The Pattern for Authentic Spirituality
What is spirituality? We live in a culture that claims to be highly spiritual. For many, spirituality is an inward quest for God. Or, it is an attempt to find oneness with the life force of the universe. But for Christians, what does it mean that we are spiritual? For disciples of Jesus, spirituality is not rooted in some esoteric existential experience. Rather, it is to be found in unity with Christ. Robert Webber taught that we must "ponder and participate" in the salvific narrative of Christ. Becoming immersed in Christ means that we are taken up into HIStory - the Gospel. Further, as we are united to Christ we share in the divine nature of God (2 Peter 1:4). The Scriptures give no clearer image of this than baptism.
Spirituality centered in the concept of baptism focuses our attention not on water alone (even though there are many typologies of water and God's saving work), but on the cross and the empty tomb. Expressed simply, our spirituality may be seen in terms of "creation, fall and recreation." Obviously, God made humanity in His image at the creation. This image was broken by the sin of Adam and Eve. The subsequent curse infected all of humanity. Jesus came, as representative head of humanity, to recreate or restore us to the Edenic ideal. His sacrificial death on the cross and subsequent resurrection defeated sin, death and hell - thereby offering an antidote to the Adamic curse. Eugene Peterson said, "The Christian life...is a recovery of what was lost at the fall." Ranald McCaulay wrote similarly, "The whole purpose of the Christian life is the recovery of the original image of God." Baptismal images are evident in the creation as the spirit hovers over the waters. This typology springs to life at Jesus‚Äô baptism ‚Äì when the Spirit descended upon God's Son in that watery scene. Jesus' baptism served to identify Him with fallen humanity, and prefigure His death and resurrection.
Baptism is commended to US. Like the Eucharist, baptism is commanded by the Lord Himself which means IT IS VERY IMPORTANT. In fact, in the "Great Commission" baptism is one of two main tasks given to the Apostles as they were sent out to the world. Why is it so important? In Romans 5 and 6, Paul teaches an amazing mystery. He uses this same idea of "creation, fall, and recreation." Paul speaks of Adam's curse coming to all men and how Jesus reverses the curse. How does Paul say that we receive this restoration from Adam's rebellion? Our recreation, he declares, is found in connecting with the cross and empty tomb through baptism. In baptism we are united to Christ's death and resurrection. Webber claimed that baptism is a performative symbol. That is, it enacts what it signifies. Without Jesus' death and resurrection offered to us as we are united with Him in baptism, we would most assuredly perish under Adam's curse.
How does baptism, a one time rite, express and enact our ongoing spiritual lives rooted in Christ. We are baptized into Christ once - but we must die to self daily. Therefore the Scriptural mandate of "living out ones' baptism." This may be the easiest yet most profound way to communicate the essential truths of "creation, fall and recreation." Martin Luther concurred that the pattern of creation, fall and recreation in Christ is a worthy one by which to live. He said, "...in Baptism, every Christian has enough to study and to practice all his life. He always has enough to do to believe firmly what baptism promises and brings -- victory over death and the devil, forgiveness of sin, God's grace, the entire Christ, and the Holy Spirit with his gifts." Luther also said that baptism is to become..."the daily garment which the disciple is to wear all the time,...every day suppressing the old person and growing up in the new."
In an era when spirituality is suffering under the corrupting influences of man-made traditions and pseudo spiritual systems, we would do well to return to the ancient pattern of spirituality laid out for us in the Scriptures. Jesus said, "If you want to be my disciple you must deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me." This pattern is perfectly pictured in death, burial and resurrection - at Calvary and in a watery tomb.