This post begins a series of posts based on a Sunday School class I am currently teaching entitled True Spirituality: How to Have Communion With God. Artwork: Cammille Pissarro’s Conversation By the Fence.
Guitar tone is a bit of an obsession of mine. I can wax eloquently (at least I think so) about the nuances of guitar projection and subtle differences of certain tone woods. People who have known me for a while would say I’m obsessed with finding good tone. Maybe obsession is not the best term to bring into this discussion, but at the very least it helps me realize that I have not always given a similar kind of devotion to my Lord. Perhaps I have at times, but consistently?
Likewise, around Valentines Day, it was brought to my attention that though I am faithful in my marriage, being devoted to my wife and family to the point that they “feel and know” they are cherished is another level altogether. My guitar, if it had feelings, would.
When dealing with the subject of spirituality Sinclair Ferguson (Devoted to God) and Allan Chapel (True Devotion) obviously center on the idea of devotion. The term is quite helpful when thinking through a subject like spirituality and communion with God.
It may be pedantic to say it, but our understanding of what spirituality is should be founded in the Scriptures. However, with the wide interest in “spiritual things” from Hollywood to modern Spiritual Guidance movements, it bears repeating. If Scripture is the “only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy [God]” (Westminster Shorter Catechism), then it should shape our view of what spirituality actually is. It gets to define the terms.
Definition of Terms
Exciting, eh?! Actually, yes, I do get excited about definitions of terms. The more clarity we can bring to the the limits and extent of a term the more we can communicate. Some might say defining terms is too reductionistic, but I would simply reply that some understanding of what we are talking about is a necessity for communion. We are not striving for an emptying of the mind or heart, but a filling of it. Add to this the unfortunate reality that common words are often the most difficult to define (words like person, heart, feeling, emotion, etc), and the need for simple definitions becomes evident. Several very common words are below, along with an attempt at a few easy-to-understand descriptions.
Spirit: While some, like William a Brakel, often use the term synonymously with ‘non-material,’ he and other solid theologians equate the term with “living being” or “living mind.” Of course, as soon as you dig in, you find that the terms heart, and mind are very, very similar in the Scriptures.
Mind: Obviously, there is some overlap with the term spirit. The way we use term mind in everyday language is varied, but often we mean the place that holds information, the place of computation or reason. The Bible’s use of the word is much more fluid and is often synonymous with heart. Our common heart/mind distinction is often represented as lip-service versus a heart or mind truly following after the Lord in the Bible.
Heart: The idea of heart does go beyond the mind in at least one area. It seems to be the place of belief that moves the will. Again, there is clear overlap with mind, but often includes affection, trust, and will (volition, strength) as well.
Communion: Likemindedness, thinking alike, having the same will or purpose. For example, if God wants you to be sanctified, and you would rather stay lazy, you do not have communion with God in that area.
Devotion: Loyalty, regularly attend to, dedicated, unwavering love.
Devoted and Cherished
Things that moth and rust destroy easily win my devotion (or worse, obsession); things like guitars, cars, comfortable shoes (why are they oh so elusive!), etc. Instead, I want to cherish and be devoted to my Lord, his word, my wife, my family, and the church with my whole being; i.e. spirit, mind, and heart. There is a lot packed into that last sentence. Hopefully this class will unpack some of it, for this is true spirituality. Oh how much I need to grow in my communion with God.