June 14, 2018

Last week I wrote about learning to value holiness over happiness as a way of dealing with spiritual identity theft. Our culture values personal happiness above all else, and “being happy” has become an acceptable, even laudable, end in itself. Yet the Gospel tells us holiness, not happiness is our true aim. Holiness is what we are called to pursue, for in our identification with the risen Christ we are counted as holy already. “Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is …For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” is Paul’s way of expressing it (Colossians 3:1&3). Being shaped in the holiness we have been granted in Christ brings with it a joy that far surpasses mere happiness.

This week I share two additional ways of dealing with spiritual identity theft.
Seek the Presence of Christ
Strengthening our relationship with Jesus is the primary way holiness is formed in us. This is why personal prayer, Bible reading, devotion and contemplation matter. It is through these classic spiritual disciplines that we learn to come before him and open our hearts. It is through these that we give room for Christ to grow within us. Lengthy exercises are not required here. I have learned that 10-15 minutes of quieting myself and praying the Jesus Prayer is a great way to begin, and an effective practice to maintain.

Yet seeking the presence of Christ goes beyond doing a devotion in the morning and then going on with our life unaffected. We can learn to see and become attuned to his presence throughout our day and in the midst of normal activities — that we live in him and he in us even when we aren’t praying or engaged in ‘holy’ things.

In seeking the presence of Christ our relationship with him is strengthened, and our ‘belongedness’ to him (identity) renewed.

Practice Christian Community
We need each other in the Body of Christ! We need each other to remind us who and what we are, and indeed who’s we are! I need all the reminding I can get, for the world is constantly confronting me with opposing messages.

There is great power in corporate remembering. The word itself tells us something important. When we gather together before the Lord, something beyond recall is involved. There is a re-membering that happens as well, a fitting us together again and a re-attaching to each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

This is why attending Sunday worship matters, even in the summer. The entire body is strengthened, simply because I came! Practicing Christian community means more than coming to church: Participating in a Bible study or prayer group, our Thursday night class, or even gathering informally with a Christian friend or two to focus on the Lord together — all these count as well.

Seeking the Lord together with other Christians confirms our identity in Christ. Christian community helps remind me who I truly am and beat back the barrage of negative messages coming at me every day. In the process of coming together in the Lord’s name, we are assured of his presence among us. When we gather, precisely because he is in our midst, the Spirit is at work re-attaching us to each other – “like living stones being built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5).

Coming in next Musings: A summer sermon series!

See you Sunday!