Reading about spiritual growth prompts me to read more about spiritual growth. As I have started my introduction to Spiritual Direction class, the required texts lead me to want to pick up other books that are related. Which also makes me want to re-read as well. I know I need to re-read many books, but books on spiritual formation are probably the books I most need to re-read because they are often very subtle critiques of our understanding of Christianity.
As part of this renewed interest, I have been listening to the Revovaré podcast, which has been playing some old talks from early conferences. In the episode with Emilie Griffin at the end of a Q and A period, Dallas Willard says that we are not in charge of our own spiritual formation. We simply need to remain present and engaged while God works on us.
Open to the Spirit very much feels like a book that has been inspired by Dallas Willard. Scot McKnight is trying to biblically point the reader to the importance of the Holy Spirit. McKnight is a New Testament scholar and mostly is oriented toward a biblical theology of the Holy Spirit. Open to the Spirit also reminds me of Amos Yong’s Who Is the Holy Spirit: A Walk With the Apostles. In Yong’s commentary on Acts, he is drawing parallels between the work of Jesus in Luke with the work of the Holy Spirit through the early Christians in Acts.
In Open to the Spirit, McKnight is showing how Jesus in his earthly life was guided by the Holy Spirit similarly to how Yong shows the early Christians being guided by the Spirit.
I am too behind on both blog posts and everything else in my life to write much more. But I am going to post five quotes from the book to give you a sense of it. (The kindle book as I write this is $1.99 and the audiobook is $7.49 with purchase of the kindle book)
A sticking point when it comes to our understanding of the Holy Spirit is that humans are not open to the invasive, transcending, and transforming presence of the Holy Spirit. There are, of course, reasons why we are not open. Two that come immediately to mind are (1) we don’t want transcending power, and (2) we don’t want the transforming presence of God because we’d rather stay the way we are. (5%)
The surefire test to know the Spirit is at work in your life is observable change as you grow toward Christlikeness. It doesn’t have to be dramatic, and it doesn’t have to be giant leaps from selfishness into selflessness. Rather, what we look for is visible change, shifts, movements, and growth. (40%)
Such a conclusion denies the truth of how Spirit-prompted people live. They are joined together in the metaphorical Body of Christ, the church, which physically is the fellowship and community of those who follow Jesus. A Spirit-prompted Christian life is about learning to live in fellowship with other Spirit-prompted people. In that community we learn to live the gospel at the deepest levels. Kevin Vanhoozer, an evangelical theologian, once observed that “it is the life of the church, not the commentary [our explanations of the faith], that is our most important form of biblical interpretation.”5 The Spirit drives Spirit-filled people to the Body of Christ. When we are open to the Spirit who creates the church, we will be open to God’s community, the church. (49%)
When we all exercise our Spirit-prompted gifts, we are drawn out of ourselves and toward one another. Are you open to the new orientation the Spirit has for you? Are you open to the Spirit’s gifts in others to edify you? For the Spirit-prompted gifts to work well, we need the Spirit-prompted fruit as well. They are mates lost without each other—which is why the fruit of the Spirit is the focus of the next chapter. (58%)
“A saint,” Schmemann wrote, “is thirsty not for ‘decency,’ not for cleanliness, and not for absence of sin, but for unity with God.”6 Such a thirst for union with God, for worship of God, for the ecstatic joy of loving God, is the Spirit’s work that gives us victory over sin. Back to the meaning of sin. If sin is self-reliance and self-centeredness, then the Spirit’s fruit will be loving, holy, and Christlike living. Never lose sight of these words from Paul: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let usnot become conceited, provoking and envying each other.*9 To achieve victory over sin involves first becoming people who are shaped by love, which is a virtue that orients life toward others. Victory over sin and the flesh produces an inner sense of well-being and contentedness (joy and peace and forbearance) and becomes thoughtful toward others (kindness, goodness, and gentleness) as well as faithful in our relationships with others (family, friends, church, community). Finally, the inner self is no longer out of control but is marked by “self-control,” which means Spirit-controlled. (77%)