Spiritual Pathways

15 May

I have been wrestling with the subject of spiritual transformation for years now. I have centered onto this definition.

Spiritual transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit to transform us into the image of Jesus for the joy of God the Father. He does this in the context of Christian community as we walk along spiritual pathways.

The final part of the definition includes our area of responsibility, walking on spiritual pathways.

Here are my thoughts so far…

There is only one road that leads to God, to God’s truth, to his kingdom and life.

Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. [14] But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 6:13-14 NIV)

Jesus is that road.
It is a narrow road, a constricted way.
There are not many ways.
There is ONE WAY.

There is one road to God, but there are many different pathways we can walk on in this journey of knowing, loving, and praising God.

The Psalmist writes, “Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; [5] guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Psalm 25:4-5 NIV)

Show me your paths (plural), not path (singular).
There is no cookie-cutter method to Christian discipleship.
There is no cookie-cutter method to Christian spirituality.
There is no cookie-cutter method to spiritual transformation.

We do not change ourselves. Instead we allow the Holy Spirit to change us. Such a perspective on the spiritual life creates a temptation – the temptation of slothfulness or laziness.

“Listen, my son, and with your heart hear the principles of your Master. Readily accept and faithfully follow the advice of a loving Father, so that through the labor of obedience you may return to Him from whom you have withdrawn because of the laziness of disobedience.”

— Prologue, The Rule of St. Benedict

The Holy Spirit does the work of transformation, but we have an area of responsibility. Our responsibility is to walk along the spiritual pathways. These spiritual pathways are more commonly known as spiritual disciplines, but because “discipline” carries with it the idea of punishment, I am choosing the word pathway.

A spiritual pathway is anything we do that puts us in a place where we can receive from the Holy Spirit what we could not receive by direct effort.

This is adapted from Dallas Willard’s definition for a spiritual discipline. “A discipline is an activity within our power—something we can do—that brings us to a point where we can do what we at present cannot do by direct effort.” Willard, The Great Omission, pg 150

Walking along a spiritual pathway does not change us as much as it puts us in a place where the Holy Spirit can change us.

“On the ridge there is a path, the Disciplines of the spiritual life. This path leads to the inner transformation and healing for which we seek. We must never veer off to the right or the left, but stay on the path. The path is fraught with severe difficulties, but also with incredible joys. As we travel on this path, the blessing of God will come upon us and reconstruct us into the image of Jesus Christ. We must always remember that the path does not produce the change; it only places us where the change can occur. This is the path of disciplined grace.
— Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, pg. 8

Walking along spiritual pathways only put you in a place where the Spirit can change you.

For example, prayer is a common spiritual pathway. The act of prayer does not change us as much as prayer put us in a position where the Spirit can change us.

Here are my top ten spiritual pathways.
I have mastered none of them.
I prefer a few of them.
I hate some of them.

There is no complete list of spiritual pathways. These are the ten pathways that have lead to transformation in my own life.

1) Stillness: Slowing it down

2) Simplify: Cutting it out

3) Silence & Solitude: Turning it off

4) Fasting: Laying it down

5) Prayer: Turning it up

6) Reading: Opening it up

7) Reflecting: Thinking it over

8) Writing: Jotting it down

9) Singing: Letting it out

10) Confession & Repentance: Doing it over

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Posted by on May 15, 2008 in Ministry, Theology


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