Interface: Make the Connection
INTERSECT: Trading Show for Substance
Authentic Spirituality in Christ, Part 1
It’s not every day you meet someone who has been to Heaven.
But there she was, walking into the coffee shop that often becomes my makeshift office when I need to avoid interruptions. She talked to the baristas as if she knew them well, made her purchase, and then turned toward my table. I suppose she asked for the time because my laptop was open, but before I knew it, I found myself in a deep conversation about spiritual things. I don’t remember what triggered the statement, but she suddenly asked, “I have actually been to Heaven; I died, went to Heaven, and came back. Would you like to hear about it?”
What else could I say but “sure”? What followed was a lengthy and scattered description of Heaven—from angels with a certain numbers of wings, to streets of gold, to the color of God’s hair. Her intriguing description, however, was about Jesus. She told me, “Jesus didn’t look like you might think; He had on khaki Dockers.”
At that point I said, “Hmmm. That’s interesting.”
She quickly replied, “You know, everyone says the same thing when I tell them that.”
I moved the conversation toward the gospel and the need for repentance and faith, but it was clear that the more I focused on the gospel, the more she was ready to leave the conversation. Equally clear: while we were both talking about Jesus, we were talking about two different Christs.
This woman paints a vivid illustration of the current spiritual scene in America—a smorgasboard of spirituality like the buffet line at a local restaurant. Pick and choose what you like; it’s your recipe, your creation. For this reason, it is imperative for Christians to know what is real and what is not. Which begs the question: what is authentic spirituality? What does it look like? How can we tell the difference between real and counterfeit?
Living in the pagan world of the first century, the Apostle Paul certainly knew what it was like to compete against false spirituality, and in Colossians 2:6-15, he shared two important truths to help us identify and define authentic spirituality.
Authentic spirituality is rooted in the person of Christ (verses 8-10). We would be hard pressed to find a more theologically compressed verse than verse 9. In succinct and stunning fashion Paul declared, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” Of course, this doctrine echoes throughout the New Testament, from Jesus’ statements about Himself to similar statements from Paul in Philippians 2 and Colossians 1. Perhaps the most familiar passage is John 1, where John began his Gospel with, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
It is Jesus, this eternal Word, who “became flesh and dwelt among us.” Throughout His incarnation, He remained eternal, omnipotent, all knowing, self-sustaining, the absolutely holy Creator of the universe. At the same time, He was fully human. He attended synagogue worship, worked with His hands, ate, drank, slept when tired, wept, displayed righteous anger, cared for the spiritual and physical needs of others, sang, prayed, preached, and ____________. Fully God, fully man.
The early creeds also stress the person of Jesus. The Nicene Creed states, “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”
Many accounts in the Gospels illustrate both natures at work. We find the disciples terrified by a storm that threatens their boat, while Jesus—in His full humanity—slept soundly. When the disciples awakened him, He spoke in full deity, and the wind and waves instantly obeyed His command. The disciples no longer feared the storm; instead, they were awed by the Savior.
Paul wanted his readers to understand that because fullness of deity dwells in the person of Jesus, we are filled in Him and lack nothing in Him. Authentic spirituality is rooted in His person.
In the next issue, we will explore verses 11-15, where we learn that authentic spirituality is not only rooted in the person of Christ but is secured by the work of Christ.
About the Writer: Dr. Barry Raper pastors Bethel Free Will Baptist Church in Ashland City, Tennessee, and directs the Pastoral Program at Welch College. Learn more about Welch College: www.welch.edu.