Spiritual Life: Introduction

When creation began 13.8 billion years ago, it instantly expanded at an astonishing rate, and it continues to do so. The galaxies outside of our own are moving away from us, and the ones that are farthest away are moving the fastest.  [1]

We are born into this expansion, and our bodies are living expressions of it, as we move from infancy into adulthood.  But the experience is more than physical.  We desire to grow in every way.  We grow educationally and relationally, transcending the limitations of the ego and entering into life in the wider world. We are meant for maturity. We are ever-becoming.

With respect to the spiritual life, we have a desire for growth.  Peter called it growing “in the grace and knowledge of our Sovereign and Savior Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:18). [2]  We have a built-in hunger for wholeness. [3]. Indeed, the primary meaning of the word ‘salvation’ is wholeness–God’s purpose for us in time and for eternity.

Just as the growth of the universe is governed by natural laws created by God, our spiritual life matures in relation to principles and practices designed by God.  Spiritual formation is the overarching way that we find and follow God’s will for our lives.

In this series we will explore what it means to live an authentic and abundant spiritual life.  We will move systematically through the accumulated wisdom of what the life of God in the human soul looks like inwardly and outwardly.  We will move little-by-little, giving ourselves time and space to ponder our discoveries and to discern how to apply them to our lives.  We are not in a hurry.

Far from being an academic or abstract exercize, living a genuine and generous spiritual life is a great need in our day.  The world is rife with oppression and violence, due in large measure because we have lost sight of life as God intends for it to be.  Long ago, the prophet Isaiah described the problem this way, “All of us, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us goes our own way” (Isaiah 53:6).  The image in the phrase “our own way” is of our hearts turned in on themselves, facing away from God and others, allowing egotism/ethnocentrism to define and direct us rather than the imago dei.

The media delivers us daily illustrations of deformative living–a fallen way of life that is destroying us, others, and the earth. We are in great need of rediscovering how we are meant to live.  The present and future are at stake.  In this series, we are going to be looking at a way forward through the mess to the Message which God has been revealing since time began–the Message which moves us to exclaim, “For this I am made!”

[1] William D. Heacox, ‘The Expanding Universe’ (Cambridge University Press, 2016).  Dr. Heacox is Professor of Natural Sciences at The University of Hawaii, and one of the leaders in The International Astronomical Union, a group of scholars who monitor the development of the cosmos.

[2]  Unless otherwise noted, biblical references will be taken from ‘The Inclusive Bible’ (Rowman and Littlefield, 2007).  Other translations will include ‘The Common English Bible’ (CEB), ‘The Message Bible’ (MB), and ‘The New Revised Standard Version’ (NRSV).

[3] Ilia Delio, ‘A Hunger for Wholeness’ (Paulist Press, 2018).  Combining cosmology and spirituality, she shows that nature is never at rest; indeed, everyone and everything is on a continuous trajectory of transcendence.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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