Friday, June 21, 2013

Reading Christian Classics: Spiritual Maturity for All Believers

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB)

Growing and Running
God calls each and every one of us toward spiritual maturity. Much of contemporary Christianity emphasizes “getting saved”—being born again—so much, that it forgets the fact that once we are born we need to grow! Just as a human baby needs to develop physically and mentally, so we must mature spiritually.

The Gospel invites us into an intimate relationship with God the Heavenly Father through the person and work of Jesus the Son, by the nurture and care of the Holy Spirit. That relationship is one that needs to develop over the years. Like any genuine friendship, it must deepen in our hearts as we become more real and vulnerable with the One we love. The friendship also widens to affect every area of our lives.

From beginning to end, the New Testament summons us to transformation. As we walk with God, we need to be changed—not simply forgiven but also conformed to Jesus’ very image. For God “predestined [us] to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29). Genuine Christianity is all about becoming like Christ—dying to our old ways of thinking, speaking and doing, in order that Jesus might live through us, not just in theory but in actuality.

Spiritual Classics
The Christian Classics are works written by believers over the past two thousand years that help us do just that. Penned by men and women who pressed on toward that spiritual maturity, the classics welcome us to do the same in our day and age. They offer insight into the growth process, which can help us along the way, especially when we are stuck. They encourage us when we have grown weary and they challenge us in our moments of laziness.

As a student of Church History for over half my life, I have come to appreciate the classics more every year. The godly women and men who wrote them are now part of the great cloud of witnesses described in Hebrews 11 and 12, who cheer us on as we run the Christian race. Many of them suffered greatly during their lifetime, so they have much to say about the role of suffering in the maturation process. They offer genuine encouragement when we are weary and in pain, and they provide notable examples for us in our life situation. Like James, they call us to “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4 NASB).

Invitation to Press On
One of my main reasons for beginning this blog site was to introduce Christians today—of all denominations and backgrounds—to our common heritage in the Church and the wealth of spiritual encouragement and instruction available to us from ardent believers of the past twenty centuries. Through recommending various classics, as well as telling some of their authors’ life-stories, I hope to offer some of their wisdom and insight on the Christian life. By providing quotes from their writings, I hope to whet the appetite of readers to find copies of the classics and make them your own.

Above all, I pray that my blog would stir you to push forward in your walk with the Lord—through inspiring seasons of growth and dull times, when prayer comes easily as well as when it seems so dry and difficult. “I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus,” exclaims the Apostle Paul, even after serving God for many years. “Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14 NASB). By God’s grace, let each and every one of us do the same!

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

St. Francis de Sales: Everyday Spirituality

Be at peace.
Do not look forward with fear to the changes of life;
Rather look to them with full hope as they arise.
God, whose very own you are, will deliver you from out of them.
God has kept you hitherto,
 and God will lead you safely through all things;
And when you cannot stand it,
 God will bury you in almighty, loving arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
The same everlasting God who cares for you today
  will take care of you then and every day.
God will either shield you from suffering,
  or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.
      -St. Francis de Sales

One of the great Christian authors over the centuries is Francis de Sales. Living during the Reformation period in Europe, de Sales helped to bring spiritual renewal to the church in his day. He was a wise spiritual director, who wanted to see all Christians grow deeper in their faith. With a great pastor’s heart, he served as Bishop of Geneva from 1602-1622.

De Sales understands well the fears and anxieties in our hearts, and addresses the daily burdens that we all carry. Ultimately, he invites us all to experience more of God’s peace and presence. The quote above, as well as the one below, has really ministered to me the past several months. Both can be found online.

Do everything calmly and peacefully. Do as much as you can as well as you can. Strive to see God in all things without exception, and consent to His will joyously. Do everything for God, uniting yourself to him in word and deed. Walk very simply with the Cross of the Lord and be at peace with yourself.
      -St. Francis de Sales

De Sales’ writings, especially Introduction to the Devout Life, are appreciated by Protestants and Roman Catholics alike. Some of his letters we have preserved today in Letters of Spiritual Direction, by St. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal, in the series Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press, 1988.

If you have not yet become acquainted with Francis de Sales, you will really enjoy reading his works. Various translations of his work are available in paperback. Online you can find many helpful quotes by him, as well as information of his life. You can also some older translations of his works for free:

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers