Spiritually dry or spiritually rich?
Spiritually dry or spiritually rich?
Although I hope we all desire to live a life of deep spiritual joy, many of us know people who have gone through a time of spiritual dryness or have experienced that dryness ourselves. To some extent, spiritual ups and downs may be part of the Christian life, but could it be possible to avoid or at least minimize these spells of spiritual dryness? 2 Peter 1 seems to give us a clue.
- 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I’m not going to give a full explanation for this passage here, but I do want us to consider what it might teach us about God’s provision against spiritual dryness. Verse 9 describes someone so spiritually dry as to have “forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” But, as a child of God it is possible to avoid this dryness… this nearsightedness. In fact, according to verses 3-4 God has “granted to us” everything we need to become “partakers of the divine nature.”
In scripture we find that God has appointed specific ways for us to grow and become rich in our spiritual life, including the Word of God (Rom. 10:17, Acts 20:32), baptism (Rom. 6:3-5), the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:26), and prayer (Hebrews 4:15, 1 Tim. 2:1) These “ways” (or “means”) are sometimes referred to as God’s “Means of Grace” and are described more fully in our confession (LCF 1689). Note, I am not talking about the Roman Catholic understanding of “means of grace,” by which the church and its priests dictate what must be done to earn God’s grace. Quite the opposite! Among reformed evangelicals “means of grace” is not about us earning God’s grace (which is entirely unbiblical). Indeed, we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The “means” are simply the tools God uses to produce, grow, and fortify that faith in us.
So, what happens when these means of grace from God are neglected? What happens when you are not partaking of the divine nature that God gives to his children? You dry up, you begin to lose your joy, interest in church attendance begins to wane, prayer ceases, reading the word of God virtually stops. Why? Because you are not connected to the community of God and His means of grace in your life--the very things He has provided as a continual reminder of Christ’s death in your place and your new life in Him.
We need to realize that our "private" spiritual state does not happen in a vacuum. These sanctifying gifts from God all happen in community. We can not experience baptism in private, it happens in community as a public testimony to our burial with Christ and resurrection to new life (lest we forget). We can not experience the Lord's Supper in private, it happens in community as a testimony to one another of Christ’s body and blood shed for sinners (lest we forget). While it is vital to read the Bible on your own, the preaching of God’s Word happens in community as a continual reminder of the gospel we have professed. And while private prayer is certainly important, corporate prayer lifted in unity edifies the church and reminds us that we are connected as one body (Eph. 4:15, 1 John 1:3).
Do you want to avoid spiritual dryness?
1. Embrace the gifts that God has ordained for your growth. Look at passages like 2 Peter 1 as fruit and evidence of the growth you should be seeing in your life as you experience God’s means of grace and conform more and more to the image of Christ.
2. Stay connected and active in a church body. Those who think they don't have to go to church but instead can worship on the lake all by themselves, just watch TV pastors give sermons, or disconnect from the church and go it alone may want to think again. Experiencing God in community through the means of grace is important. It is God’s revealed method of sanctifying His children and we ought not try to replace it with more exciting man-made alternatives.
3. Make sure your church centers on these means of grace. Churches that minimize prayer, neglect the Lord’s Supper, trivialize baptism, or replace the preaching of God’s Word with inspirational stories or entertaining anecdotes are attempting spiritual growth apart from the ways God revealed to us in scripture. As a result, they may be inadvertently shielding people from the very things God uses to grow His people.
Yes, preaching can sometimes be boring. Prayer can be downright hard. But, I find joy in the means of grace because I know that I am connecting to Christ and his body and together we are reminded over and over again of the hope we have in Christ. Now that is rich. :-)
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