“What are Spiritual Pathways?”
Pt 1 of Series, “Spiritual Pathways”
October 25, 2020
Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, 2 both low and high, rich and poor alike: 3 My mouth will speak words of wisdom;the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.4 I will turn my ear to a proverb; with the harp I will expound my riddle:
Proverbs 1:1, 5-7
The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:.. 5 let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— 6 for understanding proverbs and parables,the sayings and riddles of the wise. 7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
We are all different. That should come as no surprise to anyone. Last Saturday, we had our Pumpkin Carving event. What a great event it was. My nearly 5 year old twin grandchildren came. Matthew, my son, worked with Audrey and I worked with Anthony. When we were finished carving, Matthew looked at both of the carved pumpkins and said, “Those pumpkins show the differences between my two children.” Audrey is very laid back. She goes at her own pace about everything. We will sit at the dinner table and the rest of us will have eaten and are ready to put things away. Audrey is just then deciding if she will eat another French fry or a chicken nugget. And, sure enough, Audrey’s pumpkin was pretty simply- two eyes, a nose and a mouth. She was very happy with the simplicity of it all. Anthony, on the other hand, is in to everything. He wants to know more and do more. We will be at their house and all of a sudden, Anthony just wants to run. He runs from one end of the house to the other. So, Anthony’s pumpkin was a very complicated affair. I was the one who got to do all of these things with him. Anthony wanted round eyes, so Pop-Pop carved round eyes. He wanted eyebrows so Pop-Pop carved eyebrows. He wanted eyelashes. I mean, what pumpkin has eye lashes but Anthony wanted them so Pop-Pop carved them. He wanted a triangle nose and a mouth. So, Pop-Pop carved a mouth. Anthony wanted more. He wanted a tongue coming out of the mouth. How do you carve a tongue coming out of the mouth? But I did. Then he wanted a tooth. After I carved the mouth, THEN he wanted a tooth. I carved it. Then, Anthony said, “I don’t love just one tooth.” That’s what he said, “I don’t love just one tooth.” So Pop-Pop carved more teeth. He wanted cheeks. What in the world? Cheeks on a pumpkin? And then he wanted hands. How do you carve hands on a pumpkin? Audrey’s pumpkin was simple and easy. Anthony’s was complex and constantly growing. I think Matthew snookered me into working with Anthony.
We are all different. Every single person is unique. People have different likes and dislikes, different talents and abilities, different personalities. We’ve seen this in our discussion of spiritual gifts. Every Christian has at least one spiritual gift and that makes all of us different from other Christians. We are all different. That is the way God made us. I love what author John Ortberg said. “(God) is the One who made us, and He made us to be wildly, wonderfully, absurdly different from each other. Thinkers and feelers, backslappers and wannabee hermits, race horses and turtles—‘the Lord God made them all.” And—here is the thing I want to zero in on, just as God made us all different, so we can experience Him in different ways.”  At church, we tend to expect people to experience God in one way. We tend to think people experience God by listening to a sermon. Of course, since I am the one who has spent 25 years here preaching the sermons, I think this is the best way to experience God. No, I know better. Here at Risen Christ, we have music for people to experience Him and videos for the visual learners. I suppose the kinesthetic learners can be accommodated by Holy Communion. But, what if we could get beyond a standardized approach for experiencing God? What if you had a dominant style for experiencing God? What if you were able to experience God in a special way, a pathway, for knowing Him? Would your experience of Him be deeper and fuller. Enter Spiritual Pathways.
Today and for the next 3 weeks, we will be looking at 7 spiritual pathways which I will share in a moment. Before I do that, allow me to share some
- Things about Spiritual Pathways
Here are some things about spiritual pathways.
- We tend to favor one or two spiritual pathways
We usually have one or two of these pathways that we naturally gravitate to. Also, there are usually one or two spiritual pathways that are very unnatural for us. It is good to know what that is because using that pathway can stretch us to grow more.
- Understanding your spiritual pathway can give you freedom to experience God in your own way
You don’t have to allow yourself to be forced into a one size fits all experience of God. Instead, you can focus on the way God made you.
- Spiritual Pathways do not take the place of worship or Bible study
One of the pathways is creation to see God in creation. You experience God best in nature. So, somebody might say that they see God in creation when they are on the golf course on a Sunday morning. No, exercising your Spiritual Pathway does not take the place of worship or Bible study. It does give you a chance to go deeper with God just because of who you are.
And, Spiritual Pathways do not take the place of Jesus. Again, using the Creation Pathway as an example, you might really feel close to God when you sit at the Grand Canyon or you take in the stars on a clear night. But, looking at any of the wonders of creation do not teach you about God’s grace, His love. Looking at creation teaches you about the power of God. It doesn’t teach you about the love of God in Jesus. When Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by me,” He was saying that He was the only way, the only pathway, if you will, to the Father. Spiritual Pathways do not take the place of Jesus. They are tools to help you experience God even better. Think of them as more like prayer or fasting. Prayer helps you know God better. It doesn’t take the place of God. Spiritual Pathways lead you to a fuller understanding of God.
Here are the 7 Spiritual Pathways we will be discussing;
7 Spiritual Pathways
|Intellectual||You experience God better by learning more about Him|
|Relational||You experience God better by being involved in significant relationships|
|Serving||You experience God better by helping others|
|Worship||You experience God better by expressing and celebrating your love for God|
|Activist||You experience God better by working for a cause and achieving change|
|Contemplative||You experience God better by being alone with Him for significant periods of time|
|Creation||You experience God better by experiencing the world He made|
Now, you have some homework to do for next week. On the church’s website is a Spiritual Pathways survey. Go to risenchristfamily.com. Under the pull down menu called Resources, look for Spiritual Pathways survey. Take the survey. You will get an idea of what your dominant spiritual pathway is as well as your #2. But, also take note of what is your least dominant pathway. You can grow deeper spiritually by exercising your dominant pathway and maybe your #2. But you also can grow spiritually when you stretch yourself to exercise your least dominant pathway. But, try this right now. Take a guess at what is your #1, #2 and #7. Here they are again; Intellectual, Relational, Serving, Worship, Activist, Contemplative, and Creation.
You may be doing some of these things right now but you may need to connect some dots. Some of you are into serving. You love doing things for other people. But, serving as a Spiritual Pathway will help you to see your serving as gaining a fuller understanding of God. My dominant pathway is activism. I am good with a cause. One of the causes near and dear to me is the Pro-Life movement. The Bible says that life begins at the moment of conception and I believe that. I am willing to work for that cause, explain my Pro-Life stance to others, maybe, in this election cycle, to encourage Pro-Life candidates and challenge people who support candidates who are Pro-Choice. I can have a cause for the cause’s sake but the next step is to see how me working for that cause actually allows me to have a fuller understanding of God while I am doing it. You may already be doing your dominant pathway but you may need to have the dots connected that by doing it, you are growing closer to God.
As I said, in the weeks to come, we will be looking at each of these pathways. For the remainder of our message today, we will start with the
- The Intellectual Pathway
- People in the Intellectual Pathway experience God better by learning more about Him
They draw near to God through their head. They are the thinkers. Our Scriptures for today speak to this. When Psalm 49 says, “ My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding,” people with the Intellectual Pathway are going, “See, it is important to understand more about God.” When Proverbs 1 says, “let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance,” when Solomon, the author of Proverbs says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” those with the Intellectual Pathway are celebrating and high fiving all over the place. They are air high fives. After all, they won’t touch because of Covid. When Jesus, quoting the Old Testament, says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” those with the Intellectual Pathway are going, “See, I told you so.”
- These are the egg heads
These are the ones who like to study, who like to crack the books. When they come to Sunday worship, they can’t wait until the singing ends and it is time for the sermon. They want that sermon to be filled with facts and theological concepts and the more complicated, the better. These are the ones who are not at all interested in feeling or emotional approaches to faith. Care Groups are not appealing to them because people want to talk about their feelings. Those with the Intellectual Pathway want heavy duty Bible study. When these people find out that there are 4 Greek words for the term, “love” in the Bible, these are the people who look up every last one of the 800 Scripture passages containing one form or another of the term love to see all the different nuances. And—here is a critical distinction—these people are not just accumulating knowledge. This is a spiritual pathway for them. By accumulating knowledge, they feel closer to God. By studying those 800 passages about love, they are gaining a better appreciation of God’s love which draws them closer to God. By delving headlong into the concept of the incarnation, God becoming a human being, they see how God enters everyday life and that draws them closer to God. By examining Paul’s thinking around grace, it helps them to understand better just how deep God’s grace goes and that draws them closer to God. It is not knowledge for knowledge sake. It is not that they can win at Bible Jeopardy. It is that this knowledge is their pathway to experiencing God better.
- An example- Paul
The Apostle Paul may be an example of someone with the Intellectual Spiritual Pathway. Paul was certainly an egg head. Before he became a Christian, he studied under the Jewish Rabbi Gamaliel, who was one of the most famous of the Jewish teachers. Then, after Paul’s conversion, as you read through his 13 epistles, you find some of the deepest theological thinking ever. This is the man who said,
“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Romans 1:17
Every other religion of the world says you have to work your way to God. Judaism, the religion Paul was schooled in taught exactly that. And, yet Paul sets forth the deep theological principle that we are made righteous by God’s grace accepted through faith. Many people today cannot even fathom the complexities of that. This is the guy who said,
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
With the theological heavy weights of faith and hope, can you even understand how love is even greater? Can you understand the agape love Paul is referring to? And, this is the man who said;
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
What things are “all things”? What does “good” mean? Paul knew. Talk about a theological heavyweight. And, again, plumming the depths of these concepts drew Paul closer and closer to His Savior. Paul might be a good example of someone with the Intellectual Pathway.
Do you know anyone like that? Do you know anyone who is not just an egg head, but who is an egghead who draws closer to God by their egghead-iness, if egghead-iness is even a word? Who do you know that has the Inmtellectual Pathway? Now there are some
- Cautions for Those with the Intellectual Pathway
- You can be all head and no heart
These people might fall prey to gaining an accumulation of facts about God and the Bible, but they can’t say how to apply all of those facts to their lives. Knowing stuff is not the end goal of spiritual maturity. Being transformed into what Jesus wants for your life is.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. ” Romans 12:2
If the Intellectual Pathway is your dominant pathway, don’t be all head and no heart. Let the stuff you know move you to seek to do God’s will all the more.
- Don’t confuse being smart with being spiritually mature
Knowing what is right is not the same as doing what is right.
- Be careful of pride
People used to say that knowledge is power. The more you knew, the more powerful you are. It is far too easy for someone with great knowledge to look down on those without.
“But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” 1 Corinthians 8:1
All of that knowledge can divert you to things that are not as important. Be careful of controversy.
“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.” Titus 3:9-11
- How Can You Grow?
Those of you with the Intellectual Pathway—let’s call it what it is, you are nerds--you nerds are going to like this;
- Revel in your nerdiness
Study the Bible all the more. Dig deeper and deeper. The Christian world needs deep thinkers. It needs people who can help us wrestle with difficult theological concepts. Let your nerdiness move you to grow deeper in your faith.
- Always ask, “What does this mean to me?”
When I do my Bible Study each morning, I will read Scripture and then I will read some commentator to see what they have to say about that Scripture. There have been times when I have studied just to know more stuff. Over the last little bit though,I have added a segment in my notes called, “For me.” I write down how what this verse says or what this commentator says can be applied to my life. I write down what this verse means to me, how this verse will transform me into what Jesus wants for me to be.
- Be sure your learning leads to God
You can know every fact there is about God, but still have no faith. Be sure your learning leads to a deeper faith. Again, you can study all of those 800 verses about love from the Bible but unless it leads to more awe of a God who demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus to die for us, then all of that study is for naught. Here is a way of saying it; “Let your learning lead to worship or else it will get dangerous.”
Spiritual Pathways. The reason I am talking about spiritual pathways is to help you go deeper in your relationship with God. It follows from our last series in which we tried to lay out what it means to move beyond the elementary teachings to maturity. It is my hope that you will be able to see how the differences you have as a person can be used to grow you deeper in your relationship with Jesus. God bless you as you seek to understand and implement your Spiritual Pathway.
In Jesus’ name.
 “God is Closer than You Think,” by John Ortberg, Zondervan, pg. 121.