Over the past few months I have been writing papers for provisional membership in the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. Writing the papers has allowed me to reflect on what it is I believe. Today, as I was doing some reading, I came across the phrase: practice vs. preference. This past Sunday the worship service was geared toward letting go of the past and beginning the New Year fresh. The congregation was invited to participate in writing down what they wanted to remove from last year and throwing it away, then receiving a bookmark that created a covenental relationship with God. So, when I read the phrase today that said practice vs. preference, it made me think about the worship service and beginning a New Year- were we actually making the choice to prefer to be Christian and live that daily walk with God in a covenental relationship, or were we making the choice to be a practicing Christian that is in daily walk with God and actively continuing to sign and re-sign the covenental relationship with God? We can say we want a new us all we want, we can say we want to keep our New Year’s resolutions all we want … however, unless we are practicing our faith, we are just really saying we prefer to be Christian, but not be a practicing Christian. This is similar to one saying they are spiritual, yet they are not religious – this cannot be.
The saying that one is spiritual, yet they are not religious is a false statement. And here is why:
This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Ephesians 3:1-6).
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, is saying that within us is the Holy Spirit that guides us to an understanding of God. The Holy Spirit leads one to an awakening of who God is, and if we say we are just spiritual beings and no religion, then we are not being fully aware of the Holy Spirit working within us. This mystery Paul talks about is grace, the abundant, universal, irresistible prevenient grace. This grace helps us to become aware and begin to understand Jesus Christ. So for one to say that they are a spiritual being and not religious cannot be – this is a fact because then this person is not fully aware of who Jesus Christ is for their lives and the journey of salvation that is awaiting them. One is not a practicing “spiritualist,” rather one must be awakened by the Holy Spirit to not just prefer to be Christian or spiritual, but to practice religion that is the mission of Jesus Christ – to Make Disciples and to Transform the World.
I invite you to be in a practicing covenental relationship with God, to be in daily conversation with God, to live a life for God, and to continue on this journey of salvation that continues to awaken you by the power of the Holy Spirit to God’s grace and the continual revelation of Jesus Christ in your life.