Welcome to week 2 of our Lenten devotional book study of John Kleinig’s Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today
Week one is here if you’re just joining us.
Our Hidden Life
Jesus maintains that the true goal of our spirituality is for us to be seen by God, open to His searching and yet gracious scrutiny, known and appreciated by Him. Our spirituality is part of our secret life with the unseen Father, the God who knows our hearts and sees what is done in secret. No progress can be made unless we are honest with ourselves before God the Father…….We are justified by God’s grace and approved by Him. Our justification does not depend on our piety (spirituality) and our performance but on Christ and His performance. We can therefore face up to our recurring failure to live as His holy people and people of prayer. In fact, our failure is meant to teach us to ask for what we lack and receive everything from Christ.
Wow! Dr. Kleinig says that the most common image that the scriptures give for our spiritual life is a journey. Our journey is simply a pilgrimage with Him as He takes on His way, the way of the cross, and delivers us ultimately to the Father’s presence in eternity.
It is a journey in which we live by the grace of God. As we travel with Christ, God the Father reaches out to each of us in the same way through His Word. Through this Word, He generates and maintains our faith; through His word, which is enacted in proclamation, absolution, Baptism, and Holy Communion, He gives us the Holy Spirit and all His gifts. In that journey everything comes to us from Him through His Word; in it we all receive grace upon grace from the fullness of the Father.
Dr. Kleinig then gives such a beautiful poetic description of how we participate in the mystery of Christ’s life in our daily journey with Him toward heaven. I can’t even begin to do it justice. You’ll have to get the book!
A Clear Conscience
One of the things that keeps us from yearning to spend time in God’s word and in prayer is our guilty conscience. And Dr. Kleinig makes such a strong case for how our state of our conscience ‘colors’ our experience with God. We all have this sense that something is not quite right with us. We try to ‘measure up’ to some standard but never seem to do it. This leaves us with a tainted conscience. Kleinig states that nothing is worse than the confusion that a bad conscience brings.
When we have a bad conscience, we see God as a strict lawgiver and a harsh judge, a moral watchdog and a moral detective, someone out to get us. His disapproval of our sin, His anger against injustice, is experienced as His personal disapproval and rejection of us as people. We resent His demands. We fear His condemnation. He seems to act as if He were our enemy. And so we work hard at getting God off our backs. Failing that, we try to avoid Him by minimizing our contact with Him and anything to do with Him.
This bad conscience that comes from failing to measure up to God’s law is only half the story. Through the forgiveness and life of Christ given to us at Baptism, we are granted a clear conscience because we are given the clear conscience of Christ Himself. “The key to life in the presence of God is the good conscience that comes from the Holy Spirit through the conviction of sin and assurance of forgiveness and salvation.”
What beautiful comfort when we let the gospel in all its’ take captive our hearts and minds.
That leaves about the last 1/3 of the chapter for you to talk about in the comments. Or you can talk about the first 2/3’s of the chapter.
What do you think so far? Doesn’t he have such a gentle and encouraging way about him? And his relentless focus on Christ as the giver of all good things is so refreshing.
What’s your favorite section/quote/concept?
At last, a devotional book that doesn’t make me feel more guilty.
Thank you Dr. Kleinig!