Why Word and Spirit?

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

John 4:24

There are a lot of opinions about what Christianity, discipleship, and the church should look like, bolstered by many perspectives which are rooted in the foundation of self.  I wonder, though, if we would step outside of our own biases and ground ourselves in Christ, what would we find to guide us?  Is there a universal picture of Christ that is addressed to all persons regardless of those criteria we often use to separate us and distinguish us from others?  Is there truly a way to look at faith and life through the unfiltered lens of Jesus Christ?  Despite all of our differences, God has called us into one body of worship and discipleship.  We are the body of Christ, not many bodies.  And yet, we often act just like this in the Church.

Jesus told the woman at the well that worship of God must reflect God’s very being – not our being.  It did not matter that she was a Samaritan, nor would it have mattered if she were a Jew or a Gentile.  She, and all who desire to worship God, must ground their worship in God and his being.  It is a rather simple directive, but it is contrary to how we oftentimes approach all matters of faith – theology, Christian anthropology, ecclesiology, etc.   Often, we begin with ourselves and move toward God.  However, we are called to begin with God and only then can we discover our true self.  Those who approach God are to do so not in their own power, but in Spirit and Truth.

What does this mean?  We can understand more clearly when we consider the two “avenues” of revelation, so to speak, God has used as final revelations of God’s true self – namely, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  After all, John later quotes Jesus as saying that he is the truth (John 14:6), and so what is Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman about other than his own self and the coming Spirit?  Christ and the Spirit reveal God fully because they share in the very essence of God the Father.  This also explains why we cannot be ultimate sources of revelation, because we do not share in God’s being.  However, Christ and the Holy Spirit do.

Of course, though, Jesus Christ is no longer here and anyone can say that the Holy Spirit tells them anything.  Additionally, all we have of Jesus are human written accounts of his life based on oral tradition.  However, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are the only true means of access to God.  They are the way to communion with God.  John also equated Jesus with the Word (John 1), and so we can conclude that the way to God is through the Word and the Spirit (Jesus = Word = Truth).  The Word, then, is the living testimony of Jesus Christ, inasmuch as we can decipher from the agreement of the written traditions about him through the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is the Holy Spirit, accessed through means of connection to God, or in other words the spiritual disciplines of prayer, study, meditation, worship, service, confession, solitude, etc. (so wonderfully detailed by Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline).

This blog, therefore, seeks to explore how we encounter God through Christ and the Holy Spirit, or through Word and Spirit, what effects this way of communion with God will have on our overall perception of the life of faith, and the problems/issues related to our understanding of Word and Spirit.