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Confession of Faith - Article 18: Christian Spirituality
We believe that to be a disciple of Jesus is to know life in the Spirit. As we experience relationship with God, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ take shape in us, and we grow in the image of Christ. In individual and communal worship, the Holy Spirit is present, leading us deeper into the wisdom of God.
By confessing Christ and receiving baptism, we are brought into a new relationship with God through Christ. In God's love, our whole life is freed, transformed, reordered, and renewed. In loving and knowing God, we experience communion with God and allow more and more of our life to be conformed to the way of Jesus--his life, death, and resurrection. We yield ourselves to God, letting the Holy Spirit mold us into the image of Christ.1 As individual Christians and as the church, we are called to be in relationship with God, reflecting the way of Christ, being filled with the Holy Spirit. We are to grow up in every way into Christ, who is the head of the church, through whom it is built up in love.2
We draw the life of the Spirit from Jesus Christ, just as a branch draws life from the vine. Severed from the vine, the power of the Spirit cannot fill us. But as we make our home in Christ and Christ abides in us, we bear fruit and become his disciples.3 When we are in the presence of the Spirit, we also keep in step with the Spirit and show the fruit of the Spirit in our actions.4 Our outer behavior matches our inner life.
Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, study of Scripture, reflection on God, corporate worship, singing hymns, simplicity, witness, and service are training in godliness.5 Such disciplines open us to a growing relationship with God and to putting ourselves more completely into the hands of God. Disciplines are also preparation for times of testing and of suffering. If we practice the presence of God in calmer times, we find it easier to know God's presence in difficult times.
We are convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,6 for God can use both joy and suffering to nurture our spiritual growth.7 In this age, Christ in us is our hope of glory.8 We look forward to that time when our partial knowledge of God will become complete, and we will see face to face.9
Spirituality is a relatively recent term used to refer to life in the Spirit and the experience of God. Anabaptists and Mennonites have used several words to describe spirituality, such as piety, humility, Gelassenheit (yieldedness or letting go), Frömmigkeit (piety), and Nachfolge (following Christ). These concepts all have to do with radical openness to knowing God and to doing God's will. They do not separate spirituality from ethics, or reflection from action. For this reason, this confession of faith includes spirituality in the section on discipleship. Jesus taught that the pure (or clean) in heart are the ones who will see God (Matthew 5:8).
Many religious traditions speak of spirituality, or experience of the divine. People sometimes claim that all such experiences are really the same. But at least two distinct streams can be identified in the history of Christian spirituality. In the stream influenced primarily by Greek philosophy, the goal is union with God, the individual's absorption into God. Loving the neighbor and following Christ are by-products of this union with God.
The second stream is influenced more by biblical thought. The goal of its action and contemplation is communion with God, or covenant relationship with God. It is more focused on Jesus Christ--his life, death, and resurrection--as the way for believers. The Anabaptists of the sixteenth century were not the first to recognize that knowing Christ and following Christ in life are interwoven; many earlier dissenters had also connected spiritual insight with ethics. This confession of faith identifies more strongly with the second stream by affirming that Christian spirituality is defined by Christ and his way, in accordance with the Scriptures.
The Holy Spirit is present to God's people individually and corporately. The New Testament refers to both the gathered body and the individual Christian as a temple or dwelling place for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:21-22; 1 Corinthians 6:19). Both personal devotion and corporate worship, individual action and community activity, are occasions for the Spirit's work in, among, and through us.
The list of spiritual disciplines mentioned in this article is not complete. Fasting, keeping a journal, alms giving, and other disciplines could have been included. Practicing the spiritual disciplines is good in itself, and it produces other desirable results. Scripture study leads us toward knowing God, as well as increasing our knowledge about God. Worship contributes to our spiritual growth, as well as declaring our praise and our allegiance to God. Giving alms helps us to seek the kingdom of God by keeping us from becoming too attached to material things, as well as helping the poor.
- 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; Phillipians 3:21.
- Ephesians 4:15-16.
- John 15:5-8.
- Psalms 1; Galatians 5:22-26.
- 1 Timothy 4:7-8.
- Romans 8:35-39.
- Matthew 5:1-12; Psalms 119:67.
- Colossians 1:27.
- 1 Corinthians 13:12.