|Spirituality For Life|
|Page: A Spirituality Sequence|
A SPIRITUALITY SEQUENCE
Spirituality, at its foundation, involves a relationship with the Divine. In this, a person typically senses a movement of the Spirit in their life – this can take many forms but is often evidenced through a hunger for meaning and purpose in life. Spirituality, then, would be more than simply adopting a set of spiritual practices or beliefs – although this may be where a person begins. For spirituality to give meaning, purpose, and shape to one’s entire life, an understanding of Divine working in a person’s life is needed.
The Holy Scriptures show a breathtaking sequence, given in five phases, from God’s foreknowledge of a person (even before their birth) to their ultimate destiny – a final glorious transformation of mind, body, and spirit in the Kingdom or Reign of God. This progression stretches from eternity past, through the present, into future eternity.
This sequence is given in the book of Romans 8:29-30:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (emphasis mine)
Briefly, this foundation for a spirituality for life may be described as follows:
At some point in past eternity, before the creation of the world, God has known each of us intimately. He knew us before we had any knowledge of him – and created and chose us to be who we are by his grace (“this grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” – 2 Timothy 1:9). At conception, he gave each of us our human spirit (at death, it returns to God the Father – Ecclesiastes 12:7). The Sacred Word reveals that God is the “God of the spirits of all mankind” (Numbers 16:22, 27:16). This foreknowledge applies to all humans.
In the context of Romans 8:29-30, God predestined us to moral conformity with the likeness of his Son. The NIV Study Bible adds: “The reason God foreknew, predestined and conformed believers to Christ’s likeness is that the Son might hold the position of highest honor in the great family of God.” In other words, God predestined us to become like Christ and to be a part of God’s family or Kingdom.
A person’s calling in life occurs by pure grace and is a gift in God’s time. One is reminded of our Lord’s words: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” and “no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him” (John 6:44, 65). In God’s mysterious way, he personally begins to work with a person to prepare them to be receptive to his call at a given point in life. Using various events and circumstances, God works behind the scenes in a person’s life, sometimes unbeknown to them for a long, long time.
God opens a person’s mind through the Holy Spirit. Evidence of this may include God becoming more real than ever before and the Scriptures suddenly starting to make sense. This is followed by a person becoming deeply convicted and making a commitment to follow God’s way. Sometimes, there may be an instant when a person is called – convicted. Other times, the calling may take place over longer time as the person studies the Scriptures, meditates on them, and proves to themselves the newly understood truths.
All this is God’s working in a life. Notice what St Paul writes: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:4, emphasis mine) Later he wrote that in dealing with people we hold “the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25, emphasis mine).
Justification is the new state that a person now lives in. The apostle Paul describes this as follows: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2, emphasis mine).
In sum, justification includes forgiveness, reconciliation (with God and others), redemption (being redeemed from the death penalty which our sins have incurred – Romans 6:23), and sanctification (being made holy). Again, the Sacred Word shows that “it is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33, emphasis mine). Justification means that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Glorification is the final phase. The NIV Study Bible states: “Since this final stage is firmly grounded in God’s set purpose, it is as certain as if it had already happened.” At the end of this physical life on earth, being glorified involves the resurrection, in which a person is made immortal:
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, emphasis mine)
How exactly God works to bring about this progression from eternity to eternity in each person’s life remains part of the glorious mystery of God. The Sacred Word shows that there are “secret things [that] belong to the LORD our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
As we look at life, we sense and know that there are people who are aware of a divine calling in their life. Others do not seem conscious of a spiritual side of life – but this may only be an outward appearance. However, as humans we simply do not know how the Spirit of God works in any person’s life. Using the analogy of wind for the Spirit, the Bible shows that “the wind blows wherever it pleases” (John 3:8). For some, the Spirit begins to work in their lives from an early age; for others, it may be later in life or even on their deathbed when God’s glorious destiny for them is embraced. Such was the case with the one of the thieves on a cross next to Christ.
Finally, the Sacred Scriptures show that all will be raised from their graves (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Perhaps, for some, it will only be at that time, as they stand before their God, that they will grasp the ultimate reality of life – and as they fall in awe before their Creator, his mercy and grace will be lavishly extended to them and they will enter into life everlasting with indescribable joy. We know that God is love and that he desires all to come to him and be saved (2 Peter 3:9). How it will all work out for each person is a Mystery to be respected, again remembering that there are secret things that belong to the Divine, and that have not been revealed to humans.
May each of us deeply reflect on and ponder our life’s journey. The spiritual dimension of our lives may indeed hold the very call to a fresh view of the world and a new way of living that we have been searching for. And, at the heart of the matter, we will find a Person who describes himself as gentle and humble in heart – the Person known in history (but yet gloriously alive today in the cosmos) as Jesus Christ. This Jesus, somehow not often written about in articles on spirituality, is magnificently described as “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3).
Note: All Scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV).
Photo credit: Intellimon Ltd.
© Alexander Peck, 2011