True Spirituality (and the Christmas Story!)

A major turning point in the development of my faith took place many years ago when I first read Francis Schaeffer’s book, “True Spirituality.”  The timing of Schaeffer’s book was significant in my journey of learning to walk by faith.  As it happened, I was beginning to question the effectiveness of the spiritual formation model that I was pursuing.  Specifically, I was weary with my own efforts to enact real and sustainable change in my inner person.  The self-improvement plan that I had subconsciously developed through the spiritual disciplines was not breaking through the strongholds of my life.  I needed a whole new perspective.  A new mind-set as it were.  Schaeffer’s book introduced me to the “true spirituality” taught in Scripture.  He wrote that true spirituality, as defined in the Bible, is not a mechanical process or a to do list.  It is in fact a dynamic experience of relationship with God rooted in the finished work of the cross.  I remember the freedom I experienced in the realization that relationship, not ritual was my goal.  I felt like I could breathe.  It set a new standard for pursuing God in my life. 

Spiritual formation is core to being a Christian.  Believers are meant to GROW in every aspect of what it means to be a Christian.  Just as a healthy body grows and matures biologically, so to, our spirituality is programmed to mature over time.  We start out as baby Christians (1 Peter 2:2) and grow into fully matured adult children of God (Ephesians 4:13).

As I was studying the Christmas heroes in Luke Chapter 1 recently, it became clear to me that Elizabeth is a hero to my faith because her life serves as a model of developing true spirituality. 

Here, let me show you.

Luke describes Elizabeth, like her husband, Zechariah, as righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord (Luke 1:6).  This description is just another way of saying that she was a woman of faith.  She was righteous, according to the Law, because she believed God (see Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:3).  She walked in obedience to God because her life was governed by faith.  Spiritual formation or true spirituality can only grow into full maturity as we learn to trust God or believe God in all things.  One of the ways that we know we have faith is because unmet longings do not deter us from serving God.  Elizabeth is described in Luke 1 as “barren,” which in that ancient culture was a great burden for a couple to bear.  Yet she carried on living her life by faith.   

After Elizabeth discovered that she was in fact pregnant, she went into seclusion and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people” (Luke 1:24-25).  She was a smart lady.  She took the approach that many couples do today.  They wait until their pregnancy is a well-established fact before announcing it to others.  But notice carefully that Elizabeth makes a spiritual connection in her silence and seclusion.  If you intend to grow as a Christian, you must make time to be “alone” with God.  Silence terrorizes today’s world because we are so high on digital stimulation that we have the attention span of a goldfish.  For you to experience true spirituality you must plan time each day to pause, be still and listen to the voice of the Lord. 

Luke 1 includes the well-known visit that Mary made at Elizabeth’s home even as she was pregnant herself (Luke 1:39-45).  It’s a significant event in the Christmas story for a bunch of reasons.  Let me just point out that God’s design for your spiritual life also includes fellowship time with others.  What a visit it was.  It was so stimulating that baby John leaped in the womb when Mary arrived on the scene.  Growing as a healthy Christian cannot (normally) take place in isolation.  It happens in community.  If you are living as a Christian and are not seeking to grow in community, you are mistaken. 

For time’s sake, let me point out one more aspect of spiritual formation that I see in Elizabeth’s life.  She had the courage to challenge status quo.  On the day of John’s circumcision, “they,” the powers that be were going to call the boy after the name of his father, Zechariah.   Elizabeth’s answer was “NO!”  “He shall be called John” (Luke 1:60).  If you are growing into the likeness of Jesus, you have to learn to say NO.  Often you have to say no to your own desires.  Even more you must be brave enough to say no to what others have planned for you.  You have to have the courage to carry out God’s will for your life.  

I look forward to seeing you on Sunday morning at 9AM or 11AM as we continue our Advent journey. 

Pastor Deric

A Heart for Serving

Service in Canada has fallen to an all-time low.  It’s practically impossible to find a sales associate willing to help you find what you need in any given industry.  Trying to find someone who helps you resolve an issue is about as likely as spotting “Big Foot” at Square One.  If you happen to make eye contact with some sales associates, they ignore you or dismiss you.  There are exceptions to the rule, of course.  And as an aside, service in the marketplace turns out to be a financial advantage.  People will be loyal to a company that serves their needs in a half-friendly manner.  Mississauga is particularly bad, in my experience.  I’ve thought for years that somebody should start a “SMILE” campaign in our not-so-friendly town. 

On the other hand, serving is often held out as a high ideal in Canadian life.  Particularly during the pandemic, “front-line” workers have been hailed as heroes who serve the sick.  They deserve our appreciation.  Serving in “public life” has, at times, been seen as a badge of honour in Canada.  And we appreciate the vast contributions of those faithful “volunteers” who serve in a myriad of charitable organizations.  Service is best understood when viewed through the lens of the Bible. 

  1. Service is a particularly Jewish concept! Take a moment to read this passage from the book of Deuteronomy to see how serving is woven into the fabric of ancient Jewish life (Deuteronomy 10).


“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?  To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.  Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today.  He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.  And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.  Fear the Lord your God and serve him.  Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name.  He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.”

  1. Service is a particularly Christian concept! Jesus, our Lord, set the standard for Christian service. The apostle Mark said of Him that He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45).


Paul wrote about Jesus observing that, “although He was equal with God did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross!”

Individual Christians are admonished in the Bible to “serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13, NIV).

  1. Serving is a personal privilege for the Christian!  When Paul preached about the resurrection of Jesus to both Jews and Gentiles in Antioch at the local synagogue (Acts 13), he illustrated his point by describing David as a man who served God’s purpose in his own generation” then “he fell asleep and was buried with his fathers and his body decayed.”  Note the summary of David’s life.  “He served God’s purpose in his own generation.”  Every true Christian desires that life epitaph.  We are here to serve the Lord in our own generation.  We are servants “for Jesus’ sake.” 


I can’t wait to study another servant hero with you from the Christmas story this coming Sunday.  His name is Zechariah, and he is described by Luke as serving as a priest before God.”  I’m looking forward to sharing what I’m learning from Zechariah about being a servant in my generation.   

See you at 9AM or 11AM.

Your servant for Jesus’ sake,
Pastor Deric