7 rules that Christians must break

Rev. Jonathan Fisk, the young pastor known for his lively  Worldview Everlasting videos, has published a book entitled Broken – Seven “Christian” Rules That Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible.  This is a book that needs to get into the hands of Christians who are emergent, burnt out, disillusioned, lapsed, millennial, cynical, and the pastors who minister to them.  What are the 7 rules that need to be broken? [Read more...]

You’ve got to read this book

For Lent I took up once again John Kleinig’s Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today. That has to be one of the most helpful books I have ever read. I have been a Christian for a long time, and I am not unconversant when it comes to spiritual subjects. But I found myself learning fresh insights into the Christian faith on every page of this book.

Dr. Kleinig, an Australian theologian and Bible scholar, is simply the most illuminating contemporary Christian writer that I have come across. His subject here is “Christian spirituality,” what mystics and those seeking a deeper spiritual life all crave. But what he does is to open up that deep spirituality that can be found in the everyday life of the Christian: in the Gospel, in going to church, in reading the Bible, and in prayer. Grace Upon Grace has chapters on Christ and what He has done and continues to do for us; on how to meditate on God’s Word; on prayer; and on spiritual warfare.

Go to the Amazon site, which has a “look inside” feature for a sample. Go on and buy it there and the Cranach blog will get a commission. Some time ago I posted excerpts from the book on this blog. Do a search for “John Kleinig” and you can find them.

Reading it this time had an even greater impact on me than before. I was struck especially with what I was learning about intercessory prayer–praying for other people–and what it means to pray in Jesus’ name (praying as His agent for what He wants to happen). Also what he says about vocation, with his application of the New Testament’s military metaphors, with the garrison soldier not being responsible for the whole battle, just the plot of land where he was stationed.

Dr. Kleinig is Lutheran, but if you aren’t Lutheran, don’t let that keep you from reading it. All Christians can benefit from reading this book–pastors, young people in confirmation classes, lay people, new church members, everybody. If they do, they will be introduced to the riches of the Christian life. Seriously. Trust me on this. Read this book.

The role of Satan in the Christian’s life

More from Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today by John W. Kleinig on tentatio:

Strangely, we discover the mysterious power of God’s Word, the hidden work of the Holy Spirit in and through the Word most clearly in temptation. Thus Luther says, ‘Thirdly, there is tentatio [temptation, trial], Anfechtung [attack]. This is the touchstone which teaches you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s Word is, wisdom beyond all wisdom.’” (Page 21))

When Satan attacks us, we experience the righteousness and truth of God’s Word with our whole being, rather than just with the intellect; we experience the sweetness and loveliness of God’s Word with our whole being, rather than just with the emotions; we experience the power and strength of God’s Word with our whole being, rather than just with the body. (Page 21)

“The German word Anfechtung describes Satan’s attack upon our faith in Christ and God’s condemnation of us as sinners. As long as we operate by our own power with our own intellect and our own too-human notions, the devil attacks us by stirring up misunderstanding, contradiction, opposition, and persecution. He mounts that attack through the enemies of the Gospel in the Church and in the world. The purpose of this attack is to destroy our faith and undo the hidden work of God’s Word in us. As soon as God’s Word is planted in our hearts, the devil tries to drive it out so that we will no longer operate by the power of the Holy Spirit.

But paradoxically, these attacks are counter-productive. Luther says, ‘For as soon as God’s Word takes root and grows in you, the devil will harry you, and will make a real doctor [of theology] of you, and by his assaults will teach you to seek and love God’s Word.” Thus the devil’s attack on us serves to strengthen our faith because it drives us back to God’s Word as the only basis for spiritual life. We cannot rely on our own resources in the battle against Satan and the powers of darkness. If we rely on our wisdom and power, we will fail. In that situation, our only hope is in Christ and His Word. Our spiritual weakness makes us trust in the power of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of God’s Word, which is “wisdom above all wisdom.” Through temptation we learn to seek help from God in meditation and prayer. We walk with Christ on the way of the cross; we discover the spirituality of the cross. We do not experience the splendor of union with our heavenly Lord, but we share in His suffering and pain. We bear the cross together with our Lord as we suffer with Him. Through the attacks of the evil one we are drawn further out of ourselves and deeper into Christ.” (Page 22)

What Christian spirituality is

From Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today by John W. Kleinig:

“When I speak about spirituality, I do not envisage something extraordinary—a superior way of being a Christian that is open only to a religious elite or a more advanced stage in the spiritual life. I have in mind what is given to every faithful person. Christian spirituality is, quite simply, following Jesus. It is the ordinary life of faith in which we receive Baptism, attend the Divine Service, participate in the Holy Supper, read the Scriptures, pray for ourselves and others, resist temptation, and work with Jesus in our given location here on earth. By our practice of spirituality we are not raised to a higher plane above the normal, everyday, bodily life, but we receive the holy Spirit from Christ so that we can live in God’s presence each day of our lives as we deal with people and work, sin and abuse, inconvenience and heartbreak, trouble and tragedy. We are not called to become more spiritual by disengaging from our earthly life, but simply to rely on Jesus as we do what is given for us to do, experience what is given for us to experience, and enjoy what is given for us to experience, and enjoy what is given for us to enjoy.” (Page 23)

“Thus all that our body does outwardly and physically, if God’s Word is added to it and it is done through faith, is in reality and in name done spiritually. Nothing can be so material, fleshly, or outward, but it becomes spiritual when it is done in the Word and in faith. Spiritual is nothing else than what is done in us and by us through the Spirit and faith, whether the object with which we are dealing is physical or spiritual.” (Page 24)

Jesus swaps places with us

From Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today by John W. Kleinig (which, at last count, we have boosted to #7,389 on the Amazon.com bestseller list, up from #200,000 something):

“Jesus does not offer us superhuman life; He does not turn us into supermen and superwomen with extraordinary physical and mental powers. Instead, He swaps places with us. He joins us in our human life on earth so that we can join Him in his life with God the Father. By Jesus’ union with us, we share in His Sonship, just as a woman who marries a man joins his family. Jesus’ position with God the Father, His status all his privileges as God’s only Son, His righteousness and His holiness, His access to the Father, His Father’s love and delight in Him, and the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit—all these are our through faith in Jesus. Yet we do not possess these gifts by ourselves; we have them only as we receive them from Jesus. We have eternal life by believing in Him and receiving it from Him. In short we borrow everything from Him.

Jesus joins Himself to us and takes us on the way that He pioneered. Therefore, we depend on Jesus as the author and perfecter of our journey in faith (Hebrews 3:14; 12:2). Since we have been baptized, we join with Him in His journey and receive all that He has gained for us in His death and resurrection. We have been crucified with Christ, put to death with Him and buried with Him; we have been raised from the dead with Him, made alive with Him and enthroned with Him in the heavenly realms for work (Romans 6:4-8; 3:1; 2 Timothy 2:11:12). As we follow Jesus in the journey of faith, we receive from Him and share in His divine life as God’s Son.” (Page 11-12)

THE book on Christian spirituality for today. . .

. . .has to be Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today by John W. Kleinig. Dr. Kleinig is an Australian theologian, Bible scholar, and Lutheran seminary professor who is one of the most illuminating teachers I have come across. Many Christians today have gotten interested in “spirituality,” with some exploring Eastern meditation and arcane mysticism without ever being introduced to the distinctly Christian approach to the spiritual life. This book explores the unique “receptive spirituality” that is the life of the Gospel of Christ. Christian spirituality find its expression in prayer, the Word, the sacraments, struggle against Satan’s temptations, and VOCATION. It has to do above all with receiving “grace upon grace” in Christ.

I can hardly express you just how good of a book this is. You may think that you know what there is to know on this subject, but you would be wrong. It’s one of those paradigm-shifting, life-changing books. It deserves the treatment we gave Lars Walker’s book–buying it on Amazon so as to boost its ranking (currently #227,924) so as to attract more attention to it and help propel it to bestsellerdom. If that should happen, we would see a revival of true Christian piety. Towards that end, I will be posting excerpts from time to time, passages that I have underlined as I have read and re-read this classic in the making.

Have any of you read this already? If so, I’d welcome your testimonial about Dr. Kleinig’s teaching.


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