Summary: An examination of the real path to spiritual victory (in Christ)rather than promised short cuts.
True Spirituality Series
No Shortcuts to Glory
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
I start with some assumptions today. Number one: every one of you wants to know and experience the reality of God in your life. You don’t just want to talk a good faith. You want to live it. Number two: you want to go to heaven. While your eternal destiny may seem a long way off most of the time, you truly want what the Bible describes and Jesus offers. Number three: you also want to overcome the temptations and moral struggles that life seems to bring your way. No one, at least no one in this room, plans to fail spiritually and morally.
I am convinced that these three facts are true for everyone in this room. If not, you probably wouldn’t be here. There could be some exceptions. A few might be here because your wife or a parent or boy friend insists that you come to church. I have noticed a few heel marks in the asphalt left from when someone has been drug across the street and into church. For most of you, no one makes you show up. You are here because you want to be. You want the spiritual strength, encouragement, and hope that you find at church.
I think one other fact is probably true for many of us. We tend to approach spiritual matters like most people do their health. They are constantly looking for a secret short cut. People imagine a pill that allows them to eat all they want and still lose weight. Folk buy into one diet plan after another, each offering the promise of permanent weight loss the easy way. Or they purchase one exercise contraption after another because the newest one promises an easier way to a healthier you. Of course, within six months most of them end as high priced clothes racks. Within a year, they are the bargain at the all town garage sale. A lot of folk even jump at those TV adds offering the nifty little contraption that you fasten around your waist and plug into the wall. You turn it on and it gives your muscles a total body workout while you watch TV from the comfort of your recliner. You don’t even have to put down the remote control. What could be better! Of course, we know the reality!
Spiritually, many of us yearn for a magic pill or a secret formula that would guarantee the health of our soul, power over temptation, and one mountain top religious experience after another. Discouragement and doubt would disappear forever—if we could only figure out the secret. Just like with the promise of easy diet or painless exercise, there are a lot of voices out there promising a shortcut to spirituality.
If a recent cover story in Newsweek (Aug. 2005) is true (and I have no doubt it is) a lot of Americans are looking for just such a spiritual experiences. The article claimed that the interest in religion may be flat or declining, “but "spirituality," the impulse to seek communion with the Divine, is thriving.” Millions, the article claimed, are trying anything that promises a low cost, low maintenance spiritual experience.
I’ll wager some of us in the room have wished we could find the spiritual secret. Consider Jan. She loves the Lord. She is active in her church. She works hard at trying to do what’s right. But she still struggles. She wonders if she is doing everything she should. One day a middle-aged couple carrying brief cases knocks on her door to offer some free religious literature. They tell her that their books and classes will provide answers to all the questions she has. Their church knows the secret that no other religious group knows. Jan is skeptical, but she is also curious.
John sometimes wonders if there isn’t something missing. In fact, even his Sunday School class at his church has had several debates recently along those lines. Some in the class have discovered the writings of a popular Bible teacher who promotes fasting and a special kind of prayer as spiritual warfare. They insist that no one can really be spiritual without it.
Bill is a young Christian who still struggles with some of his old temptations. He began to wonder if he would ever be free of the old yearnings. Then he met a girl in one of his classes at college. She invited him to a Bible study. Before the evening was over, the whole group had formed a circle around Bill and was praying that he would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit.” When that happens, they assured him, he would have a miraculous spiritual experience and all his spiritual struggles would be over. Without this experience, he could never be truly spiritual.