“This life is sort of like a test for the next, preparation. How we live here matters.” That was my mother’s answer to a question, which I don’t recall as well as her response, that I asked her almost 6 decades ago. It must have had to do with the meaning of life. What else does a nine-year-old ask his parents? After all too much time and theological education, I like her answer, yet I am still pondering what we can do that prepares us for eternal life.
With Ash Wednesday just around the corner, we are soon to confront those words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” So what do we do ‘til we say, ‘So now we are dust again?’ How shall we then live in such a way as to impact our time, or whatever, in eternity? What can we do to invest in the life to come while our earthly habitation returns to dust?
There are a plethora of answers in the scripture, but the one I am thinking of this week is about growing up, becoming mature in Christ, a worthy task for this time on earth. As Eugene Peterson put it, “First birth, then growth.” It is a joy and blessing to watch little ones grow. We even say, “like weeds,” at times. We are expected to grow, not just physically, but spiritually.*
If we listen to the scriptures for Sunday we hear some basic, simple, ways to grow into Christ.
The Old Testament Lesson – Neh 8.1-3, 5-6, 8-10
In the OT lesson from Nehemiah we see the people hearing the word of God. They are overcome by it after being in exile for 70 years. In a daily devotional I am using, The Bible In One Year by Nicky Gumbel, he commented that the scriptures, and being immersed in them, are the roots of our spiritual life! Do you have a way to feed on God’s word regularly, to hear His story and discern your part in His story?
The Epistle – I Cor 12.12-31a
In the reading from I Corinthians 12 we have a picture of the body of Christ and how we function together to play our part in that story. We need one another to grow. My granddaughter, Pippa’s hand, for example, does not grow independent of the rest of her body. And a coal removed from fire soon is extinguished. How are you connected with the body of Christ, the community of faith?
Another element of maturity comes from training.** Spiritual disciplines help us to develop just as physical disciplines prepare us. You don’t TRY to run a marathon, you TRAIN. We hear about this all through Psalm 19, what the law, the testimony, the precepts, and the commandments, of the Lord produce. The last line tells us what the training of the heart produces: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight.” Spiritual disciplines train the thoughts of our hearts out of which the mouth speaks. The synagogue worship, like ours today, included a number of spiritual disciplines like confession, prayers, and worship. It was Jesus’ custom, it says in the next lesson, to attend. There are others we do at home. What are some you do?
And one of the key things Luke wants us to see about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry is the critical role the Holy Spirit plays. If that was needed for Him, why do we think we can do anything without the Holy Spirit? Listen for this Sunday. Hear what Ivan Sikha will share about the power, the miracles, the healings, worked by Jesus and the Holy Spirit in India. Where is He in your daily walk?
After all these years I have found this as a simple way to respond to my mother’s answer to whatever question I asked about the meaning of life.
*1Pet. 2:2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,
*Eph. 4:13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
**1Tim. 4:8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.