I don’t want to be more spiritual

What I do is defined by who I am and who I was created to be

Nov 20, 2019

If you’ve ever heard of Christian dualism, it refers to segregation between what is created and what is holy. It can be summed up in four words: God good, world bad.

While we don’t have this dualism explicitly stated in modern Christianity, it has seeped in ideologically. Before I get too far I want to emphasize that indeed our world is a mess with sin and God is truly good. However, I want to draw a distinction between this dualism and who God truly created us to be.

God created the world good and he created us in his image — see Genesis 1. As we continue to read Genesis, sin enters the world but never does the world become evil or bad. In addition, God never curses humans but curses the ground and serpent. Often, we conflate sin’s debut as the moment the world tied its anchor to the rubbish bin.

However, while sin is bad, God’s created world still remains good. And humankind, created in the image of God, frequently prefers sin but remains to be created in God’s image.

God’s creation is good.

That said, we shouldn’t skim over the fact that humans love sin. The biblical story lays out, quite clearly, that although God gives the best way to live, humans still prefer to go their own way. This is an issue, no wonder Jeremiah stresses how wicked the heart of humans can be (Jer 17).

The creator God sees this issue, and when He comes, in person, He comes to make all things new again. He doesn’t come to destroy and obliterate, that is the work of the enemy. Instead, Christ comes to restore and to teach us how to live in God’s good world as it becomes new again.

Christ’s first words in Mark’s Gospel, “The Kingdom of God is here. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus has come and brought God’s Kingdom with him, here on earth, and says the first step to make things new is to turn from our sinful and wicked ways, repent.

However, when we repent, we do not just add one more thing on our “to do” list, but we have a shift in our identity. In turning from our sin, we join God in making the world new. We are adopted and marked out in the righteous family of God and become fully functioning image-bearers within God’s good world.

Being a Jesus follower does not just change what we do. It changes who we are.

We are Jesus followers. We do not only do Jesus following things.

The issue then becomes that even as Jesus followers with changed identities, we can become obsessed with doing, doing, doing.

I’ll give an example, as I think some readers may not see the issue I’m trying to subvert.

I’m a teacher at a Christian school so I have encounters with students who are growing spiritually and committed to following Jesus. Some students are quite motivated to formative Christian practice, which is admirable, but I think in doing so, they sometimes abandon their identity for “doing more.”

A student was in conversation with my Dad the other day, as he also teaches at the same school as myself, and this student wanted to improve their life spiritually and saw their studying in the way of their spiritual growth.

I felt bad to hear that this academic student felt like one of their talents was “in the way” of their walk with Christ. This student took this to heart and tried to find a solution, as they still had copious amounts of studying to do.

Their idea: listen to worship music while they studied.

Here is the dualism I introduced at the beginning: world bad, God good.

This student saw their studying as an issue, and that they needed to almost “spiritualize” it improve their spiritual journey, even when their studying was not even close to being idolatrous. I said earlier that the human heart is wicked and loves sin, but this just isn’t it.

In this world, we live, and our lives are made up of eating, sleeping, and even studying. All of which are good created things, even without the Hillsong soundtrack.

God’s creation is good. Could it be that even the tasks of our lives could be spiritual and good? I find Colossians 3:23 helpful here.

We were created to live in God’s good world, and that includes studying, or whatever task you’d like to choose. When we are Jesus followers, what we do is done under that umbrella. We are Christians, we do not merely do Christian things.

When Christians study, studying is Christian. No Chris Tomlin background music required. That, to me, is beautiful. What we do is defined by who we are, not the other way around.

To conclude, I’ll emphasize that Christians definitely do things differently. I’m a Christian teacher who is convicted that Christians do and should teach differently.

Doing things differently was prolific in the early church. Hospitality was different, care for sick was different, and support for needy was different.

Christians do things differently, but what they do is informed by who they are.

I do not do things differently to be more Christian; I am Christian, so I do things differently, and it never requires additional music.