Living the Spiritual Life in Real Life
I started following Jesus when I was 15 years old through an experience I had at summer camp. You probably know the scene: youth group kids at summer camp, girls crying their mascara off, and boys standing strong hoping to be the shoulder that they will cry on. There I was, confessing my sin of materialism and the bad decision of kissing the 18-year-old boy at the dance. I was repentant to never again lie to my mom about the rated-R movie I snuck into with my friends the weekend before. And as my new camp friends surrounded me and we sang one last verse of “All in All” (a cappella of course), something profound happened to me that changed my life forever. I cannot describe exactly what I experienced that night. All I can tell you is that I could not stop crying and telling Jesus that my heart was his.
It was like something new was created in me that wasn’t there before. To summarize the next 18 years, my life’s direction changed course. This moment is the reason that I am who I am today and the reason that I am where I am today.
I have often thought back to that day and to that 15-year-old girl. As I do, it occurs to me that today looks very different than that day.
Today I am no longer crying my mascara off in worship. My mom no longer cares if I stay out too late and watch rated-R movies. I’m only kissing one man. And we don’t sing “All in All” at church camp anymore.
Today I rock my two-year-old to sleep and wipe snotty noses. I stay up late doing school work, finishing small group questions, and trying to stay awake long enough to write.
This has caused me to ponder, what does it mean to live in the space between when we first come to know God at salvation and today? In other words, what does it mean to live the spiritual life in real life?
Paul offers us a resource as we ponder this question in what many scholars call the “theological heart” of the letter to the Ephesians:
For we are God’s (workmanship) handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:10)
So what is the work of creation that God does on behalf of believers in Christ? Let’s go back a few verses:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Eph 4:4-7)
Notice the verbs that Paul uses to describe God’s work of “creating us in Christ” (Eph 2:10). God:
made us alive with Christ
raised us with Christ
seated us with Christ.
These three verbs occur in the Greek aorist tense. The aorist tense is a past tense, but is used when the effect of the action continues in the present. These actions have happened in the past, but they are still happening today. This is what I am calling spiritual formation: God’s ongoing creation and re-creation of believers.
In other words, the on-going spiritual formation of believers is tied to God’s very act of creation.
We were created by God at the very beginning with all of creation. But now, in Christ, we have been re-created. We are made alive with, raised with, and seated with Christ continually over the life span.
So, what does this have to do with living the spiritual life in real life?
The promise of Eph 2:10 is that whatever season of life we find ourselves in, whether it is crying our mascara off in worship or rocking a two-year-old to sleep, we are being created and re-created by God. We are God’s new creation story, God’s handiwork, God’s workmanship. We are still being made alive, raised with and seated with Christ today.
So let’s not look back. Let’s not dream forward. Let’s allow today to be today. And let’s say “yes” to the re-creative work of God in our present circumstances.