I have just enjoyed a series of lectures by Dr. D.A.Carson on "Spirituality in John's Gospel." This lecture series was held at Trinity Baptist Church in Burlington, Ontario, under the auspices of Toronto Baptist Seminary and Bible College, and The Jonathan Edwards Centre for Reformed Spirituality.
Dr. Carson began by pointing out that today the word "spirituality" is used in so many different ways that in and of itself it tells us virtually nothing. What we should be interested in and what he so ably expounded to us was "Christian spirituality" which rests on the firm foundation of the word of God and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He defined "spirituality" in terms of "connectedness with God." Spirituality is about how we fallen mortals can have a relationship, a connectedness, with the holy creator God himself? Once you start asking that kind of question it should be apparent to the thinking Christian that we have to look to Jesus Christ for answers.
That is precisely what we have in John's gospel. We have Jesus the Christ presented as the Word of God, the Temple or meeting place between God and man, the one who gives new spiritual life to those who were spiritually dead, the one who makes it possible for us to worship God, the Son of God who perfectly obeys his heavenly Father as an expression of his perfect love for the Father... among many other things. Jesus, the Son of God, is the one who gives life, perfectly reveals God to us and redeems us from our sins so that we can have a relationship with God that is like the one he enjoys with his Father, as far as that is possible for us as finite creatures.
Dr. Carson warned us that spirituality must never be reduced to mere technique as if by the "right kind" of praying, or fasting, or journaling, or meditating, etc., we can somehow extract from God the blessings we seek. Rather we must draw near to God through Jesus Christ his Son as he is presented to us in the biblical gospel. We come by grace through faith in Christ. This is not to deny that various spiritual disciplines are beneficial. They are beneficial and necessary. But only as they rest on the foundation of the gospel. They are a means to an end. Never some sort of meritorious work that puts God in the position of having to give us what we want.
We live in a day when "religion" is out and "spirituality" is in. In the popular culture it is ok to be spiritual. As Christians we need to define our terms. We need to ask people what they mean by spiritual. And then we need to point those who are seeking answers to the one who came from God, who died on the cross in order to bring us back to God, who rose from the dead as a sign that God had accepted his work, and who has ascended into heaven until the end of the age when he will return with power and great glory! If we are seeking connectedness with God, we must come through him. There is no other way. He alone can meet our deepest spiritual desires as we know the glory of his redeeming love and grace.
It was a great conference. How thankful we should be that there is a way for us to know God, truly know God, not just for a while but forever and ever and ever. To God be the glory!