Christian Spirituality, Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians – A Book Critique

INTRODUCTION

The intention of the author is to describe what is considered as the deepest spiritual experiences of the most famous Christians of all ages. He reveals the impact and influence of the lives of characters in both Old Testament and New Testaments and in the history of the Church. One has a feel of the message of these characters when the author quotes them extensively. Generally, they believe in the spiritual fullness after salvation and that God is only waiting for Christians to be receptive in order for Him to shower His countless blessings on us. Among other things, the text assists the reader (through the lives of the characters treated) to discover how to be filled with the Spirit, obtain victory over sin, grow closer to God than ever before, acquire boldness to witness for Christ and find perfect peace and rest.

STRENGTHS

The author, like the editors of Devotional Classics, was able to realize that no single church or denomination has all the answers and impressively identified those whose consecrated lives and deep spiritual experiences made them a blessing to the body of Christ.

WEAKNESSES

The text sets out to accomplish (see first sentence in the introduction) a very difficult task of describing experiences of the most famous Christians of all ages. One doubts the parameters that any author would use to arrive at classification and whether personal bias (for instance denominational affiliation) or experience would not influence his selection. The separate chapters could have been devoted to some names like Thomas a Kempis and David Brainerd instead of the general treatment received under the section ”Other famous Christians”. Injustice is also done to many fine female Christian missionaries who are not even mentioned.

The back cover of the text informs us that one will discover how to have every need met. This is one dangerous prosperity teaching in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the universal church. If all our needs can be met, the issue is what is the place of suffering, the wilderness journey, the dark night of the soul etc. in the life of the Christian?

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed” (133).

“The Spirit then cleared the subject up so much in my mind that it was impossible for me to doubt that the Spirit of God has taken possession of my soul” (173).

RECOMMENDATIONS

No pastor, lay reader of church member should fail to read this invaluable book which is a clarion call to every Christian to have a deeper relationship with God. It is useful in ministry because it clearly shows how Christians from several backgrounds long to know about the spirit-filled and deeper life in Christ.

Spirituality and Spiritual – Definition

Spirituality, often misunderstood as a concept, is easily defined as – working to be a true and strict God related spiritual being or development of spiritual being. The highest spiritual achievement ever is one who has developed his/her true divine being to the point that his/her spirit is equal to the holy spirit of God.

Spirituality is the God related science of developing or freeing the God made innermost being – the core of all of us “made in the image of God.”

True God related spirituality is achieved by means of scientifically applying spiritual teachings and spiritual techniques that allow ego to vanish in the fire of divine love and ego oriented spirit better called intellect to be replaced by the Holy Spirit. Such true spiritual teachings can only be affected by a true connection to our innermost self. Since all humankind is God made; every human has at one time or another, the urge to develop their suppressed spirituality again. Spirituality is our true nature and spiritual development is the most direct way to solutions of love and peace in all creation. We know God is only love, because love creates, all else destroys. If Love creates and God so loved us he created the heaven and earth, therefore we know God only loves. Love can not co-exist with any other premise simultaneously, therefore God is only love.

The big bug-a-boo with being in human form vs in spiritual form (as God is) is that we have this construct called ‘ego’ to grabble with…the ego is essential to navigate the vicissitudes in life. Yet, the ego is what gets us into trouble. So we came from spiritual form and formed an ego to grabble with the human requirements in this place called ‘earth.’

All life on earth serves but the one and only purpose of developing our spirituality again to the point of being free of spiritual ignorance, free of selfish or destructive behavioral patterns, free to return to our eternal home in God. True spirituality always leads to freedom in God.

Anything else but God related development never should be called spiritual or spirituality. Many human developments lead in totally different directions – away from God! Worshiping idols for example, and depicting God as a punishing God, who is standing with a check sheet watching our every transgression and sending us to hell if the list is too long or egregious.

The intent for religion or churches is to support, promote or teach true spirituality among all. This has failed in many religions. The development of true God related spirituality is under direct supervision of God and free from any religion or church. While some churches may have spiritual groups which have true spiritual teachings – most have long ago started ego oriented abuse of teachings-such as God punishes sinners. Development of true spirituality is free of any church or religion – God has no religion – God is Holy Spirit!

The ultimate healing of spirit is done when becoming one with God as a result of proper spiritual development. That means true spirituality is achieved after oneness with God. This level of spiritual connection with God is generally attributed to Gurus or an Avatar. However, I believe that one can achieve this level of oneness with God even though one does not achieve the distinction of either Guru or Avatar. One achieves the distinction of Guru or Avatar because one chooses to be a teacher of spirituality…if one does not chose to be a teacher of spirituality does not mean they have not achieved the level of Guru or Avatar.

Therapy Meets Spirituality: A Psycho-Spiritual Discussion – Part 1: The Inner Journey

Recently I (R) met a clinical psychologist (Q) from England and the discussion we had was so stimulating I thought I would record it. Here it is in verbatim form.

Q: What are the outward signs of inner development, of spiritual development?

R: You will appear more as yourself, not in a flimsy, superficial sense, but more like you are in the truth of your inner nature. You will manifest your true character with less compromise, less need for personal attention and probably less self-importance.

Q: Why probably?

R: The outward signs of inner change don’t necessarily conform to our idea of what a spiritual or an inner-orientated person should look like. The inner path, or the spiritual path, is fundamentally the way of paradox, which in itself is a controversial statement. And also a statement that demands an explanation.

Q: And the explanation is?

R: That human awakening takes place through a process of contrary challenge; whatever you are comfortable with must be radically countered until the opposites of attachment and unattachment — to character, behavior, habits, familiarity, really anything you identify with as the separative I-Me-Mine — are shed, enabling you to reach the state of non-attachment. Everything will appear in relation to its opposite, to its counterpart. As you persist in the inner journey your world is seen as a mass of conflicting, contradictory urges and impulses for some time.

Q: Can you bring that down to earth for me, or express it in plain language?

R: You have to face everything which you have denied or repressed in yourself in both the inner and the outer worlds.

Q: But why would you even want to do that?

R: First, whether we know it or not, we all have a deep desire to realize our potential. That potential is real and to realize it we must become whole, which entails owning our repressed selves. Second, because reality is really rounded, rather than flat! Reality is rather like a sphere, so to be in it, you yourself must be rounded. The way most of us live is as partial human beings, by presenting and believing in ourselves as a certain identity we define ourselves through limitation and since everyone’s doing it, it doesn’t seem odd, until you wake up to the fact that your potential is way, way more than that.

Q: What is the relationship between human failings, imperfections and limitations and the divine, which by definition must be absolute, perfect and pure?

R: Your imperfect human condition is the vehicle, or the means, to your realization of your true self. Only by means of the unique faculty of self-reflection may a human being experience him- or herself as absolute and in their true nature. That’s the inner journey.