Michael W. Austin

Thinking hard about things that matter.

Spiritual Growth is Slow

For many of us, one of the hardest things to accept about the process of spiritual growth, or sanctification, is that it is often slow. But it is, and that’s okay.

I struggle with this reality. In fact, my lack of acceptance of the slow pace of growth in Christ can undermine my own pursuit of God and of Christlike character. I want instant results, and when they don’t come I get frustrated and my motivation wanes. Related to this, I enjoy reading about the various spiritual disciplines, from writers both past and present. Yet when I do, I become more aware of the vast array of practices that can help us appropriate God’s grace and open our lives to him. I then think I must be engaged in all of these, or at least many of them.

Recently, however, I was reminded in a helpful way of the fact that slowness in the spiritual life is a reality, and that there is no need to fight against it. This past week I listened to an episode of the Renovare podcast, in which Nathan Foster and Australian pastor Andrew Ranucci discuss the value of spiritual retreats and growth in Christ. At Ranucci’s church, they focus on one discipline per year. While this seems slow, in 6 years people will have engaged in and hopefully come to habitually practice 6 different disciplines that foster openness to God and to the process of spiritual growth.

I highly recommend listening to this podcast, especially the second half of it. It is always good to be reminded that in the spiritual life, we ought to take a long-term view as we walk the path of a long obedience in the same direction.

Photo: Photo Monkey, CCL

Radio Appearance on Faith and Sport

I recently was interviewed on the show “Faith and Sport” on Radio Maria. I discuss character and sports, at this link, around the 17 minute mark:

Pascal on Things that Matter

I wrote this a while back, over at Ethics for Everyone. But it seems just as important, if not more so, today. Pascal was a deeply committed follower of Jesus, and is still studied in philosophy programs around the world today. I especially appreciate that his philosophical thought is both deep and practical.

Want more from Pascal? See his Pensees.

Being a Christian Means Becoming Like Christ

Good SamaritanIn some segments of the church it is now routinely suggested that Christianity is not about ethics; rather, it is about a relationship with Christ. While I applaud any resistance to reducing Christianity to an ethical system, I’m concerned that Christian antipathy towards ethics is itself unchristian. Christianity is not merely about ethics, but it does essentially include ethics. The Christian, as a follower of Jesus, should seek to embody the moral and intellectual virtues of Jesus Christ, our Lord. He is our moral and intellectual exemplar.

There is some resistance to ethics within the Christian spiritual formation movement as well. I affirm the emergence and flourishing of the movement, and am a strong advocate of practicing the spiritual disciplines for the sake of connection to and growth in Christ. But some approach these disciplines merely as avenues for having some sort of subjective, or even mystical, experience of God. While all believers should have such a thirst for Him, and part of the function of the disciplines is to enter into such fellowship with God, I believe there is great potential for moral formation that is at present untapped. And I believe that the Scriptures strongly emphasize this aspect of following Christ. The vital link between our experiential knowledge of Christ and growth in moral formation is our growth in virtue.

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Easter Matters Because Character Matters

Yesterday, Christians around the world celebrated Easter, the holiday dedicated to remembering and celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection is an essential claim for those who, like the Apostle Paul, think that the Christian faith depends on the truth of this event:

 

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died (1 Corinthians 15:12-20, NRSV).

Today, I want to discuss one reason that the resurrection is significant for Christians, because I think it is one that we often either ignore, or at least neglect.

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