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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

True Spirituality (part 2)

How do you know you are a spiritual person? I met a man who said he was Christian because he carried a Bible presented to him as a child--it even had his name in it! Spirituality is not constructed of human accomplishment and recognition.

“I’M SPIRITUAL BECAUSE I SAY SO”

Look carefully at how Paul describes his ministry: triumphant (2 Cor 2:14); the fragrance of Christ in every place (2 Cor 2:15); sincere (2 Cor 2:16). The Corinthian church had the idea that Paul was prideful, bragging about his personal accomplishments in ministry. Are these the words of a self-made man or are these the words of a transformed man?

Paul asks plainly, “do we begin again to commend ourselves?” (2 Cor 3:1). How easy it is to fall into the trap of human accomplishment when it comes to our spirituality. If my spirituality depends on my “say-so”, then I believe the lie that I can create my own destiny.

Here’s how I know I can’t create my own destiny: I can’t control my own body functions. Can you stop yourself from blinking? You prove my point if you nod off during a church service. How much thought do you put into liver function? The body has a mind of its own doesn’t it?

Paul is not playing the spiritual one-upmanship game, building himself up to the Corinthians all over again because of self-made spirituality. You know the games:
  • “How many people did YOU lead to Christ?”
  • “How’s your Bible reading going? I read three chapters before breakfast.”
  • “Hey brother! How long did you pray today?” 
“I’M SPIRITUAL BECAUSE THEY SAY SO”

Paul writes, “Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?” (2 Cor 3:1).
Paul’s personal and public life does not depend on references, what others say about him. Now let’s not be too quick to dismiss this because there is a time and place for references, but when it comes to spirituality, human references are out of place. Boastful Jewish leaders carry long letters of recommendation.

A few years back I was invited to speak at a week-long Pastor’s conference in Kenya, Africa. I was introduced to the congregation and gave my first lecture of the week. At the end of the lecture I opened the floor for questions. An elderly man in the back raised his hand and asked “who are you? why should we listen?” He was not interested in my credentials--he wanted to know my testimony!

Paul does something interesting: he produces an unusual credential that not only affirms his ministry, but also helps us understand the source of true spirituality. He produces a letter of approval that the Corinthians cannot deny or refute, like holding up a mirror.

We will take a look at this unusual credential next week.

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