Biblical Spirituality in 2022

This post begins a new study of Biblical Spirituality. Please check here from time to time for short installments on what the Bible says about being “spiritual” and how to live a spiritual life—the kind of life that God wants every Christian to live.

Living a God-honoring spiritual life is not easy. I heard the story of a boy who saved up to buy very expensive ice hockey skates—the kind worn by the pros. He learned that those expensive skates didn’t make him a better skater than he’d been with his old skates. The lesson is that you can have the best skates in the world, but if you reject instruction, regular training, and practice, you’ll be a mediocre hockey player.

God has given every believer the equipment we need to live godly spiritual life. (According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: II Peter 1:3.)  Like the kid who bought expensive skates, we also need to avail ourselves of instruction, training, and practice with the spiritual tools God gave us:

  • The indwelling Holy Spirit as our guide—if we will listen to Him.
  • Jesus Christ is with us every step of the way—we need to stay close to Him.
  • The Bible has timeless, practical instruction for daily living—if we read it and obey it.

So what is needed for us to use that treasure chest of equipment that God has given us?

Answers to that and other important questions are ahead in 2022!

==============

Recommended references:

He that is Spiritual by Lewis Sperry Chafer

Balancing the Christian Life by Charles Ryrie

The New Nature by Renald Showers

Hope for 2022!

My expectation for 2022 is that the LORD will return soon!

“Even so, come Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20b

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying,

Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men,

and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people,

and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;

and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying,

neither shall there be any more pain:

for the former things are passed away.

Revelation 21:3-4

“The Highway of the Seed”

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,

the evidence of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

It is the time of year when we look to the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus – a season of FAITH and HOPE. I find myself going back to chapter three of the book of Genesis where I see the first promise of a future Blessed One sent from God who will crush Satan once and for all and save mankind from the sin that every one of us inherited from our parents going back to Adam and Eve.

 “And I will put enmity

Between you and the woman,

And between your seed and her Seed;

He shall bruise your head,

And you shall bruise His heel.”

Genesis 3:15

Thus began an unbroken, scarlet thread running through history as the seed of the first woman (Eve) was passed down to male offspring from generation to generation. This “Highway of the Seed” * was divinely preserved until Jesus Christ (the Messiah of God) was born in Bethlehem.

“But when the fullness of the time was come,

God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,

made under the law.”

Galatians 4:4

 

“…behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream, saying,

‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife,

for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

And she will bring forth a Son,

and you shall call His name Jesus [Savior],

for He will save His people from their sins.’”

Matthew 1:20b-21

But the story does not end with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The sinless Son of God grew up and went to the cross to shed His blood for the sins of the whole world. The Highway of the Seed continues today in all who put their faith in Him! You can be saved today by believing in Jesus who died for you.

“…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus

and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead,

you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness,

and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek [non-Jew],

for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.

For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”

Romans 10:9-13

=================================

* I’m not sure where I first heard the term “The Highway of the Seed.” Like “The Scarlet Thread of Redemption,” it is a memorable phrase for the eternal plan of God to send His Son into the world to save sinners in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. Satan used every evil trick to corrupt the physical line of the promised Savior and he failed! Wars, plagues, drought, famine, disease, corruption, betrayal, murder, incest, and every demonic sin imaginable could not end the godly Messianic line. When Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem it caused all the angelic hosts to break into a heavenly chorus – Glory to God in the Highest!

 

Final Words on Contentment

Not that I speak in respect of want:

for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am,

therewith to be content.

Philippians 4:11

We’ve spent 2021 looking at what Pastor Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) had to say about Learning Christian Contentment in his book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. One thing I’ve learned in this year of Covid 2.0 is how difficult it is to be truly content with what God is doing in our lives. I will be honest that I find it discouraging sometimes to see how God is working in the lives of other believers. When I find myself being critical or judgmental, I need to stop and say to myself, “Let God be God! Let Him work out his plan in me and in others through this pandemic. Leave it all in His hands.” This has been a year to observe the contrast between the sinful works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) and of the Holy Spirit (2:22-23). Because of what I’ve seen in myself and in others during the past year, I want to be more spiritual. We will examine the topic of Spirituality in 2022!

 

A few final encouraging words from Jeremiah Burroughs:

“I have spent many sermons on this lesson of contentment, but I am afraid that you will be longer in learning it than I have been preaching of it: it is a harder thing to learn it than it is to preach or speak of it. I have been thirty-eight years learning this lesson and have not learned it thoroughly. The truth is, there are many, I am afraid, who have been (believers) near eight and thirty years, who have hardly learned this lesson.

“Contentment is a necessary lesson for a Christian. Paul said, he had learned in all estates therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11). Oh, do not be content with yourselves till you have learned this lesson of Christian Contentment, and have obtained some better skill in it than heretofore.”

 

How to Attain Contentment – Part 4

I am crucified with Christ:

nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:

and the life which I now live in the flesh

I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me,

and gave himself for me

Galatians 2:20

This last list of suggestions from Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) on Learning Christian Contentment has gems of wisdom for our consideration.

Number 15 (below) is a truth that holds forth the sanctification of every believer in Jesus Christ. Romans chapter 6-8 are too often overlooked. They speak of our “co-crucifixion” with Christ (Galatians 2:20 above). When Christ died-we died with Him. When Christ was buried-we were buried with Him. When Christ rose from the dead-we rose with Him. When God saved us we became so identified with Christ that we are in Him and He is in us. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (John 15:4).

 

  1. Do not reckon on too great things. Paul says, ‘And having food and raiment let us be therewith content’ (I Timothy 6:8). He did not soar too high aloft. Those who look at high things in the world meet with disappointments, and so they come to be discontented. Be as high as you will in spiritual meditations; God gives liberty there to anyone of you to be as high as you will, above angels. But for your outward estate, God will not have you aim at high things; as the Lord said to Baruch, ‘And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not’ (Jeremiah 45:5). ‘For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith’ (Romans 12:3).

  1. Labor to get your hearts mortified to the world, dead to the world. We are baptized into the death of Christ (Romans 6:3-5) that is to signify that we have taken such a profession as to be professed to be even dead men to the world (Colossians 2:20-23). The things in which our happiness consists are of a different kind, and we may be happy with these; this is a kind of deadness to the world.

  1. Let not men and women pore too much upon their afflictions: that is, busy their thoughts too much to look down into their afflictions. You find many people, all of whose thoughts are taken up about what their crosses and afflictions are, they are altogether thinking and speaking of them. It is just with them as with a child who has a sore: his finger is always on the sore; so men’s and women’s thoughts are always on their afflictions.” ‘Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things’ (Philippians 4:8).

  1. Do not so much regard the fancies of other men. For the reason of our discontentment many times is rather from the fancies of other men than from what we find we lack ourselves. ..almost all the discontent in the world is rather from the fancies of others than from the evil that is in themselves. Oh, do not let your happiness depend on the fancies of other men!

  1. Be not inordinately taken up with the comforts of this world when you have them.” ‘For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows’ (I Timothy 6:10).

 

How to Attain Contentment – Part 3

This next-to-last lesson from Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) on Learning Christin Contentment fits well with my topic for 2022! Using terms from a different century, he touches on things like the Christian’s relationship to the evil world system (Greek – cosmos), contentment is living by faith, and being spiritually minded

In January we will examine this critical question: “What does it mean to be spiritual?” God instructs us to live our lives “in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16), but what does that mean? The answer to that questions is foundational to living the Christian life the way God wants us to live it. Stay tune!

Set your mind on things above,

not on things on the earth.

Colossians 3:2 (NKJV)

Burroughs gives us five more considerations for attaining contentment:

  1. Do not grasp too much of the world. Do not take in more of the business of the world than God calls you to. Do not be greedy of taking in a great deal of the world, for if a man goes among thorns, when he may take a simpler way, he has no reason to complain that he is pricked by them. Must you of necessity go among the thorns of the world? Then it is another matter. But if you choose to walk among the things of the world, you will meet with disappointments and discontentments in everything we meddle with.

  1. Be sure of your call to every business you go about. (Ephesians 2:10) Though it is the least business, be sure of your call to it, that whatever you meet with, you may quiet your heart with this: I know I am where God would have me be. Oh, this will quiet and content you when you meet with trouble.

  1. Walk by rule in the work that I am called to. I must walk by the Word of God and order myself in this business according to God’s mind as far as I am able. Let men and women keep within the bounds of the command of God, of the rule that God has set them in his Word. But if they go beyond the pale, if they pass their bounds, then they may expect to meet with troubles, and afflictions, and discontentment. [I understand that Burroughs is not advocating legalism here. God’s Word is to be our guide in all we do in life. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105]

  1. Exercise faith. A life of faith is the way of contentment. Master Perkins said, ‘The life of faith is a true life.’ Exercise faith, not only in the promise that all shall work together for good to them that love God (Romans 8:28), but likewise exercise faith in God himself, as well as in his Word, and in God’s attributes [loving-kindness, mercy, grace, etc.]

  1. Be spiritually minded. Meditate on things above and not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:2; Philippians 2:5-11). Many Christians who have an interest in the things of Heaven converse very little with them. Their meditations are not much upon heavenly things. (Psalm 63:5-6)”

 

 

How to Attain Contentment – Part 2

And Jesus saith unto him,

The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests;

but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

Mathew 8:20 (KJV)

As these lessons in Learning Christian Contentment draw to a close, our instructions from Jeremiah Burroughs arrive at recommendations about “How to Attain Contentment.” My next few blog posts will divide each of these into two short sections that will bring us to the end of the lessons on contentment and the end of 2021. Watch for the last post in December for a peek at the topic in view for 2022!

Burroughs continues with four more considerations for attaining contentment:

  1. “Consider the condition that others have been in. Moses might have had all the treasure in Egypt, and some historians say of him, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him for her son, and so he was likely to have come to the crown. Yet what a low condition he lived in, when he went to live with Jethro his father-in-law forty years tending sheep in the desert! …the great instruments of God in the first Reformation lived in great straits, in a very low condition. But above all, set Christ before us, who professes that the birds of the air had nests, and the foxes holes, yet the Son of man had no place to hide his head, such a low condition was he in.

  1. “Consider that, before your conversion, before God wrought upon your souls, you were contented with a world without grace and you had no interest in God nor Christ. Why cannot you now be contented with grace and spiritual things without the world?

  1. “Consider, when God has given you such contentments in the past that you have not given him glory. When God has given you your heart’s desire, what have you done with your heart’s desire?

  1. “Consider all the experiences that you have had of God’s doing good to you even though you have lacked some comforts. It is true, when ministers only tell men that God will work good out of afflictions, they hear them speak and think they speak good words, but they feel little or no good. They still feel nothing but pain. When I tell you that God will work good out of your affliction, have you yourselves not found it to be so by your own experience? Think this to yourself: Lord, why may not this affliction work as great a good upon me as other afflictions have done in the past?”

I have seen this last consideration in my own life and in the lives of others. A woman’s husband went through the suffering of a heart attack, surgery, and a full recovery only to praise God that the experience worked so powerfully in his life that he could not imagine being as close to God as he was if he hadn’t gone through that experience. A woman I knew went through treatments for pancreatic cancer and before she died she testified that her daily prayers and time in God’s Word were the best she’d ever had in all her years as a believer.

I think of the chorus to the hymn, His Yoke is Easy by R.E. Hudson where he reflects on the yoke that God placed on him and found from experience that it was not a harsh, crushing burden, but an easy yoke and a light burden because God was with him each moment.

His yoke is easy; His burden is light.

I’ve found it so; I’ve found it so.

He leadeth me by day and by night,

Where living waters flow.

 

 

Gentle and Lowly

This excerpt is from the first chapter of a book that someone from my church recommended during a difficult time in my life. We can’t undo things we’ve said or done in the past that harmed people or things they said that harmed us . People quote Philippians 3:13-14 and say, “Well, what’s past is past” or “Just look to the Lord and the future.” They mean well, but that’s hardly a comfort when feelings are raw and emotional pain is real.

I turn to Hebrews 4:14-16 when things grow darkest and remind myself that Jesus Christ, our High Priest and Intercessor in Heaven, also suffered intense emotional rejection and sympathizes with our pain and suffering.

The author of the book from which this is an excerpt uses the ESV translation of the Bible which I find acceptable, although not preferred. May the Lord bless you with these words.

 

“…in only one place—perhaps the most wonderful words ever uttered by human lips—do we hear Jesus himself open up to us his very heart:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30 – ESV).

“In the one place in the Bible where the Son of God pulls back the veil and lets us peer way down into the core of who he is, we are not told that he is “austere and demanding in heart.” We are not told that he is “exalted and dignified in heart.” We are not even told that he is “joyful and generous in heart.”

“One thing to get straight right from the start is that when the Bible speaks of the heart, whether Old Testament or New, it is not speaking of our emotional life only but of the central animating center of all we do. It is what gets us out of the bed in the morning and what we daydream about as we drift off to sleep. It is our motivation headquarters. The heart, in biblical terms, is not part of who we are but the center of who we are. Our heart is what defines and directs us. That is why Solomon tells us to ““Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The heart is the matter of life. It is what makes us the human being that each of us is. The heart drives all we do. It is who we are.

“And when Jesus tells us what animates him most deeply, what is most true of him—when he exposes the innermost recesses of his being—what we find there is gentle and lowly.”

———————————————————————————————————–

From Gentle and Lowly – The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, by Dane Ortland, Crossway Boks, 2020

How to Attain Contentment – Part 1

As these lessons in Learning Christian Contentment draw to a close, our instructions from Jeremiah Burroughs conclude with timely recommendations about “How to Attain Contentment.” He divides his suggestions into what he calls considerations and directions. My next few blog posts divide each of these into two short sections that will bring us to the end of the lessons on contentment and the end of 2021. Watch for the last post in December for a peek at the topic in view for 2022!

In previous lessons, Burroughs showed various reasonings for murmuring and discontented heart. He picks up now with his considerations:

  1. We should consider in all our wants and inclinations to discontentment, the greatness of the mercies that we have, and the meanness of the things we lack. The things we lack, if we are godly, are things of very small moment in comparison to the things we have, and the things we have are things of very great moment. For the most part, the things for the want of which people are discontented or murmur are such things as the unsaved have, or may have. ‘Blessed by God,’ says the Apostle in Ephesians 1:3, ‘who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.’ The consideration of the greatness of the mercies that we have, and the littleness of the things that God has denied us, is a very powerful consideration to work this grace of contentment.

  1. “The consideration that God is beforehand with us with his mercies – this should content us. I remember reading of a good man who had lived fifty years of age and enjoyed his health for eighth and forty years exceedingly well, and lived in prosperity, but the last two years his body was exceedingly diseased, he had the strangery [a urological condition such as kidney stones or bladder stones] and was in great pain. Cut he reasoned his case with himself thus: ‘Oh Lord, you might have mad all my life of torment and pain, but you have let me have eight and forty years in health. I will praise your mercies for what I have had, and will praise your justice for what now I feel.’ Oh, it is a good consideration for us to think that God is beforehand with us, in a way of mercy. (God will not all us to be test above what we are able to bear…)

  1. “The consideration of the abundance of mercies that God bestows and we enjoy. Name any affliction that is upon you: there is a sea of mercy to wallow it up. So, afflictions considered in themselves, we think are very great, but let them be considered with the vast sea of God’s mercies we enjoy, and then are not so much, they are nothing in comparison.

  1. Consider God’s ways toward all creatures. There is a vicissitude of all things in the world: the sun does not shine always on us here, but darkness comes after light. …there is a mixture of conditions, why should we think it much that there should be a vicissitude of conditions with us, sometimes in a way of prosperity and sometimes in a way of affliction?

  1. Consider that we have but little time in this world. If you are godly [saved] you will never suffer except in this world. Why, do but shut your eyes and soon another life is to come, as that martyr said to his fellow martyr: ‘Do but shut your eyes,’ he said, ‘and the next time they are opened you shall be in another world.’ Consider, we have not long to live, it may be over before our day is at an end. But supposing it should not, death will put an end to all, all afflictions and troubles will soon be at an end.”

 

Excuses for Complaining in Troubles

 

From The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs, 1599-1646, come these helpful thoughts on excuses people can make for being discontent with their circumstances. We’ve all said or thought variations on some of these observations, which are no excuse for not being content with all the rich blessings God has given us in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-12)

“A discontented heart may say, ‘I am not so much troubled with my afflictions, but it is for my sin rather than my affliction, and I hope you will give leave that we should be troubled and discontented with our sin. Were it not for sin that I see in myself, I should not be so discontented as I am. Oh! It is sin that is heavy upon me, and it is that which troubles me more than my affliction!

Do not deceive your own heart; there is a very great deceit in this. There are many people wo, when God’s hand is out against them, will say they are troubled for their sin, but the truth is, it is the affliction that troubles them rather than their sin. Their heart greatly deceives them in this very thing.

You were never troubled for your sin before this affliction. But you will say, ‘It is true I was not troubled before, for my prosperity blinded me, but now God has opened my eyes by afflictions.’ Has He? Then your great care now will be rather for the removing of your sin than removal of your afflictions.

If it is your sin that troubles you, then even if God should take away your afflictions, yet unless your sin is taken away also, this would not content you – you would still not be satisfied. We see usually that if God removes their afflictions, people seem to have no more trouble for their sin.

If you are trouble for your sin, then it will be your great care not to sin in your trouble, so as not by your trouble to increase your sin. But you are troubled in such a way that, the truth is, you multiply your sin in your trouble, and since you say you were troubled for your sin, you have committed more sin than you did before.

If it is your sin that troubles you, then you have the more need to submit to God’s hand, and to accept the suffering of your iniquity. There is no greater way to take away complaining and murmuring, than to look upon my sin as the cause of my affliction.”