The past year and a half has been the most personally tumultuous time I’ve ever experienced as a Christian believer. At one time or another in this past year, I have re-evaluated every area of my Christianity, often with many tears, prayers and hours of reading. Much of this has been in response to the questions raised by my recent encounters with Roman Catholicism.
I entitled this adventure “Jesus Shaped Spirituality.” It’s a catchy and provocative label, but I’m not sure I could have come to your church and given a talk on what I meant by the phrase.
Today, I’m at a different place on that journey. I’ve now come to the place that Jesus shaped spirituality has some feel, form and substance for me. I have some confidence and comfort in expressing what I’ve discovered, reaffirmed and began to express to others.
I want to be clear that I am not trying to “return to primitive Christianity” or “reinvent the church.” What I am doing is developing a tool, a grid or filter, to interpret Christianity wherever I encounter it, by asking basic questions about Jesus. If I am going to be faulted, it will be for this: I am determined to be satisfied with nothing short of a Jesus-shaped Christianity, as best I can understand what that means.
This isn’t a staking a claim for a new denomination, but simply an expression of the shape of discovering, knowing and following Jesus as the one who reveals both the Father and the shape of human experience.
What does Jesus-shaped spirituality look like?
1) It is a spirituality rooted in the Biblical story. It is a spirituality that grows up in the narrative of the Bible and within the categories of the Biblical worldview. Most particularly, it is a spirituality of the Biblical story that is finally and completely about Jesus and understood in Jesus.
2) It is a spirituality where God comes to all people: in Jesus, through the incarnation, the Gospel, Scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit.
3) It is a spirituality where God is available, immediately, through the mediation of Jesus, to all people, in the power of the Spirit as revealed in the Gospel.
4) It is a spirituality where Jesus is the ultimate sacrament, and all sacraments are visible, actual participations in Jesus as salvation.
5) It is a spirituality where the Kingdom of God is present everywhere and God’s people are called to be workers for and proclaimers of the Kingdom wherever God has placed them.
6) It is a spirituality especially manifested where the Gospel is explicitly heard, believed and practiced.
7) It is a spirituality where God is known, experienced and worshiped as Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit as revealed by Jesus in scripture.
8] It is a spirituality of the compassion of Jesus for the whole range of human brokenness. It is a spirituality of kindness, gentleness and generosity to the hurting, the lonely and the wounded.
9) It is a spirituality where all people are called to the decisive act of public, intentional discipleship, inaugurated in baptism and continued, when possible, in a local church.
10) It is a spirituality of grace as understood in the teaching and actions of Jesus, and through the grace of God revealed in the Gospel.
11) It is a spirituality of inclusion, particularly imitating Jesus’ inclusion of outcasts, touching of lepers, respectful treatment of women, outreaches to Gentiles and liberating miracles for those who were considered beyond help, hope and forgiveness.
12) It is a spirituality that takes place in a movement of cross-cultural church planting. Jesus shaped spirituality is formed in the context of the outcomes and values that contribute to cross-cultural church planting, particularly in places where the Gospel has not been heard.
13) It is a spirituality that is shaped, whenever possible, in local churches and under the ministry of local church leadership. It is a spirituality that receives the ministry of the Spirit through the broadest possible experience of the church of Jesus.
14) It is a spirituality that announces and practices the end of religion, because all religion is fulfilled in Jesus. What remains of religion and religious practice is completely transformed by Jesus into a New Covenant understanding of the people of God.
15) It is a spirituality that calls all persons, and especially disciples, to continual personal transformation by grace in every area of human nature, experience and relationship.
16) It is a spirituality formed by the practice of prayer, reading scripture, worship, servanthood, mission and simplicity, both individually and, whenever possible, in community with other disciples.
17) It is a spirituality that is consciously, exclusively and intentionally Jesus-centered. The center and the boundaries of Jesus shaped spirituality are Jesus himself, as revealed in scripture, especially in the Gospels. It is a spirituality that takes all study of Jesus seriously, but affirms that Jesus is revealed with the authority of God in scripture.
18) It is a spirituality with a hopeful, optimistic eschatology of the Kingdom of God, inaugurated now and coming in fullness, announcing in advance God’s judgment of the world and God’s vindication of his people.
19) It is a spirituality that is not dispensed or controlled by institutions, but is accomplished by the work of the Spirit through whatever means God chooses as the shaping, forming element.
20) It is a spirituality of creativity, freedom and cultural diversity. We are constantly discovering and rediscovering Jesus in new ways. It is a spirituality that honors and appreciates the discovery of Jesus by those who have known Jesus before us.
21) It is a spirituality that receives and evaluates tradition, authority and theology within a living experience of discipleship to Jesus.