Excellence, by Andreas Köstenberger
As I mentioned on Sunday, last week the pastors set aside the day to pray, study, and consider ways we might serve the church more effectively in the months to come. What a joy it was to begin our day with an extended time of prayer, giving thanks for each of you.
We also took time to discuss various chapters from a book CJ assigned us to read, entitled Excellence, by Andreas Köstenberger. Because “God is the grounds of all true excellence,” the book takes the reader along a God-centered pursuit of excellence that spans our vocational callings, our moral character, and our relationships.
A particularly rich discussion came from Köstenberger’s chapter on Spirituality. This is topic where there is widespread interest, among Christians and non-Christians alike. However, there is also no shortage of confusion. Many want to be “spiritual” but in a manner cut off from the truth of God’s Word. Christians are susceptible to this tendency and drift into the dangerous waters of individualism, feelings-based authority, or a sense of spirituality born of primarily of our efforts. The Bible teaches us that our spirituality is rooted in our union with Christ. From this security, we are called to cultivate our relationship with God, that is, to abide in Christ. The Word, prayer, and corporate fellowship are essential to such cultivation. This is a spirituality of the Word.
I’d encourage you to buy Excellence and read it. Until then here are a few quotes to show you some of what you can look forward to:
"Spirituality must be thought of in connection with the gospel." (pg. 68)
"The New Testament does not define spirituality in terms of solitude or introspection as if a person's spirituality were measured by the amount of time spent in a pursuit of mystical experience of the divine. Time of prayerful solitude must lead to active obedience and service in the world." (pg. 71)
“One of the reasons why people are interested in spirituality even if they reject Christianity is that their mere attachment to the material world rarely satisfies.” (pg. 68)
“Biblical spirituality and practical obedience are inseparable.” (pg. 70)
“Spirituality, for Christians, is therefore grounded objectively in the gospel of Jesus Christ and experienced as a reality in the presence of the Holy Spirit within them rather than merely constituting a subjective mystical experience.” (pg. 70)
“The NT consistently emphasizes a corporate dimension to the work and activity of the Spirit that is often neglected today.” (pg. 71)
“While the corporate dimension of spirituality should continue to be emphasized in our increasingly individualistic age, the fact remains that a give church body is made up of individual members who must each be filled with the Spirit if the church as a whole is to be Spirit-filled. For this reason, we should not dichotomize between the corporate and the individual dimensions of Spirit-filling even as proper attention is due the corporate identity of God’s people.” (pg. 71)