haidt
- Lectures to My Students Volume 1, Charles Spurgeon
- Exhortation to the Heathen, Clement of Alexandria
- Disciplines of a Godly Man, R. Kent Hughes
- Christian Formation, James Estep & Johnathan Kim
- Discipleship and Conversion by Bill Hull
- Deeper, Dane Ortlund
- The Eastern Orthodox Church, Ernst Benz
- Discipleship, A.W. Tozer
- The Crucified Life, A.W. Tozer
- The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, A.W. Tozer
- 2 Peter 1:1-9
- 1 Corinthians 15
- Romans 8:1-11
- Genesis 1: 26-28
- Psalm 5
- 1 and 2 Timothy